Disc Golf

  • Disc golf, also has been called Frisbee Golf, is a flying disc game, as well as a precision and accuracy sport, in which individual players throw a flying disc at a target. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, "The object of the game is to traverse a course from beginning to end in the fewest number of throws of the disc.[2] The number of disc golf courses doubled in the 8 years from 2000 to 2008.[3] The game is played in about 40 countries around the world.[4]


    The early history of disc golf is closely tied to the history of the recreational flying disc (especially as popularized by the trademarked Frisbee) and may have been invented in the early 1900s.The first known instance of anyone playing golf with a flying disc occurred in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926. Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary School buddies played a game throwing tin plates at targets such as trees and fence posts. They called the game Tin Lid Golf and played on a fairly regular basis on a disc golf course they laid out on their school grounds. But, after they grew older and went their separate ways, the game came to an end.[5] Modern disc golf started in the early 1960s, when it seems to have been invented in many places and by many people independently. Students at Rice University in Houston, Texas, for example, held tournaments with trees as targets as early as 1963, and in the early 1960s players in Pendleton King Park in Augusta, Georgia would toss Frisbees in 50-gallon barrel trash cans designated as targets.

    The true pioneer of the sport of Frisbee Golf is Kevin Donnelly, who, until 2011, was unknown for his accomplishment. Kevin began playing a form of Frisbee golf in 1959 called Street Frisbee Golf. In 1961, while a Recreation Leader and then Recreation Supervisor for the City of Newport Beach, California, he formulated and then began organizing Frisbee golf tournaments at nine of the city's playgrounds he supervised. This culminated in 1965 with a fully documented, Wham-O sponsored, city-wide Frisbee Golf tournament. This highly publicized tournament included hula hoops as holes, with published rules, hole lengths, pars, and penalties, Wham-O prizes and, an event in which Fred Morrison, the Frisbee inventor, was in attendance.[6] In 1967, two years after conducting the first-ever organized Frisbee Golf Tournament, Kevin, then the Coordinator of the Parks and Recreation Section at Fresno State College, California, organized and then taught the first ever college level Frisbee Golf activity course, in which George Sappenfield was registered.

    Two of the best-known figures in the sport are "Steady Ed" Headrick, who introduced the first formal disc golf target with chains and a basket, and Dave Dunipace who invented the modern golf disc in 1983, and was one of the founders of Innova.[7] In 1975, Headrick formed the first disc golf association, the PDGA, which now officiates the standard rules of play for the sport. The sport has grown at a rate of 12-15 percent annually for more than the past decade, with nearly 3000 courses in the US and more than 4000 globally. The game is now played in more than 40 countries worldwide, primarily in the United States, Canada, Central and Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

    George Sappenfield and early object courses[edit]

    In 1965, George Sappenfield, from Fresno California, was a recreation counselor during summer break from college. While playing golf one afternoon he realized that it might be fun for the kids on his playground if they played "golf" with frisbees. He set up an object course for his kids to play on. Other early courses were also of this type, using anything from lamp poles to fire hydrants as targets. When he finished college in 1968, Sappenfield became the Parks and Recreation Supervisor for Conejo Recreation and Park District in Thousand Oaks, California. George introduced the game to many adults by planning a disc golf tournament as part of a recreation project. He contacted Wham-O Manufacturing and asked them for help with the event. Wham-O supplied frisbees for throwing, and hula hoops for use as targets. However, it would not be until the early 1970s that courses began to crop up in various places in the Midwest and the East Coast (some perhaps through Sappenfield's promotion efforts, others probably independently envisioned). Some of Sappenfield's acquaintances are known to have brought the game to UC Berkeley. It quickly became popular on campus, with a permanent course laid out in 1970.

