[Many thanks to Santa Maria disc golfer Newton Hemphill for this article!]
Waller Park is accessible to all and plays host to a wide variety of activities for all ages. One of my favorite activities combines walking with short bursts of physical exertion while combining mental exercises of distance calculations and factoring in wind speed and direction is called “Disc Golf”. This sport is great for all ages and if you watch the regular players on the course, you’ll notice that not all of them are young guns. Men, women, boys and girls are welcome to play the game known by the name of Disc Golf or Frisbee golf. There’s a lot of history to the game and the older players probably have stories from earlier times describing the courses and equipment from long ago.
My early days of throwing discs involved playing catch with a Frisbee using trick throws and showing off. Soon, my friends and I found a short disc course in town and we learned to play golf. Everyone has stories similar to this and one of the key things is that age doesn’t matter. In a lot of cases, the throw doesn’t even matter as long as it generates the right amount of spin. After first experiencing this sport in my 20’s, there was a long period when I had to do other things in my life and thankfully things have come full circle and Frisbee Golf (now called Disc Golf) is in my life again and the courses and equipment are even better.
It is a real privilege to live close to Waller Park and to have access to the facilities. I’ve met a lot of people playing golf and always get a kick out of people asking questions about getting started. With just a disc or two and some basics on technique and learning the course layout, you’ll spend hours and hours getting better as you try things. As mentioned earlier, this activity is not age restrictive. The regulars on the course include some very young people, teenagers, and adults of all ages. Our regular group ranges from 4 to 12 on weekends and there is a different mix during the week and we are not the only regular group that meets. For organized league play and tournament experience, the Santa Maria Kingpins is the local group with a good mix of ages and experience.
Allow me to introduce you to just a few of the more senior regulars at the course. Not everyone is mentioned here and this sample just happened to be some of the ones that showed up on the day I had the camera handy. Brian, John, and Doug are shown in the pictures to the right. After our warm up session, we had 8 and decided to play doubles with the winners making it to minus 4 at one point. That’s a pretty good score if you like to keep track of that sort of thing (my partner and I managed a minus 1 on the round). Thanks to some of the regulars – Don, Doug, Brian, Kevin, Ray, Aaron, Pete, Rich P., Jose, Ron, Gerry, David, Matthew, Tom, John, Rich C. and Doug. There are a lot more but space and memory are limited.
The senior players at Waller consist of a good number in their 50’s, and an even bigger number in their 60’s including me. The group of seniors in their 70’s also is pretty sizable but the one that really inspires the rest of is Don. He is over 95 and plays almost every day and can make the par score on most of the holes. He’ll usually be throwing a light weight disc and prefers to carry just the one and make it work for all his shots. I’ve tried to play with just one and must admit it’s a challenge when normally having a selection to choose from for each possibility. If you’re familiar with regular golf (we call it ball golf), imagine playing the course with just one club, you really need the one club that works for you.
Don is a regular on the course and usually plays in the morning with anyone of the regular group but also acts as ambassador to new comers and will escort them around the beginning of the course to get them headed in the right direction. The rest of us regulars know that he’s
actually getting warmed up before we arrive.
The key thing to take away from this short article is that playing Disc Golf will keep you active and it’s something to enjoy no matter what your age. Even tournament play has divisions to group players well over 80 so all you need is a disc and a way to the park near you.
This picture of Don and me (Newton PDGA 57237) was taken a couple years ago when I first met him and believe me, he hasn’t slowed down over that time. For myself, I’ll be playing as long as I have a disc to throw and a direction to throw it. Hope to see you out there sometime and rest assured that Don will be watching your technique to see how he can get a few more feet on his drives or a different grip for putting.
From the seniors at Waller Pines Disc Golf Course, we wish you time and energy to go out and play this wonderful sport. The New Year 2016 is young and you are as young as you feel so get out there and “Grip it and rip it” and “Play with confidence.”