Disc golf. Frisbee Golf. Frolf.
Call it what you will. The notion that GRIP6 is involved in such a sport is strange I know, but do me a favor and stay with me. If after a few minutes of reading you’re still not convinced as to why we’ve been avid supporters of the game for the last 5 years, we can go about our merry, albeit separate ways with no hard feelings.
First, though there are several nuances, the game is nearly as simple as it sounds. At its base level, it’s a shameless rip-off of traditional golf, but rather than toting around a bag full of clubs and hitting a ball, you carry a bag full of “discs” and the only club available to you, is your arm. You don’t throw your disc at a hole in the ground either. Instead, you throw at a specially designed metal basket that is made to catch your disc. Aside from those key differences though, they’re almost identical.
Now before you dismiss it as a counterfeit, consider this; The first game of racquetball was played in the early 1950’s though it was played under a different name. “Paddle Rackets”, as it was first called, was the brainchild of Joe Sobek, a Greenwich Connecticut resident, but more importantly, a professional tennis and handball player. Sobek’s “invention” was born of a dozen other sports that predated racquetball by at least 150 years. Squash, tennis, handball, volleyball, badminton, ping pong, and myriad others all came well before his. It’s not difficult to see the chronological evolution that led to each of these games, and while they share obvious similarities, they have survived the test of time on one merit alone.
They are fun as hell to play.
Accessibility is defined by four main factors; Available venues, initial costs, recurring costs, and the practical age range for participation. As for venues, There are over 9,000 courses in the US alone. That’s an average of 180 courses per state. Chances are, from where you are sitting right now, there are several courses for you to choose from within a 15 mile radius. In contrast to the costs associated with mainstream sports, especially for youth, disc golf start-up costs are incredibly low. Money.com published an article in 2021 that highlighted the cost of participation in sports like football, baseball, lacrosse, and soccer. Each has uniforms, equipment, league and club fees that average nearly $700 a year per child, per sport. A Utah State survey conducted in 2016 found that the average American family spends $2,292 per year on youth sports and that number is going up. By comparison, a starter disc set available on Amazon or at your local Walmart ranges from $15 to $50. It’s suitable for kids and adults and will easily last you through the novice phase. Once you’ve acquired a few discs, the lack of recurring costs is perhaps the sport's most attractive asset as 91% of US disc golf courses are free to play. Yes, you read that correctly but I’ll say it again for dramatic effect;
Free to play
Man that feels good doesn’t it? And don’t dismiss the idea if you live in a rural community. Courses like Arctic Circle Disc Golf in Kotzebue, Alaska, to Ross Island Disc Golf Course in McMurdo, Antarctica are proof that disc golf is everywhere. I have personally played several courses as far north as Alaska and as far south as Hawaii, which brings me to my next point.
While you may take a bag full of different discs to your home course (each disc has different flight characteristics, just like a club produces different trajectories) you can still enjoy a game with just a few. Whenever I travel for work or as a family, I rarely do so without 3-4 discs in my luggage. It’s a great way to kill some time while waiting for a flight or to counter the effects of eating out for days in a row. My wife and both of my sons play and we have made it a point over the years to always travel with discs and play as a family. This is one of the most underrated elements of the game. Think about it for a second, how hard is it to take your favorite sport with you? Or play alongside your kids without feeling like you have to dumb down your game to the point where it’s no longer fun. And even if your preferred sport is portable, can you play it by yourself if you have to? There are few games outside of golf that can be both personal and social depending on the circumstances and none that I have come across can claim the ease and portability of disc golf.
There are a lot of sports that can make this claim, but not in the same way. (Stay with me here.) Traditional golf comes close, and perhaps trail running or mountain biking do too, but disc golf will take you to beautiful places that soccer, baseball, and football just can't compete with. Many people may picture a disc golf course in very much the same way you would a normal golf course, and while there certainly are manicured courses available (many disc golf courses are being installed alongside the fairways of traditional golf courses and played in harmony with other golfers) they make up a small portion of the overall courses in the US, and for good reason. Ball golf courses are too open. Just like traditional golf, players want to be challenged by topography, vegetation, water, and distance. The only difference is the scale. Because discs glide, the game can be played much lower to the ground, often entirely beneath the tree canopy in wooded areas. Discs can also be made to intentionally bank left or right in far more dramatic flight paths than a ball is capable of. This allows for substantially greater utilization of otherwise native landscapes that are pristine by nature, not by an army of groundskeepers. This opens up millions of wooded acres on both public and private lands that offer an experience that is far better for the soul than a crowded city park. While not all disc golf courses fit this description, the fact that they can is the important part.
If you have ever watched Patrick Mahomes scramble outside the pocket and rewrite the script in real time, you may know what I mean. His creativity is what sets him apart. If you’ve ever sat through a football game where seemingly endless penalties destroyed the entire experience, disc golf may be the sport for you. Most sports have rigid structures born from years of rules and regulations, or sometimes just by simple physics. While disc golf has a few governing constraints, each player has the ability to select their discs and play the course in a way that suits their skill set or comfort level. I marvel every time I have the chance to step out on the tee and play a round with new people. Each person develops and executes a unique strategy that can be wildly different from those they are playing with and more often than not, I walk away having learned something new. That freedom is one of the primary keys to the game's success. Perhaps we owe the general lack of overly bureaucratic oversight to the fact that the modern game evolved out of the laid back 60’s California surf culture. I don’t really know. What I do know is that it’s brilliant and it keeps the game interesting.
It’s Social, Personal, and it’s Family
Few games can be enjoyed both alone, as a group, or within a group of players with wildly varied ages and skill levels. Because the game of golf is first against yourself, and second against the others you're playing with, it’s easy to separate the two when you need to. I have two sons who are now 12 and 17. We have been playing as a family for 7 years now. In the early days when my boys were just 5 and 10, we still played side by side, and not only did I have fun, I loved it. I will remember those years for the rest of my life. The hour or two we would walk the course together each week were the best hours of my week. With most other sports, it’s not the same.
Many parents haul the entire family to the park to watch just one of their kids play their respective sport. I have sat on those bleachers and I have been one of those parents. If you look into the eyes of the siblings who have been coerced into attending their brother or sisters game in the name of “supporting the family” you know what I mean. Disc golf is able to provide the type of experience I need on any given day and that kind of versatility is rare.
GRIP6 supports disc golf because it's good for the soul. It keeps us connected and gets us outside. It opens up as many opportunities as you want it to and doesn’t ask questions. If you have a competitive streak, the top professional disc golfers today have multi-million dollar contracts and each year the tour purse gets bigger. If you're just looking for a social outlet, every state has disc golf clubs that offer up both social events and competitive amateur level play throughout the year. Look them up in your area and join your local club. You will be blown away at how welcoming they are. And if you’re like us, and you’re just looking for a reason to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and compete against yourself, disc golf is perfect for that too.