Brightly colored spheres soar through the air to occasional shouts of "Heads up!" in Ann Morrison Park during the summer. No, it's not a Technicolor alien invasion. It's actually a sport that has been around for more than 30 years: disc golf. At one time an obscure and unconventional game, disc golf has steadily gained popularity worldwide because of the low cost of equipment, easy-to-learn rules and it's simply a fun outdoor sport.
Though it's based on the regular version of golf, disc golf is a much simpler game and much less expensive to play. Players throw a disc—like a Frisbee—from cement tee boxes, aiming at large metal baskets instead of holes. The basic rules of golf are still in play, though. Each hole has a par—the number of throws it should take to get the disc in the basket. Players throw their discs as many times as it takes to land it in the basket and move to the next hole until the course is completed.
Despite the simplicity of the game, it takes a bit of finesse to get the disc to go where you want it to, but, as with any game, enough practice and the perfect throw can be mastered by almost anyone. There are also a wide range of discs and accessories available to enhance the overall experience—even discs that glow in the dark for a little late-night throwing fun. Just as in the regular game of golf, discs are specialized for what a player is attempting to do. There are long-range drivers for more distance and teeing-off, fairway drivers for distance and accuracy, mid-range discs that are great for beginners, and putter discs for making it into the basket from just a few feet away. Because of disc golf's growing popularity, items like portable courses, baskets, disc bags and disc retrievers (for getting discs out of water) can be found at most sporting goods stores. However, just because equipment has become more specialized it doesn't mean someone new to the game has to spend a fortune to get started. Discs only cost between $7 and $15, and many people just play with the old-school plastic Frisbees.
The outdoor fun attracts players like Matt Gray, who has played regularly for seven years, and tries to get out at least three times a week. Gray started playing in Southern Idaho while at college and says he picked up the game because he "wanted to get outside, get some exercise and hang out with people who were like-minded."
The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) touts over 16,000 members and over 2,379 PDGA-approved courses. Boise's local group, the Gem State Disc Golfers (GSDG), dedicated itself to expanding disc golf in Idaho. The members of the GSDG are an outgoing and welcoming group who are more than happy to help newcomers to the game. During the GSDG's Men's League summer games on Wednesday nights, about 40 people show up to play, and despite its name, the league is not exclusive for men.
Charles Parsons, a computer programmer by day and avid disc golfer all other times says, "Disc golf is a way of life, I think we are socially superior to ball golfers, just as they think of us." Parsons sees the big difference between the mentality of the two sports as disc golf being more open-minded and willing to share with everyone around.
In Idaho, Parsons attributes disc golf's success to Derek Ford, one of the founders of the GSDG, "He is the sun around who the Idaho disc golf solar system orbits," a sentiment that is echoed throughout the disc golfing community. It is clear that Ford is doing a great job, with the sixth annual Baked Potato Open scheduled for July 7-8 at Ann Morrison Park.
The GSDG Ladies League is also starting to grow, says coordinator Jammie Elkins, "We don't want them to feel intimidated. We have people who have never played at all come all the time, we're happy to show them the ropes." Elkins goes on to say, "Disc golf is good because it has a lot of variety." There are far fewer women who play the sport than men, but Elkins is confident she can change that by getting the word out to the women of Idaho. She is also working on a women-only tournament for next year.
Whether playing for relaxation, a breath of fresh air or a competitive challenge, disc golf opens up a wide range of possibilities to anyone who wants to play. With three local public courses, players can throw 12 months out of the year. Over 10 years old, the course at Ann Morrison Park starts just behind the softball diamonds and wraps around the perimeter of the park, with a total of 20 holes. The course is the perfect place for beginners to learn the game, but still offers enough challenges for the more advanced players with numerous trees and the occasional water hazard. Bogus Basin has an 18-hole course that has an elevation change of 660 feet, offering breathtaking views to players. Eagle Island also offers an 18-hole course; however, due to crowds, only nine holes are available during the summer months. All three courses are the creation of the GSDG which also maintains them and provides the necessary equipment. Since the courses are free to the public, all the GSDG asks is for people to have respect for the parks and other players so we can continue to enjoy this sport for years to come.
Baked Potato Open, July 7-8 at Ann Morrison Park. To sign up, vist http://discgolf.vpop.net/home.swf.
For more information on disc golf, visit the Gem State Disc Golfers Web site at http://gemstatediscgolf.org
For more information on the GSDG Ladies League, contact Jammie Elkins at: firstname.lastname@example.org.