Disc golfers find a new basket at US air base in western Tokyo
Stars and Stripes April 12, 2023
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Aficionados of the flying disc are scoring points on a new course at the headquarters of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo.
Yokota’s disc golf course incorporates the essentials of golf with the popularity of flying discs. It shares the fairways at the base’s Par 3 course without interfering with the swings of conventional golfers.
The nine-hole disc golf course opened in January with $5,000 worth of new equipment, Toshi Nakamura, manager of the Yokota Golf Center, told Stars and Stripes during a recent tour of the course.
Instead of using skinny clubs to hit small white balls into holes in the ground, disc golf players toss molded plastic discs into metal baskets suspended from upright poles. The sport was once commonly called Frisbee golf, but the makers of Frisbee, a trademarked brand name, are only one among several disc manufacturers.
Yokota owes its course in part to Air Force Maj. Marshall Gries, a host nation support officer at USFJ. The avid disc golfer helped Morale, Welfare and Recreation staff set up the course so that it takes advantage of the Par 3 fairways without impacting regular golfers, he said, before a casual round on Thursday.
His playing partner, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Joshua DeMotts, a former Stars and Stripes journalist, is now the senior enlisted officer for American Forces Network at Yokota.
DeMotts tossed discs back home in Montana and started playing disc golf in the 1990s. He said he’s scheduled to compete in May in the Japan Open in Sakai City.
Disc golf is a little more relaxed than regular golf when it comes to dress code, but DeMotts was wearing a pair of Syncrasy shoes with reinforced toes designed for the sport. He and Gries carry their discs in special backpacks.
Players typically use three types of discs — driver, mid-range and putter.
During their round, Gries and DeMotts demonstrated a variety of throws, from the traditional backhand, to the forehand and the “thumber.”
A hole-in-one isn’t as rare in disc golf as regular golf.
“There are usually holes-in-one in every tournament,” Gries said.
There are courses on military bases all over the world, said DeMotts, who has also played at the Air Force’s Tama Hills Recreation Area and at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.
Between 10 and 15 players have been using Yokota’s disc golf course since it opened, Nakamura said.
They’ve been getting on fine with the regular golfers, who often let the faster disc throwers play through. The only issue reported was a group of younger disc throwers who forgot to rake a bunker, Nakamura said.
The green fees for disc golf are the same as for regular golf — $4 for adults, $2.50 for lower ranks and $2 for juniors. The pro shop has three sets of discs to rent for $2, he said.