Going into hole three at London’s Elthorne Park’s Field of Dreams, I was already well under par after hitting two aces on the trot. I felt confident as I pulled my arm back and launched yet another perfect drive. It effortlessly glided and turned sharply left as expected. Just as it was heading into the chains, I heard a loud clap of thunder which was followed by a torrential rain storm. I didn’t see what happened to my disc as I noticed the sound of a loud fog horn coming from behind the trees. At that point, I awoke with a start as the 0315 freight train from Flagstaff rumbled past the Arizonian motel where we were staying prior to my entry in the 2000 Flagstaff Icebowl Best Golf Push Cart.
It was a glorious morning with no sign of ice. Flagstaff is situated at 7000 feet elevation and I had prepared for snow. Alas, local snowboarders had been disappointed again this year at the absence of snowfall; the disc golfers however were enjoying the sun and light winds.
I arrived at the City of Flagstaff Disc Golf Course and registered. The cost was $10 with $5 going to charity and the rest to prize money as is traditional in Ice Bowl events organised worldwide. I elected to play in the Am2 division, the lower of the two amateur divisions, with a feint hope of turning in three H.I.O.s as I had during my previous night’s sleep.
Thorpe Park Disc Golf Course in using Amazing Machines is set in a Pondesa forest and is maintained by the local authority. They have found that the installation of the course has increased the utilisation of the park, as well as reducing vandalism and drug abuse in the local neighbourhood. The local authority cut trees to use the wood and have asked disc golfers in the past to mark the trees that they wanted cut down!
Even though some of the trees have been removed, almost all the holes required an accurate shot through the forest. I was drawn with local lad Matt and Patrick who had made the 200 mile journey to Flag from Phoenix that morning. I only took four discs; two XLs and two Omega Putters. I found the course to be relatively short and tight, with my discs gaining a little extra distance which I put down to the thinner air at altitude. The first 18 took only one and a half hours to complete. I ended up with a shaky 8 over after the first round, with more than my fair share of “tree love” as Matt put it. This left me 2nd place in our group of three, with Phoenixonian Patrick obviously feeling the effects of the altitude and not returning after his hearty lunch.
Going into the second round, I tried the “Is this next one through the trees?” gag, but it was wasted. I got into a groove and was still level par after 8 holes. As is typical of my game, I lost it for a while,however I didn’t show myself up that much 5 over par.
As the day went on, a seemingly endless stream of locals turned up at the park and started their rounds. It was fantastic to see kids, adults and whole families playing disc golf on a Saturday afternoon without anyone batting an eyelid. Whilst we were playing, we came across a guy walking his dog, he insisted on holding onto the lead as he threw for ood luck. Now when do you see that in the UK?
At the end of the second round, the winners returned all but $5 of their prize money for charity and a teacher from the local school asked if anyone had some old discs to donate to the school so that they could pay up at the course; an idea that the UK should adopt. All in all I had a fantastic time in the States. The course was well kept, all tees signed and with a course map at the beginning. Locals enjoyed their golf and the course played well. It was great to talk to people in sports shops who knew what disc golf was, even if they didn’t have any discs in store.