Vail disc golf: ‘Perfect hippie sport’ |

Vail disc golf: ‘Perfect hippie sport’

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyTed Miller tees off from the fourth hole during a friendly weekly tournament with friends Friday at the top of Vail Mountain.

VAIL , Colorado- They’re there to enjoy the Vail Valley, Colorado views, tromp around the mountain, maybe drink a beer and throw a Frisbee with friends.

It’s a pleasant Friday evening and as the afternoon temperatures start cooling off, the Lionshead gondola in Vail starts filling with disc golfers, mostly youthful, visor-clad groups armed with an array of colorful discs.

Vail resident Aaron Zinser stood at the first tee, carefully eyeing the metal basket nestled downhill among a cluster of trees. His throw falls just yards short of the basket. His friends have varying success, with their shots landing anywhere from halfway down the hill to the branches of a nearby pine.

But the score isn’t really the reason they play, the group said as they ambled down the hill from Eagle’s Nest.

“It’s the perfect hippie sport,” Zinser said. “You’re outside, you’re walking around, there’s fresh air, and you’re drinking beer. It’s a workout, too. You walk a ways before you’re done.”

Zinser said he has played on all the area courses, including at Beaver Creek, Leadville, Edwards and Eagle. The concept is the same as traditional golf, except players use discs instead of balls and clubs, and throw them for ‘par’ at a basket instead of a hole in the ground. The object of the game is to throw a disc into the target with the fewest number of throws.

Vail Mountain’s course has picked up considerably since it expanded from an easier 9-hole course to an 18-hole course that includes challenging and technical terrain, said Adventure Ridge Manager Alex Gentry.

“It’s rare that there’s no one on the course, and there are locals who come up everyday and play the course,” he said. “I think the appeal is that it’s a relaxed sport you can do on the mountain that doesn’t involve a $5,000 bike or 20 pounds of gear.”

Andre Swanson and Ted Miller are two such locals who are regulars.

“We’re much more casual compared to ball golf,” Swanson said. “Not that we don’t take it seriously. But people just come out to have a good time and get outdoors.”

And yes, they’re quite serious about their fun. The two said they play about four days a week and help organize pickup games on Fridays and Saturdays. Both toted disc bags with almost 10 different kinds of discs of varying sizes and widths. Just like ball golfers use different clubs, there are different kinds of discs for different shots, they said.

The two said they began playing as high school students in Madison, Wisc., where disc golf is “a huge deal.” Madison had three courses, but many unique courses can be found around the valley, they said.

“We’ve played all over the state,” Miller said. “I particularly like Leadville because it’s the most in the woods. Vail is a great course, too. It’s scenic and a great hike.”

Vail’s course features an easier 9 holes on the front side, then a tougher “mountain course” on the back 9 holes.

“What makes a mountain course is tight alleyways, long uphills and long downhills,” Gentry said. “For example, there’s a hole where you throw down Lodgepole (run), and there are parts you’re throwing through trees the whole way.”

Leadville’s course, which is located on the Colorado Mountain College Campus, winds through the shaded woods, then ends in the open fields where Nordic tracks can usually be found in the winter.

“People come travel to play it,” said Brett Miller, coordinator of student life at the college. “We get people from Summit and the surrounding counties. We even get the occasional person not even from Colorado who comes up to play.”

Beaver Creek’s course has also been described by players as a more challenging, but very beautiful course.

“The disc golf course is a favorite for locals,” said Beaver Creek spokeswoman Jen Brown. “The 18 holes are set among a dramatic backdrop and right now the wildflowers are stunning and in full bloom.”

Disc rentals are also available at both ski mountains during gondola hours.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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