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What is Ultimate (aka “Ultimate Frisbee”)?


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11/10/2023 // DGU Originals
November, 2023 // DGU Originals

What used to be known as ultimate Frisbee is now simply known as Ultimate. This is a fun and exciting sport. Many disc golfers came from ultimate backgrounds, while some avid disc golfers are just discovering this other flying disc sport themselves.

At one point, there were almost two sides of the fence. You were either an ultimate player or a disc golfer. Now, that gap has been bridged significantly as both sports become more and more mainstream. Many of today’s top disc golf professionals came from ultimate backgrounds, including Team Innova ’s own “Big Sexy” duo of Nate Sexton and Jeremy Koling. Of course, we all know one of the best professional ultimate players ever, Brodie Smith, has brought a lot of new eyes to disc golf since he joined the PDGA.

So, what exactly is Ultimate? What are the rules of the game? What is the history of the sport? What are the best discs to use for ultimate? These are questions we will be answering today.

The History of Ultimate Frisbee

The origins of ultimate date back to the 1960s, when students at Amherst College in Massachusetts invented a flying disc sport that borrowed some rules and ideas from other team field sports like football and soccer. The rules were later refined by a group of students at Columbia High School in New Jersey, who are credited with popularizing the sport as we know it today.

Since its humble beginnings, the sport of ultimate grew more and more popular on college and high school campuses. Wham-O developed the plastic Frisbee, which helped ultimate and all flying disc sports evolve significantly. Nowadays, many disc manufacturing companies (including Innova, of course) manufacture professional-quality ultimate discs. That is why the name “Ultimate Frisbee” isn’t used anymore. It’s the same reason we call it “disc golf” and not “Frisbee golf”—or George Costanza’s favorite “frolf.”

There are several different amateur and professional ultimate organizations throughout the world. The prominent professional league is the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). This is the first and largest professional ultimate league in the world, now with 26 franchises throughout the United States. Ultimate continues to be one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. It is a blast to play and very exciting to watch the top athletes in action!

The Rules of Ultimate

We won’t go into every single rule here, but there are some basics to understand. Traditionally, there are seven players on each team. Like soccer or football, the goal is to get the disc from one end of the field to the other.

After the “pull” (kind of like a kickoff in football), the receiving team will take possession. Throwers must maintain a planted pivot foot and pass the disc to the next player. The team can pass as many times as necessary with a goal of getting it in the “end zone.” If the team successfully reaches the end zone, they earn a point. The disc cannot touch the ground or it is a turnover and the other team will take possession.

Ultimate is a non-contact sport. Defenders can closely guard throwers and receivers, but cannot deliberately touch or tackle other players without receiving a foul. Throwers have a 10-count to throw the disc. Otherwise, it is a turnover. Turnovers also happen any time a disc touches the ground, is caught out of bounds, if a foul is called, or if a defending player intercepts a pass.

A traditional game of ultimate is played for 36 minutes, with 18-minute halves and a halftime break in between. There are men’s teams, women’s teams and mixed teams. It is an all-inclusive sport.

There are different ways you can watch professional and collegiate ultimate online. Follow the AUDL, search videos on YouTube and check out Fox Sports 2 for some live and post-produced AUDL coverage.

Best Ultimate Discs

Ultimate discs are very different from disc golf discs. They are much larger (some will still call them “lids”) and have deeper rims. The standard ultimate disc will weigh 180 grams and provides a more understable flight path with lots of glide. This is why ultimate-style discs are generally more popular for playing catch on the beach, freestyle and many other disc sports like guts or MTA (maximum time aloft) competitions.

Disc golf started with classic Frisbees and discs that were much more similar to today’s ultimate discs. That was until Dave Dunipace and Innova came along to design the world’s first discs specifically for disc golf. That’s a different story, though. You can read the full history of Innova Disc Golf here.

The Pulsar is Innova’s primary ultimate disc. It is designed to meet professional ultimate disc standards and is a popular choice among ultimate players. We also have the Big Kahuna Ultimate Disc. If you are looking for more of a casual catch disc, you can also look at the Makani, Super Star or Waboba.

We’re known for disc golf at DGU, but we love ultimate, as well. It is a fun sport that athletes of any background will enjoy!

Published: August, 2021
Updated: November, 2023

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