Friday, April 12, 2024

The growing sport that you haven’t been paying attention to: disc golf

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Featured photo by Adam Brown

Story by Adam Brown

There is a sport that many have never heard of that is exploding in popularity, is free to play, and is a great way to get outdoors for all ages. That sport is disc golf. For most people, disc golf is a lot different than what they think, so let’s start with the basics.

Disc Golf is exactly what it sounds like, but disc golfers throw discs instead of using irons and drivers to hit a dimpled ball. Some may have heard the term “frisbee golf,” but that term is not technically correct because the discs used in disc golf are not frisbees. Frisbees, which are a trademarked product of the Wham-O company, as you might see in collegiate or professional ultimate frisbee matches or even being thrown around on the beach is a standard 175-gram disc with a diameter of 10 ¾ inches. These were the first discs used in disc golf, but the game has evolved.

These days, discs come in different shapes, styles, plastics, and weights all for different uses, preferences, or shots out on the course. Rather than one standard disc, disc golf discs have different jobs based on the disc type. Just like golf you have drivers, putters, mid-ranges, and fairway drivers each with subtypes within those groups. Each disc has different flight characteristics that the player can expect from it when thrown correctly. These standards can be found printed right on the disc most of the time, and if not are on the manufacturer’s website. The first big diversion from golf is the size of the basket. Rather than putt into a hole, in disc golf you putt into a patented basket that acts as an above-ground hole with chains that are designed to catch discs.

Another way disc golf is different is the courses on which it is played. Yes, disc golf is played on large open courses like golf, but it can also be played on wooded trail-like courses.  Some of the hardest holes in the sport are like an obstacle course in the woods that takes precision to conquer. When starting, beginner packs that feature a driver, mid-range, and putter are available for purchase to introduce players to the game before building their collection for tougher or more technical shots. 

The sport is relatively new. The organized version of today was invented by the same inventor of the frisbee at Wham-O Toys, “Steady” Ed Hendrick, in the 1970s. Hendricks was not only the inventor of the frisbee, but also the inventor of the disc golf pole hole, and the founder of The Professional Disc Golf Association and its first member. Hendricks left his executive position at Wham-O to invest in the game and by 1982 the first Disc Golf World Championship tournament was held in Los Angles. The seeds he planted grew into a sport that is continuing to skyrocket in popularity. The PDGA now has over 200,000 official members according to pdga.com/history.

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Tournaments are held around the country with pro disc golfers being supported and sponsored by different disc manufacturers. Paul McBeth, who is considered to be one of, if not the greatest, player of all time just recently signed a 10-year contract with Discraft Discs worth $10 million. The pro tour is even covered by disc golf media channels such as Jomez Pro which put out year-round disc golf content and covers tournaments the same way Jim Nantz covers the PGA Tour on CBS.

There are now over 9,000 courses in The United States and more overseas. To find a course nearby, the mobile app “Udisc” can show a map using a person’s location of not only courses near them but disc golf retailers such as The Disc Golf Store in Nashville. In Murfreesboro alone, there are four courses, and many more in the Nashville area. MTSU even has a disc golf club. 

Chloe Guzowski, a Junior Elementary Education Major at MTSU, is a member of the club and has been playing for three years. Chloe and her family stumbled across disc golf baskets while walking in parks during quarantine in 2020. This is a fairly common story when it comes to how people began in the sport. Chloe recalled how at first, she and her family used normal frisbees to play as people did in the early days of the sport before realizing they were using the wrong equipment. She said that once they went out and got disc golf discs they were playing almost daily. 

“I joined the disc golf club because my dad has become better than anyone in the family and I want to be at his level and beat him one day,” Guzowski said. “Now that I’m a member, I have the opportunity to play with anyone who also has a free moment and I can gain new knowledge and experience to accomplish my goal and make new friends.” 

The sport has grown so rapidly in such a short amount of time because it’s an accessible thing for people to play and have fun while doing it. It can be as competitive or casual as the player wants. It seems the trajectory will continue, and disc golf will only continue to grow. The PDGA’s website has an exciting outlook on the future of the sport.

 “…disc golf is growing at a breathtaking rate. All we can do is continue the push to introduce this amazing sport to more and more people. And we will.”

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