Disc Golf

Treya Burnette rears back for a powerful swing at the Disc Golf basket during a recent stop by her Prospect Hill home.

It used to be that a Wham-O Frisbee was something you threw out into the ocean for your dog to go fetch. Or you could just play catch with a friend.

It was easy to throw, it was safe, and it was durable.

Long about the early 60’s, the sport of disc golf was created using the same patented plastic disc and it steadily gained in popularity on college campuses and with the recreational crowd.

Courses were designed, a special chain basket (to catch the flying disc) was created, and scoring was kept just like in golf; total number of strokes/throws taken to complete the course; the lowest total strokes wins.

All of the discs are about the same size, but the rims differ: a driver’s edge is sharper than that of a putter and it has to do with individual lift (aerodynamics), speed and how far it needs to be thrown.

Today, Disc Golf is being touted as the fastest growing sport in America and there are tournaments popping up everywhere.

Caswell County is home to hundreds of disc golfers of all ages, and we even have one of the best North Carolina Junior Disc players living here, too: Treya Burnette of Prospect Hill.

Burnette brought home a first-place win for Junior Girls (18u) in the 2021 North Carolina State Championships in Rocky Ford, NC., last month. She also won in the same division, in March, at the Virginia State Junior Championships held in Montross, Virginia.

She clearly has demonstrated the ability, focus and work ethic to compete at a championship level in each tournament she enters.

Watching her sling her soaring shots while practicing on a tree-lined course last week was both eye-opening, mesmerizing, and exciting.

As she toted her backpack filled with discs, the young athlete set up for her shots, gauged the proper approach and executed their flight plans with precision and balance.

“There’s actually a funny story I’ve heard a couple of times about the day before I was born. My mom was walking around with me while she and my dad were playing a disc course and I had never played that same course up until two weeks ago. So, I played the course my mom and dad played the day before I was born! It was a nice course and played pretty good,” muses the 16-year-old student-athlete.

“I played my first tournament when I was 10 or 11, in Myrtle Beach, and I won it. I didn’t play another one until I was probably 13 because I wasn’t super into it.”

That didn’t last long.

“At some point, my dad (Rich Burnette, competes in Men’s Pro 40+ division in NC) and I realized that when we did play casually, I was pretty good at it, so he got me involved in a couple of tournaments. I played the North Carolina Juniors, 15 division, and I won that. Then, me and my dad had a couple of doubles tournaments and I won in those, too!”

She elaborates, “My dad had a couple of adult tournaments that I played in (the advanced women’s division), where I placed, but I didn’t win any of them. There’s really not much competition in the junior women’s division at my age, either.

“Most of the tournaments I played in were in North Carolina, but I did play one up in Virginia in March; that was the Golden Horseshoe Tournament at Lake Marshall. It was in the Advanced Women Division, and I won it this year after having lost in a play-off there last year,” explains the rising high school junior.

“I’m really fortunate that I have a course at my house, and I was able to get into the sport when I was really young. Muscle memory is really important because if you learn something before you’re 12 years old, it goes into a different part of your brain and that really contributes to learning it correctly. I can’t throw it as far as some people, who can throw 500 feet, but I can throw it 300 feet when I’m competing at the top level. It’s exciting and I like to win!

“So, when I’m competing with someone, I elevate my game to their level. I’m fairly friendly and converse though I’m not super talkative when I play. People who know me expect that personality when I’m competing. I like to be focused and a lot of times I’ll have earphones in for music to help do that.

“I listen to early 2000 music and I actually like country music. It’s got a simple chord progression and not too much going on.”

Burnette then reaches into her backpack for a disc to demonstrate her “driving” technique on a 291 ft. hole. With an intent pause to assess the hole and where she wanted her shot to go, she spun and catapulted her drive straight at the distant pin cage with a slight fade to the right (she’s lefthanded).

That trusty muscle memory had definitely kicked in.

While off the course, Burnette has currently been taking piano lessons and “I play stuff sometimes. I can read music pretty well and I know where the notes on the piano are, so I play it at times.”

Back on the course while watching her prepare for a long, fairway shot, her balance had to be evenly distributed to execute the proper crossing step that loads her body for the throw. That would enable her to whirl and turn, transferring energy from her back leg to her front and make a proper follow through. “The footwork for your drive is called an “X-Step.” That’s what the technique is called and that’s how most people do their run up for their long drives.

“For a while I just threw mid-range discs off the tee. The driver discs are somewhat bigger, and you have to be stronger and faster to get them to go like {they’re} supposed to. Then, I started incorporating some into my bag. Eventually, I started incorporating some “drivers” into my bag.

“I’m still trying to figure out a way to throw them because sometimes I put so much pressure and force on the disc, it will go off in the opposite direction.

“Generally, you generate your power in your hips. I don’t have as large of hips as a lot of players so most of my strength comes from my arms and my upper back so that’s what I’m working on in the gym. If I’m working to get more distance, and I am trying, I’m going to try and incorporate a little more hip movement into it”, says Burnette.

“I already have a pretty decent drive “length” and I’m not even doing it properly. Its form is not the best.”

Obviously, there are other important and necessary shots that Burnette must use up and down a course. Approach shots and drops all count as strokes so, like golf, you need to be accurate and customize the throws to each placement and distance to the pin/basket.

Burnette describes her drop shots as “moving the momentum through your body and you’re pushing it out through the disc is how I think of it.

“For the putts (short tosses), there’s very little weight transfer because you have to get the accuracy. For my “run up shot”(approach) after the tee shot, I have a standstill. There’s no movement in the feet, you keep them planted, and you only move your hips and arms. Sometimes when you’re standing on a hill, you don’t have a good place to do a run up.

“What’s great about Disc Golf is that even if you just started playing, you can compete on an amateur level in any PDG (Professional Disc Golf) sanctioned tournament. That is how I got started“, says Burnette, in conclusion.

Treya Burnette lives with her parents, Rich and Denise Burnette, and her younger brother, Richard, in nearby Prospect Hill, NC.

Bravo, Miss Treya!