We’re not talking about the F-bomb here. We’re talking about the L-bomb and the V-bomb. Litter and Vandalism. They both suck. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, and it happens all the time with disc golf courses. The first summer I ever played, I was hooked. I immediately did searches for courses in my area- and I found a few great ones. Later that summer I had to work out on Cape Cod for two full weeks, including over-nights. I looked up courses located on Cape Cod and found two. One was a little farther away than I wanted to travel- but the second course was literally ON the property I was working on: Cape Cod Community College. I could work a full day, and just walk over to the DG course and play until dark. Perfect. …however, I soon discovered that the course was closed permanently just weeks earlier because of a few bad apples. The course was on college property and they obviously just had enough of kids ruining the area, littering, and getting the local law enforcement involved on a regular basis. There were a few incidents with cops and drugs and kids as well as a lot of litter. Why would a college agree to play host to something that is just causing them grief? I don’t blame them for shutting it down. It actually makes sense in a logical way: there could be 1000 people using the course and having fun, all while taking good care of it. But just a group of 5 kids could go through, tossing bottles, breaking glass, spray painting some stuff, and eventually getting busted by the police for who knows what. If the 1000 people who are having fun aren’t doing anything for the good of the host (in this case the college), then it follows that it isn’t worth the hassle to maintain the course. It’d be a nice service to provide, but there would be no motivation. Pay-to-play courses on the other hand, have the ability to ban players, get money for clean-up, and increase prices to discourage non-serious players.
Litter is the easiest problem to control, but it is a constant task. If you play a public course, you, as well as most other regular players, would need to pick up trash every day during every round to keep it clean. It’s not very often that you’ll see other players in the act of littering. “Litter-bugs,” as they’re called, know it’s wrong, and they wait until nobody is watching to toss their trash. It would be satisfying to be able to track down the people that litter, and collect their trash and put it under their sheets on their bed. Or simply punch them square in the nose. But these aren’t realistic options. On the rare occasion that you see a friend or player toss some trash aside, my advice is don’t hold back. Obviously, it’s best to avoid fist-fights, but if you give a person a good ration-of-shit, they’ll think twice about it the next time. They may not change their ways, but they obviously know how the other golfers feel about their ways.
Vandalism is probably the hardest to prevent. Kids, and teens are usually the guilty party. I’d be lying if I said I never destroyed something random when I was a kid. Personally, I used to love setting things on fire. I don’t know why- but I did. I also enjoyed chopping things down. There is a course in Worcester called “Newton Hill” which is behind the high school. It’s a great, free course that plays up a hill with some real open fairways. They put up a sign right in the middle of the intersection of a few holes, and the last time I played Newton Hill, the sign was charred black, from some punk kids who probably sprayed lighter fluid on it, lit it, and ran. They ruined it. Congratulations kids, you ruined something that was payed for by regular people who enjoy disc golf. I have no insights to offer when it comes to vandalism. I just know it sucks, and it can take the form of anything from graffiti to a stupid kid who likes to jump kick things into oblivion (something I witnessed a kid doing do a shed door at my home course).
So what do we do? The only thing we can do: be an example. Pick up trash when you see it. Put some labor and effort into the course so you have an attachment to it- that way you can’t just ignore it when people treat it poorly. When you’re introducing people to the sport, explain how hard it is to keep a course in good shape. Don’t let the little things slide. If you’re playing with a drunk guy who keeps leaving his empty beer cans (don’t bring glass onto the course- as broken glass never gets picked up and is dangerous) on the benches- pick them up and stick them in his bag. …and when he starts chasing you, don’t worry- he’s drunk and probably won’t get far.