When one considers outdoor sports in Colorado, images of snowcapped peaks peppered with skiers or rocky trails navigated by hikers come to mind. But there is one sport taking Colorado’s recreational community by storm, and it has nothing to with lugging yourself to the top of a mountain. It’s disc golf.
There are a swarm of discs gliding through the air at Johnny Roberts Memorial Park Disc Golf Course in Arvada. It’s one of the most popular courses in the nation. The park is regularly packed full of disc golfers gracefully tossing discs and exchanging lighthearted quips between holes. Local professional disc golfer Jason Rosenbaum is a frequent visitor at Johnny Roberts.
“The love and camaraderie between players is the best, but there’s always something so satisfying about executing the exact shot that you’re trying to make and watching a piece of plastic flying through the air and smash into the chains.”
Rosenbaum moved to Colorado with his wife in 1998 from Illinois and had dabbled in the sport of disc golf. It was soon after he had played his first round at Johnny Roberts that Rosenbaum purchased his Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) membership, entered a few tournaments, started a disc retailer business and eventually became a professionally ranked disc golf player, winning hundreds of dollars per tournament during weekends.
“When I first moved out here, there were 15 tournaments a year and there weren’t enough golfers to fill them all up,” said Rosenbaum. “Now tournaments fill up all the time. There are tournaments that have been filled in 30 seconds. 120 people, boom. 30 seconds.”
Disc golf has been a popular sport in Colorado’s outdoor community since the late ’70s, bolstered by the state’s awe-inspiring views, diverse landscapes and commitment to outdoor facilities. Disc golf flourished through the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to balloon in popularity with new courses and tournaments popping up faster than roadwork signs. There are currently 338 disc golf courses in the state, and over 110 leagues to choose from.
Established in 1978, Johnny Roberts Disc Golf Course was originally designed by “the father of disc golf” Ed Headrick and later redesigned in 2014 by Colorado Disc Golf Hall of Fame legend, John Bird. Johnny Roberts DSC is an 18 hole course where players are treated to a predominately open course layout, multiple creek crossings and relatively short, less technical throws. The course has been consistently ranked in the top four most popular disc golf courses in the entire nation each of the past four years.
Part of the reason that disc golf has gained so much popularity in recent years is because of how inclusive the sport has become.
“It’s an easy sport, anybody can do it. I mean the world championships had a division for the 75 year olds. You know, out there slinging discs in the hot summer sun,” said Rosenbaum. “So anyone of all ages and ability can come out and play.”
Rosenbaum’s business, High Country Disc Golf, even helped sponsor and run the Deaf National Disc Golf Championships in the early 2000’s.
“Before it was a really, really, male-dominated sport. So if a woman came to a tournament it could be her fifth or sixth round and she would have to play against somebody who had played for years because there was only one division,” Rosenbaum said. “Then she would get so discouraged that she wouldn’t want to play again because there was no other division.”
Now, there are so many people registering for tournaments that the amateur divisions actually contain multiple subdivisions, categorized by age and ability level from recreational to intermediate to advanced.
“Now it’s just great because there are so many people,” said Rosenbaum. It’s just so great to see the sport blow up.”
Disc golf at its most basic level is simple enough. A player steps up to the tee pad, deciphers the distance and angle to the basket, winds up their shot and finally releases the disc towards the basket hoping to hear the novel sound of their disc slapping the chains of the basket, signifying the envious accomplishment of an ace (hole in one). If an ace is not achieved, and it rarely is, the player must keep throwing the disc until they can finally lodge it inside the basket or the chains.
“The best part about disc golf is that it doesn’t take a lot of time and skill to start improving quickly,” said Rosenbaum. “I have thousands of dollars of golf equipment that I don’t even use anymore because it’s more difficult, its more expensive and if there’s no one there, you can play a 18-hole course [disc golf] in under an hour and then go do something else.”
Much of the appeal of disc golf comes from the ease of entry when compared to other Colorado outdoor sports. A person can get started playing disc golf for less than $60 with a basic three disc set.
“The price point. That’s one of the great things about disc golf,” said Rosenbaum. “I mean literally, three frisbees I can come out here and I can go play. And you don’t even need three frisbees out here all you need is one putter.”
The majority of disc golf courses are located on public land so admission is virtually free for every player. And with the numerous courses located in the Denver area, disc golf nirvana is never more than a 20 minute drive from your current location.
“When I first came out here the Colorado scene was so much different compared to where I was playing in Illinois,” said Rosenbaum. “Illinois it was like you kind of had little factions and this and that. Where Colorado it was family, it was a disc golf family. When people got together everybody was huggin’ and ‘How ya doing? It’s good to see ya.’ It was just way different than what I was used to in Illinois and I loved it so much better.”
Rosenbaum recently took first place in the Summer Fling Pro Masters 40+ tournament and has two more left this season.
“I feel like a little kid in a candy shop.”
There are still 57 tournaments scheduled in Colorado this fall. If you would like to get in the game, go to discgolfscene.com/tournaments/Colorado . For all of your disc golf gear needs, head over to CTP Disc in Wheatridge where you can find Rosenbaum selling discs and offering tips on Thursday and Friday afternoons.