EAGLE, Colorado - In regular golf, the difference between a good course and a bad course, says legendary golf writer Dan Jenkins, is that on a good course the kid in the beverage cart never gets more than three or four holes away from you.
In disc golf you carry your own beverages. Jenkins didn't write that, but it's true.
It's with that can-do spirit that the Flying Eagle Disc Society opens its summer season Saturday morning.
"It's such an inexpensive sport. All you need is your discs and the willingness to have some fun," said Steve Klehfoth, FEDS president.
A history of fun
Disc golf got its start in the 1970s when college students took Frisbees to the courtyard and started throwing them at stationary objects. The player who got there in the least number of throws won the hole. Co-eds occasionally counted as the goal in disc golf.
Steady Ed Headrick was with Frisbee manufacturer Whammo, and invented the pole hole. That's the basket with the chains on a pole that you see on modern disc golf courses, although you can still use buildings or co-eds.
"That blew everything up and allowed people to design courses," Klehfoth said. "In the last 10 years disc golf has become one of the nation's fastest-growing sports."
You can have a different disc for different shots, the way you'd have a club for every shot in regular golf. The discs are weighted and molded to make them behave differently for different shots. They make discs that rise and dive, drive left and right, discs that light up so you can play at night.
Or you can do what you did in college and use one disc for everything, up to and including impressing co-eds.
"Disc golf can fit your skill and ability level. The only important thing is for you to have fun," Klehfoth said. "You can go out there with one disc or a bag filled with discs. We want people to have a good time. There's no reason to have a dozen discs if you don't think you need them."
Pete Brenner was one of the local disc golf pioneers. He helped create the original disc golf course at the Eagle County fairgrounds, where Saturday's event is scheduled. He ran a restaurant in Eagle for a time, aptly named "Brenner's" and was around to offer some guidance when the county's Powers That Be, who tended to be a bit rodeo-centric at the time, were redesigning the fairgrounds and had innocently forgotten about disc golfers.
Brenner gently reminded them that disc golfers are taxpaying people, too. The Powers That Be agreed and that's one reason we're disc golfing happily ever after.
The local club was founded a couple winters ago around a table at the Bonfire Brewery in Eagle. Jeff Woods came up with the name, Flying Eagle Disc Society, and they jumped on it.
"It's been a long time since the county has had any kind of official disc golf club and we're working hard to make ours one of the best around," Klehfoth said.
Saturday's opener is a bag-tag competition. If you join FEDS, you get a tag for the bag in which you carry your discs. They're numbered and if you win Saturday you get No. 1.
As the summer rolls along, anyone with a lower-numbered tag, which obviously is everyone else, can play you tag for tag. If they beat the person with the No. 1 tag, they get it and it's theirs to defend when they're challenged, which is usually the shortest expanse of time this side of a theoretical physics experiment.
"No. 1 gets called out a lot. It's a hot commodity," Klehfoth said.
You can actually make a living at disc golf, Klehfoth said.
"They're not staying at the Ritz-Carlton or riding in limousines to the course. But they're doing it and not working any other jobs," Klehfoth said.
There's a course atop Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek, or you can make up your own, with or without co-eds.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.