If you see a frisbee disc flying around campus late at night, it’s probably Panic Ultimate, Stony Brook University’s official Ultimate Frisbee team, playing a version of disc golf, or “frolf” as they call it.
Students use a course created in 2015 by Tricia Clyde and Ben Sokolowsky, PhD candidates at Stony Brook. The two envisioned the general rules and a map of the targets around their campus course – some of the rules even include recruiting students who are passing by and are hit by a frisbee. Like many great ideas, the activity was created out of necessity, giving students time to work on propelling the discs as far as possible, Claire Surkis, secretary of Ultimate Frisbee, explained.
“The sport uses a normal frisbee, as opposed to a disc golf disc, and is therefore helpful to ultimate players on the team to work on their throwing abilities,” Surkis said.
Stony Brook’s course creators, Clyde and Sokolowsky, were inspired by a similar game that they played during their undergraduate years at Bucknell University. Their version of the game can accommodate anywhere from three to ten people, but usually averages around five. Most students currently on the team have participated at least once in a game of frolf, Surkis said, noting that their version of disc golf is called frolf because disc golf is a separate activity with a different type of disc.
“Frolf stands for frisbee golf and it seems like a trivial difference, but the game we play on campus is known as frolf to everyone who participates,” Surkis said.
Not only does their game differ from disc golf in the type of frisbees used, but because of the low stakes in matches.
“Frolf is much more of a social activity because essentially we’re just a group of friends walking around campus, hanging out together and throwing frisbees at various targets,” said senior Oliver Voorhees, an applied math and statistics major.
Senior Elana Howe, a psychology and cinema and cultural studies major who is also a captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team, said she’s enjoyed her time with the squad, noting the relaxed atmosphere and warm people.
“I love it because it’s fun, and you can still be active without the grind of being a real athlete, and it’s easy to balance it. Also, most of the people I know at SBU are from the team,” she said.
For the team, a game of frolf is not just a strength builder, but is also seen as a way to get to know the campus better, especially for freshman members.
“Playing frolf makes the team think about and appreciate the different aspects of our campus in ways we never would have otherwise,” Surkis said.
For example, the “A” sculpture outside of the Administration Building’s second floor is a target for the game. Surkis shared she probably would have never noticed it was there otherwise. And finding those different places on campus has made the matches more fun by turning the campus into their own little playground.
“It’s a super fun experience every time,” said Senior Ariana Ambrosio, a biology major. “Since we usually play late at night, the campus becomes cool to explore. Not only are you playing a great game, but you’re taking a complete tour of the campus and visiting places that your class schedule wouldn’t typically take you to.”
Learning to throw discs around obstacles also has its advantages for team members.
“Playing a game like this, you have to look at the course in depth to understand how to best maneuver around any obstacles and ultimately reach the target in the fewest amount of throws,” Ambrosio said.
But the team members don’t just take walks around campus throwing a disc. They actively get to appreciate many of the unique details that make Stony Brook what it is.
“My favorite part about frolf is how the campus transforms,” Ambrosio said. “When I walk by certain structures everyday, it’s cool to think that my friends and I have a special connection to it.”
— Maya Brown