A (Disc Golf) Course in Nature

Fox Disc Golf Course borders the dog park at Coyner Springs Park.

If you were to ask me if I enjoyed Frisbee throwing, I would say Sure. If you were to ask if I was skilled at it, I would say No. When I throw a Frisbee, it usually veers off to the right in a tilt like it’s climbing a skyscraper, then plummets to the ground in a donut roll. My children, on the other hand, can whip out a Frisbee with table-top flatness and bulls-eye accuracy at a speed of 95 mph, creating a missile so deadly, you’re afraid to catch it. They can throw underhand and behind their heads with the same result. So when I was offered a chance to try out Waynesboro’s Fox Disc Golf Course, I naturally took them along in order to see how it’s really supposed to be played.

Coyner Springs Park has long been a favorite of walkers and dog owners. The wide-open field, edged by wild shrubs and forest, lends itself to a tranquil stroll or a doggy playdate. But in 2016, Waynesboro Parks & Recreation installed the Fox Disc Golf Course, opening up the park to a whole different type of enthusiast.

Disc golf, sometimes known as Frisbee golf or Frolf, resembles traditional golf in that individual players try to attain a goal in a certain number of strokes. Instead of using balls and clubs, however, players use discs, which they aim into a metal basket. These discs are specialized for the game, some being “drivers” (better at long distances) and others “mid-range” or “putters” (better at accuracy and stability).

Coyner Spring’s nine-hole course, which originates in the field and meanders back into the woods, is ranked as a 31-par course. (I’m pretty sure I used that many strokes in the first three holes.) Just like regular golf, there are traps and hazards and terrain challenges that make each hole interesting. Often, you can’t even see the target from the platform where you tee off—it’s just a throw of faith. But each tee box is clearly illustrated with a map of the target.

Titus disc golf 2

Drat! Into the thicket again!

I thought my boys would be instant professionals at the game, but in many ways we were similarly handicapped. Although they could gain greater distance than I could with each throw, they were often stymied by the trees that jumped out in front of them. Rather than firing out the disc from their shoulders as they were accustomed to, they had to exercise strategy and muscle control. None of us attained par, but that didn’t lessen the thrill of discovering what new challenge lay around the next corner. We mounted hills, wound through wooded trails, and dipped down into sunny blackberry patches (had to fish our disc out of one, in fact).

Personally, I think half the pleasure of the game was walking between the holes, breathing deeply and looking at nature from a new perspective. We saw the interior of the park in a way we never had, the mysterious section behind the water pumping facility that supplies Waynesboro with its water. The trees, still bare and skeletal, were just beginning to grow their bright-green garments of spring, and the sky was a vivid, cloudless blue.

After the game, when our discs were tossed on the backseat and my boys were begging for ice cream, I suddenly realized what Parks and Rec probably knew all along: The golf course was really just a side door into nature, another entrance to the same big room. The real prize was enjoying the beauty around us.

Tips If You Go:

  • Invest in some real disc-golf discs, not a Frisbee from Target. If finances allow it, each player should have a driver disc for those distance shots. It gets tricky trying to shuttle the disc back and forth to players still teeing off. The Internet has great suggestions for all-purpose discs that run around $15 each.
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts. Your disc may end up in the brambles, and brambles can be thorny!
  • Print a map of the course before you go. You might also want to print these easy-to-follow rules of the game.
  • Prepare your children, especially those who get easily frustrated, that there are natural hazards and obstacles in this game just like real golf. Your disc will likely end up in the woods on numerous occasions. Younger kids can stand close to the basket and putt every hole.