Since its first recognized course in 1975, disc golf, the sport that swaps a ball for a Frisbee and features your arm instead of a club, has moved from a steady climb in popularity to a boom in recent years—and the reasons are obvious to anyone who has played.
In fact, with all the opportunity offered around St. Louis, a prominent disc golf region thanks to a rich history in the sport, it’s difficult to find reasons not to play disc golf.
Why haven’t you?
Remember the last time you threw a Frisbee? Next time, don’t have your friend throw it back—go get it yourself. There are hundreds of disc golf-devoted websites and blogs offering tips on technique and form, from the angle of your wrist during a drive to your back foot during a putt, but it all boils down to that familiar backyard barbecue throw.
There are two basic throws common in disc golf: a standard backhand toss, and a forehand shot that looks more like a “flick” off the fingers. The disc will spin its fastest as it leaves your hand and then slow down through its flight, causing an effect known as fade. A right-handed backhand throw will fade to the left, while a forehand throw will fade to the right. If you’re a lefty, everything is opposite.
And that’s it. You’re a disc golfer. Throw, chase. Throw again. Your average hole stretches 200 to 300 feet and comes filled with your favorite natural obstacles, from trees and bushes to ponds and parking lots (concrete is out of bounds). Most holes play par three, allowing a drive from a tee, a midrange “approach” and a putt into the chains or basket of a standardized “pole hole.” But who’s keeping score, anyway?
OK, it’s not completely free. But with no tee times or greens fees, an upfront cost of $10-$20 for one disc can last for an unlimited amount of rounds—at least until you lose it. There is no rule against using a Frisbee, though most discs used in today’s game have moved past that design of plastic and now resemble more of a discus. Discs come designed with characteristics that make them suitable for driving or putting and even alter flight patterns. If you’re going to try out disc golf with a solo disc, pick up a midrange--capable of being thrown at distance, but still allowing a softer touch for putting and shorter throws.
The popular disc manufacturers are Innova, Discraft and St. Louis-based Gateway Discs, owned by retired professional and Midwest course designer David McCormack. Readily available through retailers online, a large assortment of discs can be found locally at Johnny Mac’s sporting goods. A great resource to reference before buying multiple discs is www.discgolfreview.com, which compiles player reviews and descriptions of golf discs.
It’s good for you.
Let it be known: There are no golf carts in disc golf. You walk it out. An average nine holes will yield about a half-mile walk over various terrain and take up between 30 to 60 minutes of your time. With the nation gripped in an exercise craze that involves all sorts of toys and apparel, there is still something to be said about a good, old-fashioned walk around the park. The goal of taking 10,000 steps in a day is a rough equivalent to the surgeon general's recommendation to accumulate 30 minutes of activity most days of the week. The average 18 holes of disc golf provides just more than 6,000 steps.
And for those who cast disc golf aside as “something for the kids,” consider that 30 percent of the currently active members of the Professional Disc Golf Association are older than 40. The age-friendly sport combines the fitness advantages of aerobic exercise with mentally stimulating and continuing challenges for adults. Learn in a day, spend a lifetime to master.
Identical to its ball counterpart, disc golf offers fresh air in a relaxing setting as part of an addictive form of exercise, enjoyed individually as well as in groups. Beyond leisure play, St. Louis offers a wide range of competitive directions, from match play to course leagues to area tournaments.
It’s right next to you.
You might be shocked to find out just how close to your home a chain basket is lurking. There are 16 courses scattered within a 40-mile radius of St. Louis, some of them tucked in between neighborhoods in city parks, others displaying generous portions of prime Missouri landscape.
St. Louis’ disc golf club, the River City Flyers, is a volunteer organization and excellent resource for St. Louis disc golf. The club organizes leagues, fundraisers and tournaments for most of the area courses and is responsible for the maintenance of the four core St. Louis courses: Endicott Park in St. John, Sioux Passage in Florissant, Creve Coeur Lake Park as well as South County’s Jefferson Barracks Park, which tees off from the Blackhawk Shelter and hides its baskets among 200-year-old trees. This nationally recognized course offers unique elevation changes and challenging sloped “greens” at every hole and frequently rotating pin placements keep the course fresh for repeat play.
Don’t get all caught up in the details, and chances are good you’ll get caught up in disc golf. A flat piece of plastic can transform a Saturday afternoon at the park or a quick Thursday lunch break into an entertaining and healthy activity--double that if you bring a friend. Just decide now how you’ll react if you discover your kid can throw a Frisbee farther than you.
Hit a tree? Play for three. Hit one more? Play for four!