Originally published at: https://discgolf.ultiworld.com/2020/02/04/travel-like-pro-get-disc-golf-bucket-list-destinations-part-1/
Marching through the morning mist on hole 1 at the Open de España IV in the hills of Oviedo, Spain. Photo: Bogi Bjarnason
Ever wish you could travel to all the exotic, and not so exotic, disc golf destinations of the world like your favorite pros or intolerable disc golf journalists?
I bet you have, but you imagine it’s too expensive for you. But expenses come in many forms, not just the ones measured in dollars, pounds and euros, so even if you lack sufficient financial instruments to just pick up and leave for Krokhol on a moment’s notice, you can easily have a Star-level experience on a DX budget if you are loaded with knowledge, forethought, planning, and the willingness and endurance to travel like a highly caffeinated, sleep-deprived beast.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
Disc golf travel obviously comes in many shapes and forms, but there are ways to be thrifty for all of them. First there are some ground rules you must obey for cheap and frequent disc golf travel to even be viable.
- Don’t be afraid to travel alone.
- Don’t hesitate to go last minute.
- Get creative!
- Embrace the shoulder season!
- Bring gifts.
- Research extensively & plan heavily.
- Network, network, network………NETWORK!
- Accept discomfort (a lot of it).
- Pack light.
- Sleep when you’re dead.
Today will be mostly focused on number one, and more importantly, choosing where to go.
Disc golfers around the world are hospitable people, and going it alone will provide you with the freedom to be as flexible with schedules and finances as you wish. A solo trip can seem like a lot, but once you are en route you’ll quickly forget a lot of your hesitations.
With that said, traveling in pairs is often optimal, but for a group of four, you would do well to consider the following: disc golf destination travel is on the rise, and so is group travel for large, marquee, Pro-Am events. For the more seasoned disc golf traveler, there is even the annual ritual of going abroad for a smaller, niche event that’s achieved a sort of cult status for the select few.
Disc golf destinations range from Järva and Ale Disc Golf Center in Sweden, virtually the entire country of Finland, Mijas in Spain, DeLaveaga in Santa Cruz, the exotic island of Koh Samui in Thailand, and Paige Pierce’s Holidays in Croatia. The marquee events of note are mainly the Glass Blown Open in Emporia, Kansas, and the Tyyni, just outside of Helsinki, Finland.
The smaller, niche, events that have become a traditional stop on the calendars of early adopters may be a tough nut to crack for latecomers, as they fill up fast, and WCs are generally reserved for touring pros and regulars. These include Drava Forester in Croatia, the Open de España in Oviedo, the San Francisco Safari, and the twin tournaments in Koh Samui, Thailand.
But fret not, because new opportunities to start your own traditions abound with new tournaments constantly popping up all over the place. Hot tip: the Tuscany Open in Italy is ripe for the picking, and so are events at the Castoro Cellars winery and vineyards in California. Or, if your heart desires a city break-tournament-debauchery combo, the Hamburg Open offers a wide variety of “experiences” at the Reeperbahn.
To summarize, these are the kind of trips ideal for a group of four, as they can be booked very far ahead, and group savings can be had on rental cars, hotels, and Airbnbs. Or if you just want to take over the whole tournament and have your way with it, ask the Estonians how they manage to bring a group of 30+ to Oviedo, Spain every single year.Brasil Open, Colinas do Piracicaba. Photo: Bogi Bjarnason
Another way to travel, either alone, or in a group, is for world championships and other majors, or even your run of the mill National Tour and Disc Golf Pro Tour events. Here there are a lot of variables to consider, and your choice will be colored by what you and/or your group desire from the trip. Location may be a factor, both in regards to its accessibility and its non-disc golf related attractions. So may be the availability, quantity, as well as quality of nearby courses, and the opportunity to play the actual tournament courses.
A large, but seldom discussed factor should also be the infrastructure of the event and the host city. To illustrate this, and other points, let’s compare and contrast USDGC and this past year’s Pro Worlds in Peoria, Illinois.
Neither event featured a logistically ideal location, but Worlds wins out owing to its “proximity” to an international flight hub in Chicago, while USDGC, although much closer to Charlotte Douglas Airport than Peoria is to Chicago O´Hare, requires connecting flights to Charlotte for a vast majority of visitors. Once on location though, Worlds gets roundly routed.
The 2019 Pro Worlds was held on a collection of three different courses within 20 to 30 minute drives in different directions from the strip mall hub known as Peoria. In addition to that, other official locations and social events were equally spread out. Luckily you already needed a rental to get there from Chicago, but now you’ve got to spend at least an hour in the car every day to travel between your hotel and different locations.
Want to enjoy some libations at night time social events or with your dinner? Tough luck! You can’t because you’re enslaved by your automobile. Want to socialize with friends and acquaintances from abroad or out of state? Well, they might be staying more than half an hour away from your accommodations.
At USDGC, however, you can take a $20-30 Uber from the airport straight to the tournament hotel, and free shuttles from the hotel to the single tournament course. Drinks can be had both at the hotel bar as well as at various walking distance restaurants.1 At Winthrop you can play the tournament course on the Sunday following the tournament, or you can enjoy the world’s tightest double-mando a stone’s throw away at Boyd Hill while waiting for the lead card to tee off. After watching the card of your choosing, you still have time to sample one of the gems of Charlotte such as Renaissance or Hornets Nest before sunset.
These are all factors that affect the quality and enjoyment of attending Major tournaments and should be something you research thoroughly before embarking on such an adventure.
Once we’ve narrowed down our destination, it’s time to consider the most efficient and cost-effective way to get there and find lodging.
But that’s for our second installment on travel hacks and pro tips.Hole 17 at Krokhol is a beautiful island hole surrounded by a river, two stone bridges, and a steep mount on the left side. Some say they feel they are in a set for Lord of the Rings on this hole. Photo Bogi Bjarnason
I recommend the Mexican joint just down the hill from Winthrop Gold. ↩