A Brief History of Disc Golf

The Hole Truth About Disc Golf


Disc golf, which is essentially Frisbee golf played with a slightly different disc, is just like ordinary golf. However, instead of hitting a ball with a club down a fairway, to a green and into a hole, you throw a Frisbee-like disc across a course and toward a target, usually a chain basket attached to a pole. Typical disc golf courses have 18 holes like a regular golf course, or half that, at nine – although many other course configurations, ranging from six to 27 holes, are also common. Disc golf is usually played on mostly natural terrain designated for the sport, and various trees, hills, ponds, rocks, or out-of-bounds restrictions influence the difficulty level and add to the fun.

A Disc History

In addition to the snow blower, Plexiglas, commercial jetliner, and peanut butter, it is likely that disc golf was also invented in Canada. The earliest known games were played there, back in the 1920s. Allegedly, four childhood friends at Bladworth Elementary School in Saskatchewan used to throw tin lids at circular targets that they drew in the sand on the playground, thus inventing “Tin Lid Golf,” an early precursor to today’s disc golf. But when these boys became adults and moved on, their cleverly invented golf/baseball hybrid game was left behind and forgotten.

Disc golf in its modern form came back around in Canada in the 1970s in Toronto, but by then, several groups of Americans had simultaneously and coincidentally come up with the same game on their own.

It’s hard to pinpoint just who deserves the credit for putting American disc golf on the map. Kevin Donnelly of Newport Beach, California, was playing “Street Frisbee Golf” as far back as 1959 and later organized several significant Frisbee golf tournaments. George Sappenfield created a disc golf course and tournament during his tenure as Parks and Recreation supervisor in Thousand Oaks, California. Jim Palmieri, with the help of a few others, took part in regular disc golf tournaments and leagues in 1970 in Rochester, New York, and later promoted two different disc golf championships. Also in 1970, the Berkeley Frisbee Group designed a now-typical 18-hole course on their college’s campus, while the University of Michigan happened to do the same right around that same time. And, of course, “Steady Ed” Headrick made unmatched contributions to the development of the sport. Not only did he invent the Frisbee itself, but he founded several disc golf organizations, developed the official disc golf rules, and invented and patented the disc golf chain-and-basket target. Wham-O, the original Frisbee company that Headrick worked for, was also instrumental in the advancement of disc golf through its sponsorship of and equipment donations to multiple tournaments.

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“Disc golf is usually played on mostly natural terrain designated for the sport, and various trees, hills, ponds, rocks, or out-of-bounds restrictions influence the difficulty level and add to the fun.”

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Disc Golf’s Heyday

Today, disc golf is all the rage. According to Udisc.com, it’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, with approximately 11,300 courses globally, around 8,000 of which are in the United States (with 16 in the greater Chattanooga area). Disc golf is so popular that there are courses on every continent, even Antarctica, and the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) has over 100,000 members.

If you’re looking for something active to do that’s a little bit golf, a little bit baseball, and all fun, join the ever-increasing global community of disc golfers.

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