Sean Beckwith: Disc golf versus real golf: you decide
About four or five times a month I get to pretend I’m not living paycheck to paycheck. Instead of Danny Noonan lugging clubs for people at the Maroon Creek Club, I put on my Spaulding Smails hat and tear up the golf course while yelling profanities and shooting pretty bad golf. My parents, who are retired, reside in a gated community downvalley and are full members at the club.
Because I’m related to them and am still younger than 40, I have a “Legacy” membership. The idea is to get me hooked to the country club life with the assumption that when I turn 40 I’ll be able to afford my own membership and the fees that come with it. The odds of that happening are the same as the odds of me writing the next great American novel. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my discounted golf and poolside beers at Bushwood for the annual dues of free 99.
“Caddyshack” is in my top three movies of all time. If that movie has taught me anything, it’s that grass-smoking caddies Ty Webb and Al Czervik are the good guys in the fight against stuffy, elitist club goers. It’s only natural for me to be skeptical of everyone in economically segregated establishments. I went to Caribou Club once for Halloween and it was like a mixture of “True Detective, Season 2” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” My guess is if I hang around there long enough someone is going to try to pin a murder on me.
I bring this up because I love playing golf. Being outside, driving golf carts, smashing drives, hitting crisp iron shots, drinking beers, smoking cigars and loosely using curse words are all great things. The thing is any friend I bring has to be able to afford $100-plus green fees. Unfortunately Lenny and Carl prefer to spend their money at Moe’s.
We had a solid tradition of playing the par 3 outside of Carbondale, but that subsided because the hour and a half round-trip commute is inconvenient. That, and is it really golf if you never use more than a six iron?
Instead, I’ve been playing the sport of stoners, the pastime of patchouli oil, the game of throws: disc golf. I haven’t played this much disc golf since I was in high school chugging and throwing up mixed-berry flavored Skyy vodka from a sunbaked Nalgene bottle.
That said, the people I played disc with in high school have moved on to golf because most have yet to move on to a place as pricey as Aspen. The Aspen city course costs almost twice as much as courses in my hometown, Omaha, Nebraska, that are twice as nice.
After an evening round at Snowmass last week, my friend Will said, “You should write about disc golf and how it’s better than elitist ball golf.”
While I mostly disagree with that statement, there is a truth to it. Golf is an elitist sport. Think about it: You have to wear a collared shirt, own a set of clubs, pay green fees, know the ins and outs of course etiquette, be quiet at specific moments and sport a pair of spikes. The financial obligations alone make it an illogical habit for many people.
During a round of disc golf, you don’t have to do any of those things other than “respect the tee box, bro.” Also, if you’ve ever used the phrase “respect the tee box, bro,” then your disc golf career is officially too intense. I’m competitive as hell, which is probably the reason I still play the sport, but the music coming from my phone is not the reason you ripped your “Bee” into the junk. You don’t have to be quiet at an ultimate Frisbee game. (Well actually, I don’t know if that’s true. I’ve never been to one. Maybe someday former cross-country runners will show me what they do for fun after realizing endurance sports are just elongated workouts.)
There are downsides to disc golf, though. If you lose a disc, it’s much worse than losing a golf ball because the disc is your club as well as your ball. Imagine hitting a slice off the tee and having someone come up and snap your club in two immediately after it. Obviously it’s not the same because that club is significantly more expensive than a disc, but it still sucks.
Also, because disc golf is free, you tend to get yahoos in groups of six to seven people dawdling around, looking for their errant discs or trying to corral their dog. More often than not though, people are willing to let you play through.
This isn’t always the case with ball golf. Paying customers like to get their money’s worth. Whether it’s hitting multiple tee shots, taking 15 practice swings or, god forbid, reading a putt like Phil Mickelson, nothing will put me on tilt during a round of golf faster than inconsiderate people. I get it; you’re trying to break 100. I’m trying to break for beers on the 19th hole. In the words of my father, “Just pick it up and throw it.”
I suppose I could take advantage of my legacy membership and play cheap golf by myself or with my parents. As fun as that is, it’s considerably less enjoyable because not everyone can play. If I were overly concerned about my handicap, short game or the intricacies of a hybrid golf club then I wouldn’t be Tin Cup out there gripping it and ripping it. While I’m happy to shoot anything less than 100, most people in the valley can’t play for anything less than $80.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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