- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The people who run driving ranges seem to value simplicity. They give you a bucket of golf balls and figure they'll be retrieving them later. But at Woody's Golf Range (right) in Herndon, Va., you'll also get a flyer touting the Ironmasters Challenge, a game invented in the early '90s by the range's owner, former PGA Tour player Woody FitzHugh, to add a little spice to the experience. It's not complicated. You smack balls ($5.75 for the small bucket, $10.50 for the jumbo) off a mat and collect points for hitting seven blue wooden targets (inset) parked at intervals from 50 to 200 yards out. Land or bounce a ball onto one of these pinball-style bumpers, and a red LED mast lights up and a blue beacon flashes. Hitting the target 50 yards out is worth 10 points; hitting the one 200 yards away earns 40. "Here you're aiming at something," says the range's assistant general manager, Rich Rahnama. "There's consequences. There's pressure." And now there's competition. A British company, Golf Entertainment International, this month is scheduled to introduce its TopGolf target game at a range in Alexandria, Va., 30 miles from FitzHugh's facility. TopGolf should appeal to the technologically inclined--each ball has an embedded microchip that transmits accrued points to a leader board--but players shoot at traditional target greens, not ones that look like alien spacecraft. Pity. -- John Garrity
The 10,000 cycling enthusiasts in The Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) range from Lance wannabes to families pedaling together. But the seven-day event (which begins in LeMars on July 24) is no place for either the out of shape or the calorie conscious. Before finishing in Guttenberg, riders not only take on nearly 500 miles of often-rolling terrain (as between Mapleton and Schleswig, below), but they also run a gantlet of pork chop grills, Bloody Mary stands and bake sales. "If you haven't gained weight on the RAGBRAI, you aren't trying," says Brian Duffy, the Register's editorial cartoonist and a veteran of 15 Rides. Entries are closed for the full ride, and at week's end only a handful of day passes remained. "It's not the landscape that brings people back," says Duffy. "It's the excuse to visit with new people and forget about the outside world. I mean, how much corn do you really need to see?" --K.A.
For a bucolic Northeast ride (up to 62 miles), try New York's Aug. 21 Tour de Goshen (845-294-7242).
At its creation in the late 1960s, Ultimate Frisbee was the ultimate counterculture sport, played in the name of fun, cooperation and mutual respect--what in those groovy times became known as the Spirit of the Game. Today, even with corporate sponsorship, that spirit prevails at the Chicago Sandblast, at Montrose Beach from July 15 to July 17 (one of five Ultimate competitions around the U.S. this summer; for more, go to www1.upa.org/tournaments). Forty-eight teams (five to a side) in two divisions will play one-hour matches in which the object is to get the disk into the foe's end zone with a series of passes. The Tournament Division winner gets a bye into the '06 Sandblast. The champ of the Spirit Division (where you'll hear spontaneous cheers for opponents) will be decided by team captains. As Sandblast director Adam Levy puts it, "The Spirit Division keeps the game in perspective." So does the equipment. The game uses a Frisbee; how could it not be fun? --K.A.
Despite advances in roller-coaster technology, the summer's wildest ride starts with putting a raft or kayak on California's raging Tuolumne River, double its usual roiling intensity thanks to runoff from near-record snowpacks in the Sierra Nevadas last winter. The T, as it's called, is split into two sections: Cherry Creek, a nine-mile stretch on the upper river that features 15 Class V (obstructed or violent) rapids; and the lower Tuolumne, offering the classic Clavey Falls (above), a staircase rapid that plummets from an eight-foot vertical into a foaming current. Cherry Creek also boasts Lewis's Leap, a 15-foot drop leading straight into a giant hole that can catch you and make you feel as if you're swirling in a washing machine. Even a savvy Tuolumne guide such as Scott Armstrong has no escape plan. His advice? "Try not to fall out there." --Y.Y.