WATCH OUT! THE SPORT OF DISC GOLF IS COMING!

THE SOUNDS OF CRASHING CHAINS
ARE HEARD IN PARKS ALL OVER THE WORLD.

DISC GOLF IS GROWING AT A RAPID RATE.

Courses Have Been Popping Up All Over Michiana: South Bend, Mishawaka, Niles, Osceola, North Liberty, New Carlisleand Crown Point just to name a few.

BUT WHAT IS DISC GOLF?
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
AND WITH THIS NEWFOUND GROWTH...
WHERE IS THIS AMBITIOUS SPORT GOING?

It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country and it all starts with a small flying object similar to those that many baby boomers grew up with: the Frisbee. However, unlike tossing little flying saucers to friends and running them down for the spectacular catch, these new style discs are being tossed (or ripped) down fairways lined with trees (often very tight fairways) making this game quite challenging. If that’s not difficult enough, most of the fairways bend right or left introducing yet another level of complexity to the game. So what is this new sport that includes discs, fairways and large metal contraptions draped with chains (the target or basket)? It is rightfully named disc golf. Disc golf (the popular term), also known as Frolf, Folf, or Frisbee golf is gaining popularity across the country and even world-wide. If you look you are certain to find disc golf courses popping up in many cities and in every state in the nation, often in local parks, sometimes even on private properties.

Disc golfers claim their sport is catching on like a raging fire as it continues to gain popularity in America and many other countries. Eston Clayton, a local disc golfer explained the object of the game. “Your goal is to complete the course from the first station (tee box) to the last basket with the least number of throws.” If you’re a golfer (or as disc golfers would refer to you – a ball golfer), this objective may sound familiar. In the last decade, the number of disc golf courses has well more than doubled. The sport has grown at a rate of 12-15 percent annually in that time, with nearly 4,000 courses in the US and about 5,000 globally. Disc golf is now played in more than 40 countries world-wide including the United States, Canada, Central and Western European countries, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. While some believe the sport dates back to the early 1900’s, the first known disc golf game was in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926 when a group of elementary students threw tin plates at trees and fence posts. They called the game Tin Lid Golf and actually designed and laid out their very own course. Some believe that it was in the 1970’s that disc golf was really introduced at the Canadian Open Frisbee Championships in Toronto.

“THE SPORT HAS STRONG PARALLELS WITH REGULAR GOLF."
IT’S ALL ABOUT PRECISION AND ACCURACY. WHILE IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE ABLE TO THROW A DISC WITH DISTANCE DOWN A LONG FAIRWAY, IT STILL COMES

Others believe that disc golf began in the early 1960s as American college students began tossing Frisbees at targets such as trees and 50-gallon barrels on campuses across the country. One of the pioneers of the sport, Kevin Donnelly, started playing a form of Frisbee golf back in 1959. He called it “Street Frisbee Golf”. A couple of years later he became a recreation leader (and eventually Recreation Supervisor) for Newport Beach, California. It was then that he began organizing tournaments at several of the city’s playgrounds. In 1965 Wham-O sponsored these tournaments and the sport began getting regional publicity. Many disc golfers claim that the sport as we know it presently can be accredited to one man: “Steady Ed” Headrick, aka the father of disc golf. Many believe that Steady Ed is the driving force for the modern era of the sport. Ed founded the International Frisbee Association, established the Junior Frisbee Championship, established and organized the World Frisbee Championship and went on to create and standardize the sport of Disc Golf. Although the sport of disc golf has been said to have existed in many different forms over the years, Ed is considered “the man with a vision for the sport”. The game was actually formalized when Headrick invented the first Disc Pole Hole™,

a catching device which consisted of 10 chains hanging from a hoop, in a parabolic shape above an upward opening “basket”. According to Ricky Singleton, a partner in the Michiana based Waka Disc Golf Supply, LLC., the sport has strong parallels with regular golf. “ It’s all about precision and accuracy. While it is important to be able to throw a disc with distance down a long fairway, it still comes down to accuracy.” Singleton grew up an avid ball golfer – he started playing at the age of two. Today he’s a member of the PDGA (Professional Disc Golfer Association) and he says that disc golf has striking similarities to the golf most of us are familiar with. Like regular golf, the starting point for each hole is referred to as a tee box. Just like golfers use a driver to “tee off” on most holes, so do disc golfers. A disc “driver” is typically the disc that can be thrown the furthest due to the aerodynamics and thinner rim of the disc. As the player progresses closer to the target there are other discs that can be utilized to finish the hole, including: fairway drivers, hybrids, midranges and putters… again just like golf. In disc golf there are also penalty strokes, although somewhat different than those in golf, still similar. Finally, as the player approaches the target, there are even more similarities as the target is referred to as the pin

