YORKTON - There seems a competitive nature among humans that compels us to sport.
We, in general enjoy watching, participating in, and even creating sports.
In the latter case there are always new sports popping up, and a favourite game to mimic with new variations on the theme is golf.
My personal favourite is disc golf, of which I am a huge proponent.
But, there is also foot golf, more popular in Europe, but making inroads here including what might have been the first course in Saskatchewan here at York Lake Golf Course just outside Yorkton.
Another offering that builds solidly on golf – it even uses the same balls and is played on the same courses – is FlingGolf.
“I grew up on a farm west of Philly with two brothers and a lot of sports equipment lying around. We were not over-scheduled, and beyond school athletics, we had time on our hands. The three of us and some neighbour friends spent a lot of that time combining equipment and competing in our own “original sports” programs. Football on skates, ultimate Frisbee on dirt bikes, sledding with a Big Wheel, and one that stuck, golf with a lacrosse stick,” noted the creator Alex Van Alen at flinggolf.com
“Fast forward a couple, ok several, decades and I was still thinking about that simple idea of hurling a golf ball with a lacrosse stick to hit a tree, or a rock on the other side of the pond. But a lacrosse stick gave no feel and really not much distance. What if I developed a new stick that could allow me to throw the golf ball at least 200 yards, and really control the shots with pinpoint accuracy? And if that were the case, and I made it so that I could play every shot with one stick, could I play it on a golf course?”
By 2014 a prototype fling stick was developed, and now in 2022 a championship has been held. The winner of the 2022 New Swarm Open was Ken Pytluk from Fort Collins, CO who won the four-hole playoff by two strokes.
“It felt great, but something I was even more energized with was the energy of all the players,” said Pytluk in a recent telephone interview.
While players – 40 took part -- were competing for a championship, camaraderie won out throughout the event.
“Everybody was helping each out on the course,” said Pytluk. “It was just a great experience overall.”
As for the win “typically of golf, it came down to the short game,” he added.
While the sport is very new, it’s even newer for Pytluk, who has always been involved in sport including ball, hockey and lacrosse.
“I even played golf for over 20 years,” he said.
Pytluk made the jump to FlingGolf coming out of COVID regulations in 2020, while looking for something he could do with his kids.
Initially he took them golfing and after the round they told dad, “it sucks,” and they certainly didn’t want to go out again.
“I understood. It’s a hard game,” said Pytluk.
It was at that point Pytluk recalled reading about FlingGolf thinking “oh that’s cool,” but never taking it farther. With his kids uninterested in golf he decided to buy a fling stick.
“I’ve always been up for a new challenge,” he said.
After it arrived “I went to the driving range and figured it (how to use it), fairly quickly,” he said.
The ball fits into the head of the stick and then thrown overhead, a bit like a lacrosse shot, or sidearm, a bit like a baseball bat is swung.
Pytluk liked the game immediately. His kids did too, and when his wife tried “she picked up flinging quickly.”
So for those wondering how far a golf ball can be ‘flung’, it varies.
“Everybody is different,” said Pytluk, adding a reasonable toss is 150 to 180 yards. “At 200 yards-plus you’re starting to get beyond the average person.”
The same stick is used on the fairways, and even on the green with the throwing head having a padded side used to putt – an aspect Pytluk said “is tougher.”
Playing from the ‘white’ tees on a course, Pytluk said he typically flirts with par, playing the round with a single stick that sells for under $200 US, even for top-end sticks.
So how do courses like him flinging rather than carrying a full bag of traditional clubs?
“I just pay and go play,” offered Pytluk, adding he doesn’t go in asking if he can FlingGolf, adding FlingGolfers don’t harm a course and don’t slow down the pace of play, they simply pay the green fees and take on the course in a different way.
That said he has heard from players on the East Coast saying courses there balk at FlingGolf, suggesting “it’s not golf.”
Luckily in Colorado Pytluk said courses seem happy to have another group of golfers paying green fees.
So why should others try the game?
“You have a very fun and addictive sport to play,” he said, adding it is far lower cost than a lot of better putters, and still gets you outside in the fresh air. “… You’re going to have more fun than playing golf.”