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Music: The Vibrations of Disc Golf

Who can remember an old video ad (2005-2010ish) by Huk Lab? There were chains banging unapologetically in the background of a low-toned, serious sounding voice over. The perfect natural lighting splashed beautiful sunset hues all over the basket and lit up each golfer like fire does. As they were putting, they each articulated their feelings about the resonant call of the chains. Somewhere in those seconds, I felt moved by the connective power of our shared passion, disc golf. At one point, Krisitine King (I think) says something like “I live for the sound of the chains–I hear them in my sleep..”, and I knew what she meant from the bottom of my soul. When we love disc golf, we share a spiritual love for a common tone: the sound of our putter hitting solid chains. We are empowered by the deep release of stale breath that follows, especially if we learn how to work with it, intentionally.

That old footage was the first thing that popped into my mind when I woke up this morning, and I got excited to watch it as inspiration for this Music Week Blog. It was calling to me, just like the chains do when I’m paying attention to them. I felt an emotional let down when I spent some time trying to find the advertisement online, to no avail. I’ve been trying to recreate it in my mind, but the exact details escape me, even though there are very strong notes that linger. I can’t be sure what I actually remember vs. my vivid imagination filling in the blanks for me. Like, is Eric McCabe really in the footage, or am I just remembering it that way? It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme, but it leaves me longing to connect with the mind-body feelings it brought me years ago. If you can find it, please send it my way. I’d love to know how closely the reality matches up to my memory. In the meantime, I’ll settle for reliving James Conrad’s epic throw in in 2021, and the cacophony of sound that erupted in that moment. I wrote a different Music Blog about it which you can read here, in case you missed it.

Disc golf has its own rhythm, and its vibrational attraction is deeply rooted in our spiritual connection with nature. The more we play, the more opportunity for that awareness to develop and grow. Being an all-season sport, it’s hard to find a disc golfer who doesn’t enjoy being outside, and who isn’t willing to gear up and brave the elements if the situation calls for it. When we let it, the course itself serves as a source of comfort after a bad shot, or a bad round. The beautiful environments that we get to traverse and the ground we get to cover leaves us tied, spiritually, to these incredible places we wouldn’t otherwise see. Our relationship to the courses we get to know will help us keep an easy rapport with our inner motivations, intentions and desires, especially if we are paying attention to the glorious aspects of our surroundings.

Close your eyes for a second and think of the sounds that are often present on your home courses, from the actual sounds of play to the uniqueness of the property itself. In Kansas City, you can’t play Rosedale Park for long without hearing a train whistle chime in. After several rounds at Water Works Park, the air traffic becomes a welcome, organic part of the course, moving our perspective to a place above us, rather than stuck inside of us, helping us think bigger. I believe that’s why it stands out in the memory of travelling players. You can feel the effort that has gone into designing and maintaining the course, and a part of it stays with you, just like our favorite tunes. Prairie Center, where I’ve played many rounds while contemplating the direction of my future, can offer the quiet calmness of an uninhabited neighborhood park, void of unnatural sounds. It can also be full of people playing baseball and soccer, cheering and groaning in response to the game like a large chorus. When I played my first round in Pleasant Hill, Missouri many years ago, there was an exotic animal farm across the street, and even though it is gone now, I now miss that very weird audio experience that eventually made its ‘voices’ familiar to the course.

The sounds coming from that animal farm were highly discordant to the area itself because none of those animals are native. Terrifically unexpected on a midwestern disc golf course, the whole thing fostered a separate conversation about sounds that we wouldn’t have gotten to experience otherwise, and a mental connection to the places where they naturally inhabit. The ‘laughter’ of hyenas often rang out through the course, which wasn’t as pleasing to the ear as I might have imagined, but it’s a sound I’ll never forget. I remember some visually stunning peacocks, but I was always drawn to the chatter of the monkeys. I was born in the Year of the Monkey and I’ve always held an affinity for monkeys, so it was always fun to play there, even if it was a decent drive to get there.

