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Student disc golfers flick saucers on the links

Published: Sunday, April 26, 2009

Updated: Sunday, April 26, 2009 19:04

The 18th hole is intimidating. You have to avoid the water and then navigate through the narrow fairway around a dogleg left to get to the hole 344 feet away. Health science major Andrew Rogers had done all that; now he just needs to sink his putt to set a new personal course record. No, this isn't the Masters, and no, Tiger Woods is not involved.

This is disc golf, and nothing is on the line but personal pride.

He lets his putt fly wide right. The beaming smile on his face, though, tells the whole story of his afternoon.

"It's just for fun," Rogers said. "Three under par is way better than I could do at real golf."

For those unfamiliar with the sport, disc golf is just like traditional golf, only players throw a flying disc down the course rather than hit a ball. The object is the same: to get the disc from the tee box to the hole in the fewest amount of throws, only the hole is an elevated basket with dangling chains designed to catch the disc.

Permanent courses are set up in public parks throughout the U.S., including in UCF's Arboretum.

"The Arboretum course is actually pretty hard," said Rogers, a junior who plays there with friends about two to three times a week. "It's really nice, but the fairways are narrow, and it's very easy to lose discs if you're playing alone because of the difficulty."

Rogers said he used to play Ultimate Frisbee, a football-like flying disc game, with his friends before he found disc golf.

"I showed all my friends, and they loved it, so now we play this all the time instead."

While all that is needed to start playing is one disc, just like golf there are certain discs made for certain shots that make it easier to get a better score. And it helps to have all the discs in the bag since the holes range from just under 200 feet to over 400 feet.

There are putt and approach discs, which fly very straight and are made for close shots directly at the basket. All-purpose and mid-range discs have sharper edges, so they will fly farther. Drivers fly the farthest because they have the sharpest edges and most of their weight is concentrated on the outer rim of the disc.

Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the sport, especially to college students, is the price. The courses are free to play, and a whole set of quality discs costs only $20 to $30, with individual discs costing less. It also takes one to two hours to play a game, as opposed to an entire morning or afternoon that it takes playing traditional golf.

"Real golf is so expensive, and I'm not very good at it," said Ricky Klemowich, a junior who has played disc golf only a few times. "But I don't mind learning a new sport if it's virtually free."

Another benefit of playing at the Arboretum is that it's not used very often.

"There's never a wait," Rogers said. "Actually, we're usually the only people out there."

Although there is no official club at UCF, and it seems that most players at the Arboretum are just looking to have a good time, it is played competitively around the country.

The Professional Disc Golf Association, with over 16,000 members, is the governing body for the sport and sanctions competitive events for every skill level, according to the PDGA Web site.

However, the Arboretum course isn't the only one in the UCF area. There is a course in Avalon Park and two courses each at Gordon Barnett Park and Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake. They are all under 20 miles away from campus.

"The Gordon Barnett Park courses are awesome," Rogers said. "I play the Arboretum course so much that it's nice to go there for a change of pace."

Fans of the show Seinfeld might recognize this sport as "Frolf" or "Frisbee Golf," which the character George Costanza plays during his "Summer of George."

"That's actually where I heard it first," said junior Eric Portnoy, who plays with Rogers. "I always thought it was a great idea, but I had never actually tried it until I played at UCF."


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