OK, class, in this installment we’re going to see if we can double our pleasure and double our fun. Don’t worry — if we do it right, we won’t double our score in the process. We’re going to talk about my favorite kind of hole, what’s known in the traditional golf world as the “two-shot” hole. Very simply, this kind of hole requires two shots to get to the green.

disc golf courseNow some of you are already saying to yourselves, “Oh no — longer holes. I can’t keep up with the big arms. This will kill me.” Let me assure you that EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE. Bear with me.

Not long ago I was surprised to realize a very simple but profound fact: on the typical ball golf course, there are only four holes that are reachable. These are the par three holes, and virtually anyone can reach them with an iron. Let that fact sink in. EVERYONE can reach those four holes, and virtually NO ONE can reach the other fourteen. Put another way, 77% of ball golf holes can’t be reached off the tee. Not by Tiger Woods, not by John Daly.

Now disc golf and ball golf are different in several important ways, but they share the same foundation, and there are good reasons why hundreds of millions of people have become addicted to ball golf over the last 400 years. Let’s see if we can take a lesson from our big brother and make our game more enjoyable.

Imagine, if you will, two typical disc golf holes. Let’s call them hole #7 and hole #8. Hole #7 is 250’ long, and there are basically three ways to get there: straight, hyzer, and anhyzer. One hundred feet from the basket is hole #8: pretty much a tunnel shot, 225’ straight between two rows of trees (see diagram). Nearby, hole #9 runs along the edge of a large pond.

As a local, every day you step up to the #7 tee and try to get as close as you can to the #7 basket. Then you do the same thing on #8. And on to #9. Some days you birdie all three, some days you miss ‘em all, and maybe once a month you even bogey one. Mostly it depends on how well you’re putting. It’s a good life, but it’s a little predictable: every morning you wake up knowing what you’ll want to do when you get to that #7 tee box and what you’re going to do when you’re standing 225’ from that #8 pin.

disc golf courseUntil one day you get to the course, and the #7 basket is gone. So is the #8 tee. Where the #7 tee sign use to be, there’s a 3” x 5” card nailed into the ground. It says, “Welcome to hole #78. 575 feet.” So you throw your 250’ drive to where the #7 basket used to be. Then you throw 100’ to where the #8 tee used to be. From there you throw it 225’ under the basket and drop it in. Four. (From now on, please allow me to write from the perspective of a right- handed pro; you can shorten distances and reverse shots for amateurs and lefties).

The next day you get to hole #78 and you start to wonder. Could there be more to life than throwing the same shots day after day? And is there a way you could get a three on this hole? Maybe you could throw an anhyzer and try to shorten the hole a little. Hmm… a 325’ anhyzer to point A, and a 225’ anhyzer to the basket. You could do that, but you’re not throwing anyhyzers too well this day. How about a straight shot up the gut, 325’ to the old #8 tee box (point B), and down the tunnel home? Not too tough, but if you don’t land right on that old #8 tee, you won’t get a good look at the tunnel.

There must be a better way. There’s a nice open spot (point C) that’s easy to get to, but it leaves a 275’ approach shot, and you’re not feeling too good about that. Then you start to feel strong — you could throw a 425’ hyzer around everything, and that would leave you a shorter approach that’s almost wide open. But if you use too much hyzer you’ll hit that tree, and not enough hyzer could put you in the water — either way it’s a bogey. Huge risk, but huge reward. Maybe you could get a roller through everything and leave yourself a 175’ approach (point R). Wow, lots of options. Which way is the wind blowing, anyway?

Your life is very different now. Every day you wake up wondering if you should go for A, B, C, D, or R. But there’s more than choice and strategy off the tee. Because sometimes you go for A and nail it, and that leaves you with one particular approach shot. But sometimes you land 20’ to the left of A, which leaves you a different approach; and sometimes you’re 20’ to the right of A, which leaves you with something else entirely.

You’re looking at a different approach shot almost every day, and each time you have just 30 seconds to choose a shot and execute it. Life is exciting! Now you’re playing golf.

Our mythical hole #78 brings together a lot of the principles we’ve discussed in previous articles. How has it made the game more enjoyable?

  • Strategy is a big part of the game now. There are choices, so now you have to know what your strengths are that particular day. Can you afford to play safe on this hole, or do you need to go for it?
  • The concept of risk vs. reward is finally in play. Execute a tougher drive, and you’re rewarded with an easier approach. Try a tougher drive and miss, and you could be looking at bogey.
  • “Save” shots are part of the game. If you have a bad drive, you can still save par with a great approach.
  • There’s so much more variety, and that’s a whole lot more fun. You never know what your approach shot will look like. Sometimes you even have to throw shots in the 125’ to 175’ range, something you’ve never even practiced.

Our new hole has brought the mental aspect into play, and it has increased the day-to-day variety of the experience. It has made disc golf less repetitive like darts and more creative like… golf. And guess what, even though our hole is 575’ long, it doesn’t give an advantage to the big arms. Even Stokely can’t reach this hole; if he gets a three on it he’s happy. And the guy who can throw far but not accurately is in big trouble. Who has an advantage on this hole? Three people:

  • The player who can throw 300’ accurately and consistently
  • The player who makes good choices
  • The player who can throw far accurately AND make good approaches

So now, which one are you?