Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Disc Golf Will Never Be More than a Recreational Sport

I wish it were different.

I love disc golf, think it is a beautiful game, and with the disc being easier to see than a golf ball, has the potential to have all the public (and even spectator) appeal of ball golf. But I don't think disc golf will ever be anything more than a recreational or hobby sport where prizes will be based on entry fees, and here's why: disc golfers. I love disc golf. Unfortunately, most of the disc golfers I have met in my life have been jerks that I would not want to spend ten minutes with were I not paired in a grouping with them.

I keep thinking/hoping that I'll find some pocket of local golfers who "get it" but it just seems like everywhere I go (I've played in tournaments and monthlies in GA (Augusta, Atlanta, Toccoa), NC (Charlotte, Raleigh), SC (Chapin, Columbia), MD, TN, OH, VA (Spotsylvania, Sherando, Harrisonburg, Fairfax), all over the friggin' place--and I can count on one hand the number of times there wasn't flagrant cheating going on, especially in the AM division (I'm not talking ignorance, either, I'm talking about about a refusal to play by the rules or enforce them once they are made known). I've seen AMs blatantly cheat and Advanced and Pros just take the attitude of "they aren't taking money out of our pocket, so we don't care." I've seen pros cheat and people say, "Well we aren't going to call them on it because they won't come back to play this tourney" or "Who am I to call a violation on someone who is playing at a better division?" I've seen Pros and Advanced cheat because they were put in a mixed group and figured that nobody else in the group knew the rules or because they could get intimidate the Ams into not seconding an obvious violation. I've seen Pros and Advanced cheat in pairs in a mixed group to give themselves a leg up for the second round. I've seen blatant cheating at THE FREAKING ICE BOWL (which is a charity event).

I've seen disc golfers bet each other on whether or not they could hit a church steeple on adjacent policy. It is a fairly regular occurrence for me to see other golfers let dogs run, unleashed through parks and defecate on the course, golfers smoke weed and drink alcohol in violation of public park policy, golfers who make racist comments about minorities in the park, or lewd remarks about female golfers or women in the park. I recall one PDGA tournament I was at where a golfer commented loudly about the sex acts he wished to perform on a junior female golfer in another group, not realizing her father was walking by on the adjacent fairway.

There are, of course, exceptions, but they are unfortunately just too few and far between. I've never seen Brian Schweberger or Jeb Bryant conduct themselves as anything but class acts on the course. I once had the privilege of playing in a grouping with Juliana Korver and she was a consummate professional. In Georgia, John Nisewonder is a class act as well as a great player, and on the homegrown tour in NC, Jay Pontier and Jim Markov are models of decorum and sportsmanship for skilled players. I've never been in a grouping with him, but every time I've been at an event with Jeff Kozak he has modelled fair play both in and outside of his group.

I'm sure there are others. There must be. But if there are, I haven't seen them or played with them--and I've played on over a 100 different courses in over 30 different states.

I try to set a good example on the course as well as off--to congratulate guys for good shots and observe etiquette as well as rules. I was playing in a tourney once, and I made a 25 foot putt, lost my balance and took a step forward. One of the guys in my group jokingly called out "Foot fault."So I went back and re-putted, (making the putt again). When I was asked why I did that, I said, "Because it was a foot fault and the first offense on a foot fault is a warning and re-throw." When I was told that nobody had seconded it, I said, "I seconded it." To which I was told, "Get over yourself. We're not that serious around here."

And people wonder why competitive disc golf can't catch on as a bigger sport.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

I 100% agree with you on this! In ball golf, if someone were to accidentally (or intentionally) move the ball before their shot, they would be penalized according to the rules. In disc golf it's "Well, I was behind a tree..." Really, no kidding, maybe that's why you should learn how to throw around objects. Rules are there for a reason, to make the sport competitive.... Without rules, we might as well be throwing a game of catch in the back yard.

I'd love to play a round with you and I promise I won't be cheating. The more one plays by the rules, the better one gets.