Brodie Smith bridges the gap between Ultimate and disc golf

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains Staff

Though Brodie Smith isn’t a mainstay of the disc golf world, he’s certainly not a stranger to it, either.

Known heavily for his trick-shot videos, some of which have appeared on ESPN, and his work as a professional Ultimate player, Smith has drawn a large following of people in and out of the disc sports community. He’s personable, engaging and really knows how to capture an audience.

In the world of disc sports, that’s a big thing.

Well-known among the Ultimate and trick-shot crowds, Brodie Smith also has connections to disc golf and is one of the top disc sports ambassadors. (photo courtesy Brodie Smith)

Well-known among the Ultimate and trick-shot crowds, Brodie Smith also has connections to disc golf and is one of the top disc sports ambassadors. (photo courtesy Brodie Smith)

He’s active on social media, too, interacting with fans and others.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I love my fans and I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without their support. Also, at the end of the day we are all people and its always nice to get to know new people and make new friends.”

Smith’s fan base is pretty big, too.

His YouTube channel has nearly 240,000 subscribers, with more than 36.8 million video views. Smith’s Daily Vlog, also on YouTube, has almost 20,000 subscribers, with nearly 8 million views.

He also boasts more than 21,000 followers on Twitter and more than 48,000 likes on his Facebook page.

Needless to say, he’s out there.

But who is Brodie Smith?

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Oh, brothers: MVP Disc Sports turns from hobby to profession

By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff

The story is the same for every disc golf manufacturer.

Follow along with me if you’ve heard this one before: Two teenagers find disc golf and fall in love with the sport. At the same time, the young men spend their summers working for their father, who just so happens to own a plastic injection molding company.

One day, the teens approach their dad with the idea of making a golf disc and, thinking it will be a good learning experience, he gives them the green light. The disc catches on and soon, a company is born.

Wait, that’s not how every disc golf brand is created? Well, chalk up another point in the “unique” column for MVP Disc Sports.

Now 21 and 23 years old, respectively, brothers Brad and Chad Richardson have used a grassroots following to build MVP into a competitive company that continues to strengthen its position in the market via a new spin on disc technology.

And it all started, oddly enough, with a car door handle.

‘A Good Lesson’

Maple Valley Plastics, owned by Don Richardson, has been in business since 1967. In addition to making a variety of products for government contracts and toy companies, the primary focus of the business is the automotive industry. After seeing an interior door handle that was made of a stiff core material and covered with a rubber-like material for a soft feel, Chad was inspired to apply the design to a golf disc.

“This led to the idea of a softer material on the outside of the disc for chain-grabbing properties in a putter,” Brad said. “But rather quickly it evolved into the discovery of using a dense, rubber-like material for an enhanced gyroscopic property of a disc.”

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Vibram leaving its footprint on disc golf

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

This story has the makings of the Little Engine That Could.

Despite being different than traditional disc golf manufacturers, Vibram Disc Golf continually seems to be working with a bit of that “I think I can” mentality. And, because it’s different, the company also seems to have a strong, cult-like following.

Steve Dodge has been one of the driving forces behind Vibram Disc Golf’s rise in the disc industry. (photo by P.J. Harmer)

Vibram, well-known for its shoe soles and its FiveFingers barefoot shoes, has only been a part of the disc golf world for a few years. Despite its short existence in the sport, the Concord, Mass., company has made some extremely big strides in becoming a major player.

The biggest difference between Vibram and other disc manufacturers? It produces rubber-based discs instead of plastic.

“Since 2009, when Steve Dodge agreed to join the Vibram team to help guide the development of a line of discs and expanded materials, we have been committed to being a part of the exciting evolution of disc golf,” Vibram USA President Mike Gionfriddo said. “We strive to support and grow Vibram Disc Golf and the sport as a whole. We believe that Vibram Disc Golf has a bright future.”

The history

Moving to the family farm in 2003 started the path for Dodge to become a key figure in the disc golf world.

His initial idea? Build a course, a pro shop and a major tournament. He teamed with his cousin, Tom Southwick, to design the Maple Hill Disc Golf Course and start the Marshall Street Disc Golf Championship.

