Disc golf provides cheap, exciting thrills

ARD has become a popular course with others in nearby Grass Valley and Orangevale
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Staff Writer
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Diminished pay and tighter budgets don?t deter people?s appetite for fun and excitement. Many just find something else to fill a void left by pricey adventures. That?s where disc golf has come in. The growing sport, which has been around since at least the 1960s, has caught the attention of foothill residents both young and old and has provided a cheap form of entertainment and recreation. ?Once you buy a Frisbee it?s pretty much free, just got to show up at the park,? said Dave Madruga, a maintenance worker for Auburn Recreation District. Madruga is at the top of the game. He has played disc golf since 2006 and regularly competes in tournaments in the professional division. But a trip to Auburn Regional Park, which is home to the only disc golf course in the area, will net you a mix of experienced and novice players. ?It was just close by and it was a new sport so I thought I?d give it a try,? said Michael Ludwig of Auburn, who introduced the sport Wednesday to his friend Dave Moore. ?I?m not very good at it but at least it?s good exercise.? Disc golf is a combination of Frisbee and golf. The discs are similar to Frisbees in that you use a similar motion to toss them but their more aerodynamic shape and weight separate them from the classic throwing disc. Three main discs are used that make the sport much like golf. The driver, as in golf, is used to tee off and travel the farthest, while a midrange disc is similar to an iron and the disc appropriately called a putter is for the short game. ?We used to play ultimate Frisbee where you run and it?s more of like a soccer-type game,? Moore said. ?And it?s different too because we?d do tricks where you catch behind your back, behind your neck or do things like that. This is a little bit different. The Frisbees are more dense and little bit smaller and they don?t fly very good and they don?t fly very straight.? The course set up resembles golf but instead of sand bunkers and water hazards you have trees, rocks and, at Regional Park, a river if you throw too far in search of the second hole. The holes themselves are chain towers, about five feet tall, with a basket underneath that are typically about 300 feet from the tee box. And just like golf, the lowest amount of throws wins. ?For me, it?s a real mental game,? Madruga said. ?I used to play golf a lot and it?s real similar to golf, same rules, same everything except obviously you?re throwing a Frisbee instead of hitting a golf ball. For me, it?s navigating the course and trying to beat the course.? The Professional Disc Golf Association is the governing body of the sport. According to the website, there are more than 3,000 courses in the Unites States and tournaments with thousands of dollars up for grabs. Aside from the ARD course, Orangevale and Grass Valley have courses. But the woodsy atmosphere at ARD has made it a popular course for disc golfers near and far. Madruga said he has talked to people that have come from San Francisco and even other countries to play the Auburn course. The sport?s rising popularity can largely be attributed to word-of-mouth, which is why many experienced disc golfers will offer unsolicited tips to beginners. ?You try to give your little hints and techniques to others so that they can play well,? Madruga said. ?It?s good to see when you tell them a few little hints and all of a sudden they throw 30, 40, 50 feet farther, the excitement is cool to see.? Outdoors Calendar Saturday Auburn Adventure Race: The inaugural event is part race, part mystery hunt as teams of two will use smartphones to solve clues that will take them to about 10 checkpoints throughout the city. The race will cover about five miles. Registration is $65 per team. For more information, go to or call 530-305-1112. May 12 Gold Country Century: The second annual ride will start at Auburn Recreation District and give riders four rides to choose from. Registration starts at $10 for the three-mile family fun ride to $55 for the full metric century. For more information, go to May 20 Auburn Triathlon: ?The World?s Toughest Half Triathlon? kicks off at Folsom Lake before runners complete the final portion of the course at Railhead Park. A sprint tri, duathlon and relay versions of the race are also available. Registration starts at $145 for the sprint tri and goes up to $265 for the half. For more information, go to To submit your outdoors events, email