    "Steady Ed" Headrick and the growth of the modern game[edit]

    "Steady Ed" Headrick began thinking about the sport during his time at Wham-o toys.[8] Headrick, who is now regarded as the "Father of Disc Golf",[9] designed and installed the first standardized target course in what was then known as Oak Grove Park in La Cañada Flintridge, California. (Today the park is known as Hahamongna Watershed Park). The park is immediately south of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which supplied at least a few of the earliest players. Ed worked for the San Gabriel, California-based Wham-O Corporation and is credited for pioneering the modern era of disc sports. While at Wham-O, Headrick redesigned the Pluto Platter reworking the rim height, disc shape, diameter, weight and plastics, creating a controllable disc that could be thrown accurately. Headrick marketed and pushed the professional model Frisbee and "Frisbee" as a sport. Ed Founded "The International Frisbee Association (IFA)" and began establishing standards for various sports using the Frisbee such as Distance, Flying disc freestyle and Guts.

    Headrick coined and trademarked the term "Disc Golf" when formalizing the sport and patented the Disc Pole Hole,[10] the first disc golf target to incorporate chains and a basket on a pole. He started designing the target because he was tired of arguing over what counted as a scoring disc with his friends.

    Headrick founded the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), Disc Golf Association (DGA), and Recreational Disc Golf Association (RDGA) as governing bodies for professional, competitive amateur, and family-oriented play, respectively, and worked on standardizing the rules and the equipment for the growing sport. Headrick abandoned his trademark on the term "Disc Golf", and turned over control and administration of the PDGA to the growing body of disc golf players in order to focus on his passion for building and inventing equipment for the sport.[11]

    Basic rules[edit]

    A disc resting in the basket
    • Teeing Off - Play begins on each hole with each player throwing from within a designated area. This area is usually signified by a cement or rubber tee pad measuring approximately 5' by 12'. At least one foot must be in contact with the tee at the time of release.[12]
    • Establishing Position - A thrown disc establishes a position where it first comes to rest. A disc is considered at rest once it is no longer moving. If the disc breaks into pieces the largest piece establishes position.[13]
    • Marking the Lie - The established position of a thrown disc on the in-bounds playing surface marks its lie. Alternatively, a mini marker may be used to mark the lie by placing it directly in front of the thrown disc on the line of play.[14]
    • Throwing from a stance – To throw from a correct stance when the disc is released, a player must have one supporting point in contact with the playing surface on the lie. You may also not have any supporting points out of bounds, touching the marker or an object in front of your lie. After the disc is released, supporting points may come in contact with the playing surface in front of your lie except when putting. One is considered putting when inside a 10-meter radius of the target. Once a lie is inside this circle, all supporting points on the surface must stay behind the lie until after the throw is complete and you have established balance. A player shall receive a warning for the first stance violation in the round and all subsequent violations will result in a one stroke penalty and re-throw.[15]
    • Holing Out - In disc golf, there are two types of targets; there is a basket target and an object target. To hole out on a basket target the disc must come to rest within the bottom cylinder of the basket or within the chains. A disc on top of the basket or wedged into the side of the cage is not considered holed out. To hole out on an object target the disc must strike the designated target area on the object.[16]
    • Out of bounds - A disc is out of bounds when it is clearly and completely surrounded by the out of bounds area. A player whose disc is out of bounds shall receive one penalty throw. The player may elect to throw next from the previous lie or a lie that is up to one meter from and perpendicular to the point where the disc crossed the out of bounds line.[17]
    • Discs used in play – Discs used in play must meet the conditions set forth by the PDGA Technical Standards. Any disc modified to alter production to change its original flight characteristics is considered illegal; this includes discs that crack or break. A player who throws an illegal disc will receive two penalty throws without a warning.[18]
    • Order of play – Teeing order on the first hole is determined by the order of the players on the scorecard. Teeing on subsequent holes is determined by the scores on the previous hole with the lowest score throwing first and so on. If two or more players tied on the previous hole the order is determined by the order of the players who tied on the previous hole. After all players have teed off the player farthest away from the target plays next and so on until all players have holed out.[19]
    • Courtesy - Courtesy rules establish the proper etiquette for players on the course and violations of courtesy rules can result in penalties; the following are the basic rules of courtesy.
      • Players should not throw until they are certain the thrown disc will not distract another player or injure anyone present.
      • Players should take care to not distract other players while it is their turn.
      • Littering on the course is discouraged and considered a courtesy violation.
      • Players are expected to watch where other players' discs go and search for discs in the event they are lost.[20]

    For the complete rules of disc golf, one can read the PDGA Official Rules and Regulations.