In 2008, Dodge left Marshall Street and the tournament stopped.

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DGCR 102: Social networking, searching, and the site’s greatest hits

This is the second of a two-part series about DGCourseReview.com. The first part ran last Friday.

By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff

Relative to other sports, disc golf is still in its infancy. It does not have a long history, nor does it boast a mainstream following. For every person who plays the sport, there are likely five more who have never heard of it.

For players who become quickly addicted to the game, then, there is a void. While they would like to spend all day and night talking about all things disc-related, there are likely few other friends or family members who have any shared interest.

It is this lack of local conversation that leads many players to the discussion forums at DGCourseReview.com (DGCR). With nearly 35,000 registered users, they are bound to find someone with whom they can click.

The New Social Network

Site founder Tim Gostovic has created multiple forums for discussion within DGCR. A byproduct of his efforts, though, has been multiple strong relationships founded and maintained through the site.

“DGCR has built a lot of friendships and there are member meets happening all over the country,” Gostovic said. “It’s really great to see the photos of people that might not have otherwise gotten together hanging out and enjoying the sport. I actually regularly play disc golf with a friend I met through the site.”

Jerry Honis (in blue) teaches kids about disc golf as a favor to fellow DGCR member William Safford (photo courtesy William Safford)

Members can unite by posting threads in the site’s dedicated DGCR Meets subforum, or through simply finding someone in their neck of the woods and sending them a private message.

Ryan Glasshagel of New Glarus, Wisconsin, has taken the latter approach and played with about ten fellow DGCR members.

“I consider DGCR my Facebook,” Glasshagel said. “I spend more time on there than any other site on the Internet. I have met some great people on the site that I would consider friends.”

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DGCR 101: A history of commitment drives the Internet’s largest disc golf hub

This is the first of a two-part series about DGCourseReview.com. Check back next Friday for the second installment.

By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff

When many players discover the game of disc golf, it is only a matter of time before they want to branch out from their home course and discover other venues to play.

Luckily for them, searching Google for “disc golf course” or “Frisbee golf courses,” much to the chagrin of those who despise that term, yields many results, none more useful than DGCourseReview.com

Boasting a directory of more than 4,500 courses, Disc Golf Course Review (DGCR) allows players to find courses, track scores, map out road trips, and so much more.

Genesis of the site

New players of the past were not always as fortunate as those today.

Take Tim Gostovic, the brainchild of DGCR. The Rochester, New York native started playing disc golf 10 years ago and was immediately hooked on the sport. As his interest grew, he and his friends took their love of the sport beyond their local surroundings.

“After I had been playing for two years or so, my friends and I started traveling outside our area to play new courses,” Gostovic said. “That escalated to full-on road trips after exhausting the nearby options. We would visit the PDGA site to see which courses were around and try to plan our trip.”

But with the PDGA website listing only locations and directions — and with other sources of information being scarce — Gostovic found the planning process to be restrictive.

“The problem was that it was very difficult to decide which courses were worth stopping at,” he said. “There weren’t really reviews at the time, and maps and photos were tough to come by and required going to a club’s site and hoping you could find something there. It was quite the ordeal and didn’t really guarantee the course you were traveling hundreds of miles to play would be a good one.”

It was from these dilemmas that DGCR was born.

“After planning two road trips using the ‘check the entire Internet’ method, the frustration of the planning process led me to the idea of a central repository of maps, photos, information, and reviews to make my life and the lives of traveling disc golfers like myself easier,” Gostovic said. “So I sat down, sketched out some basic page layouts and functionality, and got to work.”

After a little more than a month of development, DGCR was launched in May 2007. In addition to the number of courses available to locate, there are currently more than 44,000 reviews and 84,000 photos to accompany them.

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Duo goes underground to celebrate a grand milestone

Matt Sime and Dan Kilgore at Crystal City Underground. (contributed photo)

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

In the big scheme of life, three years can be a long time.

Over the course of three years, people can accomplish many things. You can get a college degree in three years, if you work hard enough. Three years is the difference between those graduating high school at age 18 and being able to legally drink.

