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Chasing fairways: A Midsummer Disc Golf Endurance Record Attempt in Finland

Disc Life

Editors note: The following is a post written by Mikko Setälä about his attempt to play the most disc golf possible during the longest day of the year. Read how Setälä and his friend, Teemu Lehtomäki, made their plans, tackled challenges, and continued toward their goal.

In late 2017, I happened on an article about the record number of unique disc golf holes played within daylight. As the summer day is much longer in Finland, I realized, trying something like this at solstice would give you almost 24 hours of time!

The previous summer, my friend, Teemu Lehtomäki, and I had logged in 238 holes at a pretty leisurely pace. We also went to the store a couple of times and got something to eat. Thus, we were sure that with diligent planning and no breaks whatsoever we could add many more holes. Manic planning then ensued with the final plan consisting of 418 holes (to break the civil twilight record by one). This was in the winter. Now, to wait for the longest day of the year to roll in.

Quick Change of Gears

A day before the planned start we could see that some weather was about to come in — as is traditional in midsummery Finland. We also got to thinking that maybe having two nights of only 3-4 hours of sleep in a row would not be such a hot idea. We had the courses set up so that we finish the furthest away from home meaning our driver, Markus, gets to drive for two hours with maximum sleep deprivation.

After palavering for a bit, we decided to start at the other end, at sunset and aim for 24 hours. This setup would have us go only one night with precious little sleep, zero in fact. But it sounded better than two very short ones in a row. Oh how wrong we were. In any case, we felt as well prepared as we could be.

Into the Darkness

We started our journey at Julkujärvi DiscGolfPark at 22:48pm. Full of energy, we jogged most of the way, consuming the course in just under an hour. The darkening night concerned us a little since we were not sure how dark it would really get. We had brought LED chips with us, but the first pull on the tape roll to attach them proved to be also the last. We only managed to poorly tape one on. I had a bunch of glow discs, but wasn't sure if it gets dark enough for them to help.

At Nokia DiscGolfPark, the foliage got denser and you had to really concentrate to see the disc. Teemu had the one LED on his disc but it kept getting detached from tree hits. At the final hole, we were amazed not to have suffered any lost discs. As the night went on, we were glad to be able to throw the free discs donated to us by InnovaStore, so that we would not be risking our precious go-to discs. When the morning started to lighten, we felt like we had escaped the worst pretty much unscathed. Wrong again.

Breaking Down

Fast forwarding some 200+ holes, our 19th course, Ykslammi DGP was the watershed for me. My body started to feel odd from sleep deprivation. I know I had to keep hydrated, but my stomach wasn't willing to cooperate. Nevertheless, I kept on going and survived that course.

We decided to skip the next planned course, which was just as strenuous with long uphills, and play the nearby pitch & putt instead. At three holes in, we beat our previous record of 238 holes. The course after that, Sahanmäki DGP was the beginning of the end.

The weather had at last caught up to us, and soon the discs and the precious few towels we brought were drenched. It did not pay to waste time by trying to dry the discs and still have them slip, so I soon switched to throwing my putter only, because the deep rim at least got me in the general direction without slipping.

It did not take long before I realized I am no longer enjoying any of this. My body was pretty much destroyed. The thought of going some 5 hours more in the rain seemed impossible. There were two short courses nearby that I thought I still could manage.

So, after 18,5 hours and 277 holes in, I had to wave the white flag and concede defeat. The moment was kind of bittersweet, glad to be finished (in more senses than one!) and having beaten our previous record by a good margin, but having failed miserably at the international record. Feeling like a winner and a loser at the same time.

A scenic view of midsummer Finland

Aftermath

Though certainly sore, Teemu was not down as much as I was, and he marched on by himself to cap off the 300, finishing at 302 unique holes in 24 hours. That is certainly a Finnish record by any standards. What really boggles the mind is the number of holes the two iron men did. Only our fastest pitch & putts course was faster per hole than they averaged all day. Simply staggering. Hats off to them.


The Stats

  • 277 unique holes
  • 23 courses / avg. 12 holes
  • 18.5 hours total
  • 13 hours, 15 minutes of total playing time
  • 276 km (171 miles) driven
  • 70,000+ steps / 50km+ (31 miles) on foot

Sponsors

  • Red Bull Finland
  • Ambronite Drinkable Superfood
  • InnovaStore
  • Natural Born Disc Golfer

Epilogue

At my darkest hour, I promised Teemu that I would never do something like this again. While the going was still good, the idea of going for the maximum number of holes and not only unique holes in 24 hours on a single, fast pitch & putt course was jokingly thrown around. They say that time gilds over memories, and I am sure in a year I cannot remember the suffering. On one Midsummer Nights Dream, anything could happen...

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