disc golf

Disc golf is popular in the area, including in Mountain Village pictured above. Another course was recently completed at Top of the Pines, the recreation area above Ridgway. (Courtesy photo)

Its origins are up for debate, but no one disputes that the modern game of disc golf was perfected in southern California.

For the uninitiated: Disc golf has nothing to do with the game of golf per se, though it is played on a “fairway” and does involve sinking, well, not putts but Frisbee-shaped discs (that are not, technically, Frisbees) into metal-shaped baskets.

Is that clear?

“I like this game because it sharpens my aim, it’s cheap, and there are more girls and less doctors and lawyers around than on regular golf courses,” a 23-year-old bartender from Temple City, California, told the New York Times, “clutching a bright but battered yellow Frisbee and a nearly half empty jug of wine.”

The story was published 42 years ago, but it pretty much sums up the appeal of disc golf, which combines good times in the out-of-doors with ease of entry (it is played on public courses) into one still-fast-growing sport. There are disc golf courses on every continent, but 85 percent of them are located in the U.S., including a course in Mountain Village.

One of the most recently completed, at Top of the Pines, the recreation area above Ridgway, is getting high marks from users.

The new course “is ‘lit,’ ‘dope’ and ‘schnizzle,’” the TOP’s Facebook page reads. “Played here a few weeks ago and the course design was great,” “Open/pro player” Brian Redmon wrote. “Well done and greatly appreciate the effort to get a new course in and open it to the public.”

New users aren’t the only ones raving about the new place. “Ned Bosworth, who designed this course, said he’s been a landscape architect for 35 years, and got more enjoyment out of this design than anything in his working career,” said Brad Wallis, TOP’s board president (and a builder himself).

“Ned’s a disc golfer,” Wallis said. “So’s John Peters, our liaison with Ouray County. Often in the construction business, you don’t get to play it all the way through” (Wallis was speaking metaphorically, and in this case literally). “Ned’s been involved in every step along the way, from the concept to the very end. Our goal was to be league-compliant, so each hole has a sign that tells players where they are, and where they are shooting, and the suggested arc you would need to get there. People are really into it,” Wallis added. “This course has been incredibly well received. There’s a couple who lives in Elk Meadows that has been playing every day.”

Now the task is to let the rest of the public know it’s available. Top of the Pines, which calls itself “a 175-acre gem” high above Ridgway, is beloved by those who know it, yet surprisingly, not everybody does. “The county technically owns the land, and we partner with them to operate it without using tax money,” Wallis explained. TOP runs on funds it generates from hosting weddings and camping fees. Naturally, both took a hit these last few months due to COVID-19.

“Because the county is our partner, we’ve been working closely with them, and with the health department, and the county attorney” on safety protocols, Wallis said. “Originally we were going to have a party to celebrate the opening of the disc golf course, with hamburgers and hotdogs” (coronavirus put the kibosh on that type of gathering).

Instead, “We have signs, some humorous and some not, asking people to social distance,” Wallis said. “Even though they’re outdoors, we encourage visitors to wear masks. The weddings have been the big challenge; we had our first a couple weeks ago, and several more are planned for August and September.”

Admission to local recreationists is free, and as you might imagine, donations are especially appreciated these days.

“It’s a little bit of a secret,” Wallis admitted of the area’s locale, and a spectacular, highly unique place from which to see 14,000-foot Mt. Sneffels. “When you’re coming in to Ridgway over the Dallas Divide, Sneffels is impressive, but when you’re right down below its face” (as you are at TOP) “it’s a view like no other,” Wallis summed up. “I just don’t know where you’d find a better location for social distancing.”