By JENNIFER K. BAUER
At Hells Gate State Park outside Lewiston, Alex Bezzerides stands in the afternoon sun at hole No. 4 of the area’s newest disc golf course and aims his flying disc toward the distant elevated metal basket. Success requires a long-bending shot called a hyzer, he explains.
Russian olive trees, brush and the nearby Snake River have stolen more than one wayward disc. They are some of the features that make this a challenging course where hole-in-ones are rare, Bezzerides says.
“It’s more wild and more technical,” he says.
An osprey and deer on the course that day prove his statement true.
An avid disc golfer, Bezzerides helped design the nine-hole course at the state park. The course was one of the ideas officials came up with as a way to get visitors to the park during the economic downtown, says Jeff Smith, assistant director at Hells Gate. Disc golf courses are becoming common at state and public parks.
Disc golf is played much like traditional golf but instead of using a ball and clubs, players throw discs. Typically, three discs are used in the game: a putter, a mid-range and a driver. Each one is shaped for aerodynamic properties like speed, turn, glide and fade. While golf is an expensive hobby, disc golf is not. The vast majority of courses are free. Discs range in price from $8 to $20 each.
The inexpensive nature of the sport appealed to Bezzerides when he discovered disc golf in college at Fort Collins, Colo. For a decade, he played with only one disc and learned techniques from YouTube videos. When he accepted a job as an associate professor of biology at Lewis-Clark State College, he jumped into Lewiston’s budding disc-golf scene and helped lay out Lewiston’s first course at Sunset Park.
“Sunset has an unbelievable amount of traffic,” Bezzerides says of the 4-year-old course. “On the weekend, more than 100 people a day go through.”
To avoid the crowds, he plays at night by taping a lure light to his disc. Solar lights on the baskets illuminate the targets.
City officials were surprised by the popularity of the Sunset course.
“Basically it’s occupied all day, everyday,” says Brandon (Beeg) Johnson, recreation coordinator for Lewiston Parks and Recreation.
A future course is earmarked for Community Park on Warner Avenue in Lewiston, Johnson says. It will likely use the park’s canyon in its terrain. Before that happens, fundraising will need to take place.
Because of the popularity of Sunset, Bezzerides thought the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley needed more courses. When he met Smith at trivia night at Clarkston’s Riverport Brewery and learned of the park’s interest he volunteered to help make it a reality.
The Hells Gate course was created in an unused area of the park that was overrun with weeds and served for years as a place to dump brush and other natural debris, Smith says. Because it was once an American Indian campsite, nothing permanent can be installed. Tee pads are on raised beds that will eventually be disguised to look like they are buried. Officials are working on weed control, but the course has proved popular with local and visiting disc golfers who have created an unsanctioned back nine known to the serious players.
Courses can be hard to figure out the first time you play, Bezzerides says, but it usually only takes one time to understand the flow.
The Hells Gate course begins at the beach volleyball pit in the day-use area, circles north and back.
“It’s fantastic for a quick round,” Bezzerides says, but he adds if you’re looking for ease, try Sunset Park first.
What is Disc Golf?
Disc golf is played much like traditional golf but players use a flying disc in place of a ball and clubs. The object is to complete each hole in the fewest throws possible. A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target, the most common being an elevated metal basket. Throws must be made from the spot where the previous throw landed. Trees, ponds, shrubs and hills provide challenging obstacles until the final putt puts the disc in the basket.
Area Disc Golf Courses
9 hole — Hells Gate State Park, Lewiston
9 hole — Sunset Park, Lewiston
9 hole — University of Idaho, Moscow
18 hole — Sunnyside Park, Pullman
18 hole — Lion’s Club Park, Grangeville
More courses across the country can be found at www.pdga.com
Bauer may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2263.