Disc Golf burst onto the Icelandic scene with a bang last summer, after a few years of slow but steady growth.
The explosion of the sport in the country saw the total count of ready-made courses jump from nine to nineteen in 2014 alone, with disc sales multiplying by a factor of five and sales of beginner sets exceeding five hundred. The capital area currently hosts one full eighteen-hole course at Gufunes, and six nine-hole setups in locations as varied as Klambratún, Mosfellsbær, Laugardalur, Breiðholt, Víðistaðatún in Hafnarfjörður and—the crowd favourite—Fossvogur. This year yet another course has been approved in the Seljahverfi neighbourhood of Breiðholt, and additional courses have been proposed for Akureyri, Húsavík, Bolungarvík and Höfn.
The increase in players last season was exponential—with members of the Icelandic Disc Golf community page hovering around the 700 mark—and hordes more are expected to flex their throwing arms come summer, as the ÍFS tournament circuit has over 30 events planned for the season. The sport comes with a low price tag, both in terms of equipment and facilities, and is available to people of any age and gender year round.
The Grapevine played a couple of rounds at Klambratún with 2013 Icelandic Disc Golf Champion Jón Símon Gíslason, who gave us the 411 on the budding local scene.
How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been playing since around late summer 2010. When I started there were only three or four courses and we mainly just played in Gufunes…
And there were not many of you?
No, we were around ten regular players, but in 2011 when the Klambratún course was built, the number of regular players grew to maybe thirty or forty and there were probably a thousand to fifteen hundred players who tried it out that summer. Then there was a major explosion in the number of courses in 2014 and what’s to come in the future will be even greater.
We’re here at the tee for the first hole at Klambratún and it’s unacceptably muddy. What’s your view on the disc golf association’s policy of quantity over quality?
Well, I think it’s fine, per se, to make more courses, if possible, but I think it’s crucial to keep up the maintenance on the old courses, or the ones that came before, and tend to this and that, and I know it’s on the agenda, for Gufunes at least.
Pave the tees and such?
Yeah, that seems to work better than Astroturf.
THE TACTICS OF THE LAY UP
We’re at hole 4 now, the easiest hole on the course. Or do you agree?
It’s the easiest hole in the country!
So which hole is your favourite?
That is…probably hole number 8 in Gufunes. A long and technical hole from the top of a hill.
You’re gonna use the putter for this one?
Yeah, just like the last one.
What do you consider the most important aspect of the game?
The most important aspect of the game, as in most other sports, is the mind game. If you don’t have that then you’re never gonna get any results, as simple as that.
Any funny stories you can tell me from playing the sport?
The funniest and most memorable thing I remember from disc golf has to be my “stunning” achievement on hole 12 at the European Championships in Switzerland last summer. Instead of throwing the disc into a more safe zone for the basket approach, I decided to be strong-headed and throw the disc out of bounds nine or ten times until I hit the island green of the course, ‘cuz obviously I´m not gonna throw safe! Safe is for mama’s boys! After that hole I thought back to a picture hanging on my colleague’s wall that fit well with my attitude when playing the hole. “I’m trying to think like you, but I can’t get my head that far up my ass!”
SIZING UP THE OPPOSITION
Who’s your toughest opponent?
That would be Þorri… Þorvaldur [Þórarinsson, reigning and multiple national champion]. He always shows up with his A-game. He just never plays badly. He’s always solid, and he can be insanely good. He putts well in the clinch. I usually play pretty solid as well. I usually come out in the top three in competitions. Maybe I’ll have one or two off tournaments, but if you look at last summer I’m always in the top three.
Here’s the longest hole at Klambratún (hole 6). You’re not throwing the putter again, are you?
No, a fairway driver or a driver.
[Jón Símon proceeds to crush his drive up the entire 97-metre fairway for an easy birdie put, pulling a stroke ahead of the reporter.]
You’ve played abroad at the European championships and such. How have you fared and what is the opposition like at that level?
There’s a pretty big difference in level of play. Maybe not worthy of comparison as we played far below our general skill level over there. Stress was probably to blame for that.
What are they doing over there that puts them a class above us? Better consistency perhaps?
Yeah, and they’ve probably been playing for much longer than we have.
Maybe they adapt to new courses faster?
Yeah, they’ve got more choices and access to coaches and such, but it’s all coming along nicely over here. We will get there. There are promising players coming up the ranks and we just need to instil the proper mindset in them.