History of disc golf’s Ice Bowl

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Ice Bowl 2013While many disc golfers spend the winter off the course, hitting message boards, and buying new plastic, there is a group that makes the annual trek out to their local course for the tradition known as the Ice Bowl.

The first Ice Bowl took place in the winter of 1987 in Columbia, Missouri. Rick Rothstein wanted to get a group of local players out to the Albert-Oakland Park disc golf course for a round in the winter weather. Picking the right date was key for Rothstein. Surrounded by football fans, he picked the Sunday before the Super Bowl as the official date. No football meant a perfect day for disc golf. After frantic phone calls to local players and the hope to get some local media out to the course, it appeared this little idea might come to fruition.

Rothstein was getting concerns from other golfers that the weather was going to be cold and were afraid of snow, sleet or rain. Thus, Rothstein came up with the official motto “No whimps, no excuses!” which has evolved into the official Ice Bowl motto “No wimps, no whiners!”. 34 golfers braved the conditions and played a round in five inches of fresh snow in 1987.

The Ice Bowl was initially publicized through Disc Golf World News, a magazine Rothstein started in March 1987 (Disc Golf World News ran for 20 years). As word began to spread around the disc golf world about Rothstein’s event, interest began to grow.  The number of events grew to 30 in 1992, 90 in 1998, and 113 in 2001 while reaching 233 reported events in 2012. Over this time, new elements were added to the Ice Bowl series. Bragging rights for largest attendance, lowest temperatures (or highest for some of the lucky states), most snow and so on.

In 1995 the Indianapolis Disc Golf Club used their Ice Bowl to raise money for their local food bank. This helped start the mission of the Ice Bowl to raise money and food for local food banks where each tournament is located. After the events on 9/11/2001, rules were altered to allow local Ice Bowls to raise money for charitable purposes beyond just fighting hunger.

Through 2012 a total of 2,927 Ice Bowl events have been held. Collectively, they have raised over $2.1 million and over 500,000 pounds of food for local food banks.

Ice Bowl Fun Facts

Saint Cloud, Minnesota owns the top two spots for most money raised in one year. In 2007 they raised $21,610 and in 2008 they brought in $21,152. Those are the only two Ice Bowls to bring in over $20,000.

The food donations crown goes to Huntington, West Virginia. They brought in a whopping 25,000 pounds of food in 2000. Rocklin, California came close to knocking them off with 24,352 pounds of food in 2012.

Since numbers began being recorded in 1996, the average temperature of all the Ice Bowls is 36.4 degrees. Average snow clocks in at 3.5 inches in that same time frame. Saint Cloud, Minnesota also takes the crown of the coldest Ice Bowl ever. Golfers took to the course in 1996 in -29 degree weather. Brr! One year later, Saint Cloud played in a record 50 inches of snow. Yes, over 4 feet of snow.

Don’t be a wimp

Regardless of the weather, cold or warm, snow or sun, the Ice bowl is an event every disc golfer should be a part of. We highly encourage you to find your local Ice Bowl at the Ice Bowl’s official website. If you don’t see one, find a few friends and start one yourself. If you are able to raise a little money and donate some food to a local food bank or charity you will have made a difference.

One element that has been a mainstay for the Ice Bowl is the element of fun. Rothstein says, “This fun often includes communal meals (chili), relaxed formats, games, etc. Ice Bowl is kind of a celebration of the disc golf community in many towns.”

The Ice Bowl also gives local disc golfers a chance to showcase what they are doing with the local media. If you are running an Ice Bowl, or attending one, be sure to reach out to the local media. Newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations love to find a unique local story to share with their audience. The idea of a bunch of disc golfers out in the winter weather can be enough of a story to entice some interest. The mention of the charitable side of the Ice Bowl will certainly help bring some local media out to the course. Try talking a local reporter into joining the club for a day and see if you can get them hooked as well. This is all part of the relaxed and fun atmosphere the Ice Bowl can bring.

It is easy to look at a forecast that is showing snow and cold temperatures and wonder if going out to play disc golf is a good idea. Once you get on the course with other disc golfers it is easy to focus on having a fun time with friends. Rothstein is right. The relaxed atmosphere and side games make for a great time.

We need to thank Rothstein for providing all these great facts about the Ice Bowl. Rothstein is currently a member of the PDGA Board of Directors, President of Disc Golf World, Membership Coordinator for the Kansas City Flying Disc Club, and the Instigator of Ice Bowl 2013

If you attend an Ice Bowl this winter, we’d love to see some photos! Email us at submit [at]allthingsdiscgolf.com.

Good luck to all the local Ice Bowls in 2013!

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