The journey of disc golf at SMU
James Colasurdo, Staff Writer
Spanning from behind the O’Grady Library to beyond the retention ponds is Saint Martin’s University’s disc golf course, which has been in place since 2013. Many people might be asking: what is disc golf? Disc golf is similar to golf in that you are trying to get an object, whether it is a frisbee or a golf ball, into a pole/hole. In the words of Father Peter, “you throw a plastic frisbee at the basket that’s at the top of the pole.”
“Like golf, you try to get it in the basket in the fewest strokes that you can.” According to Father Peter, another similarity between the two is, “You can easily translate the scoring of golf to disc golf.”
For those unfamiliar with scoring in golf, every time you swing at a golf ball with the intention of hitting it, that counts as a stroke. Likewise, in disc golf a stroke is counted each time a disc is thrown and when a penalty is imposed. Strokes are totaled to calculate the game score. Like in golf, the players with the fewest strokes win.
According to Father Peter, to get better at the game, “You’ll soon want to know how throw the disc golf 300 feet—the length of a football field. There are people who can throw 500 to 600 feet, but you don’t need to learn how to throw that far to play this course.” “Usually, the first step for people is to learn how to throw the frisbee 250 feet. Usually it takes a little practice to learn to how to do it.”
“[Normally] You’re used to throwing a frisbee straightforward,” Father Peter mentions. However, “to throw a frisbee really far, you need to throw it sideways across your body, walk sideways, turn your hips, and your shoulders back and then unwind your body first from the hips, then the shoulders, and then follow from the arm to get this triple action to put a lot of acceleration on the disc for it to fly real far.”
Father Peter became an avid fan of disc golf when living in the Midwest. He vividly remembers his own introduction into the sport, “I just remember going home one year to visit my mother, and I noticed in the park there are these unusual looking metal poles with baskets and chains on top and I started to inquire, ‘what are these?’ Then I was told there are these targets for you to throw frisbees at and there was a guy who was selling these special frisbees out of his trunk, and so I bought a few and just started playing and I really enjoyed doing that.”
However, when he moved out to Lacey, Wash. in January 2002, almost nobody knew what disc golf was. When Father Peter moved to Lacey he noticed there were no courses in town. At the time, Father Peter did not know that there were courses as near as Tacoma, Wash., but even if he did, getting all the way to Tacoma would have been very challenging.
“So I started asking people around here and they didn’t know exactly what disc golf was,” he stated, “people were also skeptical in the sense that he wanted to use land in order to build the course, “and so [the people] really didn’t see any benefit of building [the course] at the time.”
In 2006, there was a disc golf course built in Olympia, Wash. at Yauger Park. However, “The City of Olympia was having trouble with that course and so they took it out,” Father Peter states. Even still, that gave people a taste of disc golf and people wanted to continue playing.
That’s when things really got off the ground. Father Peter said, “From 2006-2011 students [at Saint Martin’s University] made up a little course of their own. There weren’t any baskets, but they would take ultimate frisbee discs and they would go around campus and throw to hit different objects, like a tree or a side of a building.”
Around 2010, there was a course built near Lacey at Woodland Creek Park. From there, students started playing at Woodland. Orion Desilets, who works at the Norman Worthington Conference Center at the Marcus Pavilion, is also a big fan of disc golf. Desilets and the students “worked together to create a temporary basket,” Father Peter said. The students then started asking, “If we had a course on campus, what would it look like?”
To get the course approved by the university, a few key things needed to happen. “I kind of asked for it, so the school understood there was monastic support for [disc golf] but they didn’t understand what it was,” Father Peter stated. From there, the introduction of disc golf at Yauger Park and the Woodland Creek Park allowed the administration from Saint Martin’s to become familiar with the sport. Father Peter says, “Orion was instrumental in organizing students and by organizing students they were able to put things in.”
In setting up the course, Desilets and two students were experimenting and debating where to put a nine-hole course, the typical length of a disc golf course. They were thinking about how to introduce students to the game and so they made the course simpler to play on. Moreover, they also wanted to do it in an open area, so students wouldn’t lose frisbees in the woods. Three holes are about 250 feet, about five are 300 feet, and there is one that is 550 feet. “Some you need to go straight, some right, and some left,” Father Peter said.
In spring 2012, Desilets made a proposal to the university, saying that they would like to put in the metal baskets. The metal baskets were installed. That was when Father Peter got excited and called his mother for his discs in Nebraska, “Go ahead and ship those out to me because we have a course now!”
The only thing missing was something called a T-pad. According to Father Peter, “The T-pad is a little rectangle of concrete where you throw from. Usually a throw involves you traditionally making three steps in the process of you putting acceleration on your disc by twisting your body by pulling the frisbee forward.” Father Peter stated, “[At first] we just had a marker to throw from.” However, Father Peter mentions Desilets and some of the others were a little hesitant to insert the T-pads into the course. “Once you put a T pad in that’s a pretty permanent thing. That is a 3-foot-by-9-foot piece of concrete,” said Father Peter. That means that every pole inserted onto the hole would have to be thought through, so that everybody is certain of where a hole should be. The first three years, there were no T-pads. Eventually, after throwing from the same place in dirt, in the summer of 2015, it was decided where to put the T-pad. At last, the construction of Saint Martin’s own disc golf course was complete.
When Father Peter was explaining how to throw a frisbee the length of a football field, he also referenced that there are local tournaments for those interested, if you feel you’re good enough. However, ultimately winning does not matter as much, because Father Peter remarks, “there’s a saying in disc golf: the most fun wins.”