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Free ‘spin’

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By Hilary O’Byrne

PHOTO: Courtesy of Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau

Tucked away in the lush forests of Flagstaff, a new sound can be heard among the tranquil breezes and chirping birds — the swish of Frisbee-like discs whizzing between trees and through the air. And just like Frisbees, the game of disc golf is soaring.

The geographic nature of Flagstaff provides a challenging landscape, creating opportunities for players to enjoy the sport of disc golf. If you are looking for a relaxing way to spend a week up north, disc golfing is a great way to include everyone in the family, from niños to nanas.

Flagstaff offers four free disc golf courses among its breathtaking ponderosa pine forests. Each of the courses — one situated at downtown’s Thorpe Park, another beneath the Snowbowl ski resort, a newer course at McPherson Park north of downtown and one on Northern Arizona University’s Mountain Campus — possess individual qualities.

“With its abundance of trees, NAU’s course might prove to be a little more challenging than the others,” said Chris “Barley” Kirby, course developer and president of the Flagstaff Disc Golf Club. “There are some 45-degree holes, and a couple of them are an uphill battle — literally.”

Modeled off its predecessor, disc golf takes the golf sport and adds a few twists. In disc golf you need not pay a green’s fee or rent a cart. Unlike “ball golf,” disc golf is typically free and played in public parks.

Disc golf also uses differently sized and weighted discs, instead of clubs and a ball. Just like traditional golf’s goal of completing a hole in the fewest number of strokes, disc golf aims to get the disc in an elevated basket (pole hole), in the fewest number of throws.

As players proceed through the hole, they must throw each consecutive shot from the spot where the previous shot landed. Trees, shrubbery and terrain provide challenging obstacles. At the finish, the “putt” lands in the target and players proceed to the next hole.

Over the past 10 years, disc golf’s popularity in Flagstaff has taken off, says Kirby, who began playing in 1993.

In 2003 Flagstaff held the Professional Disc Golf Association Pro World tournament, which brought hundreds of people north.

Brett Robinson, a native of Phoenix, enjoys playing at Flagstaff’s various courses.

“I try to get up here to toss some discs as much as possible because the weather is so pleasant and so are the people,” Robinson said. “My favorite course is at the Arizona Snowbowl because the views are amazing and the hike is a great workout.”

The best times to use the courses are early weekday mornings, as they usually fill up during weekend afternoons. For information on Flagstaff’s courses or how to join the Flagstaff Disc Golf Club, visit: http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/FlagDiscGolfClub.

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