Last weekend, I competed in the Alberta National Disc Golf Championship Satellite tournament, hosted by the Strathmore Disc Golf Club at the new Four Sisters Disc Golf Course.
I had heard a lot about this course from my buddy Adam, who was one of the three designers/builders, and so I was stoked that it was ready in time for us to play. What I didn’t know until the day before the tournament is that it’s a 24 hole course, which meant that we’d be playing the equivalent of 4 rounds on an 18 hole course, since we were going to be playing 3 rounds of the 24 hole course (2 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday).
I wasn’t able to get out on Friday for a practice round so I did my best to go through the caddy book, and was planning on showing up early to walk the course a bit before my round started. Well, that didn’t happen, and I ended up only having enough time for a few putts before I was to tee off.
Overall, I was very happy with how I played, battling to a 3rd place finish, and my first cash of the year! You check out my scores for all 3 rounds here.
As has become customary, I’m going to break this tournament down in two ways – the Finite Game, and the Infinite Game. In order words, the Finite Game is how I perform, and the Infinite Game is how I behave both as a competitor and as a person. If you’re interested in learning more about this concept, check out The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek.
Going into the tournament, I wasn’t expecting much since I haven’t been playing much disc golf this year, have been inconsistent with my putting practice, and haven’t cashed out yet at a tournament this year. It’s been a tough year competition wise so I went into the weekend aiming to play my best, take each shot one at a time, and enjoy the course, and my cardmates.
Well, for the first round it worked pretty well! I absolutely loved the course and although I had a few errant shots and a bunch of missed putts, I still shot a -7, which ended up being a 1005 rated round, and surprisingly, good enough for first place by 3 shots!
I was as surprised as anyone but also very happy because it was closer to the golf I know I can play. The wind was gusting up to 70 km/h so I did my best to put lots of spin and hyzer on my drives, throw in bounds, and putt conservatively so I was guaranteed to not leave myself with any testers and avoid three putting.
The highlight of the first round was hitting the only eagle on the par-5 12th hole. It’s called the “Horseshoe Hole” and with good reason. I found out that there was the potential to throw a short drive and then attempt to throw over the wall and give yourself a chance at the eagle, but after watching someone on the card in front of us struggle with that shot, I ended up going for it off the tee. It basically required me to throw a big high throw that came crashing down into the trees, pretty much throwing directly sideways off the tee, which I was able to do, and found myself about 40 feet from the basket, with about 50 trees in between me and the basket, for the albatross 2. One other guy on the card tried the short drive, go over the wall shot and ended up going out-of-bounds, while the other 2 played the hole traditionally. It took a while for everyone to get up to my drive, and in that time I had decided to lay up for the eagle, because the risk of going for the albatross was high enough that I could kick off a tree and not even get the eagle. My layup worked, and I got the only eagle on the hole all weekend (it also helped inspire the TD to create a mando about halfway through the hole, to force us to play the hole all the way around the horseshoe, which I was ok with because it’s such a great hole.
Probably the coolest hole was the final hole, #24, that was a par 5, which finished with a double mando through a big stand of trees, finishing with the basket at the end of the trees, with an OB fence close behind. I had a pretty big drive, although I was a bit left. I went for the mando and came up just a bit short left (although my shot did sneak through, and finished right next to the basket). That meant I had to throw my 4th shot from the drop zone, which I executed perfectly, sinking the putt for a par.
Going into the second round, my goal was to play similar to the first round, but execute on more opportunities. The round started off the same with a birdie-par to start the first 2 holes. However, on the 3rd hole, my 2nd shot found the OB and I ended up bogeying. The wind was definitely stronger in the 2nd round so I knew that I would have to play more in the moment than the first round. As the round went on, I felt myself counting the number of holes left and it felt like I never could quite get it together. I played way too tentative and ended up shooting a +1, putting into 2nd place by a stroke heading into the final round.
Honestly, it was as through I played offense in the first round, and defense in the second round. I didn’t trust myself on quite a few holes, and missed quite a few putts. I missed the mando again on hole #24, parring again.
The first round felt like my old self and the second round felt like how I’ve been playing all year – not trusting myself, missing my lines, not feeling confident on my putts.
