Disc golf at Morley Field
Posted by George J Janczyn on February 4, 2010
Take a moment and let me share a few memories from my early frisbee disc golfing days at the Morley Field Disc Golf Course in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
When I started playing in 1978 disc golf as a sport had only recently emerged and the first competitions I attended had an exciting underground atmosphere. Specialized discs were being introduced in different sizes, plastics, forms, and weights that we’d experiment with for drives, roller shots, overhead throws, “up-shots” (approach shots), sidearms, sliders, and putts, and for dealing with different wind, temperature, and humidity conditions. At the time, obtaining some of these discs was almost like trying to buy black market contraband through a secret network, whispers and furtive exchanges of bills and all. Some guys never got that involved though, and would play their rounds with a single disc and a backpack full of beer. Other guys would toke during their rounds. I never understood how they managed to play as well as they did. Women players were rarely seen.
Many of us would head over to the park every day after school or work, see who else showed up, and gather into small groups for a round of golf. One regular with exceptional talent, Snapper Pierson, would join us sometimes and give us tips as we tried to emulate his amazing throws. Over the years he organized tournaments and lobbied the city to allow him to generate funding to develop and maintain the course by setting up a small concession/pro shop and charging a nominal course fee. He’s still in charge over at Morley Field (he appears in the video below).
Sometimes we’d drive up to UCSD and play on campus on a “course” among the Eucalyptus trees and buildings, the course designed by enthusiasts and learned by playing with one of them, although instead of shooting for baskets we’d shoot for objects. We also played at a park in Chula Vista and one in Mission Hills. I’m not sure if there are baskets there anymore, however. Other times we’d just randomly find a park or open space and invent a few holes to play.
Here’s a sample of discs I collected (click pics to enlarge):
I even hunted down some Russian discs during a trip to Moscow in 1980 (it was the Soviet Union at the time). It wasn’t easy because nobody had heard the word “frisbee” — it turned out they called it “летающая тарелка”–“flying plate.” I brought back a bunch, tried selling to collectors but no one was interested after hearing my price (after all, in 1980 $25 was serious money for a piece of plastic). I still have ’em:
That’s when I started learning photography too, and practicing on the golfers I produced lots of discardables but I did capture a few worth keeping. I had a Nikon FM2 35mm film camera (no motor drive). The first shot below was a little scary being in the line of fire, even though he assured me I’d be okay. These digital photos, including the black & white, are of the old film prints.
The sport has become a big draw for recreational players as well as for serious competitors looking to earn some good cash. If you haven’t already, check it out!
- Professional Disc Golf Association
- Disc Golf Course Review
- Throws and strategies
- Frisbee inventor dies at 90