So I decided to give it a try.
Over the course of two days, I played eight rounds of disc golf on eight different courses. That's 144; a gross of disc golf holes. There were a few old favorites and a whole lot of brand new experiences. Truthfully, the variety of these undiscovered courses was a little shocking. I've played the game for some time and played quite a few courses. But I had no idea there were so many options available to me.
At eight in the morning, I set off along with my friend and photographer to begin our epic disc golf adventure. The plan was to start things off at LaVallee Links Disc Golf in Randolph. There are three courses at LLDG: Ridgeline (aimed at the recreational player), Riverview (intermediate players) and Streamside (pro-level). This was going to be our lead-in; three different courses in one place.
We started with Ridgeline. It's on the short side, playing at just over 3,600 feet to a par of 59. However, that number is deceptive. A significant percentage of those 3,600 are either sharply up or sharply down. The elevation changes on the course were essentially constant save the first couple of holes and the last couple. As such, it presented some real challenges. Judging distances became more difficult. It was a very different game than the one I usually play and the constant up-and-down made for a more strenuous physical experience.
Some good holes, though those uphill drives could suck the wind out of you. Also, be sure to take advantage of the par-4s and 5s; there aren't many, but a decent drive puts you in a good place to have a look at an eagle.
My score: 54 (-5)
Next was Riverview. It's a par-61 course with a length of just shy of 5000 feet. The added length is balanced by the less drastic elevation changes. You're still climbing a lot of hills, but not quite so many. Plus they're not quite so steep. Riverview was definitely a tougher course - there were a couple of holes that really did a number on me. On the ninth hole, for instance, there's a drop of almost 300 feet. Thing is, the hole is nestled on a shelf about halfway up the hill. Overshoot and your disc will sail all the way to the forest floor below. Like mine did.
This was probably my worst game in terms of scoring of the entire experience. I didn't shoot terribly, but there were a few more ninth hole-type experiences in my round. The fairways were narrow and poor decisions were definitely punished. Still, despite the occasional moments of frustration, Riverview proved a worthwhile endeavor.
My score: 63 (+2)
Last but not least, we came to Streamside. This course is the pride of LLDG; at a shade over 7,000 feet, it is one of the longest courses in the state. It is the one of the three courses that best brings together the different elements of the course. It just flows better than the other two. It's definitely challenging - probably the hardest course I've ever played. With trees, water and the aforementioned elevation changes all over the place, Streamside made us work for every single shot. It was a lot of fun, albeit a little exhausting.
Hole highlights include the 1,101-foot fifth hole. That isn't a misprint - hole five is well over a thousand feet long. It's fun - there are even distance markers off the tee so you can see how far your drive goes. An extremely challenging experience, but one any avid disc golfer should have at least once.
My score: 69 (-2)
(LaVallee Links Disc Golf is located at 85 Barber Road in Randolph. Pricing is $7 for one round or $10 for all three courses. For more information, visit their website at www.lavalleelinksdiscgolf.com.)
Quarry Run Disc Golf
From Randolph, we made our way to our next destination. Quarry Run Disc Golf is in Augusta, just 4.5 miles away. You could do worse for a day of fun than this place - not only is there disc golf, but a driving range and batting cages as well. The course is a little over 6,200 feet long and plays at a par of 71. It's much closer to the sorts of courses that I'm used to - less in the way of drastic course elements. There's a nice mix of open-air and wooded holes. The course is extremely well-maintained and the pro shop is well stocked and staffed.
My round started out hot, with birdies on the first three holes, but Quarry Run had plenty of challenges to offer me. The holes that take advantage of the quarry that gives the course its name are particularly fun to play.
My score: 67 (-4)
(Quarry Run is located at 225 Hospital Street in Augusta. Price is $5 for all day play, kids 11 and under play free. For more information, call 623-0859.)
The second day of the tour started off with a trip to Brunswick to pay a visit to Enman Field's two courses - Beauty and the Beast. These courses are among the oldest in the state, having opened back in 1996. They're both well-maintained, championship-caliber courses. They're also the only two of the eight courses that I had played before. However, I hadn't been to Enman in a number of years and it made sense for part of this experience to include courses that I knew to be excellent.
