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Twin Ports offers options for disc golfers

Stephen Bien putts for the basket during the Mayhem on the Mountain disc golf tournament at Mont du Lac Resort on Saturday. Steve Kuchera /

Aloysia Power

Forum News Service

Midnight on the Mont du Lac ski hill, three young men stood on a peak overlooking a deep, grassy bowl. At the bottom, lit up by the ski hill lights, was a metal disc-golf basket. One by one, from their stationing on the peak, the men flung their discs the 300-foot downward drive into the center.

"C'mon!" one said, as his disc floated past the basket into the long, wet grass. They all landed in the grass.

Down in the bowl, after several minutes of searching, the group retrieved their discs and took turns putting. All but one made the basket on their first toss — Laramie Carlson, of Duluth, sunk his by the second.

"Good job," said group mate Danny Kemper, giving Laramie a fist bump as his disc rang the chains of the basket.

The three golfers — along with about 40 other disc golfers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan — played through the mist and midnight hours as part of Mont du Lac's Mayhem on the Mountain disc golf tournament May 27-28. The second day of the tournament was played during daylight hours. Disc golf is like traditional golf in that it's a game of targets played on an outdoor course. The scoring system is the same. But instead of hitting balls into holes in the ground, disc golfers throw plastic discs into human-sized metal baskets.

Along with Mayhem on the Mountain, Mont du Lac offers a variety of other events and leagues geared toward disc golfers who are up for the steep hike.

"This place is probably the best (course) in the area, for sure," said Mayhem golfer Tyler Masseta of Duluth. "There's a good variety of holes and a lot going on here."

Mont du Lac's beginner-friendly summer and winter night leagues all start at 6 p.m. The White Cedar league plays Wednesdays, and the Eagle's Peak league meets Thursdays.

The mountain also hosts the area's only tournaments sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association: the Aug. 13 White Cedar Open, the Sept. 10-11 Lake Superior Open and Mayhem.

Both the White Cedar and Lake Superior Open include the mountain's 18-hole White Cedar run. The advanced-level course takes golfers through an old-growth cedar forest, forcing them to make tight shots to avoid hitting trees.

On the mountain's other 18-hole run — Eagle's Peak on the open ski hill — golfers deal with factors such as turbulent wind and the challenges that come with steep elevations.

Mayhem on the Mountain plays solely on the ski hill course and has several holes that highlight the hills' dramatic gravitational forces.

After Carlson, Kemper and group mate Tanner Bulock finished the bowl run, they continued on to one such hole during Mayhem. This time, the basket was tucked halfway up a wooded hill and dimly lit by white LED lights.

"This is one of the signature holes," Carlson said. "You get Mont du-ed here."

The phenomenon named after the Wisconsin ski hill happens when a disc rolls away from where it lands, back down one of the many course slopes.

"It happens a fair amount," Carlson said.

To avoid losing discs to one of these Mont-dues during night golf, players tape small LED lights of varying colors to the centers of their discs. Like firefly bodies, the lights flash on and off to aid disc visibility in tall grass, shadowy woods and wherever else they land. Disc golfers refer to night games where this sort of lighting is used as "glow rounds."

Other area courses

Twin Ports disc golfers not interested in long, uphill hikes have many other milder and shorter options within Duluth and Superior. These tamer courses include those at Lincoln Park, Lake Superior College, University of Minnesota Duluth, Morgan Park Middle School, the College of St. Scholastica and Mont du Lac's Ace's Run.

"The whole town is full of beginner and kid-friendly holes," said professional disc golfer Maija Jenson of Duluth.

Jenson, a two-time PDGA World Championship golfer, plays all year round with her husband, Reid Jenson, and their 3-year-old son, Max.

Since she started throwing discs in the mid-'90s and competing in 2009, Jenson said she's learned many life lessons from the game and wants to pass them onto Max.

"It has all the lessons in life all wrapped up in what you should do to win," she said. "If you're not paying attention, you screw up ... You have to be totally present, and it's so hard in your busy life to be there. If you wish there wasn't a tree in front of you, but there is and you throw, you're going to hit it."

While Jenson used to play 10-12 competitive tournaments per year, since having Max in 2013, she's cut back to four, at most, per year.

"Having a kid really cuts into competitive disc golf," she said. "You need at least four hours to play a round, and that free time just isn't there right now."

Luckily for her, Max enjoys his time on the course with his parents.

"We started bringing him to the (University of Minnesota Duluth) course as a baby," she said. "It's the most stroller-friendly course."

UMD's run is mostly flat and has plenty of sidewalks nearby.

Now that Max can walk and is throwing a full-sized disc up to 60 feet, together, the Jensons can take on the 18-hole-or-longer courses around Wisconsin during weekends.

"It's like taking a big hike with a carrot (on a stick): You're just kind of chasing your disc," Jenson said of their outings.

As for Max: "He alternates playing with his stick and playing with a disc."

Twin Ports disc golf courses

• Mont du Lac's Eagle's Peak, White Cedar and Ace's Run are open year-round during the daylight or as long as the ski hill lights are on. They are located at 3125 Mont du Lac Drive in Superior. Ace's Run: nine-hole beginner's course, flat and free to play. Eagle's Peak: 18-hole course, steep hills, several wooded holes, $7 in the summer and $5 in the winter. White Cedar: 18-hole course, heavily wooded, $7 in the summer and $5 in the winter.

• Superior's Central Park course, 717 Sixth Ave. E., is a flat and lightly wooded six-hole course that is free and open to the public.

• Duluth's Lincoln Park course, along Miller Creek at about West Third Street, is a hilly and moderately wooded course, free and open to the public.

• Duluth's Miller Creek course, 2101 Trinity Road, is a lightly wooded nine-hole course along Miller Creek on the Lake Superior College campus, free and open to the public.

• College of St. Scholastica's course, at 1200 Kenwood Ave. in Duluth, is a moderately wooded six-hole course that is free to play for CSS staff, faculty, students and alumni.

• University of Minnesota Duluth's course, 1049 University Drive in Duluth, is a flat nine-hole public course that is free to play.

• Duluth's Morgan Park course, Morgan Park Middle School's property at 1243 88th Ave. W., is a flat seven-hole run that is free and open to the public.