Three years is 1,095 days — or 1,096 if there’s a leap year in that stretch.

For Matt Sime, three years means so much more.

Sime, who claims Alden, Minn., — or his van — as his home, has been playing disc golf for three years. In that three years, he’s really explored disc golf courses around the country. Exploring courses is something most disc golfers can probably claim to have done during their first three years in the game.

But can they claim 1,000 courses played?

Yes, you read that number correctly. On Sept. 31, Sime played his 1,000th course in his third year of playing disc golf — an amazing number to be sure.

He wasn’t the only one celebrating that milestone though — Dan Kilgore teamed up and played his 1,000th course at the same time, albeit taking a bit longer to reach the milestone.

To be fair, Sime got his first glimpse of the sport in 2004 at Vermilion Community College (Ely, Minn.) in 2004. But he said he only played the course once and there was no follow up. Then in 2009, sometime about Easter, he was on a rock-climbing trip at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch (Arkansas). He said he caught a glimpse of how great the game could be. With rental discs and course fees included, he said he played at least three rounds that weekend.

Again, a break followed, but much shorter this time. It was Thanksgiving 2009 when he got his first taste of hitting a bunch of courses. He was on another rock-climbing trip with the same group of friends and they decided to buy a disc and check out the local courses near Las Vegas, Nevada.

“From there, one disc led to five, led to 100,” Sime said. “Five courses led to 100, led to, well you know the rest of the story.”

He played 998 of the courses in fewer than three years. The other two were the original ones.

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October Madness arrives as the Players Cup begins

Dave Feldberg is the overall top seed for the Players Cup, which is running this weekend in Texas.

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

As disc golf continues to grow and evolve, different formats of tournaments, leagues and other aspects of the game will likely be tried to see what works.

Traditionally, tournaments are usually played in a normal setting — stroke play and in divisions. Occasionally, you’ll get a doubles tournament or some sort of non-traditional format, such as best-throw or alternate shot.

On a higher level, though, it pretty much remains the same across the board — stroke play over a certain number of rounds.

Insert the Players Cup, a three-day match-play format tournament featuring 64 of the top disc golfers in the world.

Vibram is the top sponsor of the Players Cup, which is scheduled to run Friday through Sunday at Twin Parks Country Club in Dripping Springs, Texas, which is about 10 minutes outside of Austin.

“I have always wanted to create a true disc golf spectacle,” said Steve Dodge, Vibram Disc Golf’s product manager. “Something that is compelling to watch and will get the average disc golfer excited to be a part of. A bracketed match-play tournament, like the NCAA March Madness, was exactly what I was looking for.”

Enter October Madness.

Originally founded in 2005 by Mike Barnett of Sun King Discs, the Players Cup served as an end-of-season celebration with players who had won events during the year. When the event took a hiatus in 2008, Dodge took that opportunity to discuss with Barnett the idea of making it into a match-play championship.

This tournament marks the third year of the setup.

“In the first two years, we have created an online bracket that people fill out and win prizes,” Dodge said. “The goal of the Players Cup is to celebrate the growth of our sport, create a spectacle and generate interest in watching the best disc golfers in the world.”

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‘Non-Stop’ opportunities, growth on professional tour

It's a non-stop tour for four PDGA pros this summer.

Tens of thousands of miles. Four professional disc golfers. One van.

No, this isn’t the premise to the newest goofy Adam Sandler film. Actually, it’s the framework for the Non-Stop Disc Golf Tour, and it is serious business.

OK, so it isn’t all serious business, but there is plenty of work involved, nonetheless.

The brainchild of 2008 world champion David Feldberg and 2010 United States Disc Golf Championship winner Will Schusterick, the foundation of the tour is simple: The two pros – along with fellow hotshots Nikko Locastro and Cale Leiviska – cross the country in an RV, holding school clinics during the week and closing out their visits with weekend tournaments. From pounding the pavement for sponsorships to cleaning up the remnants of their events, these four and their crew arrange these outings with the common purpose of growing the game of disc golf.

Passing the Torch

The genesis of the tour, according to Feldberg, came from the close relationships the players already had with one another.

