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[Eddie Lam/The Daily Pennsylvanian] Ultimate frisbee team member and Wharton junior Mike Moore sets up to throw a disc. Ultimate frisbee has spawned other recreational frisbee games like disc golf, a sport that is taking college campuses by storm.

If you ever happen to be walking by College Hall and notice a frisbee clanging off of Ben Franklin's bronzed eminence, don't be alarmed -- chances are nobody is trying to deface Penn's famed patriarch. You've probably just wandered into the middle of a round of disc golf, a sport that is quickly gaining popularity among college students nationwide.

The rules of disc golf are very similar to those of normal golf, but there are a variety of ways to play the game. While some prefer to trek around campus using designated landmarks -- such as the Franklin statue -- as holes, other, more serious players may prefer to go play on an actual disc golf course.

"People like playing golf and throwing frisbees," Engineering senior and ultimate frisbee team member Tim Johnson says, "so they mesh pretty well."

College junior Elizabeth Fehder says that she just started playing disc golf this past year, and likes it "because it doesn't require any athletic ability."

Fehder, who has taken a more casual approach to the game, says that its relaxed nature is a welcome alternative to the exertions of playing ultimate frisbee.

"Ultimate is a pretty rigorous sport. Students are looking for a more relaxed way to recreate," agrees John Duesler Jr., Pennsylvania's state coordinator for the Professional Disc Golf Association.

Duesler and the PDGA, who have kept close tabs on the sport's growth, report that since 2000 the PDGA's membership has grown from 5,000 to 7,000 active members. In addition, the PDGA oversees and sanctions over 1,200 disc golf courses nationwide, as well as 200 more in 21 different countries.

Duesler attributes the game's increased popularity in large part to the fact that it is quicker, cheaper and easier to play than normal golf. Duesler also cites the proliferation of disc golf courses, such as Philadelphia's Sedgley Woods in Fairmount Park, as a major reason for increased interest.

He adds that there are already 40 to 50 U.S. college campuses that sport their own disc golf courses, but "with the popularity of disc golf in the college population, we're expecting to get more courses on college campuses."

Although Fehder notes that she thinks more people at Penn are starting to play disc golf, it appears that the level of interest in the game clearly does not equal that of some other schools.

Jimmy Wong, a College sophomore and member of the ultimate frisbee team, says that he is not aware of many people outside his team who play disc golf.

Wong attributes this to the fact that "throwing a disc isn't exactly a natural thing," and "people who don't know how to throw a disc tend not to have much fun and get left behind."

Dave D'Argenio, a junior at Temple University, says that he has noted the same relative lack of interest at his school.

He hypothesizes, "Maybe it's just the landscape. ... I don't think the courses in the city are typically as challenging or interesting" as those in more rural areas.

The situation at Penn and Temple contrasts with that at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in Indiana, Pa., which next month will host the second annual Pennsylvania Collegiate Disc Golf Championships.

Gary Dropcho, the tournament's organizer, says that he is expecting five or six schools and between 50 and 70 participants at this year's competition.

"There's a whole series of professional and amateur tournaments," Dropcho says, adding, "The idea [for the collegiate tournament] seemed like a natural."

Similarly, the PDGA will next year hold its tour championship in Allentown, Pa.

Duesler says that there are at least 30 to 50 tour members who make their living playing disc golf, although the field size at PDGA tournaments is typically larger. Duesler plans for the Allentown tournament to boast the PDGA's first $100,000 purse.

"There's something about the frisbee that appeals to a lot of people," Duesler says. "Disc golf is no longer just a fringe sport."

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