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East County Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 4 months ago

Disc golf is a hole-in-one for Lakewood Ranch

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Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

How hard can disc golf be?

The above thought ran through my head before I tried my hand at the burgeoning sport on July 28. Lakewood Ranch’s Bob Gardner Park, which opened April 21, features a nine-hole disc golf course which has received positive reviews on hardcore disc golf websites like DG Course Review, and I wanted to see what the buzz was about.

The buzz wasn’t just happening online. MVP Sports and Social held its inaugural disc golf league at the course, which wrapped up July 21. MVP Sports co-founder Chris McComas said he decided to start the league to let people know about the course. He had never played in a league before, but had heard about the game’s surging popularity (the reason for the course in the first place). When he tried it with his league, he was instantly hooked, he said.

“Anyone can do it, all ages,” McComas said. “It’s a great way to get everyone in the family, or all friend groups, out in a beautiful park, being active and having something fun to play. It’s a blast.”

The league’s inaugural season had 56 players. McComas said he expects participation to double, if not triple, next season, which starts in October. He knew it would be successful, but he didn’t know the extent of the success until the league began. Then, he said, he knew he had a smash hit.

I played the Bob Gardner course in a group of five. The other four, which included Longboat Observer reporter Bret Hauff, were veterans of the game. It was my first time, and I was such a newbie I almost made the mistake of calling it “Frisbee golf” (a cardinal sin to some disc golfers), as the welcome sign at the course does. On the other hand, the sign encourages people to play The Grateful Dead and Phish songs “at a respectful level” while on the course, a funny touch showing Lakewood Ranch knows its disc golf clientele.

It turns out, the question I asked myself at the beginning of my day couldn’t have been more misguided. Disc golf is difficult! Like traditional golf’s varying clubs, there are varying types of discs: Distance drivers, fairway drivers mid-ranges and putters. They are used like they are in golf. The thing I learned immediately is those bad boys can move.  For a right-hander using a backhand throw like myself, discs are naturally going to fade left. Top disc golfers can control this fade, or get different movement by using different throwing techniques. I was mostly focused on not tossing one of Hauff’s discs, which he generously let me borrow, into a lake.

I improved as the session went on, and only hit one tree, which is a win in my book. I ended the day with a +15 over nine holes (par for the course is a 27), which Hauff said “isn’t bad” for my first time. He finished +3. The others in our group were in that range as well.

It’s easy to see why the sport was so popular with MVP Sports. Both McComas and the veterans in my group said the course is perfect for beginners, with holes being mostly straightforward, while more experienced players will enjoy the lengths of each hole, allowing them to throw long drives.

Oh, and the venue is beautiful, too.

“It’s exactly what you would expect from a Lakewood Ranch park,” McComas said.

Interested parties can sign up for MVP's October disc golf league at mvpsportsandsocial.com

I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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