When Felipe Macias throws a disc, it looks so easy.
The recent Yale graduate, who was a star pitcher on the baseball team, has a short run-up while in his “backswing” and lets loose long, accurate toss after long accurate toss on the disc golf course at Holland Woods Middle School in Port Huron.
He’s played the course enough that, to him, every whole is treated as a par 3, ignoring the 4s and 5s on certain holes. Real par on the course is 33 for nine holes, for Macias it’s 27. On Friday, he shot a 25.
As it turns out, Macias is very good at disc golf.
I am not. And, to a lesser degree, neither is Wil Hunter, the 23-year-old from St. Clair who joined Macias and me for a morning round at one of the area’s four disc golf courses. In his defense, he’s never really played. In my defense, I’m not good at throwing things. I’m not sure if that’s a defense.
Disc golf is a really simple game — explaining it, anyway. You throw a disc — basically smaller Frisbees — with the goal of putting it in a basket. You count the number of throws it takes to put it in the basket, and that’s your score on a hole. There are different discs for different shots, basically like golf clubs. This didn’t matter much for me.
Par is determined by the length of the hole and the obstacles between it and the tee box. Just like real golf.
And just like real golf, everything looks real simple and easy until you actual try it for the first time.
The course at Holland Woods basically takes you around the perimeter of the school grounds, dipping into the woods for a few holes, and using the Black River canal as a water hazard on another. It’s free to play and is open in non-school hours — so any time after 3:30 p.m. during the school year, and any time while school is out.
The first hole gives you a really good idea of what you’re in for when playing disc golf, something I haven’t done since I was in college at Central Michigan, and even that was during my sophomore year (2001-02).
The basket is clearly visible and looks plenty reachable. Of course, you’re throwing into a wooded area, so anything other than a dead straight or incredibly lucky toss will have you dealing with trees. Macias stepped up and threaded one right near the basket, and wound up with an easy 2. Hunter and I did not do that.
You know how bad golfers often slice to the right if they’re right handed? Well it turns out that bad disc golfers hook to the left if they’re right handed. Macias warned us of this, but there we were, off to the right, into the trees. We each bogeyed the opening hole that had looked so simple.
The next two holes included me literally striking the broadside of a barn that was nowhere near the hole, and falling down on a drive. Yes. I fell down. Throwing a Frisbee.
As our round wore on, Macias continued to wow us with his distance and accuracy, sinking a “field ace” on No. 5 by drilling a shot from about 100 feet away. Hunter started improving … sort of, and experimented with some different shots while pulling away from the worst of the bunch: me.
By the ninth hole, I had decided to go with the 90-year-old approach to golfing and just lightly threw my disc straight ahead as to avoid trouble. I was also avoiding slipping and falling again, and tearing every muscle in my shoulder.
I shot a 44. Hunter shot a 39 and hit me in the head when I decided it was best to stand between him and the basket to take a short video. Macias was kind enough to not laugh at us. Not for long stretches, anyway.
The website dgcoursereview.com lists Holland Woods, East China Park, Sage Creek in Memphis and Ira Park as the four local disc golf courses. Discs can be purchased at most sporting goods stores.
A round at Holland Woods would normally take about 20-30 minutes, Macias said. It took us about an hour, but we weren’t in any sort of rush, as we were the only ones on the course. I also threw the disc 44 times, so that adds some time to a round.
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.