With one final flick of the wrist, the bright yellow disc hurtles through the air like an out-of-control UFO. Its trajectory is more than a bit wobbly, but thrown from just three metres away, it smashes into the metal chains and ricochets down into the bottom of the elevated basket. Sarah, my seven-year-old daughter, leaps with joy; she's proud as punch to complete her first hole of disc golf.
Disco golf? Yes, you read right. Sometimes called frisbee golf or simply frolf, I hadn't heard of it either until driving through Jindabyne recently, when some brightly coloured bin-like contraptions caught Sarah's eye.
Closer inspection revealed nine of the odd-looking baskets scattered among parkland on the Lake Jindabyne foreshore. Near one of them was a sign that explains this is a disc golf course and the contraptions are baskets for discs to land in, the equivalent of your traditional golf holes.
The sign furtherexplains that the aim of the game is to throw a disc through the air from dedicated tee-off areas and along (or should that be over) fairways and into the corresponding net in the fewest turns. The sign also states it is free to play and all you need is a disc from the town's Rip Curl sports store.
I tried to explain to Sarah that we didn't have a disc and we were in a rush to get to our final destination, still another hour's drive away, but that didn't deter her. Oh, no, after almost three long hours in the car she was ready to play and if there was no playground, then frolf it would have to be. However, after attempting to tee off with a plastic plate enthusiastically plucked from the picnic set in the back of the Yowiemobile, we soon realised that a trip to the sport store was in order.
Just like traditional golf where you need a full range of clubs, the disc golfer can buy a set of discs of varying weights and design. Given there's more than a good chance we will never play again, I buy the single multi-purpose fluoro-yellow disc. I did consider hiring a disc, but thought buying one might placate Mrs Yowie who, along with Emily, our four-year-old, was still picking up remnants of the shattered picnic plate. It could double as our fourth, albeit brightly coloured plate, couldn't it?
The friendly shop assistant gave us a further run-down of the rules and also explained that funds raised from the sale or hire of a disc go to the Rob Kneller Youth Foundation, a local charity responsible for establishing the course.
We only ended up playing a few holes, as the impromptu stop had put us well behind schedule. Not only was it a lot of fun, but it was also clear that, just like golf, you need a bit of practice to master your technique. I think Sarah scored nine on the 50-metre par-three first and eight on the 89-metre par-three second(best not reveal her dad's numbers). But, hey, it's an unwritten rule to let your kid win, isn't it? At least, that's what I remind myself while Sarah skites to Mrs Yowie about her five-stroke win, as we finally head on our merry way.
After returning to Canberra, wanting "to beat Daddy again", Sarah demands I try to find a disc course closer to home. I eventually track down veteran Canberra disc golfer Greg "Sparky" Sparksman, who reveals the territory's official course is at Eddison Park in Woden. Although the course has only been complete with poles (and, subsequently, baskets) for 18 years, Sparky says "some of us were playing disc 'object' golf as far back as 1977, using a range of objects, including tree trunks, lamp posts, bins, and seats as targets".
Sparky also reveals the ACT Disc Golf Open is this weekend, February 21 and 22, and kindly invites me to participate in the novice category. I politely decline, explaining that the park rangers probably wouldn't appreciate some of their trees being unexpectedly pruned by my wayward flings. We promise to attend as spectators instead.
If you are wandering around Eddison Park this weekend, please come and say hi. We'll be the family watching from a picnic blanket with one of us eating his lunch off a large yellow plate that bears an uncanny resemblance to a frisbee.
Jindabyne Disc Golf: The course is located at "The Claypits", which is near the roundabout where the Kosciuszko Road and the Barry Way meet, across from the Snowy Mountains Grammar School. The course is free to play on. Discs are available for purchase (or hire) at the Rip Curl store at Nuggets Crossing.
2015 ACT Disc Golf Open: This weekend in Eddison Park, 16 Justinian Street, Phillip. Free entry.
Rob Kneller Youth Foundation: Established in December 2013 by Scott and Luke Kneller in memory of their late father, the charity aims to give the kids of Jindabyne access to the vast array of opportunities the snow sports industry provides, while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. More: robknelleryouthfoundation.com.
