Disc golf is a sport in which fun is mandatory and keeping score is optional. It is an alluring game in which the player throws a flying disc past trees and other natural obstacles until the disc lands in a basket.
The terminology used in disc golf is similar to that of regular golf, as is the strategy. Instead of a variety of clubs, disc golfers carry different discs, such as a distance driver or putter, which have different flight characteristics, to be used for different shots.
On the University Park section of the University of West Florida main campus is a 18-hole disc golf course. This course was the brainchild of two avid disc golfers. One was Shaun Boren, assistant director of Outdoor Adventures. The other was archaeology graduate Larry James. In 2006, Boren and James founded a UWF disc-golf club and built the course on campus.
Disc golf evokes a strange camaraderie, Boren said. Players enjoy the game even when they play badly, because the score doesn’t have to matter. Boren calls it “Bonding through shared ineptitude”.
With the graduation of Larry James came the demise of the campus disc-golf club. Boren attributes this to James’ powerful leadership abilities coupled with the lack of a replacement president. Boren isn’t worried about the absence of a club, though, because he sees disc golf as an activity that anyone can enjoy, with or without a club.
In 2011, the landscape of the disc golf course changed. Most of the trees and underbrush in the Oak Grove, the area behind the intramural fields that contained the back nine holes of the course, were cleared out. According to Boren, this decision was made by the university administration to create a better line of sight to the sidewalks and facilities around the Oak Grove.
The back nine of the course drastically changed. What was once a jungle of bushes and shrubs where golfers might fear losing their discs, is now a wide-open area. This has caused some concern among players because the course is no longer as challenging.
This was the case for Steven Carter, a 26-year-old sophomore studying psychology at Pensacola State College. He has only played the UWF course once, usually sticking to the 27-hole course at the PSC Milton campus. Even though he has only been playing a short while, he prefers a more challenging course than what UWF has to offer.
“It was kind of disappointing,” Carter said. “I am a beginner, and it is still difficult for me. It is a challenge, but the fact that it is all open and you can see all the holes, I didn’t like that.”
Carter’s disc golf partner is retiree Don Braxton. At 71-years-old, he has been playing for four years at several courses in the Pensacola area. He met Carter when playing a round at the PSC course a few months ago. It was Carter’s first time. Braxton said he has played the UWF course at least 25 times, both before and after the grounds were cleared out. Braxton said he had mixed feelings on the clearing of the course. He said he wishes the course was still as challenging as it used to be, but does not miss getting tangled in the vines while he plays.
Regardless of the condition of the course, Braxton said that he still enjoys playing at UWF and would recommend it to others.
With the loss of the brush came the loss of the challenge, but Boren said the purpose of the course is for beginners to learn the sport and to enjoy themselves. Boren does not consider the change to be detrimental.
“If people leave saying ‘ I want more disc golf than you are offering at this course,’ How great is that?” Boren said. “Why would I want them to not go anywhere else? It has got to come back to what our mission is, which is education.”
The UWF disc golf course is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. Other courses can be found at Blue Angel Naval Recreation Park at Corry Field or Sunset Park in Gulf Breeze. Beginner disc sets and professional discs can be purchased at the Health, Leisure and Sports Facility on campus or at major sporting goods stores such as Academy or The Sports Authority.