After playing my third or fourth tournament ever, I realized that tournament disc golf is NOTHING like recreational disc golf. It is literally a different sport. There may be the same rules, and the same objectives, but the experience as a whole is a far cry from what one finds at a typical ‘for fun’ round of disc golf. When I realized I was completely obsessed with all things disc golf, I started signing up for tournaments; assuming that it was the culmination of all the practicing I had done to this point. I was going to take everything I had learned, and apply it to a competition, and hopefully win… …of course I came in second to last in practically every tournament I played in that year, and I was left wondering what happened.
When I was about 13, I decided the time had come for me to go to the grocery store, and buy my own tube of Nestle’s Toll House Cookie Dough- and eat it raw. Up to that point, I had always had small tastes and pieces and it left me wanting more. I figured, the ultimate prize would be to just eat one of those things straight up. Not surprisingly, once I finally had the chance, I got through about three inches of “tube” and had to stop eating as it quickly became too much to handle. This was how I ended up feeling the first few times I played all day tournaments. It was two full rounds of 18 holes (at least, sometimes more) playing with groups of four people. This meant I was witness to well over 400 shots in one day, as well as walking over two miles; so for me, it was a lot to handle. This isn’t a “be weary” warning or a Debbie-Downer thing, just an observation that I’ve experienced in the last two years. I held ‘tournament play’ up on a pedestal to a point where after an exhausting super-long day of playing in one, essentially over eating on the disc golf cookie-dough, I was left thinking “what just happened? I thought this was the whole point of playing.” And my disc golf stomach was temporarily full.
After mentioning my experience to fellow golfers, their response was always in regards to how tough it was to play well under pressure. I was told how to prepare for the pressure, and how to achieve ice-water in my veins. “Envision all your shots.” “Listen to some good music on the drive.” “Talk to locals about how to play the course.” For some, winning really IS important, and they’re the ones who need to learn to execute their “game plan” and improve their “focus.” But that sounds too much like a Powerade commercial. For others, like myself, all that is needed is to remember why we play disc golf: for fun. If I’m not having fun, I’m not doing it right. The long days, with the million throws, the miles of walking- are all the ingredients of the game of disc golf- it’s just doled out at a different pace and in different portions.