It was a great day for disc golf as Chris Bowman and Blaine Benner stood at the sixteenth hole of the Thin Air Disc Golf Club, choosing their drivers.
They started the hole tied, nothing less on the line that the Disc Golf Championship of the World, a championship Bowman and Benner play every day, whether on their lunch breaks, before work or after.
Both players threw their discs down the rugged fairway, landing near the basket, but Benner sank his on the next shot, while Bowman had to take two and parred the hole.
Things didn’t improve for Bowman, who boggied on the next two holes, while Benner parred on 17 and birdied on 18, winning the day’s championship.
Benner and Bowman are two of the Thin Air Disc Club’s founding members, and help run and maintain the free-to-play course, which is done entirely by volunteers.
Getting into disc golf
Both Benner and Bowman got into disc golf in part because of the short play time of about an hour and a half.
“I got into it because I used to play a lot of golf and really enjoy it, and I had a baby boy that I wanted to take care of,” said Benner. “And so three and a half hours at a golf course was less reasonable for me to get away than an hour and a half at the disc golf course.”
Bowman also liked the shorter play time because it fits better with his busy schedule. Benner was the one who first introduced him to the game.
“Blaine lent me a couple of his discs originally, which I’m sure I lost quite early in my learning, but I just got hooked on it,” he said.
Benner first played disc golf in Toronto when he lived there 20 years ago, but really got into it in Rossland, where a group of guys played on a makeshift course at the campground with fire pits and trees as targets.
The problem was that they could only play when no one was camping, which meant that they couldn’t play in the middle of summer.
A course for Rossland
The group got to talking and decided it would be nice to have a real course, with real baskets to hit, and started raising money to build a course in Rossland. They sold sponsorships for the holes, and had equipment shipped in, partnering with Black Jack Ski Club to build the course on their land.
Cement tee decks were added later as more people got involved and wanted to see improvements.
Benner designed the course to meet the Professional Disc Golf Association’s requirements for a disc golf course.
“You have to have a variety of style[s] of hole, like uphill to the left versus downhill to the right,” he said. “Lots of change of grade is what you need to have in a course like this, so it provides … the ability to have a variety of shots.”
The course also needed to be designed so the baskets, and later the tees, wouldn’t interfere with Black Jack’s use of the area in winter. Otherwise the grooming equipment would damage the disc golf equipment or vice versa.
Bowman and Benner are grateful to everyone who has helped make the course a success.
“A huge thanks out to all of the volunteers that come out and help with the course and maintain it,” said Bowman.
“Thanks to all the people that use the course to keep it as clean as they do and be respectful of the environment,” said Benner.
Equipment and technique
The discs used are smaller than the average Frisbee, and like in golf, different shots require different equipment.
The driver is “a thin-edged disc … that slices through the air and goes very fast, very far.” It has to be thrown hard, with a lot of snap in the wrist to get good results.
The mid-range disc “has more of a scooped edge for more float and more control.” It doesn’t get as much distance as the driver, but it’s more likely to stay on the fairway.
A putter “is usually either heavy and bulky or more domed.” The domed putter will float more, while the heavier putter will drop; which putter is used depends on the put the player has to make.
Throwing the discs also requires different techniques.
When throwing the driver, the player needs to curl her fingers under the edge of the disc, while resting her thumb on top, and holding the disc firmly enough that she won’t accidentally let go too early when she throws it.
To throw the driver, the player needs to draw her arm back, then step forward while swinging from the shoulder and aiming downward. Aiming at the ground may seem anti-intuitive, but the disc will get some lift.
Throwing the domed putter, on the hand, requires a lighter touch.
Bowman throws the putter by cradling it in his outstretched palm, fingertips just touching the edges, and then gently tosses it toward the basket.
Tourism Rossland has just released a disc golf brochure for the course, which is available online or at the tourism office, for those who want more information about the game.