    All players should always keep in mind that disc golf discs can be potentially very dangerous if not thrown with safety and common sense always in mind. Never throw a disc in the area someone occupies unless they are completely aware you are throwing it in their direction. Players should always wait until the player or group in front of them have completed a hole and moved out of the way until they throw. If you come upon a hole where the target is blind and you can potentially not see a group ahead it is common procedure to call out "Clear on (# of hole you are on)." If there is no answer you should again call out and before throwing say "Coming down on (# of hole you are on)."


    A player getting out of the rough on Goolagong, hole #3, Whitcombe Disc Golf Course, Beaminster, Dorset, UK

    Disc types[edit]

    The golf discs used today are much smaller and heavier than traditional flying discs, typically about 8 or 9 inches (20 or 23 cm) in diameter and weighing between 90 and 180 grams. The PDGA prohibits any disc to be heavier than 200 grams. Discs used for disc golf are designed and shaped for control, speed, and accuracy, while general-purpose flying discs, such as those used for playing guts or ultimate, have a more traditional shape, similar to a catch disc. There is a wide variety of discs used in disc golf and they are generally divided into three categories: putters, all-purpose mid-range discs, and drivers.


    Putters are similar to the discs used in simple games of catch, such as the Wham-o brand Frisbee. They are designed to fly straight, predictably, and very slowly compared to mid-range discs and drivers. They are typically used for tight, controlled shots that are close to the basket, although some players use them for short drives where trees or other obstacles come into play. Usually a pro carries 1-7 putters depending on their flight characteristics.


    Mid-range discs have slightly sharper edges that enable them to cut through the air better. These discs are usually faster, more stable, and have a longer range than a putter. Some players will use mid-ranges as drivers, and there are tournaments that require players to use only mid-range discs. They are good all-around discs and are suitable for a first time player.


    Drivers are usually recognized by their sharp, bevelled edge and have most of their mass concentrated on the outer rim of the disc rather than distributed equally throughout. Drivers are often divided into different categories. For example, Innova Discs divides their discs into Distance Drivers and Fairway Drivers, with a fairway driver being somewhere between a distance driver and a mid-range disc. Discraft divides their drivers into 3 categories: Long Drivers, Extra Long Drivers, and Maximum Distance Drivers. Because the physics of a disc require "snap" or "flick", which means putting spin on the disc, new players generally find that throwing a distance driver accurately can be somewhat difficult and will require experience with disc golf disc response. This is why it is better for players to begin with fairway drivers, long drivers, or even mid-ranges, and incorporate maximum distance drivers as their strength and disc control increases. Most players that are starting off will be most likely throwing lighter discs. Another type of driver, used less frequently, is a roller. As the name indicates, it has an edge designed to roll rather than fly.


    Stability is the measurement of a disc's tendency to bank laterally during its flight. A disc that is over-stable will tend to track left (for a right handed, backhand throw), whereas a disc that is under-stable will tend to track right (also for a right handed, backhand throw). The stability rating of the discs differs depending on the manufacturer of the disc. Innova Discs rate stability as "turn" and "fade" on a scale of +1[21] to -5, where +1[21] is the most overstable and -5 is the most understable. "Turn" references how the disc will fly at high speed during the beginning and middle of it flight. "Fade" references how the disc will fly at lower speeds towards the end of its flight. Ex. A disc with a turn of -5 and fade of +1 will fly to the right for (right handed, backhand throw) the majority of its flight then curl back minimally left at the end. A disc with a turn of -1 and a fade of +3 will turn slightly right during the middle of its flight and turn hard left as it slows down. These ratings can be found on the discs themselves or from the manufacturer's web site. Discraft prints the stability rating on all discs and also provides this information on their web site. The stability ranges from 3 to -2 for Discraft discs; however Discraft's ratings are more of a combination of turn and fade with the predominance being fade.

