Springtime weather has returned to Princeton, and students are out and about outdoors on campus, playing volleyball, throwing a football — or playing Frisbee. On nice days, you are bound to see students throwing Frisbees on Alexander Beach or Forbes backyard. For those looking for a more competitive outlet, Princeton has not one, but two club Ultimate Frisbee teams for students to test their skills against schools from across the region.
However, a different Frisbee-related game was the talk of the school over four decades ago. In 1978, three Princeton undergrads, led by Eric Olson ’80, documented their ideal Frisbee golf course through Princeton’s campus, with notable shots including one straight up the Blair Arch steps, through the sculpture Oval with Points, and one down the hill from Cuyler Courtyard to the end of Dillon Gym.
Frisbee golf may have never truly caught on here in Princeton (and certainly not the nickname Olson used: “Folf”), but there are still a number of opportunities for Frisbee-golf-loving students: A handful of courses are scattered around Mercer County, Manalapan, and East Brunswick. While certain sculptures that Olson references have moved in the decades since he wrote — the boulder resides next to its namesake building Guyot Hall, Picasso’s statue has been relocated to Spelman, and Cubi XIII now decorates McCosh Walk — much of Olson’s course can still be completed by the Tiger “Folfer” who possesses a good backhand throw.
The Ideal Frisbee Golf Course
By Eric Olson ’80
(From the May 8, 1978, issue of PAW)
With the coming of spring, a young man’s heart turns to the better things that the Princeton campus has to offer: long green courtyards, scenic Gothic arches, and Frisbee. Recently, students have found a new way of combining these attractions — the increasingly popular sports of Frisbee golf, or Folf, for short. It is played more or less like regular golf, except that a plastic disk is used instead of the standard clubs and balls. The players throw from spots designated as “tees” and work their way toward the designated “holes,” making each new toss from wherever the Frisbee has come to rest.
Compared with the traditional game of casual quadrangle catch, Folf has the advantage of utilizing all of a player’s Frisbee skills — from long-distance “drives” to short, accurate “putts.” Compared with regular golf, in which the ball is (ideally, at least) limited to a rather boring parabolic trajectory, the Frisbee has the advantage (when properly manipulated) of being able to soar, curve around obstacles, bounce off walls, and even roll on its edge at the will of the player.
With this versatility in mind, Dave Gilman ’80, Bailey Pope ’80, and I have designed — after extensive trial-and-error field work — what we believe to be the ideal Princeton University Frisbee Golf Course. In our design we have sought to maximize the use of (1) the campus’s Gothic architecture, whose arches provide natural tees, holes, and hazards; (2) the Putnam Sculpture Collection, conveniently spread throughout the grounds; and (3) the university’s scenic and historical landmarks.
While Folf can be a competitive sport, it also can provide simple relaxation or even an aid in recruiting. As part of the undergraduate housing program, last month I entertained a prospective member of the Class of 1982 who was undecided between Princeton and MIT. During his visit to the campus, I invited him to accompany me on a round of Folf. Not only did he fall in love with the game, he later told me that the people he had met while playing and the tour it gave him of campus were deciding factors in persuading him to select Old Nassau.
The following is a brief outline of the course we have developed, with a few tactical pointers for some of the more difficult shots. For general purposes, I recommend using a 165-gram Wham-o Frisbee because of its superior stability in crosswinds, but some Folfers carry a variety of different weights so as to be able to choose the optimum disk for each shot. Alumni who wish to try out the course during Reunions are advised that modifications in routing (and par scores) may be necessary because of the class-headquarters barricades, tents, and other temporary obstacles.
18 Holes on the Main Campus
Hole 1 (Par 4): Tee from the gate between Henry and 1901 Hall, driving up the courtyard and through the passage between Foulke and Laughlin, and putt into Lockhart arch. This easy beginning allows the Folfer to settle into form.
Hole 2 (Par 5): A classic hole. Tee from the terrace in front of Lockhart arch, driving to the bottom of Blair steps. Here one must carefully calculate the next shot — up the steps and through the tower — for if the Frisbee is thrown too high, it will boomerang out of the arch and back down to one’s feet. Some novices have taken four or five shots to get through this imposing hazard. From the northern side of the tower, the fairway doglegs slightly to the right. The putt is through Henry Moore’s sculpture Oval with Points, a natural hole situated between Stanhope and West College.