I’ve always believed that a solid playlist has the power to make travel time more enjoyable. For me, that’s magnified when the destination is disc golf. I’ve logged so many hours driving to and from courses and tournaments, collecting new songs and sounds along the way. There are beloved songs I would never have heard if someone next to me hadn’t been playing them on the course. A lot of golfers carry a speaker in their bag to elevate the mood in casual rounds, which I really love because it gives the round more depth and meaning. I’ve spent a lot of time ‘dancing’ on the course, enjoying and admiring the natural sway inspired by the music as much as the honed physicality of playing the sport we love. There is nothing like a spontaneous dance party with your whole card when the mood strikes. My whole body smiles just thinking about it.

The Pillar of Music keeps us tied to our spiritual natures and our human connections. This is where we get reminded, from deep within, that we are not alone. Sometimes it's hard to pull the sound of music out of a situation, especially when our emotions are stirred and we feel the need to protect ourselves. It becomes challenging to share, difficult to be vulnerable, and sometimes it even becomes hard to breathe, inciting anxiety and panic attacks. Disc Golf forces us to breathe with intention, because we know inherently that our natural athletic timing is closely tied to our breath. The more physical space we make available for our exhales, the better our follow through becomes, and the more connected we are to our ability to play the game in the first place.

The cycles of the seasons remain consistent, year after year, even though the courses undergo many changes as they age. The tone and feel of each stage of development burns into our memories, a special place in time that can only last if we look back and connect the underlying melody to the many verses we lay on top of it. We each add our own individual sound to the overall tone of our sport, and as a group we are pretty damn inviting. That doesn’t mean there won’t be conflict and differences of opinion. It does mean that we are usually willing to work with the mix until it finds a groove. Personally, I’ve seen a 20 year ego stand-off break down and re-form as a respectful friendship. There is great power in these roots. We can choose to access and use what’s naturally available in our history, or we can push full steam ahead with our new ideas. Either way, we grow, but if we recognize the quality of sound that already exists, we draw our power from the source, making it much easier to execute our future dreams and aspirations. Seasons come and go, building on each other, whether we stop and take notice or not, but there is subtle magic in the transformation.

The Spring season sounds new and bright, as our thoughts anticipate and allow for fresh starts. The sounds of chirping baby birds fill the air, and we can feel the earth waking up under our feet. In Summer, we are in full swing of leagues and tournaments, enjoying the extra daylight and the social aspects of belonging to this amazing community of people. By fall, we are listening to the wind blow the leaves through the trees and the crackling crispness that permeates our courses as we try to squeeze the last bit of life out of the dwindling daylight. Glow golf comes with its own heightened echoes as we listen closely to our discs as they fly, using the reverberation of sound to locate our discs in the dark. Winter’s shortened days make regular play difficult for people with day jobs, but no one appreciates the sounds of a beautiful winter day, sun shining on snow, branches rustling in the wind, than a disc golfer (okay, maybe a skier or a snowboarder, but they must rely on the winter season for their sounds). Ours have much more diversity, giving us the chance to appreciate the nuances of each.

Perhaps the most coveted and sought after sound in disc golf is the sound of a hole in one, what we call an Ace. When we hit one, we, along with anyone else who saw it, burst into celebration. I am reminded of a tournament moment in Columbia Missouri years ago. I was playing on the top course at Albert Oakland and it was still early morning. The park was quiet, excepting the occasional sound of putting. From somewhere pretty far away came the distinct sounds of an Ace Celebration. We couldn’t see where it was coming from but we all looked at each other and agreed, “there’s an Ace!’. As the celebration continued, we changed it to “must be a first Ace”, and then when they were still erupting in joy, we determined it must be a first ace by an amateur player. I wasn’t on the card, but the sound of their reactions drew me and made me care who it was and how it happened. Because even as a listener, I was part of the music. Thank you disc golf for letting us all into the sound booth as we each lay our own distinct sound onto the master mix tape supporting the persistent beat of disc golf.



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