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Hard Play at Pinto Lake

By Eric Johnson

Hole Four at Pinto Lake is an insidious little three-par. It's only 210 feet, but the basket is tucked in a thicket, down a trail and slightly up a little hill. The only way to get there is to throw a big hook, way up and out about 180 feet, and drop in from the right. Too short and you're in the thicket. Too long and you're in the woods. A good throw and it's an easy birdie.

It was my first visit to the new disc golf course, which was designed by Tom Schot, who built the legendary DeLaveaga. There was a mist falling but I was sweating. I felt tense--almost scared. Golf can be a weirdly aggravating sport, whether one plays it with a tiny ball or a modified Frisbee. "A good walk ruined," as Mark Twain said.

I was one over par. Holes One and Two were huge (469 feet and 543 feet) but straightforward four-pars, and I'd played them adequately. Three was shorter, a needle-threader of a three-par, and I'd botched a long uphill putt after a weak approach. For some reason I don't get, it felt important that I par this course. That would require a birdie.

I made a good throw. I knew it when it left my hand. The red Shark threw off a fine spray as it flew, then hooked around the big oak, dropped, and landed 10 feet from the basket.

Feeling cocky, I ran from the tee box to the disc, scooped it up and in one easy motion blew the putt.

In that moment I felt all my ambition and self-confidence draining out through my soggy feet into the mud. But I pushed on.

Five follows a wide uphill trail that skirts a little arm of the lake. I played it carefully, joylessly, barely hearing the squawking shorebirds. Par. Fine.

Farther up the trail, standing at the Hole Six tee box, I found myself looking out at a big meadow. The basket stood out at the tip of a small peninsula. From this spot, Pinto Lake is quite lovely. I suddenly felt good and decided to really play.

I hucked a perfectly good drive and followed it out into the meadow. Standing above the lake, stretching my arms into the sky, I saw a heron floating above. I heard mariachi music in the distance, a tuba pulsing on the breeze. I turned, squared off, dropped the 70-foot putt, and let out a shout. I hadn't made that sound in a while.

It's a weird game. It's a tough course. But fun.

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