This past Saturday, April 16 saw Piney Lake here in Greensboro host its first annual Spartan Disk Golf Challenge.
For $20, students played 36 holes of disk golf. The tournament is an example of an industry that has exploded over the past decade.
Last week, my roommate asked me if a sport would spring up in the next decade and rise to the popularity of games like football or baseball. The sports of disk golf and ultimate frisbee have not yet risen that high in popularity, marketing or commercial viability, but they are certainly on the right track.
In 1967, Joel Silver, Jared Kass, Buzzy Hellring and Jonny Hines invented ultimate frisbee at Columbia High School in New Jersey.
Today, with two professional sport leagues — American Ultimate Disk League and Major League Ultimate — being formed in the past six years, college students’ involvement in the sport reaching over 16,000 members by 2011, and by 2015, recognition by the International Olympics Committee, the sport of ultimate frisbee has become one of the most popular sports over the past decade.
Ultimate frisbee is played on a field of 70 yards by 40 yards with a 25-yard endzone. To score, the team of seven players must toss the frisbee between each other until they reach the endzone. If the frisbee hits the ground at any point, it goes to the opposing team, who will be trying to prevent opponents from scoring.
It is like a mix between football and basketball with a frisbee instead of a ball. Unlike disk golf, ultimate frisbee requires a large amount of conditioning because of the need to run up and down the field and cover opponents.
Today, according to the USA Ultimate, the sport’s national governing body, more than 80 countries and seven million people play ultimate. Not bad for something developed in some high school.
Now flip the ultimate frisbee coin and you get the sport of disk golf. Unlike ultimate, disk golf does not involve running around and jumping. Instead, disk golf focuses completely on who has the most power, control and accuracy for the frisbee.
Like its name entails, disk golf is essentially golf, with fewer clubs and carts and more frisbees and stoners. Not even kidding.
Over its recent popularity, the sport of disk golf has earned a reputation for being a “stoner sport” in the same way that hacky sack has been seen as a “stoner activity” because of its laid back play of the sport. Despite this negative stereotype, disk golf has also taken off the same way that ultimate has.
In 1976, “Steady” Ed Headrick established the Disk Golf Association for the sport of disk golf, which had been developed in the decade prior. The year prior, Ed revolutionized the sport by inventing the Disk Pole Basket, which has since become the standard scoring function in the game.
Since then, disk golf has been named the fastest growing sport in the US over the past 30 years; an estimated 12 million people have played the game.
Unlike its father sport, golf, disk golf is much cheaper and does not take a significant amount of time out of the day. With 156 course all around the state of NC, the number of courses doubling by the end of the 2000s, according to the Professional Disk Golf Association (PDGA), and the sport being played in about 40 countries, the stock of disk golf is only going up.
The sport of golf is too expensive for the average person to play consistently. Through studies of the brain, the sport of football has already started to lose youth involvement over the past decade for fear of CTE or other brain related trauma. Baseball is seen as too boring and slow paced for some kids.
The sports of disk golf and ultimate frisbee have hit this perfect balance of safety, action and expense to make them into two of the fastest growing sports not only in the country but the world.
And baring some crazy, Reefer Madness propaganda film, the sports will continue to grow.