"DISC GOLF HAS SOME ADVANTAGES OVER BALL GOLF. WITH DISC GOLF THERE ARE NO TEE TIMES AND OFTEN NO GREEN FEES. FURTHERMORE ONE OF THE THINGS THAT APPEALS TO MANY GOLFERS IS THAT THERE IS NOT REALLY A DRESS CODE, SO YOU CAN PRETTY MUCH PLAY ANYTIME AND IN COMFORT."

and the final disc to be thrown is usually called a putter. That being said, just because you have spent time on a regular golf course (or ball golf course) does not mean that you will step onto a disc golf course and play well, in-fact even accomplished Frisbee players initially have a difficult time getting the hang of this sport. The disc has a totally different flight pattern than what most Frisbee players are used to and to get the proper flight characteristics the disc has to be thrown to near perfection (to get the desired result). Furthermore, each disc is dramatically different in feel, flight and control. While there is a learning curve to this game, nearly anyone can learn to play. In the disc golf community, families are not only welcomed, they are encouraged to participate in the sport. Most courses are easily accessible to those who want to give it a try. According to Alex Nimtz, another local professional disc golfer, starting in the sport is simple. “Most parks have disc golf equipment for rent or for sale and the equipment is normally very inexpensive. I always recommend that new players buy or rent just one disc until they have started to learn the different aspects of the game.” Nimtz believes that disc golf has some advantages over ball golf. “With disc golf there are no tee times and often no green fees.

Furthermore one of the things that appeals to many golfers is that there is not really a dress code, so you can pretty much play anytime and in comfort.” Some disc golfers feel that all of this makes disc golf a great family sport, especially for those with kids. Singleton insists that people who play disc golf can quickly become somewhat addicted to it. “It’s just a lot of fun regardless of your skill level. Often players just go out for “a walk” and a little exercise and that’s good for them”. Of course many players decide to eventually enter small disc golf events or disc golf tournaments, some players even decide to play PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) sanctioned events. These events are typically intended for serious players, but still have various divisions for differing skill levels. Some events even have novice and recreational divisions to make sure that everyone has a fair chance at having a good time regardless of their skill set. With disc golfers from all over the world and at every level participating in the new sport, finding someone near your level on a course is not difficult. On any given day, men, women and children are out on the course; from international touring professionals to purple hair dudes with knuckle tattoos that read “disc golf”.

Even some PGA golfers like two time Masters champion, Bubba Watson are playing disc golf today. Clayton said that he has met doctors, graphic designers, pizza delivery guys and many business owners on local courses that he plays. That shouldn’t be a big surprise, considering that many music, sports and Hollywood celebrities have taken up the sport, including: Super Bowl Champion Aaron Rodgers, actors Matthew Perry, Tatum O’Neil and Sally Fields; and popular television chef Bobby Flay (of the Food Network). In fact even former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter used to play disc golf on the White House lawn using trees as targets. Most recently, disc golf has appeared multiple times on Sports Center’s Top 10. World title events continue to expand and attract more sponsors locally, regionally and nationally. But according to Clayton, “What is driving the game right now is that more and more people are developing a love affair with it. That is why we see the sport growing like it is.” So the next time you’re out at the park with your friends or family and you see someone ripping a disc down a fairway, don’t be afraid to walk up and say, “Hey there, I know a little about disc golf”. Who knows - maybe they’ll invite you to play a round with them. Disc golf appears to be America’s new, fun-filled, enjoyable sport. With the rapid and consistent growth that the game has seen in the last few years, the only question remaining is: where will it go next?

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