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Flying high — Disc golf remains a popular sport in the valley

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | August 13, 2023 12:00 AM

Flathead Valley Disc Golf league president David Trussell steps up on a concrete tee pad holding a disc at Lawrence Park and takes aim at a basket across the green, practicing his throw.

Releasing the disc, Trussell steps back, watching it soar through the air and slice through tree limbs where it makes a slight curve before landing near its target.

Disc golf is played using the basic principles of traditional golf with some exceptions. The goal is to throw discs into baskets (referred to as holes like in traditional golf) in as few tosses as possible.

The league, which was organized in 2015, has about 50 members. Between 20 to 30 regularly meet up at Lawrence Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays to play singles and doubles, respectively. Members split up into smaller groups to get through the 18-hole course at Lawrence Park.

What attracts many people to disc golf is that no prior experience is necessary to start.

“You just have to know how to throw,” league newcomer Alex Hagen said with a smile.

It’s also easy to learn at any age. Trussell was introduced to the sport in college and has gone on to compete professionally

“I actually got into it to start walking my dog and do something active,” he said. Originally known as Frisbee golf, the modern sport’s origins date back to the 1960s.

“I actually grew up throwing Frisbees,” Trussell said.

League member Isaac Bromberg made the transition from Ultimate Frisbee to disc golf in the ’90s and has seen the sport grow nationally.

“It exploded during COVID,” Bromberg said.

“There’s a competitive spirit about it but there’s also really, really great camaraderie,” league member Ryan Dickey said. “Everyone around here has become friends due to this sport.”

The sport is also affordable and doesn’t require a lot of equipment.

“You can start with one disc,” Trussell said, which can be found at most sporting goods stores for under $20.

After all league members in a group finish a hole, the players grab backpacks, some on rolling carts, where unzipped pockets reveal interiors filled with rows of multicolored discs. Like golf clubs, the discs are shaped differently for different purposes such as drivers and putters.

“They all fly pretty differently,” Trussell said in what he described as “stabilities” that will result in a disc taking a curved path, either the left or right, or flying in a straight.

Collecting discs is not uncommon, at least in this group, whose members note they may easily have a hundred at home.

THE ATMOSPHERE among the Flathead Valley Disc Golf league is laid back. Players chat and laugh and play music while they golf. Rounds of disc golf don’t require a huge time commitment, usually under two hours, which is also appealing to players looking to get outdoors after work or school.

And there is a fun prize to win in the disc golf community.

“We do singles rounds on Tuesdays where we all play for tags,” Trussell said. “So the best score takes home the one tag.”

These bag tags are a staple among golfers as a fun way to display their rank. League member Craig Greenhagen shows an example of a tag his family made that reads “Miracle Rip, Ace Running,” with the numeral one.

“I beat my brother when he came and visited, so I took the No. 1 [tag],” Greenhagen explained.

There are also opportunities for players seeking to compete. Flathead Valley Disc Golf hosts tournaments locally that are sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). At sanctioned events, competitors earn points and are ranked nationally.

“We have people as far as Seattle that play in our event that we held earlier in the summer and then we host an event up in Whitefish that’s actually at the end of this month,” Trussell said.

There are different divisions players can compete in based on their skill level.

“They [PDGA] offer a wide variety of divisions starting from recreational, that’s like your entry level division, it kind of helps you like get a taste for tournaments, and then you move up to an intermediate, and then advanced division and then finally professional.”

The league also organizes course cleanups to pick up trash. Anyone is welcome to join Flathead Valley Disc Golf. Membership is $50.

“Our goal as a club is to physically and financially support the growth of disc golf in this area. Our goal is to create more opportunity for people to play disc golf — whether that’s putting in a new course, running and hosting clinics — things of that nature.”

For more information visit flatheadvalleydiscgolf.com. The group is also active on Facebook.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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Max Dwyer throws his driver disc during a round a Flathead Valley Disc Golf round at Lawrence Park in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Tabor Martin throws his approach during a Flathead Valley Disc Golf round at Lawrence Park in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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David Trussell, president of Flathead Valley Disc Golf, putts during a round at Lawrence Park in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Disc golfers carry a variety of discs, much like a bag of golf clubs, to cover all the different lengths and types of throws needed on a disc golf course. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Tabor Martin putts during a Flathead Valley Disc Golf round at Lawrence Park in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Max Dwyer throws his driver disc during a Flathead Valley Disc Golf round at Lawrence Park in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Disc golfers carry a variety of discs, much like a bag of golf clubs, to cover all the different lengths and types of throws needed on a disc golf course. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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David Trussell, president of Flathead Valley Disc Golf, throws his driver disc during a round at Lawrence Park in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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A Prodigy Disc PA-2 Putt and Approach Disc, for throws close to the basket, lies on the ground during a Flathead Valley Disc Golf round at Lawrence Park on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Isaac Bromberg throws his approach disc from the "rough" during a round a Flathead Valley Disc Golf round at Lawrence Park in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Isaac Bromberg watches his drive during a round a Flathead Valley Disc Golf round at Lawrence Park in Kalispell on Tuesday, Aug. 1. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)