Fun for all, disc golf gains in popularity
It is 9 o'clock Saturday morning and the kids have a two-hour soccer practice. Mom and Dad would love to get in 18 holes of golf before picking up the youngsters at 11.
Ha! That's a good one, eh? Eighteen holes in two hours, including getting to and from the course? No way.
Unless you are talking disc golf.
For the uninitiated, golfers play disc golf by throwing a flying disc (commonly called a Frisbee) into a metal hoop-and-chain basket. Courses are generally nine or 18 holes in length and similar to traditional golf with pars of mostly 3, 4 and 5. The goal is to complete the course in as few throws as possible.
Courses are laid out through woods, open fields and in some cases, as at Pleasant Hill in Scarborough, over a former nine-hole regular golf course of the same name. Two relative hackers played an 18-hole round recently at Pleasant Hill, one shooting 85 and the other 92. Time of play: one hour and 15 minutes.
Which brings us back to Soccer Mom and Dad. In today's busy world, finding four to six hours to play 18 holes of traditional golf is becoming increasingly difficult. Disc golf may not be traditional golf, but it is a lot of fun and can be squeezed into a much smaller block of time. A twosome can play the Pleasant Hill track in 60 to 90 minutes and a foursome in 2 to 2.5 hours, said marketing manager Dave Townsend.
Pleasant Hill hosts between 100 and 150 players on a typical sunny, summer day. The busiest times are after 5 p.m. weekdays and pretty much throughout the day on weekends, Townsend noted.
Compared to traditional golf, the disc variety is a relative bargain. Pleasant Hill charges $5 for a single round or $8 for all-day, unlimited play. Children aged 7 and under play for free. The course is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. An honor box is available to collect fees when the pro shop is closed. Rental discs are available for $1 (a refundable $5 disc deposit is required).
Discs, bags and bag straps are available for sale at the clubhouse. The typical recreational player, Townsend said, carries three discs - driving, mid-range and putting. A high-level tournament player can carry anywhere from 20 to 40 discs.
The 18-hole, par-70 Gold Dragon at Pleasant Hill measures 6,171 feet. It features low-cut fairways, stands of tall fescue, tree-lined playing corridors, baskets set in the open and occasionally nestled directly inside a closely growing clump of trees. The ground is "mucky" in spots, so bring appropriate footwear. The course record is 46. That's right, 24-under par.
The Gold Dragon can be played from a distant set of tees called the Pro Dragon that includes one hole measuring more than 1,100 feet, supposedly the longest disc golf hole in Maine.
Pleasant Hill also features the nine-hole Silver Dragon layout geared to family play or those wanting to get in a quick round.
Players come in all ages, shapes, sizes and demographic groups, according to Townsend.
"People like the fitness aspect, the low-impact nature of the sport and the fact that anyone can play it," he continued. "We have doctors and lawyers playing alongside restaurant and cleaning service workers. One of the great things about the sport is that anyone who wants to play can play."
Pleasant Hill also offers individual lessons, clinics and occasional tournaments. Staff members conducted an all-day clinic for a youth recreation group earlier this summer. Top-ranked Maine female player Marielle Mallar offers occasional women-only clinics. And the Portland Pirates Silver and Gold tournament is scheduled for Aug. 29.
Pleasant Hill is operated by Dragon Disc Golf, which also runs Dragon field in Auburn and Enman Field in Brunswick.