By Scott Willoughby
The evolution of the disc golf revolution will be on full display June 7-10 at Vail’s GoPro Mountain Games, where event organizers put their own spin on the sport. And, dare we say, it’s totally taking off.
Disc golf is already one of the fastest growing sports in the nation, and since debuting as a demo lifestyle sport at the Mountain Games six years ago, its popularity as a competitive medal event has been nothing short of explosive. Registration for the 2018 Mountain Masters Disc Golf tournament opened on March 1, and if the past two years are any indicator (and we think they are), the 288-player field is sure to sell out soon.
That’s due in large part to the mad scientists concocting the creative format formula for GPMG competitors. At the Mountain Games, everyone who enters the tournament plays two rounds of traditional “stroke” play on a 9-hole and 18-hole course, then they’re scored on three skills challenges: speed, distance accuracy and putting. The 72 players with the top combined scores move on to battle for the cash on our one-of-a-kind championship course. There are open divisions for both men and women, including the top payout for women in the Rocky Mountain region.
“We love unique events and obviously the GoPro Mountain Games has its own incredible formula on how to bring out local Joes along with the pros and put them in the same ring together,” said event organizer Steve “Klay” Klehfoth, president of the Vail Valley’s Flying Eagle Disc Society. “We’ve created a truly unique format that’s already put us on the national radar. We get more people at the GoPro Mountain Games than any other Colorado event.”
Unsurprisingly, much of the attraction to disc golfers at the Mountain Games stems from the mountains themselves, and the lifestyle surrounding them.
“The terrain really sets us apart. You’re not going to be able to throw off a mountain in many places on earth, so we have that extreme level of courses here that you won’t find anywhere else,” Klehfoth said. “It’s more than just a disc golf competition. It’s literally a vacation while you play, complete with live music, vendor swag and a showcase of top-level competition in all the other sports that are going on. It’s such a departure from other disc golf events that we have dedicated ‘lifers’ who refuse to miss it even for a year.”
In order to keep things fresh, the Mountain Games have introduced brand new courses every year. Although the 2018 course has not yet been revealed (as of March 2, 2018), a mountaintop venue is among those under consideration. Competitors will want to steel their stage nerves for the skills challenges, however, since the downtown venue in the heart of Vail always draws a crowd.
With a nationally-competitive purse approaching $10,000, the tournament is sure to draw a national-caliber field alongside Colorado’s ravenous local disc golf crowd as well. But that’s just another element that contributes to what Klehfoth calls a “pot of gold-type event.”
“No matter whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, the whole experience is still really attractive,” Klehfoth says. “It really doesn’t matter whether you’re a competitive pro or brand new to the game, you’re going to get your money’s worth on Friday and Saturday, then you get to go out and watch the best of the best — in this sport and all the others. There’s really something for everybody.”
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