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Monday, February 21, 2005

Frisbee Golf

It isn’t complicated: you fling a Frisbee until you hit the target, then go on to the next target. Fewest throws wins.

Seems like every sport or game can be reduced to a simple, even simplistic, summary. In the case of Frisbee Golf, that genteel blend of hippie freeform with corporate ritual, it is that simple. Throwing a Frisbee can be learned by a toddler and you can play the Golf version anywhere. At least the way we played it you could.

Our targets were trees, stumps, signs, poles and hydrants. We roamed the campus, the nearby woods or a part of town, most notably the cemetery. We played around traffic, through pedestrians and amidst the silence of the long-departed.

Two friends, two Frisbees and time to share. That’s what Frisbee Golf boils down to. You play to win (okay, I play to win), but the game itself takes second place to sharing conversation and soaking up the view.

Then there’s imagination. After you start playing, wherever you go you begin to look at angles and locations, adding hazards and complications, so that any natural or urban setting becomes a playground. I still do it, park or plaza, eager to try out the difficulty of that long shot over a 2-throw penalty area versus playing safe. In my mind, I’m always going for it; in practice…

Sure, you can muck it up with complications, like different Frisbees for different throws, and three-hooped chain targets and rigidly-delineated courses. We added penalties as our only complication, risk versus reward, a simple concept that adds a spice of challenge. And our courses changed as often as we wanted them to: a few seconds of discussion to agree where the target was and how many throws were par and off we went.

Sure the game lacks the edge of danger that some find necessary. There is always the danger of embarrassing yourself, of playing atrociously or of choking when the pressure's on. But if it’s physical danger you want, well, there was one moment…

Don and I were playing in the “bowl” we had chosen as our “short course,” close to some dorms, with a few tall trees and the challenge of making no throws on level ground. Don was standing near the tallest tree when suddenly a loud crack startled us and a large branch thudded to the ground, missing him by less than three feet.

We were quiet for a few seconds. My second thought, uttered aloud, was “Are you okay?” He nodded.

My first thought had been: I almost won by forfeit. Told you I play to win.


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