NORFOLK (NNS) -- 324 feet. Par 3. In-between the tee-pad and chain-link basket lies trees and bushes, varying in all shapes and sizes; standing in defiance to the disc as it is hurled through the air. Shouts echo across the field as players narrowly miss an approach shot followed quickly by heckling and jeering. Such is the life and fun for those participating in disc golf.
As groups progress throughout the course, a new group arrives. Sailors from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) gather around hole one's tee-pad and begin to decide the layout for the course they are going to play.
For each hole on the 18-hole course, there are many varieties of shots players can choose from. The varieties are color coded, to help players distinguish between the different options available to them for each hole. There are shorter distance positions, yellow's tee-pad to yellow's basket (yellow to yellow), or longer distance positions, red's tee-pad to red's basket (red to red); however, if players wish to mix things up, yellow's tee-pad to red's basket (yellow to red) or red's tee-pad to yellow's basket (red to yellow) may be played as well.
The Sailors decide which version of the course they are going to play for the day and begin pulling their drivers out of the bags.
There are three different types of discs players can chose from; drivers are thin, narrow discs designed to cut through the air at fast speeds to ensure maximum distance. Mid-range, or approach discs are a little thicker around the rim of the disc, typically meant to be used on fairway shots after the initial drive shot. The last variation of discs is the putter, a fat-rimmed disc that travels at a slow pace but has great accuracy from a short distance.
Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Alex Wisor steps up the tee-pad and studies the shot he is about to take. Taking in the wind speed and direction, he lines up his shot and, with a four-foot run-up, snaps the disc out of his hand towards the basket.
"I've been dabbling in and out of disc golf for several years," said Wisor. "Consistently though, I've been playing for about two years. My friend, Dan Hill, got me really into disc golf. He is the master. Playing with him is great competition and drives me to get better."
As the disc soars through the air, the group of Sailors watches in anticipation to see the result of the flight. The frisbee narrowly misses several trees and manages to land only meters away from the basket, invoking immediate cheers from Wisor and the other Sailors playing with him.
"Disc golf is a really good hobby to spend my free time doing," said Aviation Electrician's Mate Airman Carlos Arevalo, a George Washington Sailor and friend of Wisor's. "The hardest part of this sport is 'running chains,' going after my first ace (hole in one) and I am always trying to get better and improve my scores for the round."
Moving from one hole to the next, the pressure of getting the best score out of the group starts to build on the Sailors.
"'Don't mess up this throw,'" said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Caelin Hargrave, another George Washington Sailor. "That's what goes through my head as I'm looking at the shot I'm about to make. Stay consistent. I just try and clear my head and make the shot I know I can do."
After each hole is completed, the group of Sailors walks to the next hole, all of them asking what each other's respective scores are for the round, making sure they know who has the advantage over whom.
"I keep coming back because I have to get better at this game," said Arevalo. "I need to be able to compete with these guys (Wisor and Hargrave.) I can't let them get better than me. It's fun to challenge myself and see where I can improve my game compared to the last time I played."
Discs are relatively cheap, ranging from $10 to $20, making the sport of disc golf an inexpensive pastime for Sailors to easily pick up and enjoy in their free time while also providing the added health benefit of exercise.
"Come out and try it," said Wisor. "It's a good hobby and it will keep you out of trouble. If you like sports or are even a little bit competitive you'll be hooked on this game the second you play it."
Approaching the last hole builds insurmountable pressure for the group of Sailors. With scores within two strokes of each other, this last hole really determines who will walk away with the pride of taking first place, and who will receive the next round of trash talking for not playing the best. The smallest mistake, messing up the drive from the tee-pad or missing a 10-foot putt could be the difference between going home in first place or coming in last; at the end of the day though, it's all about the camaraderie built through friendly competition with shipmates.
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