Golf spun with Frisbees in Colorado |

Golf spun with Frisbees in Colorado

Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Sharon Sullivan/Grand Junction Free PressBill Alderman of Grand Junction putts in a disc during last weekend's disc golf tournament in Palisade.

PALISADE, Colorado ” To people unfamiliar with the game, players call it Frisbee golf. With those who know of the game, players refer to it as disc golf.

Amongst themselves, it’s simply golf.

Disc golfers call that other game with a ball and club, “stick golf,” or, ball golf.

“I used to play ball golf. Now I don’t play at all. This is a lot more fun,” said Mark Nielsen, of Highlands Ranch, who’s played disc golf for three years.

Ninety-eight people from around Colorado, as well as a players from Utah, Wyoming and Oklahoma, were Palisade over last weekend to throw a Frisbee around Riverbend Park ” in the Grand Valley Finale ” the last stop on Colorado’s Thin Air disc golf tour.

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“This is one of my favorite courses in the state,” said long-time disc golfer John Bird, of Longmont.

Riverbend Park is located along the Colorado River in Palisade, with stunning views of Grand Mesa, and the Book Cliffs.

Bird threw Frisbees during the 1960s in high school. He began playing Frisbee golf in 1972.

“It was a much different game then,” Bird, 57, said.

Metal baskets for dropping the Frisbees into, were added in 1976.

“Before that we just made up obstacle courses,” Bird said. Targets were light posts, trees, rocks.

Like in a ball golf game, talking ceases, as a player tees off. The player concentrates, preparing to send a driver disc soaring toward the three-par basket hole.

Some disc golfers can throw Frisbees 400 feet or more. Touring pros can often throw up to 600 feet. Like ball golfers, players often carry around a dozen or more assortment of drivers.

But “you can start with three,” said Grand Valley Disc Golf Club president Rock Cesario.

There’s the sharper edged driver, the blocky putter, and a more rounded edge mid-range disc.

Cesario had never played in a competitive tournament before Saturday. The tournament was split up into 20 different divisions based on age, gender and ability. Ages ranged from 13 to 65.

Cesario was asked compete in the pro grand masters division along with four other men, including eight-time disc golf world champion Peter Shive.

“I’m out here with four guys I don’t even know. Before it’s over we’ll probably all be friends,” Cesario said. “I love this sport. It’s just fun.”

On the first throw, players try and land the disc as close to the basket as possible without going past it. There are obstacles along the way such as ponds, and brush ” what’s called “trash.”

“You don’t get any relief out of this game,” said Bill Alderman. a member of the Disc Golf Club’s board,, referring to a player who was searching for his disc in the trees. “He’ll have to figure out how to throw it out of the trash.”

On his second throw at one of the morning tournament’s 19 holes, Palisade resident Andy Stoner used a “tomahawk” throw to heave it over trees between him and the basket.

There’s also the “thumber,” the backhand, and the forehanded throw. There’s even the upside down throw.

It’s a game that can be learned, Nielsen said.

“Most people want to flick the wrist. It’s really a pulling action. Sometimes you’ll hear ‘nice pull.’ Imagine where you get power from pulling a lawn mower,” Nielsen said.

While some playing the weekend’s tournaments are relatively new to the game, others like Bird, and Geoff Hungersford, of Louisville, have been playing since the game formed in the mid 1970s.

In August, 1974, Hungersford says, he helped his seventh-grade teacher, Jim Palmeri, put on the first Frisbee tournament in the world in Rochester, N.Y.

Palmeri got Hungersford and his free-style Frisbee-playing friends to play Frisbee golf.

“We loved it,” Hungersford said. “It’s kept me in shape my whole life. He’ll (Palmeri) tell you he made the game up.”

“The truth is people have been throwing pie tins since the 1800s,” Hungersford.

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