This past week has been a whirlwind of activity! I needed to travel to Birmingham, Alabama for work, to attend a Rural Guided Pathways Project conference with the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement. Three and a half days of discussing how to improve undergraduate student experiences and outcomes, as well as partnerships between collegiate institutions and their public and private partners in an economic development sense. A great chance to “rub elbows” with educational employees from around the country, including colleagues at Northeast Community College from Norfolk, Nebraska.

A Quick Course in Alabama - Tonn's Travels
View at the entrance of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama.

I actually met the staff from Northeast Community College at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on Wednesday morning, as we had a bit of free time before our conference activities started, and the Institute has long been on my list of places to visit. Seeing the A. G. Gaston Motel, a portion of the remains of the Greyhound bus that freedom riders rode from Washington D.C. to Anniston, Alabama, where the bus and its occupants were attacked and a fire bomb was thrown, and any number of other pictures and artifacts is a powerful experience that every American should have.

In a disc golf sense, however, the staff at Northeast had to laugh. Meeting an ex-pat from Minnesota who had actually played the disc golf course on their campus! In fact, a person from Oregon who has played more courses in Nebraska (106) than any other person in the history of the sport of disc golf, attending a conference in Birmingham, Alabama! “How random is that?,” one of the Northeast employees said. 🙂

I palled around with my new friends from Nebraska for most of the conference, until earlier this afternoon, when the conference formally concluded. But my flight home to Oregon isn’t until Saturday morning. Five or six hours of daylight, thousands of miles from home, with a couple of discs packed in my carry-on. What to do…what to do. Why, I couldn’t help but notice that the oldest course in “The Ham” was only two miles away! Hmm….

A Quick Course in Alabama - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 1 tee at George Ward Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

It was a two-mile walk from my hotel to George Ward Park. It felt mostly safe, though I did have a few mentally unstable homeless individuals trying to get me to give them money and my smartphone…as “the battery in their smartphone was dead” (although they looked like they had been on the street for a long time, and it felt as though the moment I would have handed them my phone to “make a call” would have been the last time I would have seen my phone). But I eventually made it to the park, and with several other disc golfers around, I felt safe.

A Quick Course in Alabama - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 5 tee at George Ward Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

For not having played in a few weeks, and for just having made a brisk two-mile walk to the course, I actually played very well! In sticking with a “boring disc golf” approach and philosophy (copyright: Gregg Hosfeld) , I managed to shoot a -4 (69), for an estimated round rating of 950. On the 604-foot Hole 5 (shown above), I managed to get a birdie three after throwing in my 60-65 footer with my ProLine Squall, to which the young couple behind me out enjoying the course shouted: “NICE PUTT!” 🙂 I misfired on a couple of holes I could have been able to deuce with better tee shots. But overall a -4 and breaking 70 on the 24-hole, 7,660-foot course with only a Squall and a ProLine Tempest (a two-disc round) was solid.

A Quick Course in Alabama - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole 13 tee at George Ward Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

I had a lot of fun on this course, and I can see why a lot of locals rate it as highly as they do! That being said, there are numerous safety concerns with the design, and I’d be surprised if players, pedestrians and cyclists haven’t been injured since the course opened in 1990.

A Quick Course in Alabama - Tonn's Travels
View from the Hole C tee at George Ward Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

I also had a bit of trouble locating the six “bonus” holes on the course (between Holes 14 and 15) until three nice locals set me straight. It was a long walk back from Hole 18 to Hole A! 🙂 But I wasn’t walking back to the hotel without playing all 24 holes in the park. Holes A-F were fun. Much shorter, and not as well maintained. If I were playing better and wasn’t so tired? I should have deuced at least 3-4 of those six holes. I got deuces on D and F, at least! And my deuce on F allowed me to break 70 on the round. But I left a couple of twos out there that I got to think about my two-mile walk back to the hotel. 🙂

So that was nice! Getting course #4 played in Alabama on a work trip that I wasn’t sure I would have any opportunity to disc golf. And a +1 in my course collection is much, much better than going home empty-handed.

Magic Number = -8 (2,008 Courses Played)

How it All Got Started: Tonn’s Travels >>
A main purpose of this blog will be to share information, helpful tips and tricks (everything from health and fitness to methods for saving money while you’re out “bagging courses” of your own), and ideas for better, safer course design. But I am also hoping to inspire others with my passion for the sport, via the stories I can share about all of the interesting experiences I have. All of the interesting people I meet. All of the amazing courses I am blessed to have the opportunity to play. If I can inspire even a handful of individuals to get off the couch, get “out of their bubble” or “security blanket” and explore more of this big, beautiful planet we all call home? Then I will consider this effort a success.

About Derek

A Quick Course in Alabama - Tonn's Travels

Derek Tonn is a member of the DGA’s Ambassador Team. His company, Mapformation, LLC, has been DGA’s partner in the development of disc golf tee signage since 2012. The longer our two companies have worked together, and the more Derek has gotten to know all the great folks at DGA, the more he has wanted to formally sing the company’s praises. The more he has realized that “Steady” Ed’s (the father of disc golf and the modern-day Frisbee) vision for the sport and his company perfectly describes his own interests and priorities related to disc golf, and the more Derek has recently been encouraged to share his story.

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