90 days of disc golf: Can you fly? And other bad suggestions.

There are two sides to everything in life and it doesn’t take much to figure out what these sides are. In disc golf, the two most obvious “Yin” and “Yang’s” are CONFIDENCE and DOUBT. I will try to set the scene for you…

A golfer steps up to make a putt and he has a routine. He steps into his comfy position and begins to lift his putter up four or five times. This is the motion he is going to make when he putts. Each time he swings up the disc, the top of the disc rises up to about the height of his shoulders. He resets his fingers on the disc and turns it a bit in his hands. After 20 seconds of this routine he has it set in his brain what he needs for a great putt. Then he suddenly tenses up and lets it go. He only lifts his hand up to his hip and lets go of the disc in a jerky motion. The disc goes to the right and low. Not one aspect of the warm up routine was executed in the actual putt. The confidence wasn’t there. 

I haven’t been playing long enough to be an authority on this opinion but I think confidence is all that separates most good players from being great players. How many players have stepped up to the tee box on Hole 6 at Waterworks and felt a tinge of doubt about whether or not their drive was going to make it down the tunnel and not shank to the fairway on Hole 4? I have played rounds with 1000 plus rated players who shank that drive often. Yet these same players can park Hole 5 at Waterworks in the long placement and that shot is much narrower with a lower ceiling. Some holes just shake your cage. Rattle the …confidence? Do you believe in every shot in your bag? Are you sure?

“If you don’t believe in your throw, it ain’t going where you want it to go. Your anny didn’t anny cause you didn’t follow through with it mentally.” – Ron Convers Jr. on my poor drive at the Four State tournament in Joplin.

Entering Montana on the East side offers up two of the most challenging courses ever conceived. 

Sometimes it’s not distance or elevation that rattles your cage, sometimes it’s a sign as you enter the park which says, “Watch out for rattlesnakes” that does it for you. Makoshika is a beautiful course, set in a small canyon in the badlands of Montana. The baskets are placed high up on mesas next to extreme drop offs, or hidden at the base of the mesas with speedy greens which will send softly thrown shots deep into the tall prairie grass(which seems strangely out of place in this terrain). This would generally not be an issue if not for a sign warning of the damn snakes! Tough shots made all the harder by the presence of rattlesnakes. How do you even enjoy a casual round of disc golf when the thought of dying comes into play? So… It’s a great course – – played in the early spring or late fall. It takes twenty minutes per throw during a round, because you have to walk carefully looking for snakes under the extremely tall prairie grass. 

This is the course that ever disc golfer dreams about – It is a course built where a course should never have been built – on the rocky side of a cliff. Again, as you enter the park, a sign warning about snakes. It’s also important to remember that there is altitude here making everything super stable. A valkyrie becomes a boss. Your most beat-up Roc becomes a Gator. (buzz ss becomes a drone. Sorry gateway, don’t know your plastic to make a comparison) It’s disc golf with no anny shots, so you have to have a flick shot, or throw lefty, if you want a disc to go right. 

The terrain is all rocks. Huge ones, ten to forty feet high. Boulders which have slowed been eroded off of the cliff and fallen down the side of the cliffs. The course is actually 36 holes which can be arranged any way you like to make two courses of 18, two different courses of 27; or one small 9 hole course. Which course you play is based on your hiking and repelling ability. The small 9 hole course requires very little repelling gear. The East course is extreme hiking and the West is less so, but it does require some talent (and it lacks the great final shot like the East course has). This course is extreme and the back nine requires the player to use their hands to climb a cliff so they can play nine gut-wrenching holes that steal your breath(the air is thin at the top), and it’s all worth it. Hole 18 (East) is a 600 foot shot off a cliff. The basket is just out in the middle of a field and you forget that you’re actually trying to birdie it, you just want to watch a disc fly that far… However! There is no pad on this, or any, of the holes. Only natural turf, which in this case is rough, uneven rock. You have to jump a three foot wide crevice to a small lumpy rock to make your drive. Long run ups are not advised. You get five feet. Anymore and you die. But if you get that shot off… Well, you’ll have to go and see that for yourself. Empty your bag. You may lose a few, but so what, it’s worth it. 

The climb down is equally as perilous.

The rest of the course is super tough – long drives into narrow gaps. Almost all of it blind shots up or down hill or around corners. Discs get lost here all the time. You can lose a disc on a putt if it slips down between the boulders. I don’t advise sticking your hands into the cracks around here. (If you’ve ever seen the movie Flash Gordon, it’s akin to sticking your hand into that funky tree)

Play this course with a gallon of water, extra food, extra discs and at least one other person who is not playing who can call for help or live to tell the tale of your excellent demise. 

He’s buried there, just in case you wanted to know.

Another long drive down the holiday road will send you past many great courses but we choose this one because of the rare nature of its existence. It’s only open for a few months a year and it’s a funky drive to get there. It was built way up above Missoula in a small park most people have forgotten about. This time, the signs warns of mountain lions and bears. Not as poisonous, but their bites have more tickle in them. A real problem made more probable by the overflowing dumpster next to the entrance of the course. They might as well just coat each golfer in raw meat before they play. 

Another oddity is the presence of a sign which reads, “Anyone throwing discs OFF the course will be fined.” So, if you miss your shot and go OB, it’s fifty bucks.

The course is laid out among thick pines, tall grass and berry bushes. It goes up and down hills and doesn’t demand a huge variety of shots to master it. Of course, it’s hard to be a master of any shot when you keep looking around for bears and mountain lions. You’re still at elevation so there are still no anny shots, a real problem because Montana loves to make anny heavy courses. Maybe everyone in Montana is left handed.

The Northwest is lovely. Most of it is thick pines, powdery soil, smooth round rocks and swiftly running rivers. The Northwest is also proud of putting parks everywhere and building disc golf courses in them. They seem to really believe in the sport and go out of their way to take care of them. Corbin is lovely, albeit sort of short. What it misses in distance, it makes up for in terrain. The easiest way to describe the terrain – It wants you to go away.

Most of the course is thought provoking shots that dangle that river in front of you; or a pile of rocks; or a bunch of lodge pole pines that are growing so close together you can’t squeeze between them. There is generally some sort of elevation on each hole with a few holes actually containing all of these elements. Case in point – Hole 10. HOLE 10 is a SIGNATURE HOLE. One of the best holes you will ever play in your life. You want to empty your bag on it. It plays diagonally from left-to-right down a hillside with the river on the left. The hill is almost a 70 degree slope so you can easily slip and slide right into the river if you’re not careful. The hillside is mostly bare and loves to let a disc roll down its side into the waiting river below. The basket is hidden at the bottom of the hill in a group of pines next to the river. You have to play out over the river and anny into a narrow opening. Come up short on that anny and it’s gone. It’s a rough shot. You could flick if you are confident enough to do so.

Confidence is what makes you a great player. If you can commit to the shot and have the mental capacity to follow through with it, you’ll be untouchable. Most golfers have more distance, greater putts and better shots in their bag than their friends ever get to see and that’s sad. I can’t count how many great “second shots” I’ve had or witnessed from people. What makes the pros look so good, isn’t something they were born with that the rest of the golfing community is genetically missing, it’s just the confidence to take the shot the rest of us don’t believe in. When you come up short mentally, you’re toast. That’s what makes a course great – the mental challenge. So when designing a course, if you don’t have a river, a cliff, or a large tree, just put up a sign that warns of snakes, bears or mountain lions.

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