Going into the 3rd and final round, my goal was to play more aggressive, not get too much into my head, and battle every hole, playing my best, and hoping that it would be enough.
I started off with a birdie on the first, making it the only hole I got every round. I corrected my throw on the 2nd hole, getting my first birdie, and played clean on hole #3, hitting my putt for my first birdie on the tricky par-5. That put me at 3 down over the first 3 holes, tying me for the lead. I missed quite a few shots on the next 4 holes, including 3 putting the wide open hole #7, giving me my first bogey of the day. That turned out to be the only bogey all day in the MPO division, which was tough since I had landed inside the circle on my drive.
When I got to the tee on the par-4 11th, I felt confident and wanted to put up a big drive. It’s a tough slightly uphill hole and it reminds me of hole #10 at Wayne (site of The Lost Egg). I ended up turning my disc over a bit because I didn’t snap my wrist hard enough and the disc never came back, landing OB. I reteed, had a huge drive, and got up and down for my bogey 5. At that point I knew that I was battling for top 3, and my buddy Dave had even passed me with some clean play. I roughly knew the scores, and coming up to the par-3 15th, I had a goal in mind. With 10 holes to go, I wanted to birdie 2/3 of the remaining holes and then see where I was at going into the final hole.
Over the next 8 holes, I got 5 birdies, which meant that if I birdied hole #23, I’d hit my goal of 2/3 birdies. I had a decent drive on #23, but clunked my putt just short. At that point, I was in 2nd by 2 strokes, and with Noah birdieng #23, I went into the final hole 4 back of the lead, and was in 2nd by 1 stroke. My goal was to have a big drive, throw to the mando, throw it close, and make the putt for a birdie 4. That meant in order for Noah to tie me, he’d have to eagle, which he had done in the first round.
However, disaster struck when I turned over my drive on hole #24, and my disc landed OB. I tried to take a deep breath and went for the mando from behind the OB line, just missing to the right. That meant I was throwing from the drop zone, my 5th throw. Noah cleared the mando on his 2nd throw, and put himself into position for an eagle. At this point, I resigned myself to the fact that I had played myself out of 2nd, and knowing that my buddy Dave had just birdied #24 in the card ahead of us, I needed to get up and down from the drop zone to finish solo 3rd. No biggie – I took a deep breath, and threw my disc just past the basket, for a relatively easy, but important 15 foot putt for a bogey 6.
Looking back on hole #24, I ended up missing the mando all 3 rounds and finished at +1 for that hole. Given my distance, I could have played that hole much smarter, and played for birdie all 3 rounds, not putting myself in a situation for a make or break shot.
I was really proud of myself for regrouping and rallying in the final round. To set a goal for myself and focus on that, taking the other players out of the equation, is definitely something I’m going to bring to my competitions in the future. Make it a game within a game for myself, because ultimately, we are only battling ourselves.
The highlight of the final round came on the par-5 13th hole. I found myself about 50 feet away after 4 throws, and needed to get up and down for the bogey 6. I was stuck behind some trees and after checking all my options, I realized the best option was to throw a forehand backwards between my legs. You can see the result in the video below, which turned out ever better than I had planned since it kicked off a tree and rolled even closer to the basket. Thanks Adam for capturing this on video!
Outside of my competitive play, I had an incredible weekend. I’ll sum it up in 3 ways – people, course, and nutrition.
Since the MPO division was really small (only 9 of us), it meant that we were only on 2 1/3 cards, which meant that I ended up playing all 3 rounds with Mitch, the eventual champion. I also got to play a round with Tyler, Dave, Corbin (x2), Liam, and Noah. I would have loved to play a round with the junior sensation Conall, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. A round is truly made for better or worse with the people you play with. How they’re playing, how they interact with you, the type of player and person they are, how you all get along, can have an impact on your play and your mood. I am aware that I can sometimes get upset, and have outbursts. I truly hope that it doesn’t impact my cardmates, but I’m sure sometimes it does. It’s something I’m aware of, and I’m working on being better. I want to have more fun, whether I’m playing good or bad. Someone once said this to me and it really stuck in my mind – people shouldn’t know if you’re having a good or bad round just from your attitude. I’d love to have my attitude be the same regardless of how I’m playing. It’s a noble goal, and one that I know I want to get to eventually.
