Of all the wonderful things about summer in Central Oregon, one of my favorites is ducking out of my office, changing into some shorts and taking in a little disc golf on the Central Oregon Community College campus.
There are nine holes on the course, and, if you work nearby, you can buzz through them just quickly enough to cram a round into your lunch break and still be back to the grind in about an hour.
OK, 75 minutes.
(OK, 90 minutes. Don’t tell my editor.)
Last summer was my introduction to disc golf, which is played just like ball golf, except you throw Frisbee-like discs at metal baskets. And I was just starting to really dig it (and get to where I could make that darn disc fly straight) when summer left town, taking with it my new-found hobby for several months.
Or so I thought.
I don’t know why I thought winter was a no-disc zone. Maybe it was the heavy snows. Maybe it was the fact that bundling for warmth restricts the range of motion needed for one of those pretty, soaring drives.
Or maybe I’m just a wimp.
With the snow melting quickly and yet another storm on the way, my wife and I took Saturday’s window of decent-weather opportunity to head for Hyzer Pines Disc Golf Course, a flat, wooded 18-hole course on eight acres near Sisters High School.
We were unsure of how much snow would be on the ground, so we laced up our best snow boots just in case. In fact, the course has only patches of snow here and there, like white islands in a sea of Ponderosa pine cones and needles. (The boots came in handy, though, while climbing the snow berms at the edge of the adjacent parking lot.)
Hyzer Pines, which opened in 2007, is free to play, and it’s on school property, so no alcohol or cigarettes are allowed. Fortunately, gloves are. Hard core disc-golfers may scoff at the idea of wearing something on your throwing hand, but I’m glad I did. At the first tee box — a rubber pad about 3-by-5 feet — I was pretty chilly. But by the time I let my driver fly, and then watched it sail toward the hole, and then watched it hook way off to the left and land in some sagebrushy tangle not so close to the hole, I could feel my blood pumping again.
Each of the 18 holes at Hyzer is par 3, with multiple basket-placement options for variety’s sake. And with holes ranging in length from 200 to 400 feet, if you walk all 18, you’ll get at least a mile-long walk in the woods, with stops along the way to pick up your disc. (The worse you are, the more often you’ll stop. We stopped a lot.)
The course winds toward state Highway 242, then back into the woods west of the high school’s sports fields. There’s a water hazard back there, surrounded by a fence that’ll eat your disc, unless you do as I did and aim way to the right.
In all, it took us a couple of hours to play, though we weren’t keeping score, and we might’ve shut it down prematurely. Dark comes early in the winter, you know.
After all the winding up and throwing, and the walking, and the bending over, and the winding up and throwing again, my wife and I were plenty warm as we walked back to our car, and feeling pretty hardy, to tell you the truth.
That was before I talked to Ryan Lane of the local Hyzer Desert Rebels disc golf club.
“We take a little break for the holidays, but other than that, we have a winter league that’s out there every week all winter,” said Lane, 29, of Bend.
Even a few weeks ago, when the snow was deep and getting deeper?
“Oh yeah,” he said. “We’re out there trudging around in the snow. Some weeks, we’re out there in 6 to 8 inches walking around looking for our discs.”
Turns out, the Rebels’ winter league draws 40ish players each Sunday from October until the local ski hills open, when attendance drops by a dozen or so, Lane said. After 19 weeks of league play, qualifiers move on to the finals, which are held in March.
This is the fifth year of the winter league, Lane said. The club has lots of information at its Web site, www.centraloregon discgolf.com.
And these guys and gals play in any condition, no matter what, for a very simple reason.
“I think that everyone’s just hooked on the sport,” Lane said. “It’s a good excuse to get outside and get some exercise, when a lot of the guys might be at home laying on the couch watching football.”
Winter disc golf isn’t that much different from summer disc golf, Lane said, except that it’s a lot more slippery. “In the winter, you really don’t have your legs under you,” he said.
As with any winter activity, you should bundle up and drink a lot of water, he said. And you shouldn’t play with your best discs, because the cold can cause them to crack, Lane said.
And then there’s the most important rule of all for winter disc-golfers, especially when there’s snow on the ground.
“Don’t throw white discs,” Lane said. “Keep a really good eye on your disc, and don’t throw white.”