By Ben Karkela
MSUM mass communications student
All photos by Ben Karkela
The No. 3 hole at Woodlawn Park waits out the lonely winter months.
Golf is expensive. Clubs, membership fees and those funny clothes cost quite a bit of cash. How can someone get the same experience without dropping a small fortune? The answer is simple. Disc golf.
The only course downtown
Disc golf combines frisbee and golf. Players refer to it affectionately as "frolfing." The Woodlawn Park course in Moorhead sits along the edge of the Red River, south of the Main Avenue bridge The course offers wide fairways and scattered trees to give players a challenge. The wide fairways also mean that the course is susceptible to heavy winds, making the disc more difficult to control.
"The place is open and big," Evan Rolstad said. "I like the hills and the distance of the holes."
The course contains 18 holes that meander through the park. The long distances between the tee and the pin give players with a strong throwing arm an advantage.
Woodlawn Park closes at 10 p.m. during the season.
The large open area throughout the course means players need to generate power when throwing the disc.
Most people can throw a disc. It’s easy enough. Perfecting the throw and being able to drop the disc exactly where it needs to be takes practice, and lots of it.
To throw the disc, new players should generally grip the disc with all four fingers on the underside and place the thumb on the top edge. This grip can be modified to the players personal preference. Keep a good center of balance, reach back, take a few steps forward and rotate the shoulders to generate power and pull the arm through the throw.
Flying through the sky
Choosing the right disc may be more complicated than one might think. Scheels offers the best selection of discs in Fargo-Moorhead. Dozens of different styles of discs are available. Play It Again Sports also offers a selection of discs.
Distance drivers, fairway drivers, mid-range discs and putters are all made for specific purposes. Each disc also contains four numbers that indicate speed, glide, turn and fade of the disc.
"Every disc is different," Rolstad said. "It depends on the way you throw it and the distance to the hole."
When buying discs, consider what they will be used for. Weigh all the options available to find the perfect disc.
Within walking distance of Woodlawn Park, Scheels in Moorhead offers the best selection of discs.
A game for all ages
Anyone can play disc golf. It’s easy. Take a moment to scan the course and a wide range of players come into view. Young kids frantically roam the open spaces, looking for a missing disc while more seasoned players casually approach their perfectly placed disc next to the pin.
Families come to teach their children how to play while other players bring along their dogs to accompany them on their trek across the 18 holes. The majority of players, however, are high school and college kids looking to catch some sun and hang out with friends.
"I try to go every day, probably a couple times a day," North Dakota State student Brett Tysdal said.
While at Woodlawn Park, play at a comfortable pace, but move quick enough so other groups behind aren’t at a standstill. If players behind you are golfing at a faster pace, wait a minute and let them move ahead.
Always be aware of the surroundings. Lightweight, but durable plastic discs flying at high speeds cause a lot of pain when striking someone. If a players throws a rogue disc, be sure to yell "FORE!" so other players know to watch out.
Leagues of frolfers
To gain more experience, join a league. The Fargo-Moorhead Disc Golf League runs through the summer and ends in September.
During the summer, Woodlawn Park closes Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. when only league members are allowed to play. Five divisions are available to join. They include: Amateur, Pro Amateur, Professional, Master’s (40+), and Women’s divisions. For more information, visit the Moorhead Parks and Recreation Web site.
Snow drifts over the sign designating league play near the first tee.
Not everything goes smoothly
Disc golf leagues do not have a spotless image among everyday players. The league often come across as bossy and many players do not like being kicked off the course during league play.
"I don’t like the league players," Tysdal said. "They always try to kick everybody of the course. They do have the right, but they are not very nice about it."
Summer around the corner
While players anxiously await the arrival of warm weather, the potential spring flood poses a threat to Woodlawn Park. In 2009, the Red River submerged Woodlawn Park during a record flood.
The floodwaters left the course a muddy mess that was difficult to navigate early in the season. This year, the park may open at a later date because of the looming flood.