Extracurricular course

Disc golf lands at UCA

— Michael Murphy let fly a midrange disc on the new Bear Trail Disc Golf Course at the University of Central Arkansas. The disc hung low to the ground but curved nicely toward the basket several feet away. It could have become ensnared in any number of traps on its way to the target.

“You didn’t even think about it,” Branson White, a fellow member of the university’s disc golf club, said as he watched the disc glide toward the basket.

“I can’t,” Murphy said. “If I hesitate, I’ll mess up.”

White, Murphy and Hunter Taylor were enjoying an afternoon of disc golf on the course, which has been open to students and the community for only a week. The course has been in the planning stages for more than a year, and its inception began with another student, White said.

Chad Dickenson wrote his honors thesis on a disc golf course, drew up the original design, and obtained funding for the project through the Student GovernmentAssociation, White said. But when Dickenson relocated to Colorado before the course could be installed, the fate of the project was left up in the air.

White, who is now an SGA senator as well as an avid disc golfer, said he decided to make the course a reality this year. As a condition, he said the club had to promise not to infringe on the nearby Jewel Moore Nature Reserve. Players thread their way along the edges of the reserve without trampling the area.

The course has nine “holes,” or baskets, and takes 45 minutes to an hour to play through. Disc golf is essentially played like golf, with a “driver” disc, a midrange disc and a “putter” used to play the holes. White said the SGA has discs available to rent, and all nine holes can be played for a total of about $25.

As to t he r u les of t he course, Taylor advised to “play it safe. We’ve got thick grass, trees, branches, thorns, water hazards and snakes. Well, we haven’t actually seen a live snake yet, but we did find a dead one.”

All holes on the course are par 3, and the longest hole, which can be seen from Dave Ward Drive, is 410 feet. The disc must be shot across a creek bed to reach the target. White called it “our publicity hole.”

As the three players made the rounds of the tees on the M-shaped course, with Taylor wearing a pack containing “a library” of multicolored discs, they discussed their favorite throwing techniques and most memorable shots.

“I like the flick,” White said. “It’s a side-arm throw. The disc will always fall to the right.”

Both he and Taylor agreed “the Hammer” is especially us ef ul. “It’s an overhe ad throw, and you can really getsome distance with it,” White said.

Turbo putts and backhanded throws are also frequently used.

White, a Fort Smith native, talked about his worst shot on a course.

“The Alma course is built on a dam, and I was playing my favorite disc on it,” he said. “I got on top of a hill and threw a flick because it can bank to the right. I threw it just as the sun was going down, and this freak wind came up and caught my disc. I watched it go straight down into the dam. It was gone from the moment it left my hand. I never saw that disc again, and I’ve never been back to the course !”

Taylor, who is from Mayflower, said the two aces he threw at Burns Park in North Little Rock stand out as his most memorable disc shots. “They were at holes 8 and 14,” he said. “Eight was my favorite. It just nicked off a tree and fell straight in.”

“I have yet to get an ace for myself,” White said. “You’ve got two.”

White said disc golf is growing in popularity in Arkansas. “Anybody can play,” he said. “There is no demographic that’s left out.”

He said Conway was inneed of its own disc golf course, and that students have been enthusiastic about having it. The SGA allotted $5,565 for the course. Each basket cost about $550, hesaid, and $900 was spent on a sign displaying the course layout.

Volunteers and local Boy Scouts recently helped set up the tee boxes and install the baskets, Taylor said.

UCA’s disc golf club started just two weeks ago, Taylor said, and has about 35 members.

As they approached the ninth hole, White said, “I have real bad luck on this one.”

“Yeah, but it looks good,” Taylor said, observing White’s throw as it banked to the right.

“I’m proud of it,” White said of the course as Taylor set up to throw. “It’s my little baby.”Staff writer Daniel A. Marsh can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or dmarsh@arkansasonline.com.

River Valley Ozark, Pages 59 on 04/26/2012

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