Fore! UVA Alums Keep Alive a Tradition Unlike Any Other: Disc Golf Around Grounds

September 15, 2023 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

They arrive determined, dressed in T-shirts and khaki shorts, and armed with a colorful collection of flying discs.

Their mission: Have fun, strum up some nostalgia and try not to hit any cars.

C.J. Takacs and a close group of friends from their days at the University of Virginia occasionally reunite at their alma mater for a weekend of fellowship typically capped by their unique tradition: Disc golf around Grounds.

They’ve come together for upwards of 15 rounds since they left UVA in the 1990s, competing against one another on all of their favorite holes.  

Well, maybe “holes” is not the most accurate way to describe them.

Glance the Homer statue. Clip one specific Rotunda column. Land it on top of the Whispering Wall fountain. It’s disc golf, but on a Jefferson-designed course where, instead of aiming for a chain-linked basket, the goal is often a storied piece of architecture.

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Close up of a man about to throw a frisbee while wearing an old U V A rowing shirt
Dressed for the part, alumnus Sean Timm wears an old Wahoo T-shirt for his round around Grounds.

“We don’t have the course diagrammed anywhere,” Takacs said. “People just know it.”

A version of the course has been burned into Takacs’s memory since he first played it with his fraternity brothers at Phi Sigma Kappa. He then introduced the activity to new friends he met while living at Hereford Residential College in 1992, the first year of the complex’s existence.

Playing disc golf around Grounds has been part of their UVA reunions ever since.

Takacs, who lives in Herndon, joined eight others – including Scott Orsey who traveled from West Hartford, Connecticut – to renew the ritual last month.

“The UVA Grounds are just such a place of comfort and home for all of us,” said Orsey, who graduated in 1996 and was a member of the Pep Band. “It’s always special to be back.”

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A good portion of the group lived in the same hall at Hereford and had similar majors – Takacs, for example, studied computer science while Orsey studied mechanical engineering – leading to a natural bond between them.

“It all sort of started as us all going to dinner together at Runk [Dining Hall],” Takacs said. “And we all just clicked as these same types of people with a lot of the same philosophies. Everybody was kind and very supportive and thoughtful of one another.”

After graduation, many of them moved to Northern Virginia, where they organized a group dinner at least once every two weeks. They eventually started attending each other’s weddings, forming their own bridge games, and even playing Dungeons & Dragons together regularly.

Always, though, they find an excuse to get back to Charlottesville.

This year, it was to celebrate many members of the gang – including Orsey and his former classmates Casey Cosgrove, Sean Timm and Jeff Lawton – who recently turned 50.

C.J. Takacs watching his frisbee go up towards the Rotunda from the bottom of the steps
C.J. Takacs plays through on a makeshift hole on the Rotunda’s steps.

Amid their stops down an orange-and-blue-clad memory lane, they were on Grounds on a Friday morning, flying discs in hand.

Despite the best intentions, they don’t always play a full 18 holes as construction and pedestrians tend to get in the way. “If there’s a lot of people on the Lawn, sometimes we have to skip holes because that’s not who we are. We’re not going to bother people,” Takacs said.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t take risks.

A hole that’s been played in the past starts with a toss from the Corner side of University Avenue toward the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the Rotunda steps.

“It’s a dicey thing,” Takacs said. “I’m not going to say we’ve ever hit cars, but it’s a nylon Frisbee, so ...”

The round traditionally begins and ends at Phi Sigma Kappa on Gordon Avenue. In between, there’s an adventure to all parts of Grounds including Madison Bowl, Clemons Library, the McIntire Amphitheatre and Old Cabell Hall.

Noah Coberly celebrating his perfect throw on the balconies overlooking the Lawn
Alumnus Noah Coberly showcases the pure joy of tossing the perfect shot among old college friends.

“It’s like a tour of UVA’s best spots,” Orsey said.

Just as the game is unique, disc golf around Grounds comes with an uncommon scoring system. Par for each hole is actually determined after all players complete it.

“What we’ve done is whoever gets the lowest number, that’s effectively par and then everybody just adds to their score,” Takacs said. “So, if one person gets three and everyone else gets four, they add one to their score. So, all you’re keeping track of is your score. We don’t have a paper scorecard or anything like that.”

There’s also no trophy for the winner, just a pride boost within a group of forever friends.

“It’s really just about fellowship,” Takacs said. “It’s friendship and fellowship. It’s a way to be together and relive things we did at UVA.”

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Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications