James is in a spin


The Queenstown Classic Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday will pull in dedicated players from around New Zealand. 

About 50 competitors are expected for the 16th annual frisbee-throwing competition in Queenstown Gardens, with half locals and the rest from as far as Auckland. 

Local James Smithells set up NZ’s first permanent disc golf course in the Gardens 16 years ago as a “labour of love”. Tournaments have been held there annually since. 

Smithells, 59 – Queenstown Disc Golf chairperson – goes for a throw most summer days “rain or shine” and says far from it being a hobby for nerds, disc golf players need to be co-ordinated and outdoorsy. 

The Wakatipu tournament is followed by the 13th annual Paradise Plates Disc (Frisbee) Golf Tournament near Glenorchy on Sunday – the only weekend each year the course is set up.

Smithells on frisbee golf …

MS: How’d you get into it and what do you dig most? 

JS: In the mid-70s someone told me there was this frisbee golf. It’s just so enjoyable watching a well-thrown disc. They’re just wonderful things flying through the air. 

MS: What does it take to be good at it? 

JS: Eye-hand co-ordination and practice, practice, practice. 

MS: Your typical disc golfer? 

JS: Fun-loving, outdoor people. 

MS: Serious or purely social? 

JS: I always try to do my best, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s a social thing. I’m not cursing and swearing and throwing my discs in the lake if I do a bad throw. It’s just a bit of a laugh really. 

MS: Worst disc golf moment? 

JS: In the Everest region in 1979 – up about 4300 metres – doing it to keep warm, and I threw my favourite disc and it landed on its side and broke in half. It took about 20 years to replace. 

MS: Best disc golf moment? 

JS: Hole-in-one at hole six in the Gardens. It’s quite a hard one … and with my very first throw of a tournament I threw it through the trees and it curved right, then curved back left and went into the basket. It’s still the only hole-in-one I’ve got.