Golf: a maddening outdoor sport where competitors try to knock a ball into an impossibly small hole a long way off while constantly battling against greenery, the elements and their own nervous twitches.
Frisbee: a disc, usually thrown by dog owners and people with dreadlocks, that refuses to fly in a straight line.
Disc golf: an addictive game combining the best and worst aspects of both Frisbee and golf. And you need to check it out.
Disc golf is pretty simple. Using the idea of regular golf, players follow a course and try to throw a Frisbee disc into a target in as few attempts as possible. To make them more challenging, holes are built around natural obstacles like trees, ponds, canyons, hot springs, puma dens and Estacada. And, just for giggles, players toss discs that have minds of their own.
Portland State students may be surprised to know they are surrounded by disc golf courses, with almost 20 in the Portland area. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association Web site, a course can be any place where you can throw a disc at a predetermined target, but Portland courses share an upscale edge. Most of the places within 20 miles of campus have big, metal baskets for targets, with hole numbers painted on the side and disc-catching chains. Disc golf courses in Portland run the gamut from easy and fun to long, hilly and overwhelming.
For instance, the new nine-hole course at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove is tiny and winds through the lawn and garden area behind the old lodge. Course maps give a pretty accurate overhead layout and rocks mark the tee boxes that start each hole. The Grand Lodge course is almost two months old and it’s designed for beginners and families. Players can borrow one disc, sufficient for playing the course, for a $5 refundable deposit, and the course has Xeroxed scorecards along with the maps.
On the other hand, Rockwood Central Park, on S.E. 178th and Main in Portland, was built in 1980 and is Oregon’s oldest basket course. The course pro, Jerry Miller, has been involved with area disc golf for years and sells discs at his shop, Disc Golf Depot, by Clackamas Town Center. The Rockwood course is free because it’s in a city park, and the tee boxes are big cement pads, so it’s hard to get confused about where you’re supposed to start.
Disc golfers are a unique and fun bunch. Although true pros might turn up their noses at beers on the course, a great many disc golfers imbibe while toiling through 18 holes. It’s recommended you check to make sure that where you’re heading to disc golf allows beer, because city, county, state and private lands all have different rules for recreation. Dogs, especially the Frisbee-chasing kind, should be left at home. Bongs are another story.
Here are some of the parks in the Portland area:
Rockwood Central Park: an old course, mostly flat, with trees and bushes as obstacles. S.E. 178th and Main, Portland.
Portland Adventist School: another old course, with baskets and signage. S.E. 181st and N.W. 1st, Gresham.
McMenamins Grand Lodge: a small, fun course that winds through a lush lawn and garden. Forest Grove.
Estacada Timber Park and Milo McIver State Park, Estacada: two big, 18-hole courses with scenic views of the Clackamas River and challenging layouts.
Champoeg State Park: one of Oregon’s longest courses, played through thick oak trees. St. Paul.
Benson State Park: beautifully scenic nine-hole course in the Columbia River Gorge, west of Multnomah Falls.
Dabney State Park: on the Sandy River, this is the area’s first single-use golf course, so you don’t have to contend with picnickers, partiers and parolees picking up garbage. Troutdale.
Sain Scoggins (and Crazy 18) at Henry Hagg Lake: one of Oregon’s longest and toughest courses is above Henry Hagg Lake in the Forest Grove/Gaston area. A great place to go after you’ve mastered the tossing aspects a little.
Pier Park: a tough 18-hole course in North Portland with lots of flora to contend with and tight fairways for a challenge. N. Seneca and St. John’s, Portland.
A guide to northern Oregon disc golf courses can be found at www.odsa.com/golf/north.asp. The site has almost every course in the area as well as maps, directions and little informative tidbits. The Professional Disc Golf Association boasts 16,000 members, most of whom joined the association to play in tournaments. You can see their Web site at www.pdga.com. Get out more often and have a great summer!