    Throw styles[edit]

    While there are many different grips and styles to throwing the disc, there are two basic throwing techniques, backhand and forehand (or sidearm). These two techniques are different and effective in different circumstances. Their understanding and mastery can greatly improve a players' game, and offer diverse options in maneuvering to the basket with greater efficacy. Many players use what is referred to as a run-up during their drive. This is practiced to build more forward disc momentum and distance. Throwing styles vary from player to player, and there is no standard throwing style.

    All discs when thrown will naturally fall to a certain direction, this direction is termed Hyzer, the natural fall of the disc, or Anhyzer, making the disc fall against its natural flight pattern. For a right-handed, back-hand thrower (RHBH), the disc will naturally fall to the left. For a right-handed fore-hand thrower (RHFH), the disc will naturally fall to the right. For a left-handed, back-hand thrower (LHBH), the disc will naturally fall to the right. For a left-handed, fore-hand thrower (LHFH), the disc will naturally fall to the left.


    To perform this throw, the disc is rapidly drawn from across the front of your body, and releasing it towards a forward aimpoint. Due to the potential snap available with this technique, one can expect greater distance and accuracy than with its counterpart. It is important to initiate momentum from the feet and allow it to travel up the body, hips and shoulders, culminating in the transfer of energy to the disc.


    The forehand (sidearm) throw is performed by drawing the disc from behind and partially across the front of the body: similar to a sidearm throw in baseball. The term sidearm actually predates the descriptor forehand, which is seemingly in use today as a simpler means to communicate the technique: equating to a tennis forehand.

    Alternative throws[edit]

    The following examples of throws may be used to better deliver a disc where the former common two throws would be impeded by obstacles (bushes, trees, boulders, structures, etc.

    Common alternative styles

    • The Hatchet (or Tomahawk). Grip and throw as in the sidearm but performed with an overhead motion: disc orientation nearly perpendicular to the ground over much of the flight.
    • The Thumber. Thrown in an overhand manner but with thumb held on the disc's underside: it's also the power finger.
    • The Roller. Thrown either backhand or forehand, and the disc will predominately be in contact with the ground. The disc remains in motion while travelling on its edge at a slight angle, and can travel exceedingly far in ideal situations. Once perfected, the roller is an invaluably versatile tool in the golfer's arsenal.
    • The Turbo-Putt Thrown with a putter when the player has the disc gripped on each finger tip. The player then throws the disc at the basket and turns his wrist to give it spin. The Turbo-Putt is a throw known for its accuracy. However, it has extremely limited range.

    Other alternative styles

    • The Baseball or Grenade. Thrown as in the backhand, but with the disc upside-down. This shot is used often to get up and down on a short shot where there is danger of a shot rolling away or going out of bounds if thrown too far. Primarily used on downhill shots but can be used to go up and over. Also due to the quick turn and backspin of this shot, it is sometimes used to get out of the woods.
    • The Over-Head backhand (or chicken-wing [ambiguous origin][dubious ] ). This is a very difficult and stylized throw with which accomplished free-stylers and classic ultimate players are familiar; it is less used in disc golf. It is thrown in the same manner the "baseball" but drawn on the sidearm side of the body, and by inverting the arm and disc. Using the thumb as the power finger, the disc is drawn from the thigh area; rear-wards and up from behind the body; to over the shoulder; releasing toward a forward aimpoint. The disc flies in a conventional flight pattern. To the untrained eye, this appears to be an ungainly throw. It is however, elegant and accurate. The term "over-head" has been in use since at least circa 1970.

    Course components[edit]

    A disc golf course in Yyteri beach, Finland
    A red disc sailing towards a "Tonal Pole" style target at the disc golf course on Pender Island

    While the roots of the game are very casual and laid back, the newer generations of players are taking course design as well as the other elements of the game to a new level. Though early on targets were trees or fence posts in the woods, now courses are being cut out and under-utilized parts of parks, schools, and private land are being used to make some of the most challenging and strategic courses around. All courses share the same basic elements; targets, tee pads, signage, topography, and most important, safety.