Did you know? The popularity of disc golf has exploded in the past 10 years. There are now more than 3500 disc golf courses and more than a million registered players worldwide.
A trio of oddities
Over the past couple of weeks, this column has received several reports of unusual animal sightings, including a colour-challenged bird, a stowaway possum and a horse in a bar.
1. Albino willy wagtail: Jim, from Jerrabomberra, was astonished to see what appeared to be a white willy wagtail on the side of the road while driving through Deua National Park. "Through my window, I zoomed in with my camera and got this (slightly out of focus) photo before he flew back to the tree tops," Jim reports. This column's birding go-to correspondent, Geoffrey Dabb, of Narrabundah, was chuffed to see the photo. "Although albinism has been recorded elsewhere for this species, it's the first photographed specimen I'm aware of in this region," he says.
2. Possum under bonnet: The mechanics at Seiffert Auto Repairs in Queanbeyan got the shock of their lives when they popped the hood on one of their customer's cars and found a possum curled up asleep against the engine block. "The customer had driven the car from Downer that morning via a number of other locations around Canberra, completely oblivious to his secret stowaway," the owner of the shop, Andrew Neuss, reports. "It didn't even flinch when it suddenly had three mechanics gawking at it." All is well that ends well, and the sleepy possum was eventually caught, placed in a hessian bag and returned safely to the Downer backyard, where it was last seen scampering up a tree.
3. Horse in bar: A horse walks up to the bar and orders a drink. "Why the long face?" asks the bartender. It sounds like a well-known joke. However, during the recent Wild Colonial Day at Collector, a horse (and rider) really did wander into the village's Bushranger Hotel, catching some patrons by surprise. Long-time local Gary Poile says he "can't recall the last time a horse was seen at the bar", adding "and I doubt I'll ever see it again."
Where in Canberra?
Clue: Best visited at dawn and dusk.
Degree of difficulty: Medium.
Last week: Congratulations to Saskia Vervoorn, of Braddon, who correctly identified last week's photo (inset), sent in by Max Rile,y as a scar on the northern slope of Mount Tennent, viewed as you drive along Tharwa Drive from Tuggeranong towards the 1375-metre-high mountain. She just beat several other readers to the prize, including Tony Corp, of Curtin, B. J. Martin, of McKellar, and Diane McLennan, of Gordon, who reports she "uses the scarred mountain as a way of locating which direction Tuggeranong is from wherever I am in Canberra".
The origins of the scar are one of the most regular topics of inquiry lobbed into this column's inbox. Far from being a "clearing for a cable car", as suggested by one fanciful reader (maybe a hopeful hiker looking for an easy way to the top), the "scar" is actually the result of a rock and earth slide that occurred during the big rains of March 2012. This column visited the site soon after the slide and was amazed by the extent of the damage, which included scrapes up to two metres high on the tree trunks. Despite the extent of the slide, Rob Walker, of Calwell, reckons "in 10 years we won't see it any more".
The clue "treasure in them hills" related to the legend that bushranger John Tennant (yes, different spelling) left a cache of gold hidden somewhere on the slopes of the mountain. Steve Hill, of Kambah, has "climbed the mountain from all directions and never found a single skerrick of treasure", while Val Jeffery, who runs the Tharwa General Store, reports "since the landslide, I've had several people call in on their way to look for the gold, which they believe was hopefully exposed by the slide". She tries to reduce their expectations by telling them "Tennant was probably the most unsuccessful bushranger in history".
Meanwhile, Alan Hume, of Greenway, cautions those scouring the mountain with a metal detector that they might uncover metal of a different kind. "As a young lad (some 40 years ago), my mate and I put a lot of lead shot into that mountain chasing elusive rabbits and foxes on a private property," he recalls.
You can hike to the top of Mount Tennent from the Namadgi Visitor Centre, but as 12-year-old Ben Hobson, of Campbell, who trudged up it with his family last year warns, "it's a hard walk, about five hours to the top and back".
How to enter: Email your guess, along with your name and address, to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first email sent after 10am Saturday, February 21, with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.