Golf without clubs and balls
Disc golf is golf’s younger, trashier cousin.Yes, the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) has a fancy logo just like that of the PGA, and there is a pro tour, and a rule book with close to as many bylaws as the pseudo encyclopedias of real golf. But, don’t be fooled. Disc golf is golf for the Happy Gilmore crowd. Disc golf is golf with a six pack and no tee time. Disc golf – or frisbee golf as it is commonly called – is golf without all the things that make golf, well, golf.”It’s essentially the same sport, except instead of using clubs and a ball, you are throwing a frisbee,” says Matt Timmerman, an avid local disc golfer who plays about three times a week during the summer. “It’s pretty much the same thing. But, then again, it is really different too.”Timmerman pauses for an instant, possibly pondering the paradoxical elements of disc golf, being that it is golf, but then it’s not golf at all, before he begins again.”It’s really just about being outside with some friends, possibly a six pack, and having a good time,” says Timmerman. “It’s a great game.”No tee time necessaryIt’s also one that’s readily accessible to Valley locals, with four courses in Eagle County and another two just over Vail pass – one at Copper Mountain and one in Frisco.There is also a fifth course in Vail, if you count the non PDGA-certified course in East Vail, which doesn’t have any of the trademark DISCatcher baskets.
The baskets serve as both holes and landmarks, as players drive from one basket to the next and sink putts by landing their discs in the metal webbing. At the East Vail course, players go by landmarks such as rock piles and trees.”The East Vail one is kind of like the bootleg course,” says Mike Brumbaugh, the owner of Venture Sports in Avon, one of the stores where locals can buy discs. “It’s in the woods and it’s not marked very well.”The Frisco course is the most frequented golf course around, largely because it’s the most difficult and has the best upkeep, which tends to bring out the largest crowd of disc golf junkies.But, if you don’t want to drive over the pass, there are plenty of diverse playing options for golfers right here in the Valley.”There’s the Eagle (Fairgrounds) course, which is pretty popular. There’s one at West Lake Creek Village in Edwards which is real popular. Then there’s the ones up at Beaver Creek and Vail,” says Brumbaugh. “There used to be a course at Nottingham Lake (in Avon), but they took it down, unfortunately. That one was the most popular. It’s really sad that it’s gone. There would be like 20-30 people out there on any given day.”The best thing about the Eagle Fairgrounds course and the links in Edwards is that both are free. “This course is pretty popular,” says Kayla Vidaurri, assistant manager at the Lake Creek apartment complex in Edwards. “Every other day in the summer, we’ll see people out there playing.” Golfers who want to play atop Vail on the Eagle’s Nest course or at Beaver Creek after taking up the Centennial lift have to pay a chair fee, which the PDGA website lists as $12.Still, $12 is a lot less cheddar than what it takes to get a tee time at any one of the local golf courses in the valley, which makes disc golfing an economical alternative to ball golf.That is, of course, if you consider the two sports even remotely related to one another.”The appeal is that it’s inexpensive,” says Brumbaugh. “Granted, you get people who buy 15 discs, and then it becomes a pretty expensive sport. But, you can get a driver and a putter for 20-30 bucks and it’s free to play, so that’s pretty cheap fun.”
“I’ve got friends that carry four or five discs and get pretty serious,” says Art Ballew, another devoted local disk golfer. “I just do it to have fun with my buddies for a couple of hours. I can’t hit a golf ball anyway, so it’s more enjoyable for me to play.”Disc golf is not dumb golfEven though the learning curve for disc golf is noticeably easier than that of ball golf, it’s still not a walk in the park – even though you usually do walk in a park while playing. Other than the putter discs, the discs that are used in the game are not shaped like typical frisbees, because they are not meant to fly like frisbees.The flat, driver disks are designed to cut through the air for longer distance, but they also curve noticeably. Beginner players that are used throwing a frisbee on a straight line typically make the beginner’s mistake of doing the same thing with a golf disk, and wind up watching their shot careen dramatically off its intended course.”Driving is something that is definitely tough,” says Timmerman. “You either have a knack for throwing the frisbee or it’s just hard. If you can’t figure out the drivers, then it’s not as easy as it looks.”Ballew agrees about the game’s intricacies. He also quips that despite its laid-back reputation, disc golf is a sport that is taken seriously by devoted players.Just because you can wear your flip flops and a ratty t-shirt while playing, he says, doesn’t mean that you don’t care if you shoot two-over on a hole.”It is completely different, but it’s kind of the same,” he says. “There are a lot of the same challenges. You try to get your par. You get bent out of shape if you get a double bogey and what not.””We usually play pretty good rules,” adds Timmerman. “We try to keep track of it pretty good. Out of bounds and such is a little gray sometimes, because you don’t know where that it is, but we definitely take strokes if we throw into the river or something.”
Not going anywhereDisc golf is not a new sport, even though most people tend to think it is.The PDGA website says that the game dates back as far as the early 1970s. The sport’s popularity and staying power is also evidenced by the number of new courses that have sprouted up across the globe in the last decade. In 1990 there were only 350 certified courses in the world. Today there are 1,561 courses that are PDGA certified, with 1,303 of them in the U.S. alone.There is also the actuality of the professional tour, with its cash prizes and its respective stars. The money might not be as good, but then again, disc golf, unlike it’s older, stuffier cousin was never meant for the country club set, anyway.As Ballew says, “It’s just something good to go out to do with your friends and buddies.”And, you don’t even have to wear a shirt.Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com