Hole 3 (Par 3): Tee from the left of the Oval, driving to the front of Nassau Hall (it is permitted to hum “Going Back” on this stretch). Then chip over the two Proctor tigers to the large Glacial Rock commemorating Professor Guyot.
Hole 4 (Par 3): Tee from Guyot’s boulder, curving around the east end of Nassau Hall. Here another good curving shot will float the disk into East Pyne Arch for a birdie.
Hole 5 (Par 3): A tremendous drive now confronts the Folfer, who must line one shot through both of East Pyne’s arches if he is to par the hole. But the arches are narrow and encumbered by hanging lamps that catch high tosses, while the courtyard is flanked by deep window wells that trap Frisbees straying to the side. The hole is Jacques Lipchitz’s Song of the Vowels on the pedestal in the middle of Firestone Plaza.
Hole 6 (Par 4): Tee from the terrace surrounding the sculpture and drive toward William Street, so as to have a straight shot through the double archway between Dickinson and the chapel. Mather Sundial is the hole.
Hole 7 (Par 3): Tee from the base of the sundial, driving through McCosh courtyard toward the sculpture Two Planes, One Vertical in front of Murray-Dodge. Under windy conditions, this hole is quite tricky, for the planes rock back and forth, presenting a moving target. Like an Acapulco cliff diver who times his plunge so the water will be at its deepest when he reaches it, the Folfer should synchronize his putt so the planes will be at their widest exposure when the Frisbee arrives.
Hole 8 (Par 3): Tee from the base of the Planes, driving toward Cannon Green. The approach shot should land in the gravel circle, leaving a short putt to the cannon for the par.
Hole 9 (Par 3): Tee from Cannon circle, driving to the left of Whig Hall (rookies usually hit it) toward Pablo Picasso’s Head of a Woman in front of McCormick Art Museum. Here one can dash into the museum for a drink of water to refresh himself for the rigorous back nine.
Hole 10 (Par 4): A towering, left-tilting drive up over the trees in front of McCormick will wrap the Frisbee around the Museum and drop on the walkway leading through McCormick arch. Unfortunately, the trees or the building’s large window wells usually foil this attempt. Pass through the arch and dogleg right to the large white planter which is the hole. (The 10 has always been my nemesis.)
Hole 11 (Par 5): Two long drives past Brown bring the Folfer to the narrow passageway through Cuyler and 1903 Hall. Some players try to fire the third shot over the roof of 1903, a strategy that often catches the Frisbee on the third-floor fire escape — a challenging lie, to say the least. From the courtyard, two more well-placed shots will reach the hole, the arch is the southern wing of 1903.
Hole 12 (Par 4): Tee from the bottom of 1903 arch, driving across the quad to Walker arch. This would be a simple proposition were it not for a low-hanging tree limb which blocks the direct approach. I recommend an unusual bounce shot here: float a left curve to the right of the tree limb so that the disk gently kicks off the wall of Walker and into the arch — a kind of three-dimensional Frisbee-billiards. If this trick shot is a little low, however, the disk will be trapped in a staircase leading to Walker’s basement, from the bottom of which the arch is not even visible. From the southern side of Walker, the course doglegs right and into Payton’s 10-entry complex of three arches.
Hole 13 (Par 4): Tee from the southern end of Patton, curving around the corner and driving up the eastern side of the dormitory. The hole is the arch between Patton and Cuyler.
Hole 14 (Par 2): Tee from inside the arch, driving out the Cuyler courtyard toward Dillon Gym. Although the putt to Dillon arch may be 50 yards or so, the shot is downhill and the opening quite large.
Hole 15 (Par 6): This is the longest hole on the course, curving around Dillon, past the tennis courts, finally terminating at the stainless-steel sculpture Cubi XIII south of Spelman. When the putt strikes the sculpture, it rings like a bell.
Hole 16 (Par 3): Tee from the shelter of the tall pines by the Cubi, driving up the passage through Spelman and into the arch in the middle of the southern side of Pyne. A straight approach shot is necessary because of the large bushes that block the opening from the sides.
Hole 17 (Par 3): Tee from inside Pyne arch, dogleg to the right, and putt into the arch between Dillon and Little.
Hole 18 (Par 5): Tee from the top of the steps, driving straight to the tiger beside Whig Hall. The final putt affords an admirable view of Nassau Hall, bracketed by the two Bruce Moore tigers, a fitting conclusion to the course.