Disc (Frisbee) golf in Canmore

Heat arrived in Calgary this weekend. It’s been warm here for a few weeks now (off and on, anyway), but this was the first really hot time in the ol’ town. Which, of course, is a perfect excuse to flee the city for a day.

A few people in Calgary (like, half the resident population) are out this weekend. Half of Critical Mass took today off so they could get a nice four-day weekend (counting tomorrow’s national holiday). I suspect the rest of Calgary ain’t much different.

Jim called me shortly after noon, announcing that he had awoken to a beautiful day and felt absolutely no reason to do any of the cleaning and packing he needed to do so he could move into his new apartment. Instead, he was gathering a few people together to go disc golfing in Canmore. This sounded immensely better than the paint research I was doing.

Okay, so two questions come out of that paragraph. First off, what’s with the paint research? Simple: gotta paint the house, and I’ve never done it before. So there’s a lot of reading about latex, alkyd, oil-based, water-based, gloss vs. flat, and various painting techniques. Needless to say, riveting material it ain’t.

Now, what the heck is disc golf, you ask? This is my new outdoor activity. You might have heard of it as “Frisbee golf”. Since “Frisbee” is a trademarked name, the generic “disc” is used instead. It’s very similar to normal golf, with tees, holes, drivers, and putters.

There are significant differences, of course. For example, instead of putting into a little hole, you aim for a basket. And when you get buried in the trees or bush and can’t throw normally, you throw what’s called a “hammer”, which is to throw the disc vertically through whatever gap you can find. If thrown properly, the disc will turn on its back and settle out.

There’s all sorts of weird terms like this, which I’m just beginning to learn.

I first played disc golf a week ago yesterday, when Jim hauled me out with Scott (from work) to Centary Park in Calgary (right next to the Zoo) to get introduced to this rather odd sport. I had to borrow a disc from Jim, as I don’t have anything even resembling a Frisbee. For my first time out, I didn’t do half badly. Especially considering I “putted” the entire 9-hole course.

Yes, there are drivers and putters. There are also mid-range discs. All of them are either flat, overstable, or understable (basically, they either go straight, turn left or right, assuming you throw them properly). While you don’t technically need all of these to play (just like you don’t need a full set of clubs in regular golf), having a driver and a putter helps. Drivers have better distance, and putters are more stable in close-quarters.

This is what I found out over the last week as I played in Centary Park with Jim and Scott. It’s a bit tricky in that park because you’re always looking out for pedestrians and the various hazards (disc-eating bushes, other golfers, and the Bow River, into which one of Scott’s discs plunged on Thursday). But Centary Park is flat — no hills, no valleys. It’s nothing like going to Canmore.

On the southwest side of Canmore, just up the side of the mountains, is the Canmore Nordic Centre. During the warmer months, the only snow you see in this area is in the odd pocket near the top of the adjoining mountains. And this time of year, there ain’t much snow left.

The cross-country skiing paths, which host races throughout the winter, serve a much more recreational purpose in the summer: the disc golf course. There are no “greens” per se, but you have an area wide enough to throw your discs without constantly impaling trees. That’s not to say, of course, that your disc won’t bounce off a tree and disappear into the undergrowth…

The first hole is on the edge of the forest. The basket is actually in the trees, just to make things interesting. The second hole is downhill, and is surprisingly deceptive due to both the horizontal and vertical distance. This is how the entire course goes. Sometimes the road (which is basically what you’re on) is 10 metres wide. In some places, it’s even narrower.

On one hole, you’ve got to shoot up a fairly steep grade (8%-9%). Here’s the catch: discs have a tendency to “slide” back in the direction thrown if you throw them too steeply. The group ahead of us actually hammered them up the hill. Brad tried to hammer his, and ended up in the woods. Scott, Jim, and I threw normally with varied results. The jury’s still out on which method is better.

Aside from the clouds of mosquitoes, the game was great. Because we were playing literally on a hill, we got a great workout running up and down the course. The fresh air (ever so slightly scented with the surrounding pines) was also a nice change from the city air.

Before we knew it, the 18th hole lay before us. The game had taken two hours, but had ended too soon. Although an hour away, I’ll most certainly be going back to the course again. It’s too much fun to pass up.

Besides, there are only two courses in town, and the next nearest ones are about an hour away…

Following the game, we stopped at one of the local bars (the Rose and Crown) to relax on the patio and watch the … uh … “wildlife”. A quick drink, a quick snack, and it was on the road for Calgary. We held an impromptu barbecue at my house, then made a break for a couple of rounds of cheap bowling. By the time I got home, it was almost 23:30. And I get up at 5:30. But I didn’t mind so much. After a day like yesterday, a little less sleep isn’t such a big deal.

Today’s another scorcher here in Cowtown, but I get to be in the office all day. It’s quiet here with half the team out. Just means that I’ll be able to leave right at five.

Gotta get to the disc golf course to get a game in.

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