For many years, I have detested frisbee golf with an intensity like no other. It is an amalgamation of my two least favourite activities—frisbee and golf—and the key requirement, basic athletic ability, is unfortunately far beyond me. In a horrible twist of fate, the school I now attend is home to an 18-hole disc golf course, and each year our physical education classes include unnecessarily lengthy frisbee golf units. It doesn’t help that frisbee golf is relatively friendly to COVID-era social distancing requirements and has thus become a staple for harried P.E. teachers. Considering how relatively simple the rules of the game itself are, I was surprised to find that there are even professional “frolf” leagues, but I guess there are leagues for every sport (even marble racing, as I recently discovered).
The sport projects an innocent image. Many ask, how difficult could it possibly be to toss a disc into a wire basket? Answer: extremely difficult. As it turns out, there are several variables which complicate the simple objective of the game, such as wind speed and the overwhelming number of inconveniently positioned trees on our school campus. Our school also borders a non operational military base, and for every frisbee that goes askew and pitches into the barracks, the entire class is made to run laps. (Interestingly, collective punishment is considered a war crime under the Geneva Convention of 1949, but I chose to not share this fascinating piece of trivia with my P.E. teacher.) More importantly, disc golf requires a considerable amount of physical capability. As we chose frisbee golf teams for the month, I felt distinctly like the uncoordinated kid in a stereotypical middle school gym class who gets picked last to play dodgeball. And I can’t even blame my peers: my utter lack of hand eye coordination combined with deficient upper body strength means I throw the disc with the approximate accuracy of a blindfolded baby elephant. The other day, I took thirty-one strokes to get a frisbee into a basket less than fifty metres away.
Other non-athletically inclined students also express frustration with the seemingly unwinnable nature of the game. Ethan Jasny, a WPGA student and dextrous baseball player, described a memorable experience: “As I hurled this rigid plastic disk across the open field, aiming for this tiny target which could only be hit with a perfect throw, I thought: must I waste my life aiming for lofty targets? The wind took my disk and pulled it in the wrong direction: am I really in control?”
It was a curious phenomenon, therefore, when I suddenly found myself consumed by frisbee golf enthusiasm. It happened on a damp Monday morning, far too early in the day to be playing sports. We were on the 11th hole of an 18-hole game, and to the chagrin of my teammates, I had thrown the disc into a large swampy puddle, which as per usual was in the opposite direction of the basket. After wading into the puddle and extricating the frisbee, I took aim, focused, and, miraculously, tossed it into the basket twenty metres away. It landed with a satisfying plunk. And in that moment, I was overcome by this bizarre sense of accomplishment. I understood with astonishing clarity why people would choose to spend hours throwing plastic discs into holes. At 9am in a Monday morning P.E. class, I felt like Michael Phelps with his eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics (yes, I had to use Google to find an appropriate sports analogy).
The spontaneous frolf zest gradually dissipated as the day continued, and my dexterity returned to its normally subpar levels. I still lack hand eye coordination, I still have no aspirations to join the Professional Disc Golf Association, and I’m still in the habit of accidentally blitzing nearby elderly women with discs. Nevertheless, frisbee golf has become a personal source of contentment. As it turns out, you can be terrible at something and still enjoy it. Whether you’re scoring a hole-in-one or a hole-in-thirty-one, frisbee golf—and life, for that matter—is ultimately what you make it.