Play Angry – A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf – Chapter 7

Note: This is part 7 in a series of posts which make up the chapters of a tongue-in-cheek look at the game of disc golf and why we love it so much, despite the lack of reciprocated affection. It is not actually intended to improve your game…unless it does…in which case we’re happy to take the credit.

Chapter 7 – Keeping Score

“I’m more of a casual player.”

“I’m a non-competitive guy.”

“The score doesn’t really matter to me.”

“I’m just out there to have fun.”

“It’s all about the experience, not the score.”

There may be some truth to those statements. But those words are most often spoken as a cop-out. It’s a way of saying, “My skill level is not up to par with the people I play disc golf with, so please don’t pay attention to my score.”

When the game is not going our way, we can still feel awesome as players if the score is intentionally rendered meaningless. But we have to be careful to realize that, on those rare occasions when we’re playing with out-of-our-mind excellence, the score is important!

Like many other players out there, I use an app to keep track of my scores. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made it through a few holes, missed a few putts, gone out-of-bounds a few too many times, and have promptly shut down the app. I’ve even angrily cursed the app for “crashing” as I make certain that the score vanishes from my sight. My game companions may grumble if I was the designated scorekeeper, but sometimes they have apps of their own in hand. Making their phones “crash” is a bit more tricky, and I wouldn’t suggest trying it. As much as you may want that score to become a mystery, nothing destroys friendship more quickly these days than accidentally teeing-off with their phone instead of your distance driver.

Of course, if it is your friend’s score that is falling into the abyss while your lead is extending, by all means, keep that app on. Upload that final score to some indestructible database! Make sure it adds to your player ranking! Make sure your friend repeatedly hears how well you played, though I’d recommend not drawing too much attention to their score, except in feigned innocence.

“Hey, you had a pretty good game too…not your best…but I’ve seen much worse.”

“What? I sucked today!”

“Let me upload that score for you…”

“Noooo!”

Don’t worry. They’ll forgive you. Or they’ll get sweet revenge in the next game when your score is back in the dumps.

The little group of guys that I play with from time to time has had a great time with scores. One of the players is known to frequently say things like, “I can’t believe how much better I play when I’m alone.”

Well…duh! Of course it’s easier to play better, or at least have a better score, when you’re alone! Nobody is keeping track. You can fudge a little here and there, and nobody’s the wiser. Take that extra step away from the tree. Count that putt that bounced off the chains. Kick that disc back inbounds. Play that hole again and get it right this time. Heck, just skip that nemesis hole and move on to the one you always birdie. Why not? You’re alone. Your score is between you and the app. Nobody can dispute how many times you actually threw that disc. Right?

Another popular occurrence with my group of friends is the count-it-out routine. We all finish up a hole and then the self-appointed scorekeeper will ask, “What did everybody get on that one?”

The numbers come rolling in. A three. A four. Another three, etc. Inevitably, there will be somebody who questions the results.

“What? A four? I’m pretty sure you got a five.”

“No, it was a four.”

“But you threw off the tee, then your upshot hit the tree, then your next throw landed within twenty feet, then you missed the putt, and tapped in. That’s five.”

“No, I got a four. The drive, the tree, the upshot, the putt…”

“Which you missed.”

This goes back and forth until everybody is counting the shots, holding fingers up, asking for witnesses until it is settled. Of course, it was a five.

“Well, what did you get?”

“A three.”

“But, didn’t you go OB on the drive? That makes your upshot a three, and I know that didn’t go in…”

And around it goes again. Sometimes I think more time is spent discussing and replaying everybody’s series of throws, rather than actually throwing discs. It’s all in the name of keeping score. Nobody wants to be the one that is nine strokes behind the crowd, so a little license is taken now and then with the count, because one of these times you might just slip one by unnoticed.

You could always choose to play it safe and just walk up to the first tee and announce right away that you’re not scoring this round. It’s a risk though. Your buddy may still score it on the down-low, or you may play really well and wish you’d kept track. This is all supposed to be fun anyway, right? Doesn’t scoring just kill the whole zen factor? It destroys your peace of mind. It crushes your at-oneness with the game, your surroundings, and puts friendships at risk. So why do we bother? Because it’s fun to go back-and-forth, compare ourselves to each other, and argue about who threw what!

Take the score away from a sport, and it isn’t a sport anymore. Does it even qualify as a game if there is no score? We’re not sitting around the campfire, holding hands, and singing Kumbaya— we’re involved in a contest! We simply must keep score, or the thing is neutered, spayed, and rendered an empty activity involving glorified Frisbees.

I used to be in cub scouts as a child, and I’ve been involved as a father watching my young boys go through cub scouting. One of the cub scouting traditions through the generations is the infamous pinewood derby. But it has always been somewhat irritating to me, both while I was young and as an adult, because the leaders of the pinewood derby events always found some way to make a prize for every single racer. Sure, there was a winner that had the fastest car, but there was always a litany of meaningless awards to make sure every kid isn’t crushed by their defeat. Awards like “best paint job”, “most unique”, “cutest car,” “the wooden block with wheels,” etc. were passed out to losers. The winner would get something like “the speedster award”. What happened to “first place”? What happened to the “winner”? Heaven forbid any child should have to face the fact that they lost.

I forgot what I was trying to say with that reference to the pinewood derby. I think I’m still trying to sooth old scars. I never won. I probably lit my meaningless awards on fire and cried myself to sleep after every pinewood derby event. But I won’t continue that “everybody wins” ritual into adulthood and into the game of disc golf. Somebody is going to win! And if it isn’t me, then…dang it…the stupid app crashed again!

Coming Soon: Chapter 8 – Disc Golf and Sports Injuries

Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1 – Why Do We Play?
Chapter 2 – Be the Basket / Be the Disc
Chapter 3 – It’s Always the Disc’s Fault
Chapter 4 – Achieving True Disc Lust
Chapter 5 – The Need for Companionship
Chapter 6 – Rules of Communication