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Quick Trips: Be a disc disciple

Embrace the challenge of ‘Frisbee golf’ near Germany’s Rhine

By MATT MILLHAM | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 5, 2007

As if there weren’t enough things to ruin a perfectly good walk in Germany, disc golf has jumped the pond and landed in Rüsselsheim.

The quirky sport, an American- born hybrid of golf and what’s referred to as “Frisbee” (disc sport junkies will tell you “Frisbee” is to disc what “Kleenex” is to facial tissue) is starting to catch on in Germany. The Professional Disc Golf Association lists 17 courses in the country, and only a few offer a full 18 holes.

Rüsselsheim’s course, in the city’s Ostpark, is one.

The gear needed to play is minimal, but players need to take their own discs. There’s no pro shop here, no clubhouse and, best of all, no greens fees.

The game can be played with the standard disc you’d toss around at picnics, but most players use serious disc golfing gear. The minimum suggested equipment is a driver, a mid-range disc and a putter, each of which runs in the $8 to $12 range. They vary by size, weight and flight characteristics.

Once you reach the park, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is, where the heck are the holes? Well, they aren’t exactly “holes” as you might think of in the stick-and-ball variety of golf. The holes here, which the Germans call “chings,” are a bit like steel basketball hoops. Each is marked to indicate which ching you’re throwing at.

The tees are harder to find.

If I had stuck to my plan of just going to the course and playing a solo round, I wouldn’t have gotten past the first hole. Fortunately, I ran into one of the nicest guys in Germany, Martin Kunz, a Frankfurter who picked up the sport less than a year ago.

The tees, I learned from Kunz, are indicated on the ground with either spots of blue paint or little painted blue metal objects that look like the capped ends of an underground pipe system. They are not numbered.

The only advice I can give to find the tees is to try to make nice with a local or look for areas on the ground that appear to be scuffed up with little or no grass. Most tees are near the basket for the previous hole. The tee for the first hole is the easiest to find — it’s right at the end of the parking lot as soon as you get on the sidewalk. From there, it’s a scavenger hunt.

Something else you won’t intuitively know is what is and isn’t out of bounds, but this doesn’t really matter when you’re playing with friends or on your own. Some out-of-bounds areas, however, are obvious, as Kunz can attest.

On the ninth hole, his second throw put his disc either into a marshy-looking pond or in the tall weeds and shrubs around it. We gave up looking for the disc after about 15 minutes.

All but one of the holes are par 3s, and only two holes — the second and the par-4 18th — are longer than 100 meters. Still, making it through the course on par will be hard work for a beginner. Most holes require shots through, around or over obstacles, usually water or trees. About half the chings can’t be seen from their tees, making scouting a necessity.

If you want to get a full round in, it’s best to start well before noon. By 2 p.m., the park starts to fill with sunbathers, picnickers and various other hazards. They don’t care if they’re lying or strolling in the path of your drive — until you hit them.


On the QT

Directions: Ostpark Rüsselsheim is at Forshausstrasse 12 in Rüsselsheim, about 10 minutes from Wiesbaden. Take Exit 2 off Autobahn 67 and go left on B486. Turn right on Hermann-Lons Strasse, and keep right until ending up in one of the park’s small parking lots. At least one hole is visible from the parking lot.

Times: The course is open year- round at all hours.

Costs: Access to and use of the park and the course are free.

Food: There’s no food or drink available near the course, but you can take your own and picnic as you play.

Information: The German-language Web site for the course is www.scheibensucher.de. For more about disc golf, the rules of the game and other courses in Germany, see www.pdga.com.


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