Boise Sports and Outdoors

Disc Golf in the Boise Area - A Good Time Whether You're Shirtless or Not

For years I heard the rumblings throughout the valley that disc golf is the next great sport. In fact, some outspoken people have claimed that it's one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Now, to be honest, I also heard the same thing about bocce, dwarf tossing, and cornhole, so I was a little skeptical. Still, anything that involves frisbees, beer, and pond wading sounds like a good time to me, so I decided to spend some time finding out what playing disc golf in the Boise area is like. I never anticipated it could involve prodigious amounts of goose crap and shirtless dudes with beards.

On a basic level, disc golf is very similar to regular golf. You start at a tee area, which for disc golf might be a nice flat stretch of concrete or asphalt, and then you count the number of throws it takes to get the disc in the basket (or goal) at the end of the hole. Hole lengths are similar to those in golf, except they're in feet instead of yards. If you've been to the duck pond at Ann Morrison Park, or anywhere on the south side of the park, you've probably seen a few of the strange metal-and-chain contraptions that serve as the basket for each disc golf hole. You've also probably seen a few of the aforementioned shirtless dudes slinging their discs -- which are smaller than a traditional frisbee -- toward the goals. Why is disc golf so popular with shirtless dudes, you ask? Because it's free. There are no greens fees like there are at a regular golf course. This means that your average Joe need only show up with a disc. Then he can bum beers and cigs off other people and have a jolly good time in the sun.

Teeing off

As with any sport, there's plenty of room for enthusiasts to get carried away, especially if you go down to McU Sports' store in Downtown Boise. They've got three walls full of various discs from three different manufacturers, and if you can't find the color, weight, or general look and feel you're going for, it probably doesn't exist. Heck, they even have some discs that glow in the dark, like those prophylactics in the movie Skin Deep. They also have all the miscellaneous items you might need to look legit on the course, such as bags, disc retrievers, and even portable goals.

Good golly, Miss Molly

Picking out a disc or two is easier said than done, however, and not just because of McU's impressive selection. Each disc has a set of specs that indicate its ratings for speed, glide, turn, and fade. Based on these ratings, some discs are better for short-range throws, some for mid-range, and some for long-range throws. Some are better than others when it comes to wind. I'll admit that it's a bit intimidating and/or confusing figuring out which discs would be good for the beginner, but that's where McU employees Jamie Paul and Joe Koehler come in. Both of them are diehard disc golfers, and they're more than happy to talk to you about throwing techniques, explain the disc ratings, or just chat about the state of Boise disc golf. If you find yourself unable to find some discs you like, McU will even let you rent a bag of fourteen assorted discs for a half or full day for only $15 or $20 respectively, just so you can see what actually works for you out on the course.

The McU rental bag

The discs at McU range from $10 to $20, which is not bad considering it's really the only equipment you need. However, if you just want to see what the game is like and do it as cheaply as possible, your local Fred Meyer store has been known to sell a three-pack of discs for around $11. That's not a bad way to go for newbies, considering the average disc golf course has water hazards and shrubbery that make it easy to lose a disc, at least if you're not willing to wade into a duck pond full of goose crap, fight the swampy reeds, climb a tree, or traipse into the woods. Even if you are willing, it's still easy to lose one.

This man is obviously impervious to goose crap

If you need any indication of how popular this sport has become, just ask Jamie at McU about it. The number one complaint from area disc golfers is that Ann Morrison Park, the area's signature course, is always crowded and frequently has wait times. "I had some friends come in from out of town last year, and they said that Ann Morrison is the most crowded disc golf course they've ever seen," says Jamie. "We really need some more courses."

Although the local disc golf club, the Gem State Disc Golfers, has done a commendable job building courses since the late 90s, it would seem as though the game's popularity has caught up with them a bit. The course at Ann Morrison Park has one set of 20 holes for summer play (late March-November) and a mostly different set of 20 holes for winter play, allowing for year-round enjoyment. However, their course at Eagle Island State Park only features 9 holes that are open year round; an additional 9 holes are only open from October until sometime in April when the hippies and horseback riders take over the park. They've also created an 18-hole course up at Bogus Basin, which gives you a seasonal opportunity to test your throwing skills against hills, boulders, and big trees. But what's missing are more year-round full-length golf courses in Boise that can take some of the load off Ann Morrison. This is not something that's lost on the Gem State Disc Golfers. The've been making proposals for new courses along the Greenbelt in Garden City, out at Barber Park, and even in Veterans Memorial Park, but I'm sure you can imagine how slow and painful it is to deal with city and state governments.

Scenic hole in Ann Morrison Park

If you need yet another indication of the sport's general popularity, consider that there are actually so-called professional disc golfers who travel the country or even the world playing in tournaments. I was curious what it takes to become a professional disc golfer, so I visited the Professional Disc Golf Association's website. Apparently, if you have a pulse, $75, reliable transportation, and are willing to accept cash prizes at tournaments, you too can be a disc golf pro. Then you can sign yourself up to compete against the disc golfing elite at the Boise Super Classic on May 8th, 2010, as well as many other pro tournaments this summer. Glory awaits!

Sweet limp-wristed throwing style

Honestly, you don't need to have professional aspirations to have a good time playing disc golf. As I found out, it's a great evening out for you and your dude pals, or you can take the family out to the Ann Morrison course on a Saturday afternoon. Even little kids love it, because they get to run around like a spaz and occasionally throw a disc into the water. That's quality bonding time if you ask me. However, as Joe from McU is quick to point out, be sure to keep in mind that there is some etiquette that should be followed, even though you won't be playing on a fancy country club golf course.

"Nobody reads the sign at Ann Morrison, but it tells you what the proper etiquette should be," says Joe. "It's simple stuff, really. Pick up your trash, pick up your dog crap, and don't go around cussing all the time. There are kids in the park, and the everybody else doesn't want to hear it. It's all common sense."

Whichever course you choose to go to, remember one thing. Unless you've been throwing a frisbee consistently since you were six, it's not as easy as it looks. Expect to earn a nickname like "Dr. Hook" or "The Hooker" the first time you try it. Speaking from experience, I can say that the harder and farther you try to throw it, the worse the throw will be. But the difficulty and skill involved are what make it so fun to play. After you embarrass yourself, you'll definitely want to go back and get some redemption, and that's much better than sitting on the couch watching reruns of Man v. Food on the Travel Channel.

Activity: Disc golf in the Boise area
Where: Ann Morrison Park, Eagle Island State Park, Bogus Basin, and others.
When: Dawn 'til dusk
Cost: Good discs cost $20 or more; golf courses are free, unless you want to play a private course somewhere.
Website: Gem State Disc Golfers
Fun fact: Normally I would suggest that you look at the maps for the Bogus course before you go up there, but the aerial photos look like they were taken from Mars, making the whole exercise perfectly worthless. You'll just have to figure that one out after you get up there.
Why I love it: It'll get you outside with friends during Boise's beautiful summer evenings.