A few weeks ago, one of my good friends named Matt, who’s nicknamed “Chaw” for reasons we’re not going to delve into, asked me to accompany him to a disc golf tournament at the Pocono Raceway. Now, I know what you’re thinking- “Disc Golf? What even is that?” It’s the question that I usually receive when I tell people that I play disc golf, often followed by “how does someone get into that?”
Well, disc golf is a sport that’s very similar to golf (hence the name), except instead of hitting a ball towards a hole, you’re throwing a frisbee, called a disc, towards a basket. It’s played on a course that usually consists of 18 baskets, and the objective of the game is to get the disc into the basket in as few throws, or strokes, as possible. Disc golf is currently a small sport, but it’s growing quickly in the United States because it’s extremely beginner friendly and inexpensive, which is partly what drew me to the game.
I discovered disc golf very much on accident, but I’m fortunate to have done so. My good friend Jeremy and I quickly became bored last autumn as the temperature dropped and the leaves began to fall, forcing most activity indoors. After having reminisced with each other about playing street hockey in the winter with our friends when we were younger, we decided to head to Dick’s Sporting Goods in search of street hockey skates. Unfortunately, after taking several discouraging laps around the store without seeing any sign of what we were looking for, it became clear to us that we had come to the wrong place. As we woefully turned to exit the store, we suddenly noticed the wall of disc golf discs that was right next to us. We had previously heard about disc golf from a mutual friend, and we knew that a disc golf course, South Mountain, was only a five minute drive away from Lehigh’s campus, so we decided to check out the rack. After about an hour of ooh-ing and aah-ing, we each exited the store with three discs- a driver, a mid-range, and a putter- for only $30 (it’s free to play the courses). The very next day we were out on the course chucking our new discs. From that day until now, roughly a year later, we still play disc golf four or five times a week on average.
Which brings me back to my most recent disc golf experience and the original point of my story…
My friend Chaw had been nagging me for a while to register for MrDiscGolf’s Pocono Raceway Disc Golf Experience, which took place this past weekend on Sunday, September 25th. I refused for quite some time as I had an exam the following day and I thought the $45 entrance fee was expensive, but my obsession with disc golf took over and I finally agreed to go just a few hours before the event took place. This impulse decision turned out to be a great one, as it was one of the best days I’ve had in a while.
I woke up around noon on Sunday, still groggy from the activities of the night before, to the annoying but familiar beeping of a FaceTime call. Instinctively, I answered the call, still half asleep, and realized that it was Jeremy on the phone. He informed me that Chaw had convinced him to go to the tournament, and that they were trying to leave in 30 minutes. Without thinking, I shot out of my bed and ran into the shower. After a quick rinse, I threw on some clothes and was ready for the hour long journey to the great Pocono Raceway (a NASCAR raceway with only 3 turns, earning it the nickname The Tricky Triangle).
Jeremy, Chaw, our other friend named Matt, and I embarked towards the Nascar raceway in the most appropriate way we could think of- in Jeremy’s bright yellow mustang.
After a quick but very necessary detour to Wawa for some food (I got a buffalo chicken cheesesteak-yum), we finally reached our destination. The raceway was an absolutely gigantic structure that was way larger that I was expecting it to be. It took us several minutes just to drive around the raceway and find the entrance. We parked and walked inside to discover the over 300 disc golfers that showed up to enjoy such a unique event. Fighting through the crowd, we made it to the registration desk where we checked in and received our tee-time of 2:30pm. This gave us just under an hour to kill, so we practiced putting for a little before retiring to the concession stand for some drinks.
Our tee-time rolled around soon enough, and we were finally able to begin playing the course. The first five holes were long, open shots located directly on the race track. It was cool to see the skid marks and tire tracks on the raceway as we played. The sixth hole forced us to shoot through a narrow gate that led us outside of the track to the Pocono Raceway’s solar farm, which is the largest renewable energy project at any sports venue in the world. After playing a few holes alongside the solar farm, we found ourselves throwing a narrow tunnel shot under the bleachers before taking an elevator up into the bleachers and playing another hole there. Before we knew it, we had made it to the final hole where we got to throw from on top of the flagman’s stand, across the finish line, and onto the victory podium.
It wasn’t my most well-played round of disc golf, but it was a great experience even for someone like me who doesn’t follow Nascar. Disc golf is usually played at parks, and it’s very rare to find events as unique as this. To top things off, as I was walking away from the final hole I ran into Eric McCabe, the 2010 Disc Golf World Champion (duh). I had the privilege of meeting him, and he was nice enough to sign my Pocono Raceway Emac Truth, which is his signature disc.
The boys were all tuckered out after the round, but we left the raceway all smiles. That smile quickly faded when I realized I had an exam the following morning that I hadn’t studied for yet, but I had no regrets.
If anyone has any interest in giving disc golf a try, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments. I’ve got plenty of extra discs and I’d be more than happy to take you along for a round. Lehigh has a disc golf club, and the Lehigh Valley Disc Club (LVDC) is an incredibly active group in the greater Lehigh Valley area. I can get you in touch with either group.