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Wednesday, August 8,2012

'All of the frustration, none of the prestige'

Lansing hosts major disc golf tournament

by Sam Inglot
Those metal baskets with dangling chains you may see at the local public park are not trashcans or weird barbecue grills. And no, Sidewinder, Monster, Destroyer, and Boss are not ex-American Gladiators. You are now entering the realm of disc golf: the baskets are disc golf “holes” and those pro wrestler-sounding handles being the name brands for the discs used in the offbeat sport. 

The baskets, throwing styles and vast array of colorful discs are just as varied as the people who play the game. But even though you’re more likely to see players rocking a Grateful Dead T-shirt than a Nike polo with matching visor, don’t let that casualness fool you — there are disc golfers that take the sport to a level of passion and professionalism comparable to the PGA. And this weekend, national and local disc golfers from around the country —including several touring Professional Disc Golf Association athletes — will converge in Lansing for the CCR Open, the largest local tournament of the year. 

The Capital City Renegades, a Lansing-area disc golf club started in the 1980s, will host the event, which will feature three days of disc golf from Friday to Sunday at Grand Woods Park in Delta Township and Burchfield Park in Holt. Renegades vice president Jeff Dutka said four professional disc golf players have made commitments to attend, and national disc retailer Dynamic Discs is sponsoring the tournament along with local retailers J-Bird Discs and DJ Discs. There will also be a live DJ and free food for registered players. 

Also playing this weekend, Dutka said, is “international supermodel” and disc golf celebrity Holly Finley, who has modeled for designers like Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton.

The Capital City Renegades hosts 14 events a year and recently held several youth clinics in the area to teach kids about the sport and to promote outdoor activities.  

“People are drawn to disc golf in many different ways,” Renegades president Matthew Rinker said. “I was drawn to the sport because it was an inexpensive way to get outside on a beautiful day and enjoy the nature that our parks provide. Now I play because I love the game. I love the sound the chains make when the disc smashes into them, I love watching a perfectly thrown disc soar 400 feet, and I even love the sound of a disc hitting a tree dead center. They are all aspects of the game that make it fun, exciting and unpredictable. It’s like traditional golf with all of the frustration but none of the prestige.”

Disc golf has many similarities to traditional golf, with shared terms such as bogey, birdie, fairway and the shouting of, “Fore!” uniting them. The goal is to throw your disc into the chain-link basket in as few tries as possible, just as in traditional golf, complete with a tee-off area and par system. But the main difference is what’s flying through the air. Rather than using a variety of clubs to control the ball’s distance as in golf, disc golfers use different flying discs in their approach to the baskets. The discs range from distance drivers to midrange and putters. Different types of plastic, weights and designs give discs varying properties based on how a thrower wants it to sail.

“Most players have at least three discs in their bag, a driver, a midrange and a putter,” said Dutka. “Some of us carry as many as 15 to 20 discs which allows for more specialized choices depending on the weather and course conditions.” 

Cost is a major perk to disc golf — green fees are negligible, and discs range from $9 to $18. You can barely get a sleeve of golf balls for that price these days. 

“One of the sport’s greatest appeals is its accessibility,” he said. “Some of the nicest courses in the world cost no more than $5 a round and most are free so you don’t need to be rich to play the game. Typically the only cost is the access fee for the local or state park.”

Walking around Grand Woods Park it’s obvious that most players there are not looking to impress anyone or show-up the rookies. The sport is very laid back, with congregations of disc golf-goers forming behind players winding up to throw, swapping stories, showing off discs, and talking shop. 

“It really has a festival type feel,” Dutka said, “It allows for folks to get a close up look at the game in a comfortable setting.” 



Information and Pre-Registration

for the CCR Open, go to discgolfscene.com/tournaments/CCR_Open_2012. There are 13 divisions of tournament play, with group and competition divisions for players at all levels. Entry fees range from $30 to $100.  


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