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Australia 'It's the beautiful flight': Frisbee golf sales boom during pandemic

02:27  27 october  2020
02:27  27 october  2020 Source:   theage.com.au

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Oscar Fehlberg found his first disc in a creek in Melbourne's inner west. He was puzzled; it was slightly smaller than a conventional Frisbee and more aerodynamically designed. "I thought: ???This is kind of weird'. It took me a while to work out how to fly it ??? I was definitely intrigued.'

a man standing on a bridge over a body of water: The Age, News. Frisbee disc golf is growing in popularity during the pandemic because it is a non-contact sport. Pic shows Oscar Felhberg. Pic Simon Schluter 14 October 2020 © Simon Schluter The Age, News. Frisbee disc golf is growing in popularity during the pandemic because it is a non-contact sport. Pic shows Oscar Felhberg. Pic Simon Schluter 14 October 2020 a couple of people that are standing in the grass © Simon Schluter

Mr Fehlberg would later learn he had stumbled across a disc from disc golf - a little known sport created in 1976 by the father of the modern-day Frisbee "Steady" Ed Headrick, a toy inventor from California.

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"I felt the Frisbee had some kind of a spirit involved," Headrick told the Santa Cruz Sentinel the year before he died in 2002. "It's not just like playing catch with a ball. It's the beautiful flight."

Disc golf shares many of the same rules as traditional golf but with a flying disc instead of a ball. Players stand on tee pads and aim to land their discs in a basket - hung with chains to help catch errant putts - in as few throws as possible.

"Trees shape the fairway like bunkers - avoiding trees you hopefully throw a pure shot down the fairway," says Mr Fehlberg, who has become an aficionado of disc golf after his random find.

"I think it is the best sport in the world - there are so many great benefits to offer the community."

And while still an obscure sport in Australia - the Melbourne Disc Golf Club has just 46 members - more people are buying disc golf equipment during the pandemic even though tournaments and league days have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

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"We have got an online store and it's just gone crazy over the last six months," says Melbourne Disc Golf Club president Jeff Brunsting. "Last year we would have sold maybe $3000 worth of discs - mainly on league days - and this year we've sold $17,000 worth of discs.

Mr Brunsting says players have got creative during lockdown and held virtual putting competitions.

He takes his discs to the local park in his five-kilometre zone: "I just aim for the trees - I've mapped out a little course."

Josh Woods, a professor of sociology at West Virginia University, questions whether lingering fears from the pandemic will change the sports we play.

He points out disc golf can be played while social distancing and says online disc golf retailers and manufacturers in the US are struggling to keep up with demand during the pandemic.

In his book Disc Golf Land: Rise of an Unknown Sport - to be published next year - Professor Woods discusses how the rapid growth of non-traditional sports such as disc golf, roller derby, parkour, drone racing and e-sports has gone mostly unnoticed by the public.

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"Disc golf is an unknown sport everywhere, but its popularity is nearing a tipping point in the US and northern Europe, Finland in particular," Professor Woods says.

"My research suggests there are roughly 500,000 to 700,000 dedicated disc golfers in the US."

He says despite the pandemic and the cancellation of several events, professional disc golf has been energised in the US. A top disc golfer was recently awarded a million-dollar contract with a sponsor and CBS Sports Network covered a tournament early in the summer.

There are disc golf courses on every continent, including one at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, which, unsurprisingly, Joshua Hague, a technical sergeant in the US Air National Guard told udisc.com was the most difficult he had ever played.

Australia has about 70 courses. Perth, where the Aussie Open was held in 2017, has the most in Australia.

There are three courses in Melbourne - at Doncaster, Clarinda and Yarraville - and others throughout Victoria including Geelong, Bendigo, Phillip Island, Licola, Wangaratta, and Australia's highest course at Dinner Plain.

Mr Brunsting grew up in Michigan playing freestyle Frisbee, which over time evolved into disc golf.

He now has more than 200 discs, many of which - including Piwakawaka and Ruru - are named after New Zealand birds. The drivers are for distance; they cut through the air but are not as controllable, then you have the mid-rangers and then putters for within 30 metres of a basket.

Mr Brunsting hopes to hold coaching clinics next year and encourage more women to play.

(Professor Woods' research suggests only about 15 per cent of disc golfers in the US are women. A campaign with the hashtag respectHERgame has recently been developed to reduce the gender gap.)

"We want to get more women and juniors so we have players for the future," Mr Brunsting says.

"There is not much media exposure, but when people find it, they love it, and when they love it, they love it extremely. It's very addictive."

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usr: 2
This is interesting!