Jeff Crum describes the world’s top-ranked disc golfer, David Feldberg, as the Arnold Palmer of the sport.
With disc golf still in its infancy, however, perhaps Ben Hogan, Sam Snead or Bobby Jones would be more appropriate.
A world champion in 2008, Feldberg will compete against a host of local disc hurlers in the Downriver Open disc golf tournament today and Sunday at People’s Park. The event includes two 18-hole rounds today and the final round Sunday, as well as a nine-hole exhibition by top golfers after the tournament is over.
A Portland resident who sits on the board of directors with the Professional Disc Golf Association, Feldberg is at the forefront of a national movement to bring disc golf to the masses. That goal meshes comfortably with Crum’s efforts to expand the sport in Spokane.
Crum, president of the Spokane Disc Golf Association, was excited that local golfers could test their skills against Feldberg.
“It raises the bar a little bit,” Crum said. “I know these guys. He has a target on his back. They want to beat the guy who wins a lot.”
Feldberg owns recent titles at a national tournament in Phoenix and an event in Seattle. The Downriver Open is a B-level tournament, a couple of notches down from the major events to which Feldberg is accustomed. Still, Feldberg admits the wind whipping through the area the past few days could level the playing field if it continues.
“A local guy could easily take me down, and he’d be a local legend,” Feldberg said, adding, “if it’s calm, I should be able to get in that zone.”
Feldberg accepted Crum’s invitation to teach fundamental tips and share his knowledge during a two-hour clinic Friday for local throwers at Rapid Fire Plastics in Post Falls. Feldberg instructed the group on the proper grip of discs, and he demonstrated a throwing motion far removed from the old-fashioned Frisbee-style throw of decades past.
Feldberg explained that throwing a disc on a flat plane across your body allows room for error both vertically and horizontally. Feldberg instead throws discs underhanded on a vertical axis with his arm stretched and elbow stiff. His accuracy is relatively assured by directing his throwing arm at his target – and his wrist locked from moving left or right – Feldberg only needs to time his release point to determine the elevation and distance of his throw.
As clinic participants learned, it’s not easy to retrain the body after throwing Frisbees and the like the same way for years.
“It’s all about consistency,” Feldberg said. Using the old throwing style, he added, “you may make 10 out of 10 putts one day. Then the next day you can’t make any. That’s because you’re releasing it here instead of here.”
Disc golfers compete on 18-hole courses, and the goal is to direct the disc into a basket placed on a pole under par. With 18 baskets placed around a park, disc golf courses generally aren’t imposing on open space and require minimal maintenance and upkeep. The cost to play doesn’t have to be any more than a trip down a store’s toy aisle.
With his status as a board member with the PDGA and a world-class disc golfer, Feldberg has a unique viewpoint on the growth of the sport. He said the number of people participating in the sport has increased by 11 percent during the recession.
Crum has witnessed the growth locally and is trying to create more courses at local parks with more community support. He said the local Spokane club has more than 60 members, and he hopes it continues to grow.
“It’s been great to have (people) who see the value in an activity open to the whole family,” Crum said. “Anyone who can pick up a disc and throw it has access to it.”