I had been wanting to try out the Thomas Green Clemson course, ever since I first heard about it. Then daylight savings time got in my way. Yes, when you work until 5:30 or 6pm, you get off work when it’s dark… or nearly dark. Daylight Savings has been getting on my nerves this year, mainly because of my need for sunshine, now and then. But then, the University “helped” out, by closing for three weeks at Christmas.
Of course, some jobs on campus were open longer, and many professors and graduate students worked through the Christmas vacation. But most of the on-campus food services closed, and Fernow was among them. Three weeks off and no pay… but sunshine galore! Oh, wait, we had a good bit of rain. That’s right. Ok, so we had the potential for sunshine.
But my major longings for the sun involve getting down to Bowman Field to find a game of Ultimate, or dragging my brother there to throw a frisbee with me. And then, I tripped over a reference to an unofficial disc golf course on the Clemson campus. I can’t remember how I came across that Wikipedia link, but I was dying to try it out, from then on.
Please understand, I’m not very good at disc golf (especially with the official golf discs), and I’ve never yet been able to throw golf discs to their intended distance. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a putter or a driver disc, they go the same distance, when I throw them. But I was raised on Ultimate Frisbee, and can wing an Ultimate disc for quite some distance. And there’s something so enjoyable about playing on an unofficial course, where instead of aiming for chain bucket goals (or whatever they’re officially called), you get to hit statues, lamp posts, signs, and fences. What’s not to like?
From the start, I wanted to try it out when there weren’t many students around, so I could get a feel for it without worrying that someone would look at me like I’m crazy, when I go swimming in the reflection pond. So, Christmas vacation was perfect. Of course, it was the day before graduation when we set out, so I knew campus wasn’t completely empty. But most of those families were seeing the sights and checking out the stadium. We were headed from Tillman to the Cooper Library, and back again.
For the official course list, you can see either the ClemsonWiki or the link at Clemson’s website. I only just found the second one, so Matt and I were obviously using the first. There seem to be some differences. And we’re curious about the course listed for the Botanical Gardens, too, but that can wait for another day.
If you’re going to play the Thomas Green Clemson Course, of course, you start with the Thomas Green Clemson statue, below Tillman Hall. “Hole” #1 tees from the statue to the bell at the top of the Carillon Gardens. Not a bad distance, but you can’t see the bell from the statue, and you have a street and some large trees (not to mention all the cars) in between. I managed to hit some tree branches and have my disc come sailing back into the road. After I picked it up, a truck pulled up and the driver asked me if I was trying to kill squirrels. Not a bad idea, considering Clemson’s overrun by them.
After crawling into the bushes a time or two, we hit the bell and considered the next shot. Hole #2 tees from the staircase at the end of Carillon Gardens to the third lamppost from the left encircling the amphitheater. This gives you a gorgeous bit of scenery, as you look down on the Cooper Library and the Reflection Pond. Or is it only a reflection pond when the water spouts are turned off? I can’t remember. With no one around, we had the opportunity to run out on the cement platforms (for lack of a better name) surrounding the decorative shrubs, and holler at each other, at the top of our lungs! It’s a very refreshing feeling.
The problem was that as simple as this shot sounds, there are tons of lampposts surrounding the amphitheater. So, we debated over whether it was the inner circle or the outer circle, and where did one circle end and another begin? You can look for yourself, it was difficult to decide. Eventually, we picked one, ran back to the top of the hill… and Matt threw his frisbee into a hedge. I think mine hit a lamppost nearer to where we stood. That extremely sharp hedge allowed us to find another frisbee before he located his, and thankfully, before it drew any blood. Who planted that vicious thing?
For Hole #3, you tee from the center of the sidewalk above the amphitheater, with a mandatory dogleg through the door on the amphitheater stage, to the lamppost directly above the stairwell, next to the door. These are almost direct quotes from the ClemsonWiki, but I’ve been fixing their grammar and spelling, or adding the occasional translation. After some debate about the “dogleg”, we threw our discs at the amphitheater, and I got the closest shot. We were only keeping score per hole, so I was always pleased when I beat my brother. One more shot put my frisbee through the door, and then I easily got up the steps, and threw gently at the lamppost (not wanting to go swimming in January).
It took Matt about 5 throws to get it through the door, for some reason, so I can safely say I won that round. Hole #4 and #5 were a little more problematic. #4 called for you to tee from the lamppost in #3, across the reflection pond to the lamppost behind Olin that “juts” out next to the pond. Then, #5 says to tee from near the lamppost in #4 across the reflection pond to the central pillar beneath the staircase in front of the library.
Even on a bad day, I can usually throw my frisbee where I want it, and I have no trouble throwing it a significant distance. But trying to throw it over the pond, near a lamppost that juts out into it, and not have to go swimming? That’s just tempting fate. Of course it’ll end up in the water. And if you’d seen what’s in that water, you wouldn’t want to go in it, either. I saw all sorts of strange objects floating in it, including Christmas ornaments, and didn’t want to join the lone goldfish that I spotted. We skipped #4 and then from there, decided to skip #5. That was a shorter distance, but still, a stray breeze could cause us to go swimming. I just couldn’t bear thinking of it. Instead, we admired the trees draped over that corner of the pond, climbed a million steps to avoid the library construction (they’d yellow taped our normal entryway, so we couldn’t go through), and crossed over the pond on the bridge.
