Washougal man joins pro disc golf association, hopes to bring awareness of niche sport to region

Bill Marshall says area badly needs local course: 'there's no disc golf course unless you drive about 25 minutes in either direction on Highway 14'

Bill Marshall didn’t know a thing about disc golf when he was introduced to the sport by a friend in 2015. He had never really considered himself as much of an athlete. He had played “ball” golf a handful of times, but came to the conclusion that it just wasn’t for him.

But the Washougal resident became addicted to disc golf after his very first outing.

“A buddy of mine was going on a little day drive up the Gorge,” Marshall said. “He had a couple of Frisbees — well, I thought they were Frisbees. He said, ‘There’s a disc golf course up in this park in North Bonneville.’ I’m like, ‘Disc golf? I love throwing things at stuff.’ “He’s like, ‘You want to come along?’ I was like, ‘OK, yeah.’ I went out there, and man, I was hooked on it after my first throw. In 2016, after my first tournament, I looked around at city parks and said, ‘Is there a basket there? Maybe I could go play.'”

More than five years later, Marshall is more passionate about disc golf than ever. Now he’s ready to take his game to new levels.

Marshall recently joined the Professional Disc Golf Association, a membership organization dedicated to the promotion and sustainable growth of disc golf through player participation, tournament and course development, rules and competitive standards, public education and outreach and more.

The Georgia-based organization boasts more than 120,0000 members in 54 countries.

“You pay an annual fee to join up and get a lifetime membership number,” Marshall said. “It allows you to play professional tournaments. The (prize) money’s nice, but I just enjoy going out there and being with people. It’s really neat. For people that are kind of to themselves, going out there really opens you up and makes you look at the world a lot different.”

Disc golf is a regular part of Marshall’s daily and weekly routines. He plays “just about every day,” mostly at Pier Park in Portland, Leverich Park in Vancouver or Vance Park in Gresham, Oregon.

“Being in Washougal, there’s no disc golf course unless you drive about 25 minutes in either direction on Highway 14,” said Marshall, who works at a countertop shop in Tualatin, Oregon. “We need one in Camas-Washougal really bad.”

He also belongs to a group of disc golfers who gather at various courses for handicap tournaments every Sunday. The 48-year-old Marshall appreciates the “low-impact” nature of the sport, as well as the collaborative mindset of its players.

“(I like) the confidence boost that you get from the people you play with,” he said. “They’ll give you tips to make you play better. You can be out on the course by yourself and someone comes along and says, ‘Hey, I saw you throw this way. Have you ever tried this?’ I’ve had that done to me, and it’s improved my game quite a bit. In turn, I give more confidence to other players that need to improve. It’s a great big circle that comes around.”

Disc golf is played much like “ball” golf. Instead of a ball and clubs, though, players use a flying disc or Frisbee. The sport was formalized in the 1970s and shares with “ball” golf the object of completing each hole in the fewest strokes (or, in the case of disc golf, fewest throws).

A golf disc is thrown from a tee area to a target, which is the “hole.” The hole can be one of a number of disc golf targets; the most common is an elevated metal basket. As a player progresses down the fairway, he or she must make each consecutive throw from the spot where the previous throw landed. The trees, shrubs, and terrain changes located in and around the fairways provide challenging obstacles for the golfer. Finally, the “putt” lands in the basket and the hole is completed.

“So many people have so many different skill sets that you can learn from, or they can learn from you,” Marshall said. “It makes your game more accessible to more abilities for you to perform your game better.”

Marshall calls himself a “professional amateur recreational player.”

“I’m not too bad,” Marshall said. “I’d say I’ve improved quite a bit. There’s a lot of technical shots that you have to do. Certainly, you have to hold your disc (the right way). My putting really needs to be improved on. I’m good from 15 to 20 feet out, but anything past that, it’s about 90 percent I’ll get it in.”