    The first incarnation of targets were known as tonal poles because of the sound they made when hit. These consisted of a metal pipe placed on a smaller pipe that when struck with the disc made a gong type sound. While these were much more accurate than a tree, arguments and disagreements led to the invention of the Disc Pole Hole by Ed Headrick in 1975. The basket (as it is now known in most circles) is the standard for disc golf courses.

    Tee pads[edit]

    The tee pad is where a player begins the hole. A solid base is a must for any successful course, and where early courses had plain dirt pads, modern courses use concrete, or more cost effective materials such as mulch, decomposed granite, or other natural materials. In recent years recycled rubber mats have been developed and are starting to catch on. While many alternatives have been created, concrete is the standard.


    Signage is critical to any good course. Knowing distances, par count, out-of-bounds, and layout for each hole will give a player the information they need to make a great shot. Many courses have a main layout sign at the beginning of the course to show details of the course as a whole, as well as any needed information about the course. Hole signs give specific details about the hole the player is on, such as mandatory paths, out-of-bounds, and length. Not only are hole information signs critical, but way-finding signs and informational signs can make a good course great, and the absence of these can make a good course bad.


    What makes disc golf unique is the utilization of natural elements, using trees and shrubs as obstacles and elevation changes to make the course challenging. Keeping the raw and environmentally conscious elements gives each course its own personality and strategy.


    Safety is one of the most important elements of course design and actual play because most courses are in public parks: non-players are routinely found in the course environment. Paramount to the planning of a quality course is the detailing and minimizing possible points of interaction with non-players.

    Because of all of these elements and the importance of each one to the success of the course, seeking out a qualified, experienced course designer will help to insure that all of these factors are kept at the forefront. Discs can be thrown fast and when hit, mainly the head, can cause serious injury.


    Medal play is the most common scoring method used in the sport but there are many other forms. These include match play, skins, speed golf and captain's choice, which in disc golf is referred to as "doubles" (not to be confused with partner or team play).

    Regardless of which form of play the participants choose, the main objectives of disc golf are conceptually the same as traditional golf in the sense that players a

    Term Specific term Definition -3

    Albatross (or double-eagle)

    three throws under par -2

    Eagle (or double-birdie)

    two throws under par -1


    one throw under par 0


    throws equal to par +1


    one throw more than par +2 Double bogey two throws over par +3 Triple bogey three throws over par

    Doubles play is a unique style of play that many local courses offer on a weekly basis. In this format, teams of two golfers are determined. Sometimes this is done by random draw, and other times it is a pro-am format. On the course, it is a 'best-disc' scramble, meaning both players throw their tee shot; and then decide which lie they would like to play. Both players then play from the same lie, again choosing which lie is preferable. The World Amateur Doubles Format includes best shot, alternate shot, best score (players play singles and take the best result from the hole) and worst shot (both players must sink the putt).


    Ken Climo teeing off at hole 5 of the 2008 USDGC

    Tournaments are held nation-wide and year long in the USA. Sanctioned Tournament play is communicated through the Professional Disc Golf Association Membership. The PDGA provides international, professional, and amateur disc golf tournaments as well as communicates event results, opinions and other information beneficial to the sport via electronic and printed media.

    Disc golf tournaments are popular around the world. As with traditional golf, there are many championship tournaments. One of the largest is the United States Disc Golf Championship.

    Every year, the largest teams tournament in the world is held in Austin, Texas by John Houck.[22]

    To prove the year-round sustainability of the sport, annual winter tournaments known as Ice Bowls are held at courses around the world. Using the motto, "No Wimps, No Whiners," Ice Bowls collectively are designed to create sport awareness, and are considered charity events that typically benefit a food bank local to a given tournament location. The official Web site reports that the 2010 Ice Bowls raised over $250,000 and donated over 67,000 pounds of food in the 222 tournaments for the year. [4]


    While there are more male than female players, the Women's Disc Golf Association exists to encourage female players and arrange women's tournaments. A PDGA survey states that out of its 11,302 members in 2006, 8% are female, or about 900. In PDGA competition, women have the option to play in gender-protected divisions. The women's field has in fact grown rapidly in the past 5 years, as many Women's Only tournaments grow in popularity around the world. There are many sites with tips to help encourage more women to play, including Innova Disc Golf.