After a detour to visit a friend who works in the library, we came outside, and descended to the ground floor. I would’ve taken a picture of #6’s tee spot, but something “not nice” was written on it. Anyway, #6 says to tee from near #5’s goal to the yellow emergency phone which is right after the bridge, on the outside of Daniel Hall. So, we decided to aim to the right of the bridge, avoiding the pond, and go up the grassy hill and climb over the bike racks. Once up the hill, we couldn’t find a yellow emergency phone, and decided that wiki was written before they put up the blue Emergency posts around campus. I haven’t seen a payphone around there in a long time.
This was the spot where I had an easy shot, two feet from the emergency post, and stepped off the sidewalk to take my shot. Unfortunately, there was a hole, hiding under the leaves, right where I stepped, and I hit the ground. I think Matt thought something was wrong with me, as I fell for seemingly no reason. Thankfully, there was only one passerby to witness my fall from grace.
Hole #7 – Tee from the sidewalk next to the yellow (or blue) emergency phone down the path towards the fire hydrant at the end of the library parking lot. This was fairly easy, as the hydrant was in plain sight, and you just had to avoid any trees on the way there. Once there, Hole #8 tees from the behind the fire hydrant around the right side of Strode, to the double doors that enter Daniel from Jordan. At this point, Matt’s superior knowledge of the layout of Clemson University came in handy. I’m only familiar with a handful of buildings, and those are from their front doors. We seemed to be exploring all the back doors and other unknown areas. So, up the stairs we went, and then we aimed short of the doors, not wanting to risk breaking glass, even though I don’t think a frisbee could really do that.
There was a holdup at #9, when it called for teeing from beneath the bridge connecting Strode and Daniel, to around the right of Daniel and up the stairwell to the dumpster between Long and Jordan. We went around the left and right side of Daniel Hall, and I lost Matt for ten minutes while he explored, and I took pictures of the trees by the pond. Eventually, we went back to the bridge where I had fallen, and headed around Daniel. Unfortunately, I threw too high, and my frisbee went halfway up the stairs, onto a decorative… planted area. What else do you call that. I climbed up, threw my frisbee, and ducked under the bridge, looking for a way down. Matt assured me there was a way down. It turned out to be a jump from five feet up (or so), and it hurt more on landing than I expected. I know, I suffer so much. : ) Did I mention that, at this point, I was somewhat lost, and really hoped we’d surface some place I recognized, if I got separated from my brother?
Up several stairs, we mistook a plastic storage bin for the dumpsters, and then finally found them. I was glad we chose the bin, because I didn’t want to touch those dumpsters with my frisbee. From there, #10 had us tee from behind the “chain guardrail” near the dumpster around Long to the first lamppost on the corner of Long (closest to the dorms). What is it with lampposts? This area has tons of them, and these other lamppost-ish things that might be part bug zapper. Also, we didn’t know which building was Long, nor did someone walking by. We took another guess.
#11 said to tee from behind the pylons prevent non-foot-traffic up the sidewalk towards Mauldin with the goal being the lamppost at the very end of the sidewalk on the corner of Mauldin. Oh, good, another building we don’t recognize! The directions seemed to suggest going uphill, so we started looking at the building signs, and Matt eventually found it. #12 was more of the same, with teeing from the corner of Mauldin to the pillar on the corner of Smith. Finally, #13 had us tee from the corner of Smith to the traffic sign at the edge of the large parking lot behind Sikes (back near the lamppost in Hole #10), so we were able to turn downhill and eventually hit the Wrong Way sign.
#14 said to tee from near the traffic sign along the sidewalk running to the right of Sikes with the goal being the final lamppost before turning the corner around Sikes. One look at that parking lot full of cars, belonging to families here for graduation, and we veered widely away from it, taking a detour to see a building that I’ve wondered about. I keep calling it a gazebo, because I’ve already forgotten its name and purpose, but I plan to take another visit there, soon.
After hitting the lamppost by Sikes (I kept having to fish my frisbee out of the bushes), #15 said to tee from the corner of Sikes across the massive stairs, over the fence, with the goal being the bell (once again). So, it was back to going over the Carillon Garden fence from a different direction, and hitting the bell. With an assist from Matt to keep mine out of the road, I hit the fence, but his went over and into the hedge. At that point, we lost his disc for about ten minutes. So, he climbed up the fence and looked down on the hedge from one of the posts. I just climbed the fence and went back and forth, looking. I saw it land, how did it disappear? I’m sure several passing grad students wondered what we were doing. Apparently it had fallen in a way that made it hard to see from above, but since it was inside the hedge, it was even more difficult to locate. Finally, success! And no, Matt never fell from the fence.
#16 had us tee from the lamppost across from the entrance to Carillon Gardens over to the bench looking down on Bowman Field. Since this bench is right near the cannon statue, I don’t understand why they didn’t call for hitting the cannons, instead. But from there, we had such difficulty finding our next goal, that we called a halt to our game. Also, the sun was going down. But #17 called for teeing from the bench looking down on Bowman over to the “Class of…” L-shaped bench beneath the large window of Tillman. We finally found the L-shaped bench, above the Military Plaza. And when #18 called for teeing from next to the soldier statue, ending with Thomas Green Clemson, I went to take a closer look at the soldier and the Military Plaza itself. I think they’ve fixed it up in the last few years, so I plan to visit it on a future photography session, and look closer at the wall of medals, and everything else.
As we passed the Carillon Gardens one more time, I recalled having seen one or two students that I knew from my workplace, but who probably didn’t recognize me in my “play clothes”. My frisbee/gym clothes are not what you expect, after seeing me in my work shirt with my hair just so. Besides, my workout clothes don’t age me 10-20 years. That’s always a plus.
If there’s an unofficial disc golf course in your area, you should try it out, even if you don’t have official golf discs. Running, shouting at your friends/siblings, and plenty of frisbee is the way to go!