We tackled Beauty first. It's a par-72 course with a length of almost 6,400 feet. It's a great blend of wooded holes and wide-open spaces. There are challenging pin placements and narrow corridors that force you to use every shot in your bag. There's a reason these courses play host to so many tournaments - it's the perfect kind of challenging. It's definitely a difficult course to master, but there's still plenty to offer the more casual player. Beauty is just an all-around excellent course to play.
The 605-foot 15th hole is one of the more interesting to play. It's a long, relatively narrow corridor, but the right side of the fairway is marked by a high net. Its purpose is to keep wayward discs on the property. But it has the added bonus of potentially deflecting that same wayward shot much farther down the fairway if there's enough spin on the disc.
My score: 66 (-6)
Then there was the Beast, which one assumes draws its name at least in part from its 666-foot 14th hole. From the beginning, we knew we were in for a first-rate disc golf experience. The course is only a couple of hundred feet longer than Beauty, but it sports a par score of 81. Which makes sense - it's a very different course than Beauty. Sure, there are some inescapable similarities, but for the most part, the two courses provide distinct experiences. The Beast is a challenge, but it is perhaps not quite as intimidating as its name might imply.
Along with the aforementioned 14, the first hole is one of the course's more interesting holes. It's an "island" green - the green is surrounded by woods and a significant out-of-bounds area. It sets the tone for a course that proves to be entertaining and surprising. You definitely need to stay on your toes.
My score: 66 (-15)
(Enman Field is located at 1024 River Road in Brunswick. All-day unlimited play is $6. For more information, visit their website at www.mainediscgolf.com/enman.)
Sabattus Disc Golf
Our final stop would be at another location with two courses. I had never heard of Sabattus Disc Golf before embarking on this journey, so imagine my surprise when I came upon this bustling place marked by a fountain shaped like a gigantic disc golf basket. You could instantly feel the family-friendliness of the place - they even have a nine-hole course aimed specifically at kids. It has a whiff of a mini-golf vibe; something that I'd never associated with disc golf before. But it works. Plus it has one of the nicest pro shops I've ever seen.
We started on the Hawk - 6,200 feet, par 72. Just a beautifully maintained course. It was probably the easiest walk of any of the courses we played. But an easy walk does not equate to an easy course. The design incorporates all of the terrain into holes that are challenging but fair. Additionally, there are a couple of holes that offer alternate routes to the hole for the more daring player. There were some technical holes, some bombers and a whole lot in between. That kind of balanced course is a lot of fun to play.
Picking a favorite hole on this one is a tough task - they're all quite good. There are a couple of shorter par-4s that offer some good scoring opportunities. The third hole is a short par-5 that begs to be eagled.
My score: 63 (-9)
The final round of the adventure came on the Eagle, SDG's other course. This one comes in at over 7,000 feet, also playing to a par of 72. After seven rounds, fatigue was definitely setting in. There was a lot of inaccuracy and scrambling during this round. Still, any frustration was easily tempered by the high quality of the course. Sometimes, it's technically demanding. Other times, distance is required. Occasionally, you'll need both - those are the holes where shooting par is a real accomplishment. I liked everything about this course.
I think the tenth hole on this course might have been my favorite of the entire experience. It's a long one - almost 650 feet - and it ends with the basket perched on the lip of a sand pit. Coming around the corner and seeing the basket atop that wall of sand ... it's fun to be surprised like that on the course.
My score: 70 (-2)
When all was said and done, my picture-snapping friend and I had achieved the goal of 144 holes in two days. Eight rounds. Granted, there's no need for these courses to be experienced in such an extreme way. My body definitely felt the consequences. All in all, I took 518 throws. We walked more than 48,000 feet - more than nine miles. We sweated and grunted. I experienced my first-ever hamstring pull. My throwing shoulder had a deep-seated ache that hung around for days before finally subsiding. We had a pair of extremely taxing 12-hour days, counting our travel time.
And it was totally worth it. I threw reasonably well, even when I was frustrated. I bought a new disc and started learning how it worked. I beat Thom six out of eight rounds; he got me once each day - Streamside on day one, The Beast on day two. We laughed and played and bitched and moaned and shouted and just had one hell of a good time.
There are worse ways to spend a couple of days. Sure, we have an excellent disc golf course in our own backyard with DR Disc Golf in Orrington, but there's something to be said for trying something new. There's a lot of great disc golf out there to be played. This adventure barely scratched the surface. For more information about Maine disc golf courses in general, pay a visit to pdga.com ormainediscgolf.com. There are dozens, from Caribou to Kittery.
So get out and play.