“That’s a good-lookin’ rip,” Matt Flynn called out to his competitor from the 18th hole at the Pendleton King Park course in Augusta, Ga.
Ten eyeballs followed the plastic projectile as it flew through the air like a turbo-charged UFO, covering nearly 220 yards and landing near a metal basket with a chain-link fringe. All that was required now: a short throw by a steady hand into the basket’s maw. Then off to the next hole and the next rip.
In Augusta, drop such athletic terms as “greens,” “putter” and “needs more mustard,” and everyone assumes that you’re talking about the Masters, the legendary golf tournament held each April at Augusta National Golf Club. But on a recent Sunday morning, the players were neither sporting fancy pants nor wielding gleaming irons. Instead, they wore crumpled T-shirts and dusty sneakers and toted colorful discs as small as dessert plates. These men, and a few women, represented the every-Augustan sport of disc golf.
“We have eight courses within a 20-minute drive and a good variety with lakes, tightly wooded holes and elevation changes,” Flynn said. “You can show up at any park and see other people playing.”
This last fact is significant, because only the privileged can view a round at Augusta National, a private club that hides behind towering hedges, intimidating gates and barking guards. If you want to watch the Masters, you’ll have better luck pressing your nose to the TV screen. But if you want to attend a disc golf game, simply show up at a course (for free or a nominal charge) and look for the folks chasing rainbow-colored saucers through the trees.
“The Masters only impacts us one week a year,” Flynn said. The other 51 weeks, “Augusta is just a sweet Southern town.”
Fortunately, I visited during one of the sweet weeks, though the odds were in my favor. As was the weather in this year-round destination.
Georgia’s second-oldest and second-largest city has been recording meteorological changes since 1870, the year President Ulysses S. Grant authorized the formation of a national weather service. The NWS information streams nonstop on the corner of 11th Street and the Riverwalk. I sat through four cycles of weather, including the forecast for the mountains and beaches of neighboring states, not leaving until I knew for certain how to dress the next day.
The five-block, multilevel walk is as languid as the river, which separates Georgia and South Carolina. Ducking into an alcove with benches, I watched tiny birds swoop through the trees and over the heads of children romping on a jungle gym in Oglethorpe Park. On the river, a single scull floated by, briefly intersecting with a runner racing up and down the steps of an amphitheater.
The esplanade fronts a number of attractions, such as the Morris Museum of Art, which celebrates Southern artists. At the front desk, the docent directed me not to the exhibit titled Fore!: Images in Golf but to the hyper-realist watercolors of Mary Whyte. The Charleston, S.C., painter documents the blue-collar jobs that once flourished here: shrimping, spinning, cotton picking. (Both exhibits have since closed.) According to my watch, I had 35 minutes to view 50 pieces. The employee, noting my predicament, invited me back for free. He didn’t want me to rush, a concept that’s anathema in Augusta.