I would be remiss without mentioning 4 people – Adam West, Michelle Bueckert, Matt Byma, and Todd Kennedy.
Firstly, this event would not have been possible without Todd, who runs JKDiscs. Todd ran the Four Sisters tournament side, making sure that players had all the answers they needed, and being there on hole #1 to make sure everyone was on time. Given that it took us around 4.5 hours to play the course, making sure we were on time was a huge part of the Saturday! If we got behind too much, we would finished in the dark, which would not have been a good thing.
Secondly, without the work of Adam, Michelle, and Matt, the course would not have been playable. I know that other volunteers helped make the course happen (especially the pouring of the teepads) but truly those 3 did the design and the bulk of the work. Adam has been telling me about this course for a few months, and after playing the course, I can only imagine the amount of work it took to get the course where it was at. It always blows my mind when I think about the incredible amount of time that people put into this sport – it’s humbling for sure because although I put in a lot of volunteer hours, the dedication and unwavering focus to make sure things get done are unparalleled and inspire me to keep doing what I do. I’ve always said that all of this is only possible with many people doing different pieces of work, and this weekend really shone a light on that. Thank you, not just to the four I mentioned, but to everyone who made this weekend possible.
Four Sisters – The course. Wow. It reminded me of Tamara Ranch, a course we played years ago for the provincial doubles just outside of Red Deer. It was in a farmer’s pasture, and so this course had so many similar elements. The crew went above and beyond though. They installed concrete teepads on every hole, and the teepads were plenty big enough for even the longest runups! They installed the top of the line baskets, Mach X from DGA. They are a great catching basket and the only putts I missed deserved to miss. If I had a good putt, it stayed in the basket. That’s such a nice thing to have, since there are many courses I’ve played where you get unlucky spit outs.
The variety of the holes was incredible. Some long, some short. Some holes that required you to place the drive to a landing zone. Other holes tempted you to go for it, and you were rewarded if you had a great shot, and punished if you didn’t. I don’t feel like I ever threw the same shot twice, and on many holes, I had several options off the tee, and several options depending on where I landed. That to me is the sign of a great course – variety and imagination.
Although this course is private, I have heard that they’re coming up with plan to sell memberships so we’ll be able to play the course throughout the season. I look forward to many more rounds, doubles events, and more tournaments at this course! I’m excited to see what they continue to do with the course – alternate layouts, additional holes, different teepads and basket locations. There’s so much potential at this property, and it’s definitely a challenging course that will help you become a better player.
The final piece for me this weekend was all about nutrition. I hired a nutrition coach about a month ago, and I’ve been having a lot of success with my approach to eating what my body needs. My goal was to come up with a way to eat healthy while on the road and during tournaments, and she made it super easy for that to happen. I did learn during Falcon’s Flight and the Tommy Douglas Open that if I didn’t make sure to eat during my rounds that I would lose focus and start to make mental errors.
Knowing that, I made sure that I had more than enough food for when I played. Given that we were playing 24 hours instead of 18, I also packed extra food for my rounds, and made sure to have a solid lunch in between rounds. My gameplay meal is pretty simple. I pack myself a handful of almonds (Fat), a protein bar (Protein), 2-3 rice cakes (Carbohydrates), and an Apple (Fruit/Veg). It’s super simple and I really noticed how I was much more steady this tournament that ones in the past. It also helped keep me focused and in the game, and felt like I was rewarding myself and taking care of myself, so whenever I had a bad shot or missed my line, having a few bites would help me get back in the game, knowing that disc golf is not a game of perfect.
It felt amazing to play well and although my game is far from where I know it can be, it gives me a lot of hope and lessons to bring forward for future events, both disc golf, Overall, and dog disc. My next focus will be on my body, and ensuring that I’m strong, mobile, and more resilient. That will be my focus in the off season, and thanks to Disc Golf Strong, I have a solid game plan already. Having the nutrition piece in place will only help support the work I do to build a strong body and mind and I cannot wait to compete in 2022 and see what I can bring!