“The idea of a tour this year…I think that was a combination of all of us thinking together, because we’ve been traveling together a lot,” Feldberg said. “I’ve been thinking about it for years. I’ve been building my career around the idea of being able to go to schools and teach clinics, so it works out well.”

Dave Feldberg works with another player at a NSDG clinic. (photo courtesy NSDG via Facebook)

Besides teaching new players about the game, Feldberg is also using the tour as a chance to educate the younger professionals and usher in the next era of the game.

“I just figured that it’s almost a passing of the torch,” he said. “I figured I’d take out some young guys and make sure they’re the next best.”

That torch isn’t being passed just from Feldberg to the youngsters, though.

“I think we all have something to learn from each other, even though I haven’t been around as long as everybody else has,” Schusterick said. “I’m definitely picking up a couple of their tricks and a couple of things to add and always build my game.”

Feldberg agreed that even he, as the seasoned veteran of the group, can pick up some tips from the young guys. He also sees this as a necessity to keep up with the rapid acceleration in the quality of professional disc golf currently being played.

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The time has come: Women’s Global Event to run Saturday

With all the planning and plotting out of the way, the PDGA’s Women’s Global Event is set.

On Saturday, 41 events around the world will take place in conjunction with the Women’s Global Event. Nearly 600 ladies have pre-registered for the event and walk-ups will likely push the number to well beyond 600.

This event could be a crowning achievement for women’s disc golf and the PDGA.

“All of the PDGA events are important,” said Sara Nicholson, the PDGA’s membership manager. “This one will make the biggest ‘field’ of women competing against each other during one event, so this is definitely one for the history books.”

The concept of the event, though it may seem extremely complicated, is actually pretty straightforward.

Women from all over the globe will play two rounds of disc golf at a local event. The scores are submitted to the PDGA and rated. Those ratings equal the “global score.” Two rounds must be played on the same course and layout and include at least five players (male or female) in the field with a rating of 800 or higher. That works to keep the ratings in the event consistent.

Scores and ratings will be updated throughout the day Saturday and eventually will crown an overall champion.

That equals a ton of work, but in the end this could be a massive step for women’s disc golf. As of Thursday night, 597 women were pre-registered for the event.

“It’s about participation,” touring professional Sarah Hokom said. “Get as many women as possible out there competing as one force. This is a huge thing and I think it will be epic.”

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The younger generation is key to growing the women’s game

Three-time world champion Val Jenkins is the chairperson of the PDGA's Women's Committee and is working to expand the women's game.

If one took a peek at last year’s PDGA National Elite Tour women’s standings, they’d see a list of ladies who participated in the nine-event series throughout the season.

However, looking at it closer, just one player — Sarah Hokom — played in all nine events. Three others — Val Jenkins, Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen played in eight apiece.

Liz Lopez played in seven and after that, it dwindles to five points and below. Of the 57 players who competed in an NT event, 40 played in just one event.

In comparison, the men’s National Elite Tour had 200 players, with 12 players competing in seven or more events. More than a handful played in five or six events, which made the fields larger.

So what gives?

As with many sports, the purse for the winners is usually smaller when it comes to women. And though the ladies may not be the main draw, there is star power when talking about players such as three-time world champion Jenkins, 2011 world champion Pierce and Hokom, who placed second in last year’s NT standings to Jenkins.

Still, it seems whenever Open players on the women’s circuit travel, they play the same people on the top cards. In men’s action, you can find different standouts regionally who can sometimes get in with the top touring pros.

Sarah Hokom, who left her job as a teacher to tour full time, is trying to help expand the women's game.

The top female amateur divisions sometimes lack players, too. Hokom said while she was still an am, she sometimes had to play in a men’s division.

“I’ve been trying to figure this out for a while,” Hokom said. “That’s why I played Open. There were no women in the Midwest to play against as an amateur. Places I went, sometimes you played against yourself. That’s no fun.”

Hokom, a former high school biology teacher, opted to become a full-time touring pro a couple of years ago. Sponsored by Discraft, she said has to watch where she tours because she needs to make sure there’s a decent Women’s Open division. If there’s only one or two others in the tournament, it’s not financially worth traveling to the events.

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