The trick to a long lob is learning to throw with your whole body. Photo by Pete Saporito.
It’s Sunday afternoon, and Asa Maestas, a Soquel High School junior, is standing on a concrete tee at De Laveaga Disc Golf Course’s fourth hole teaching a novice—me—how to play. Maestas instructs me to throw “nip to nip,” demonstrating as he pulls his disc horizontally across his chest and extends it out toward our target, a metal basket that appears to be several light years away.
Maestas and three of his teammates from the Soquel High School Disc Golf Club are out for a weekend of exercise and smack-talk. Jealous of his “arm like a cannon,” Maestas’ teammates have nicknamed him “Ace-Hole” for his affinity for getting to the basket in one shot.
Maestas & Co. are more than willing to help me flail my arms in a more efficient manner rather than let me look like an orangutan at a basketball game. To hear Lukas Prince tell it, the sport, a full-body exercise, is a little bit like dancing.
“It’s all in the hips. To get distance, you’re going to want to throw with your whole body and turn,” Prince says, demonstrating in slow motion. “Snap your wrist at the end of it if you can, too.”
These high schoolers have a knack for explaining every element of their sport, from the drive—wind up, keep your hand flat and throw to the right of your target—to the final putt: arm out straight, snap wrist and toss. It’s “just like serving up a pizza,” says Fabiano Hale, who often has food on the brain.
The day is more challenging than I’ve been expecting, and the combination of lobbing plastic discs and hiking makes for fun and scenic exercise. The De Laveaga Disc Golf course, which opened in 1984, is world famous. It was ranked number 40 on DG Course Review’s website and last year hosted the PDGA World Championship. It’s also the site of the annual Masters Cup, held last weekend (May 18-20).
At 27 holes as opposed to 18, De Laveaga is a long course. Its length, difficulty and diversity of shots are all part of what makes it so popular. Maestas loses two discs before the day is through.
“It’s a hard, hard course, even if you’re really good,” Prince says. “It has a combination of hill shots, open meadow shots, canyon shots, don’t-go-right, don’t-go-left. You have puddles. There’s everything up here.”
With a final hole stretching almost two football fields and descending 100 feet in altitude, the course can easily take a small group four hours to finish. It’s probably one of the only qualms a growing teenager might have about coming here. Hale, who looks like he has the metabolism of a thoroughbred horse, notices it taking a toll just before the 20th hole.
“This is the longest course in Santa Cruz,” he says, resting on a bench and gazing out over the hole, blinking slowly. “I always forget to bring food. It’s the worst.”