"Frolf" sounds like the name of an unfortunate gastrointestinal issuance: "Oh man, I'm about to frolf."
Its actual definition, though, refers to something much more fun. It's an abbreviation for Frisbee golf, also known as disc golf for those averse to dropping trademarked names.
The game has grown from a college activity to a devout pastime, with leagues of serious players and groups of people who play casually. It offers more of a challenge than just throwing a Frisbee around, but it also has minimal exertion factor. Here in Chicago proper, there aren't too many spots to throw the 'bee around, but the suburbs are rife with courses.
The skinny: Disc golf, at heart, mirrors the game founded hundreds of years ago by bored Scots. Players, using discs instead of clubs and balls, try using the least amount of throws to make it from the tee to a designated target. Courses designed especially for disc golf have chain-link baskets shaped like inverted teardrops instead of holes.
The commitment: Frisbee golf isn't the most demanding activity, which makes it a breeze to pick up. "Anyone can get into it," says Jim Tourloukis, General Manager of Edgebrook Golf Course, one of the only official disc courses within the city limits. "There's not disc-golfing lessons, per se. You learn as you go."
The game's popularity has been growing in the area; Cathy Kamm of Midwest Disc Golf, a group that helps design courses and host tournaments, said the number of local courses has doubled in the past five years. Nationally, there's a Professional Disc Golf Association (who knew?) that hosts competitive tournaments, but most people who play disc golf are simply looking to enjoy a day outside while still engaging in a sport.
"Golf is more serious," Tourloukis said. "I've never seen a disc golfer throw a disc in frustration."
The skill: Players only need to be able to throw a disc with consistency and accuracy, but you'd be wise to practice before hitting a real course. Tourloukis recommends practicing at a forest preserve before trying a higher-level course such as Edgebrook, which is one of the longer courses in the Midwest at more than 10,000 feet. Beginners may want to start off at easier courses like Mayfair Park in Westchester, Lombard Commons and Elk Grove's Clark Park, but they should still toss a few practice throws; it's no fun losing your best driver (or worse, your friend's) in the swampy reeds at Crystal Lake's Lippold Park. The cost:
The affordability of disc golf scores big points. If you want to play for fun, you can use any old disc or buy a single multi-purpose golf disc (about $8). Then, to step it up, buy a set of three: a driver for long distances, a mid-range disc for approach shots and a putter for, well, putting. A set usually costs between $25 and $30. Tourloukis said seasoned players often show up porting duffel bags full of discs, which come in scores of styles, one for almost any condition.
Some courses, such as Edgebrook, charge money for access. Its fees range from $12 to $18, depending whether you go on a weekend and if you use a cart. But many, including the aforementioned Lippold and Glencoe's Watts Park, will set you back no more than the gas money to get there.
The styles of play: Courses exist for a reason, but try taking the game to its roots by playing object golf. This variant involves making up a course as you go. Say, if you start in south Lincoln Park by Wells and Clark, you might pick the Abraham Lincoln statue as the first hole, then a softball backstop as the second and so on.
"The game of disc golf started on college campuses," Kamm said. "People played with traditional frisbees with their targets being trees, statues, et cetera." Object golf adds more adventure to the game but also makes it more dangerous. It's a good idea to play in an enclosed pedestrian environment, such as a park or a college campus. Bonus hint, from personal experience: If you go to a campus, play around buildings, not through them. Library security guards just don't get it.
Kinda makes you want to frolf.
For more information and Illinois course listings head to PDGA.com and Midwestdiscgolf.com. Visit Forestpreservegolf.com for information on the Edgebrook course.