Disc golf is one of the best unknown sports available in all of Richmond. You may have seen one of these strange-looking baskets in a park or on a college campus before, but the reason for their presence probably never really registered to you.
Disc golf, more commonly known as frisbee golf (or “frolf”), is played just like regular golf, but with frisbees and baskets rather than clubs and holes. Each frisbee golfer carries three discs with them: a driver disc for longer-distance shots, a mid-range disc for average distance shots, and a putter disc for approach shots to the basket. These discs are defined by slightly different shapes and weights of the discs.
Just like throwing a regular frisbee, there are really three different ways to go about releasing the disc. The first is the most common “backhand approach” which you will see most professionals utilize.
The second form used is known as the forehand approach and is not as commonly used.
The third and most common for amateur players is known as the hammer and is more of a throwing form.
There are many different disc golf courses in the Richmond area, but on a recent weekend my friends and I went and played two of the finest courses around.
The first course that we played was probably the most well-known course in the area, located at the University of Richmond. You embark on your 18-hole expedition as you head to the first tee, located in between the field hockey field and a parking lot. The first three holes are in the same general vicinity, but access to the fourth through eleventh holes requires a rather lengthy walk to the woods bordering the sorority houses. These heavily wooded areas require a great deal of precision and strategy in attempting to avoid the seemingly unavoidable obstacles that lie between you and your chained destination. As you approach the 12th tee box, you exit the woods and begin the most scenic hole on the course. Your tee shot approaches the beautiful lake, which was frozen on this winter afternoon.
While this hole provides beautiful scenery, it unfortunately also provides the golfer with an opportunity to lose a disc. On this afternoon, it was Gordon Granger (’16) who was a little too ambitious in his approach shot, as we all helplessly watched his orange disc slide to the middle of the impenetrable frozen territory.
The thirteenth hole runs alongside College Road as you enter back into the woods for holes 14 through 16, which follow a similar layout as holes three through 11. Following the 16th, you head back into the open and finish up with a couple of open holes that lead you back to the parking lot where you began.
Pros for the University of Richmond course: The course truly has a beautiful layout. With lush greenery and the lake backdrop, the course is very aesthetically pleasing. In addition, each tee box has a map with a clear layout of where the hole is. There is no difficulty in following from one hole to the next.
For people who are just starting out with the game, this course is perfect. The very manageable distances allow golfers to learn how to play and find which form suits them best, without requiring very long drives. Mid-range and short-range players who can remain accurate are definitely at an advantage on this course.
Cons: While it is aesthetically pleasing, the heavily wooded holes also provide quite a dilemma. Most holes have so many trees that the course truly becomes more about luck than skill. A perfectly straight, well-thrown disc can end up much shorter than a poorly thrown disc on any given hole. These obstacles, in addition, often prevent a golfer from throwing with the hammer approach, which puts those golfers at a great disadvantage on these holes.
The second course that we graced with our presence was Bryan Park, about twenty minutes from Collegiate. Bryan Park is Richmond’s official disc golf course and receives a greater amount of golfers than any other course in the city.
This course is essentially the opposite of the University of Richmond course. The first few holes run along a beautiful lake and are not very heavily wooded. These holes, however, are much longer than those at Richmond. One similarity to Richmond’s course is that Bryan Park took a disc victim, as we could only watch as Travis Reifsnider’s (’18)* errant throw sailed into the middle of the lake.
You head to the fourth hole, which lies over 600 feet from the tee box, requiring a powerful first shot. This was when we faced our most formidable hindrance with the course, as we approached what we thought was the fourth basket but was in reality the 12th basket. It was too late, however, and we continued on to the 13th hole. We finished out the round with holes 14 through 18 all following the same hilly and elongated pattern.
Pros of Bryan Park: If you are looking for a challenge, this course is perfect for you. The rolling landscape and lengthy holes allow for experienced golfers to exhibit their talents. There are still obstacles, but instead of requiring strictly luck to avoid them, they are very maneuverable with the right execution.
The people who play the course are very friendly and were incredibly welcoming to individuals who clearly were on this course for the first time. They helped us find the first tee-box and explained how to get to the next few holes afterwards.
Cons of Bryan Park: The main issues with this course are the lack of signs and maps. It took us around 20 minutes to find the first tee box, and we only were able to do so with the help of a veteran of the course. The tee boxes are poorly marked, and it is often unclear which basket you are attempting to shoot towards. After you finish the hole, it is difficult to find the next tee box as well.
The course was also pretty crowded on a Sunday afternoon in January. For younger and inexperienced golfers, you are likely to feel more pressure as you are not always able to take your time, in efforts to not hold up the individuals behind you.
Overall, both courses are a great opportunity to play a truly underrated and unknown game. If you are just starting out, I would recommend playing the University of Richmond course because it allows you to learn and improve while still playing competitively in a beautiful environment. If you do take on the challenge that is Bryan Park, I would suggest trying to play with someone who knows the course, so you do not have to spend as much time looking for the holes as you do playing.
As the weather gets warmer and you are looking for something to do, disc golf is the answer to all of your problems. Reifsnider said it best when he described disc golf as a, “great way to get outdoors with a few great pals and absorb neature.” So go grab some discs, get a group of friends together, and give the remarkable game of disc golf a chance; you will not be disappointed.
Photos courtesy of Ben Greer.
*This sentence originally mis-identified Reifsnider as a member of the class of 2015.