Just Throw It
Get outdoors for ultimate frisbee or disc golf this spring
This isn’t your typical game of catch. ultimate Frisbee—sometimes just known as ultimate—is staged with seven players per side, ranging from pickup games on your local field to elite athletes playing for their colleges and universities or even countries with world championships up for grabs.
When the original Wham-O Frisbee hit store shelves in 1964, its inventors probably never imagined the different ways the flying discs could provide entertainment. Sure, there’s the casual game of catch or maybe getting a favorite canine friend some exercise. Those traditional styles we have grown up on still fit the bill for some, and as the doldrums of winter give way to glorious days of spring, Coloradoans certainly will fetch their Frisbees and head outside.
However, for others, a simple game of catch doesn’t quite do it anymore as—depending on the amount of exercise you’re after—throngs of enthusiasts have taken up the endeavors of ultimate Frisbee and disc golf.
“Both are wonderful sports,” says Dave Boden, who, when he isn’t coaching football and teaching at Mesa Ridge High School, can usually be found at nearby Widefield Park trying to lower his disc golf score. “When I was younger, I played ultimate as well. Then I started getting old and chunky and not as athletic. But I can still throw it.”
The Ultimate Workout
If you’re really into an athletic activity, maybe ultimate is for you. Two teams of seven players compete on a playing field about the same length as a football field, but narrower and with end zones more than twice as deep. The object is to catch the Frisbee in the opposite end zone.
The difficulty factor? Players can’t run with the Frisbee and are constantly looking for an open teammate while the opposition defends in this up-and-down, action-packed game. If the disc isn’t caught, the other team immediately takes possession and works down the field. Games aren’t timed and, instead, are scored to 13 or 15 points—one for each catch in the end zone.
Perhaps the most unique quality of ultimate is the absence of officials. There aren’t any. Players are solely responsible for following and enforcing the rules, known as “the spirit of the game,” which puts the responsibility for fair play squarely on each athlete.
“Teams want to win but also want to be respectful of each other,” says Kayleigh Hudson, copresident of the Colorado Springs Ultimate Network. “Especially for the younger players. They aren’t only learning a sport, but also learning about sportsmanship and good spirit. This is the only team sport where it’s up to the players themselves to resolve calls.”
A Good Walk Spoiled
For those who aren’t into achieving that kind of elevated heart rate, disc golf might just be for you. No clubs, holes (in the traditional sense), greens fees, or dress code here. Just you, a collection of specialized discs and, you hope, the sound of your disc hitting a chain and landing in a basket that means you can move to the next hole.
Like golf clubs, the equipment is made to achieve different goals. Some discs are made to fly far; consider those the “drivers.” Then there are ones for short range—maybe that’s a 7- or 9-iron to a traditional golfer—and, of course, you need a putting disc to finish the job.
“They’re shaped differently. You have sharp-edged ones that go far and rounder ones that are more accurate,” Boden says. “You also have some that can fly around curves. It’s an amazing game. I tried it for the first time when I was a senior at Liberty High School in 1993, and I’ve hardly missed a day since.”
Boden estimates he’s one of around 250 enthusiasts who belong to the Pikes Peak Flying Disc Club, and he also competes in regional events. The top players compete in tournaments sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association; these begin in late March in Georgia at the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championships.
Even with all the differences between regular golf and disc golf, the two have one thing in common. “Golfers lose a lot of balls, and in disc golf, I lose a couple of hundred dollars in discs a year into the creek. A bad throw is just like a slice,” says Boden. “It’s fairly inexpensive to start, and to get good, you just have to understand the flight characteristics of your discs.”
Whatever your preference, just be sure to get outside this spring—and get throwing.
Ultimate Has High Hopes for the Olympics
Four years ago, the national headquarters for USA Ultimate moved from Boulder to Colorado Springs. That wasn’t an arbitrary decision. Someday, these athletes might be representing their country at a future Summer Olympic Games.
“It was a very strategic decision to make that move, and we have aspirations on being on the Olympics program someday,” says Stacey Waldrup, the USA Ultimate senior manager of communications. “To be in the Olympic City was very intentional and has given us better connections with the USOC.”
The sport has already taken a big step in that direction after becoming a member of the USOC as a recognized sport organization and has been a medal sport at the World Games since 2005.
Get Your Golf On
Where to play in the Colorado Springs area
Avairy (along Fountain Creek)
Cottonwood Creek (on Montarbor Drive in north Colorado Springs)
Cumberland Green (on Jimmy Camp Road in Fountain)
Rampart (next to Rampart High School)
Rockin’ the Rails (Palmer Lake)
Sakuna Pines (privately-owned course in Black Forest)
Widefield (at Widefield Community Park)