    Several companies have started programs to help attract women to the sport. DiscGolf4Women.com; the "Go-to site for Women's Disc Golf" and their associated Facebook group has dramatically increased the communication between women disc golfers. The PDGA Women's Committee is "Dedicated to Attract, Encourage, and Retain Female Participation in Organized Disc Golf Events". The PDGA Women's Committee set historical records on May 12, 2012 by running the Inaugural Women's Global Event that attracted 636 female players in 24 states and 4 countries. The Women's Global Event will become a bi-annual event returning in 2014 with hopes of setting the bar even higher with the amount of participants.

    There are also Disc golf companies such as Disc-Diva, that have started up with a primary, though not exclusive, focus on women in the sport, promoting accessories geared towards women and using catch phrases like, "You wish you threw like a girl."[23] Sassy Pants is another group that focuses on getting more involvement from women in the sport, advocating for sponsorship of women to enter tournaments.[24]

    Women's disc golf teams are even involved in the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship, and the Mississippi State Women's Team are the very first champions.

    Disc Golf Hall of Fame[edit]


    • 1993 Vanessa Chambers | Dave Dunipace | Ed Headrick | Tom Monroe | Jim Palmeri | Dan Roddick | Ted Smethers
    • 1994 Harold Duvall | Nobuya Kobayashi | Darrell Lynn | Dan Mangone | Doug Newland | Snapper Pierson | Lavone Wolfe
    • 1995 Ken Climo | John David | David Greenwell | Johnny Roberts | Dr. Rick Voakes
    • 1996 Mike Conger | Patti Kunkle | Rick Rothstein
    • 1997 Steve Slasor | Elaine King | Jim Kenner
    • 1998 Gregg Hosfeld | John Houck | Carlton Howard
    • 1999 Sam Ferrans | Steve Wisecup | Tim Selinske
    • 2000 Tom Schot | Royce Racinowski
    • 2001 Stan McDaniel | Johnny Sias
    • 2002 Alan Beaver | Gary Lewis
    • 2003 Mark Horn | Brian Hoeniger | Dr. Stancil Johnson,
    • 2004 Derek Robins | Geoff Lissaman | Johnny Lissaman | Marty Hapner
    • 2005 Mats Bengtsson | Sylvia Voakes
    • 2006 Chuck Kennedy | Kozo Shimbo
    • 2007 Fred Salaz | Michael Travers
    • 2008 Dan Ginnelly | Juliana Korver
    • 2009 Crazy John Brooks | Lynne Warren | Michael Sullivan
    • 2010 Charlie Callahan | Tomas Ekstrom | Brian Cummings
    • 2011 Don Hoffman | Joe Feidt | Brent Hambrick
    • 2012 Tim Willis | Jeff Homburg
    • 2013 Barry Schultz | Becky Zallek | Jim Challas | Ken Westerfield

    Popular culture[edit]

    On a 1997 episode of the TV show Seinfeld, George Costanza explains to Jerry that "frolf" is a golf game played with a Frisbee. In a 2005 episode of Zoey 101, the characters make the game a team sport to get out of running in gym class. In a 2006 episode of the TV show The Office ("The Convict") the character of Andy Bernard talks of having started a Frisbee golf club in his college years and says "I live to frolf!" In an episode of Happy Endings, Dave Rose says he loves to "Frolf", and they show Dave and Jane teeing off in a Disc Golf course in Chicago.

    In the movie The Tao of Steve (2000) Dex and his friends play disc golf around their home and yard. In the 2012 movie 21 Jump Street, the protagonists help a group of disc golfers retrieve a disc from the lake in the park.

    On May 4, 2007 David Feldberg was interviewed on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."


    1. Jump up ^ "PDGA Member Search". PDGA. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
    2. Jump up ^ [1][dead link]
    3. Jump up ^ "Disc Golf Course Review". Dgcourserevieww.com. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
    4. Jump up ^ "PDGA Rules: Introduction". PDGA. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
    5. Jump up ^ "Disc Golf". Disc Golf History. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
    6. Jump up ^