It was already getting hot when we met Stephen Bohannon behind the Genoveva Chavez Community Center a little after 9:30 am on a recent Sunday. Bohannon and about two dozen other people gather here, or at numerous other locations around town most Sundays, to play disc golf together, and he's allowed us to tag along and observe.
The game is simple: Get your disc into the hole, or basket—a standing metal receptacle with dangling chains that catch the disc—in as few shots as possible. The basic rules are the same as traditional golf and the equipment is similar in scope, right down to the markers the golfers use to remember where their last shots ended up.
No one is quite sure when the game began, though according to the Professional Disc Golf Association, the origins extend as far back as the 1960s. Golfer Wendy Gerner, who has played almost every Sunday for over 20 years, says the first Santa Fe course—Ashbaugh Park—was built 26 years ago. Frisbees were used at first, though they were starting to phase out by the '80s. Today's players don't much care for the term, nor do they use that particular trademarked product. Instead, the paraphernalia has evolved, and golfers now use a veritable arsenal of discs designed for different types of throws—much like golf clubs.
Bohannon holds up a number of his own, showing off their varying sizes and aerodynamic elements. "This is a putter," he says, pointing out the blunt edges for increased wind resistance and, thus, shorter shots. "Whereas one like this," he continues, flipping a bright red disc over and pointing out its sharper edges and undercarriage elements, "can give you more lift or will fly a while and veer off toward the right."
The rest of the crew wears custom backpacks crammed with discs or drag pull-carts of equipment along behind them. Bohannon says he and other players buy equipment from Los Alamos resident Antonio Chavarria, who sets up shop on certain days to hawk his wares; the days of local shops carrying equipment are long over. Bohannon also estimates a typical golf round runs about three hours, and describes the game as "a sport." Between the heat and the various terrains, he's not wrong—it's a bit like taking a more structured hike, and the players are serious, from the equipment to the scorecards.
We watch as various golfers tee off, and there's a definite competitive edge. But the overall mood is friendly, with golfers shouting out encouragement to one another like "Good shot!" or "Nice save!" All around us, the sounds of the ongoing games ring out through the nearby arroyo.
Gerner says this congeniality might be the main draw for both newcomers and veterans. "It's such a nicely social game," she explains. "You can go out and chat and have fun and be competitive, but it's still friendly and fun." She says the local scene once fostered high-level tournaments, but that it's a little less serious now. She further cites the local use of a handicap system averaged from the player's last five scores as an attractive feature, as well as special tees closer to the hole for newcomers or those who might not have as much oomph in their throws.
The feeling among every last group is welcoming. They're happy to be here. "It's a really great day for this," we overhear from someone in the crowd. It absolutely is.
MOST POPULAR LOCAL DISC GOLF COURSES
Newcomers can check out the Santa Fe Disc Golf group on Facebook, though Bohannon suggests sending a message along with a request to join. Most games occur on Sundays at alternating courses around Santa Fe.
Behind Genoveva Chavez Community Center
3221 Rodeo Road, 955-4000
18 baskets; free to play
Institute of American Indian Arts
83 Avan Nu Po Road, 424-2325
18 baskets; $5 for non-students, payable at campus bookstore
1703 Cerrillos Road, 955-5920
12 baskets; free to play
Ski Santa Fe
740 Hyde Park Road, 982-4429
18 baskets; free to play