- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

You get the fresh air and green surroundings of golf, but with disc golf — played by throwing discs a little smaller but heavier than normal Frisbees into metal baskets — you might spend a 10th of the money you would on clubs and greens fees in regular golf.
As a beginner, all you need is a disc or two at $8 apiece. Disc golf courses often are free and open to the public.
"You can have a great time doing this when youre young and poor or when youre old and have lots of money," says Craig Gangloff, 37, a professional disc golf player who lives in Darnestown.
Mr. Gangloff, who plays in 25 tournaments a year, is one of 90 players who will compete in a pro-only tournament at the Cedar Farm Golf Club in Gaithersburg on Saturday and Sunday.
A pro in disc golf cant make money a la Tiger Woods, but he or she can win more than $50,000 per tournament, and a handful of players can make a living out of playing disc golf, Mr. Gangloff says.
The Professional Disc Golfers Association (PDGA) estimates that there are about 10,000 professional players and 2 million amateurs.
On a recent afternoon at Seneca Creek State Park near Gaithersburg, which has an 18-hole course, Mr. Gangloff practiced his drive and putt during a lunch break from his day job in commercial construction management.
As with "ball golf" — a term disc golf players use to differentiate between the different golf varieties — the object is to complete the course with the lowest number of "strokes," or throws.
The "holes" are in the shape of metal baskets, with chains that work like the backboard of a basketball hoop stopping and guiding the flight of the disc.
The shorter holes might be 200 feet, and the longest ones can be up to 1,000 feet. The difficulty of holes is categorized by pars, such as 2, 3, 4 or 5.
Disc golf also has an intricate set of rules on everything from playing the disc where it lies to order of play to being penalized for taking excessive time on a shot.
Unlike regular golf, its cheaper relative does not demand special clothing and shoes. Mr. Gangloff recently wore a green polo shirt, khakis and running shoes.
When he teed off for the hole, which was 425 feet away, with a driving disc — which is thin and sharp at the edges to give it more distance — Mr. Gangloff got a running start, brought the disc up to his shoulder, swept it across his chest and released it. It flew off, finding its way through trees, bouncing on the ground and landing about 40 feet from the basket.
At this shorter distance, Mr. Gangloff took out a putter — a heavier disc with a higher "profile" than the driver — from his 20-disc collection. When he hit the entrapment device — also known as the "hole" — the disc rattled the chains and landed in a basket beneath, a sound that rewardingly signals completion of a hole.
"For a lot of people its visually appealing to see the flight of the disc, and when it hits the chains, it makes a nice ringing sound," Mr. Gangloff says.
For a novice, 20 discs may sound like overkill — theyre all round and fly through the air, after all. But there are many kinds of discs for different situations and conditions: discs designed for windy conditions; discs that will break sharply; discs for approaches or rolling; some with low profiles to be used in windy conditions; overstable discs that will break in a certain direction; midrange discs for "approach" shots, etc.
While Mr. Gangloff played at Seneca Creek State Park, several other people arrived at the course. One of them was Damascus resident Greg Worrell, who used a lunch break from his job as an electrical engineer to play a few holes and get some fresh air. He was equipped with only two discs, a driver and a putter.
"Its just so nice to be outside, and you meet a lot of good people playing disc golf," says Mr. Worrell, who discovered the sport in 1983, eight years after the first disc golf course was created.
Mr. Gangloff also started playing in the early 1980s, while attending West Virginia University. He and other students would get together to play Ultimate Frisbee, an athletically strenuous disc game more like football, but sometimes team members would fail to show up, and the crew that was present would start playing disc golf without a set course, making up the rules as they went along.
At that time, Mr. Gangloff knew of only one course in Maryland. Now there are at least seven in the state and close to 20 in Virginia, Mr. Gangloff says. The District doesnt have any courses.
The 30-acre Seneca Creek State Park course, which Mr. Gangloff has helped equip and maintain, is full of cedars, tulip poplars, oaks and pine trees. Last year, Mr. Gangloff estimates, the disc golf course had about 30,000 visitors.
Nationwide there are more than 800 courses; worldwide there are 1,200, according to the PDGA.
While the popularity is rising fast, there still are people who give Mr. Gangloff a puzzled look when he tells them he plays disc golf.
"I continually meet people who have never heard of it," Mr. Gangloff says, "but a lot of people get hooked right away."
The players he runs into on the disc golf course usually are men in their mid-20s to mid-30s, but many families and seniors play, too, Mr. Gangloff says.
"Just like ball golf, its mental, and its coordination to a certain degree. But you dont have to be a great athlete," Mr. Gangloff says.
Agatha and Rouel de Jonge of Gaithersburg, both 61 years old, have played disc golf for about 10 years.
"I'm still not very good at it, but I get exercise," Mrs. de Jonge says.
She plays about two times a week, while her husband is out there about five times a week.
The Seneca Creek State Park course is between 11/2 miles and two miles long in hilly terrain, and to play the full 18 holes can take up to two hours.
"Playing disc golf is a walk in the park with something to do," Mr. Gangloff says.


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