By Jennifer Heinser
The history of disc golf is a bit hazy. Although accounts of golf played with flying discs exist before the invention of the Frisbee, incidences are separated too far geographically to prove influence over each other. Modern concepts of the game came from the “father” of disc golf, “Steady” Ed Headrick, who patented both the Frisbee in 1966 (while working for Wham-O) and the “disc golf pole hole”. Ten years later, in 1976, he founded the PDGA – the Professional Disc Golf Association.
Forty years on we still aim at the same target – a metal basket on a pole with chains hanging down – while the discs have dramatically evolved. Just like ‘ball golf’ as we refer to it, disc golf utilizes distance drivers, mid-range, and putting discs. The differences being weight, blend of plastic, and edge shape.
And don’t call them Frisbees – at least not in the presence of a disc golf player! One wouldn’t want to play a game of catch with a driver; the edge is more angular than that of a Frisbee. A game starts by throwing the driver, from where that lands you throw your mid-range, and lastly your putter. Courses have 18 targets, each with a par. “Birdie”, “bogie” and the dreaded “FOUR!” are terms used in both games…if you hear the latter, duck and cover!
For those turned off by ‘regular’ golf, the brilliance in disc golf is the diversity of the course. No sweating it out in the hot sun, as typically more than half a course is in shady, wooded areas. Natural obstacles abound; water traps like rivers and ponds or trees sitting in the middle of a fairway are common. Discs are also hundreds of dollars less than clubs, ranging between $5-$20, and starter packs of three are available with a driver, mid-range, and putter. Portable targets that fold up to the size of a beach umbrella are available for purchase for those without a course nearby or needing a constant fix when travelling.
Locally, finding a disc golf course isn’t a problem, with numerous courses within minutes of Western Wake. The courses at Apex Nature Park, Jones Park and Middle Creek High School in Holly Springs, NC State’s Centennial campus (a 9-target course where you only need a mid-range and putter), Cedar Hills Rotary Park in North Hills, and Buckhorn at Harris Lake are worth mentioning. Check pdga.com for a comprehensive listing. And if you are looking for direction or coaching, some disc golf courses even host a resident professional, just like golf courses.
Disc golf is an addicting game, and your focus may quickly zero in on your throwing technique and which disc to use. Before you know it, you’ve hiked miles through the woods enjoying the fresh air, scenery and wildlife. It’s like accidental exercise…and that’s really the best kind.