The Early Lead: A new hobby sparks a summertime infatuation
By BRANDON HURLEY
It was a round to remember, for all the wrong reasons.
Confusion. Exhaustion. Mud. A dirty disaster of embarrassment and frustration.
It wasn’t exactly what we pictured when we embarked on our initial disc golf round of 2020 - my girlfriend’s first-ever foray into our newest hobby and my first disc golf adventure in more than 10 years.
The usual relaxing vibes of a few hours in the wonderful throes of nature quickly transformed into a treacherous expedition, but one that certainly didn’t chase us away. It only hardened us and fueled our enthusiasm for our new hobby.
A few weeks ago, we ventured onto the disc golf course at McHose Park in Boone. Little did we know this was actually a massively difficult course, one which is hardly used and heavily overgrown. We definitely hadn’t come prepared.
The first two holes were simple enough, short and challenging. We cruised through them without much trouble. After what would later transpire that day, I cannot remember what I shot on the opening holes. I just know that we survived to play another hole, and that was good enough for me.
At that point, we should’ve cut our losses (which were minimal, mostly some heavy sweat from the high humidity). We were in decent enough shape, lacking and sort of stress or mud-caked pants. But we decided to trudge on. If only we had some type of warning to shy us away from continuing, then we may have turned back. What you may not know about the course in Boone is how poorly it is marked. We didn’t realize only three signs marked the entire course, so when we headed to what we thought was hole three, it actually sent us on the beginning of a wild goose chase. We’d later find out we apparently played hole 12 as our third of the day, and after receiving some well-intended but underwhelming advice, turned back to find the real hole three.
Now, hole three at McHose is one of the most difficult set ups I’ve ever seen. After stumbling around for several minutes and finally finding our way into the forest, we were greeted with an expert cement pad that overlooked a giant, wooded ravine, which disc golfers needed to fly over in order to reach the basket it.
We weren’t even touching that shot. No chance we’d risk losing our newly purchased discs in the depths of that monster. We figured there’d be another safer and shorter tee box if we took the path down the ravine.
Boy, we should’ve never taken on that ambitious adventure.
It had rained heavily just a day before, so this heavily wooded ravine had turned into a muddy mess. We were in for an experience, to the say the least. This was no ordinary trek through a disc golf course. No, we were fully embedded in an intermediate hike through the sloppy backwoods of Boone County.
Once we traveled some 100 hundred feet downward, it no longer looked or felt like we were playing disc golf. What transpired next is a mishap we soon won’t forget. Our shoes and legs began attracting mud. Each of us slipped and fell to the ground at least two times, and that was before we even reached the bottom to begin our ascent back up the other side. Once we reached the lowest point of our decline, we realized we were now lost, unaware of where we needed to head next. Our path eventually opened up to a cement pad next to a creek, but we saw no visible basket nor any distinct route to take. We had no clue what to do next. So, we sat down and enjoyed a few adult beverages. Little did we know that’d be the easiest part of our climb through the jungle of McHose.
After contemplating our poor decision-making for half an hour or so, we decided to brave the trek out of the depths of Boone and somehow work our back to daylight. Unfortunately, this particular climb out would be even more difficult than the descent. The path we eventually found was severely underwhelming, one that was yet again a muddy mess. This climb was a little more severe than going down, as we essentially needed to go straight up the opposite side of the ravine. After working our way through fallen trees, overgrown brush and wayward branches for a few minutes, we gazed upon our most difficult challenge yet. The waiting extreme incline was inaccessible thanks to the stairs having been eroded away long ago leaving a mud-splattered wall complete with deep rivets and puddles.
This is when my Boy Scout tendencies I acquired a few decades ago thankfully kicked in. I grabbed onto what I could and zig-zagged my way up through leaves and sticks. My girlfriend didn’t enjoy such luck. She struggled to gain any substantial footing and began drifting downward. Miraculously, we somehow made it up out the ravine after what felt like 30 sweat trenched minutes underneath a suffocating canopy of trees, only to discover we had been down there for more than an hour. At that point, we yet again sat down to enjoy a beverage or two, thankfully underneath some delightful shade trees. We’d had enough. It was time to hang it up. We’d officially played three holes in a span of two hours, and all we had to show for it was cuts, scrapes, sweat-stained brows and dark mud caked all over our legs, shorts and shoes. Nothing like a great and dangerous adventure on what we thought would be a quiet Saturday afternoon, right?
Surprisingly, our tantalizing journey through the mud-splattered bowels of Boone County birthed an initiative that I never saw coming. Oddly enough, it inspired us to spearhead the potential restoration of a course that could really blossom into something spectacular.
After attempting to play the McHose Park disc golf course over the last few weeks, I’ve realized it needs a lot of attention and maintenance. It seems as if it was at some point a pretty scenic and challenging course, then the upkeep and landscaping came to an abrupt halt. t really shows off the true beauty of Boone County and Iowa, for that matter. It takes you through the dense forest of the Des Moines River Valley, not only bringing one closer to nature but also testing one’s disc golf skills.
This is why we have decided to launch fundraising efforts to bring the wonderful course back to life.
The power of social media combined with a shared passion is glorious and beautiful thing. It’s something we really need in a time like this. Social media doesn’t always have to be used to highlight negatives and hatred. This past Monday was all the proof I needed. Within minutes of posting an idea on possibly restoring the disc golf course at McHose Park in Boone (my home course) I’d immediately fielded several responses. From people expressing their love and admiration for central Iowa’s hidden gem to others offer suggestions and advice. It caught on like wildfire. As of this writing, less than 24 hours after creating a Facebook group in support of a restoration, the membership stood at more than 100 members. Absolutely tremendous and awe-inspiring.
Even after a near debacle during our first round, I’m looking forward to seeing where this new hobby takes me. And if you feel so inclined, please join our efforts by looking up the McHose Disc Golf Course Restoration Project on Facebook. The future is bright.