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Disc Golf Reopens At Northwest Vista College, Sport Booms During Pandemic

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Brian Kirkpatrick
/
Texas Public Radio
Nate Martin aims for the chains above the basket and the North West Vista Disc Golf course.

Northwest Vista College has reopened its public disc golf course after closing during the pandemic in 2020.

The course at the far West Side college was first established in 2011 and then redesigned in 2017. There are 18 holes or baskets across the campus. Many live oak and cedar trees have low lying limbs that present a challenge to players.

Players must throw their plastic discs around and through the trees to hit chains that sit above each basket on the 54 par course. The chains clang with each direct hit.

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Brian Kirkpatrick
Northwest Vista College President Ric Baser — who plays disc golf himself — shows off his set of discs.

Northwest Vista College President Ric Baser is a big fan who plays the course. He said the game attracted a lot of new members during the pandemic.

"There's been a 35% growth nationally," he said. "The Professional Disc Golf Association is something that I know myself and both my boys are members, but Texas has the largest membership in the United States, almost 5,000 members."

Trees are not the only obstacles for players. Players must also throw discs across Lago Vista, the campus's man made lake, in order to make it into one of the 18 baskets. The lake has become a watery grave for a lot of discs, which are sometimes fished out with nets.

"There will be someone out there to their waist with a net and have a lot of them," Baser said. "The issue is we use dark water. That's how we can justify that. We water out of it as well. It's probably not something we want people like wading in."

The day Texas Public Radio visited the course, four players were enjoying the game. One was looking for his disc stuck in a tree and another was trying to grab his disc out of the lake. Joshua Hyson was among them. Would he enter the water if necessary?

"We can, but it's not pleasant. You know, we try to avoid that as much as possible because the goal is to not throw it into the water," he said.

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Brian Kirkpatrick
Johsua Hyson tries to fish a disc out of the campus lake, Lago Vista.

Player Emanuel Martinez and his friend Nate Martin said seeing trees eat the discs is part of the game.

"Almost every time we play it will go in. We were in there ten minutes looking for a disc," he said.

Nate Martin said each disc is designed to fly a little differently to reach a basket, even one called a putter for a short throw.

"Based off on how they fly, they can either be stable, over stable, or under stable. So over stable just means like the disc will cut more left if you're a right-handed player and under stable goes more to the right," he said.

Terms like stable is part of the vocabulary of the sport. There are dozens of other words like flippy, a term for a very unstable disc and brick, a term for a disc that quickly falls to the ground.

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The game is not just about the discs. College president Baser and other players agree it's all about throwing technique.

"There's a lot of different techniques. I am a traditional right-handed, back-handed thrower. But I know my youngest son throws side armed, this way,

"I use to think I could out throw him, but now he throws 430 feet. And because I'm 63 my throws are down to 250 feet so," Baser said, chuckling.

The sport is affordable. There are no greens fees and discs are around $9. And the game can be played in shorts and t-shirts.

Emanuel Martinez said San Antonio has a healthy-sized disc golf community.

Emanuel Martinez prepares a putt at Northwest Vista's disk golf course.
Brian Kirkpatrick
Emanuel Martinez prepares a putt at Northwest Vista's disc golf course.

"It's very casual and the player base is very friendly, like you can come out anytime. You meet random people and they'll be like oh you want to come join, you can come play with us. They'll give you tips and stuff. It's a lot of friendly people out here."

Players said the sport is not hard to learn, and there are YouTube videos on throwing techniques.
Nate Martin thinks groups of friends should give it a try.

"I think a lot of people will like it," he said. You're just playing a game with your friends, walking through the woods, talking, having a good time."

The course at Northwest Vista College is open to the public from dawn until dusk. Players must bring their own equipment. To learn more about the sport visit the Professional Disc Golf Association website at PDGA.com.