Dan Kaercher learns there are two kinds of golf games: the traditional "ball" golf and the golf game played with "discs".
Hosted by Dan Kaercher, Iowa's Simple Pleasures features Iowa travel destinations, restaurants, events, parks, recreation and more. Produced by Iowa Public Television, the series highlights fun things for Iowans to do, see and taste, right here at home. Below are excerpts from Dan's journal of his travels in the state.
The ride to Forest City is especially informative today, because our IPTV crew is accompanied by a disc-golf expert: Justin McLuen of Urbandale, where I live. He’s been at it since he was in high school (Des Moines Roosevelt) and disc golf was in its infancy. Currently, he is the Iowa State Coordinator for the Professional Disc Golf Association and the Des Moines Disc Golf Club president.
Justin tells me the sport now has around a million devotees worldwide, and there always seems to be a tournament happening somewhere. I learn that Iowa has more courses per capita than any other state -- 160 all told -- each one free and many adjoining beautiful traditional golf courses.
Being in Forest City brings back some memories because our son, Adam, spent part of his college days here at Waldorf College. (He went on to George Washington and the University of Iowa). Most people have heard they make RVs here, but not everybody knows it's also a pretty little college and county-seat town. Lunch is at a local sports bar, Shooterz, where I try the recommended Linda's steak salad with the special Greek dressing. Perfect!
Forest City has a handsome, wooded disc course, situated beside a traditional golf course and straddling the Winnebago River (part of the course involves crossing a springy suspension footbridge over the river and dam). I usually flub up royally when I have to perform on camera, especially when I'm learning something new. But some of my Frisbee-throwing skills from high-school days must have stayed with me because they tell me I'm doing a halfway respectable job today.
I can see why this sport is growing fast in popularity: While the best players, like Justin, obviously have great technique, anyone can give it a whirl just for fun (without investing a lot in equipment or fees). Hazards on the popular Forest City course include trees and water, just like a traditional course. But the "holes" in this case resemble chain-link nets topping baskets that are set a couple feet above the ground; "tees" are concrete pads.
Justin shows me the basics: You take a few steps forward (like a discus-thrower), cock your arm back (making sure it remains level) and let fly. They tell me the difference between this sport and tossing a Frisbee is that disc golf isn’t all about wrist action. When Justin opens his version of a golfer's “duffel bag” I’m amazed at the different sizes and weights of plastic discs, which are smaller than Frisbees. Justin tells me they correspond to conventional golf clubs--putters, drivers, irons, etc.
Watching Justin's moves makes me realize why he's a champion: He even nails a hole in one! It's always fun to learn something new, especially on a glorious Iowa autumn day in the great outdoors.