Throw a round

Frisbee golf enthusiasts enjoy rugged mountain courses

When the band members of Chicago's 56 Hope Road hit the highway to spread their funky acoustic sounds across the country, they make an effort to find a disc golf course wherever they go.

On Friday, Chris Corsale, Greg Fundis, Chad Saunders and Steve Goveia met their match at Colorado Mountain College's steep and rugged nine-hole course.

Sadly, the mountain won and claimed three of their discs.

Despite the challenging course and the near impossibility of finding a disc in some of the mountain shrubbery or other natural hazards, Fundis said he had never seen or played a course like CMC's.

"This is so beautiful. It's not just a park or something, it's the side of a freaking mountain," he said. "This is awesome."

The men, who traveled from Fort Collins to play at Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill on Friday night, said they use the Professional Disc Association Golf Web site to find and navigate the courses they have played in 30 states.

"We had all played a little bit," Fundis said as he eyed the first hole. "We love it. We try to play three or four times a week."

In recent years, the relatively unknown game of Frisbee golf has reached a level of popularity that amazes the people who were playing the sport in the 1960s.

"The general idea of disc golf is the same general idea of our ball-golf brethren. You're still trying to navigate an object through a course, which is interesting enough," said Dan "Stork" Roddick, the grandfather of disc golf.

Roddick, a California resident, said he began playing the sport during the late 1960s with his father.

"My dad and I started playing games with our discs in our backyard that we didn't quite realize was golf," he said.

Roddick realized the sport might take off when he played in the first disc golf open in 1974 in Pennsylvania.

"The first-place prize was a car," he said. "That year, I was fortunate enough to win that car. It was very surprising to me. That got my attention."

From there, Roddick and hundreds of other enthusiasts created the PDGA.

Most disc golf courses are the result of an "amateur enthusiast" wanting to bring his or her love of the sport to a community, Roddick said.

Steamboat Springs offers two courses that are free and open to the public.

CMC's course was created and is maintained by its students for the community, said Tommy Larson, the school's student activities coordinator.

"Every afternoon, we have anywhere from 15 to 20 people playing the course," he said. "It is a very popular course in the community because unlike the other course, you don't have the sun beating down on you all day."

The "other course" is at the base of Mount Werner and is maintained by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

The ski area course is 18 holes and takes players from the base of the gondola up several ski runs and back down.

Heidi Thomsen, a spokeswoman for Ski Corp., said the course opened for the summer June 9. She already has seen dozens of people testing their skills on the course.

Although the Ski Corp. course isn't as challenging as CMC's, there are plenty of opportunities to lose a disc on the ski trails or in the trees.

"It's a really fun game," she said. "If you play golf, it's a nice spin on that."

Thomsen said discs can be rented for about $3 from Ride Sports in Gondola Square. Renters will be asked for a small deposit to rent the disc.

Most discs are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased for between $9 and $20 at area sporting goods stores. Although not required, most players tend to use specialized discs for certain shots, just as a golfer uses different clubs for different shots.

Roddick said there are three kinds of discs -- drivers, mid-rangers and putters.

Drivers are meant to get a disc as close to the basket as possible. Mid-rangers and putters are used as the player approaches the basket.

In general, most disc golf holes are par 3, which means the player aims to get his or her disc into the basket in three throws.

"Disc golf is more interesting to watch, because the player has more strategic choices to combat a wide array of problems," Roddick said. "If a player is confronted with a line of trees, he can go with the big high right curve to get around the trees, the roller to get through the trees, the multiple skip or the high right left curve.

"You have to be relaxed and have some self-control to play this game. It's very challenging in that sense," he said.

Roddick said mountain courses are among some of the most challenging he has played because of the altitude and flora.

"Mountain disc golf is a whole other thing," he said. "Me playing in Los Angeles is nothing like playing in Aspen, where I'm at 14,000 feet."

Corsale agreed after giving up on a disc he spent at least 15 minutes searching for.

"This is pretty intense. It's pretty amazing," he said. "I should have played it safe. Always play it safe."

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