Nov 19, 2020 | SPORTS | By Zeke Lloyd | Illustration by Bibi Powers
When COVID-19 struck the world, athletics were among the first parts of ordinary life to be temporarily delayed, indefinitely postponed, and canceled. Ultimate frisbee was no exception. Colorado College’s own men’s team, Wasabi, found their season cut short by the pandemic. Unlike other spring sports, though, ultimate frisbee has a COVID friendly sister-sport. Anthony “Sandy” Sanderell, a senior ultimate frisbee player at The Ohio State University, could easily recall how his team transitioned from one disc sport to another. “Everyone was kind of jonesing to get out and play one more tournament in the season,” Sanderell said. “When it became ever more apparent that that was never going to get rescheduled: that’s when people started picking up the disc golf bags.”
Disc golf, also known as frisbee golf or frolf, is a sport based on throwing small discs at targets, or “holes.” Like traditional golf, players try to hit targets in as few strokes as possible. While there is dispute over where the game originated, it appeared in its modern form in the 1960s. Initially, the sport involved the same discs that were used in ultimate frisbee. Now, the discs have become smaller, thinner, and more attuned to the game. There are three unique types of frisbees used: drivers, mid-ranges, and putters.
While there is a National Disc Golf Association, which hosts official tournaments around the U.S., the sport is generally casual and relaxed. “Unlike ultimate frisbee, it more feels like exactly what it should sound like — going and shooting around a golf course with friends,” Sanderell said. “Maybe you’ve got a little speaker playing, you’ve got some tunes going, you’re walking casually, and you’re talking; it’s nice. And it’s this small little game that’s going on at the same time.”
Unlike contact sports, though, disc golf is relatively coronavirus safe. “It was a socially distant way that we could be competitive and play a sport,” Sanderell said. “And enjoy time with each other without feeling bad about it.”
The game does not have to be intensely regulated, either. It’s flexible. Frisbee golf can easily be played around any college campus with ultimate discs, using objects like trees, lamp posts, and signs as targets. Campuses also have the advantage of being well-lit in the evening, making frolf a perfect socially distant Friday night activity.
Even in a casual setting, the learning curve can be somewhat steep. “When I was learning, I got frustrated so often and easily, but it just takes time.” Sanderell said. “You’re not going to all of a sudden throw aces, I still have never thrown an ace in my life.”
For new players, it is best to start learning with more traditional frisbees. Sam Pfeifer ’21, captain of the ultimate frisbee team, provided some advice for people interested in more casual frisbee sports. “Have no inhibition, don’t think about it too much,” Pfeifer said. “There are so many different ways you can throw a frisbee. Just have fun.”
Like all games, though, practice is key. “For everyone who wants to learn, whether they want to play or they just want to throw naturally, I always just say you got to throw,” Pfeifer said. Fortunately, the skills of a talented disc golf player are easily transferable to ultimate frisbee. Disc golf is a fun, competitive, and social way to practice for its more competitive counterpart. “You should be throwing as much as you can,” Pfeifer said. “That is the bread and butter — if you can throw, you can play.”
Disc golf offers a wide range of possibilities and opportunities. It could be practice for Wasabi or a way to relax in the great outdoors. No matter a player’s level of experience or what they’re looking for, Sanderell’s parting words emphasized the greatest opportunity the sport provides: “If nothing else, you’ll enjoy the time with friends.”