Disc golf, Frolf, Frisbee golf; call it what you want, just don’t call it a fad. I reached out to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) to get the scoop on which direction the disc flies and the direction that has taken this sport from obscurity to borderline mainstream. The PDGA events manager, Michael Downs, was happy to answer my questions and explain why disc golf is here to stay:
Brad Lane: Could you provide a brief history of the sport of disc golf and the PDGA organization?
Michael Downs: It’s difficult, if not impossible, to pin exactly where the first disc was thrown in a attempt to hit a target. It’s kind of like trying to figure out who skipped the first rock across a lake. There are numerous accounts throughout the 20th century of Frisbee golf related play but the first tournament that I consider to have set up the future of Frisbee Golf was the City of Rochester Disc Golf Championship in 1970. And by 1976, Ed Hendrick set up the Disc Golf Association, which has since blossomed into what the PDGA is now.
BL: How much has disc golf grown over the years? Where do you see the future of the sport going?
MD: Disc Golf has grown considerably in the last ten years. We have seen a significant growth in the number of courses (1,500 in 2003-3,800 in 2012), which leads to growth in sanctioned tournaments, which leads to growth in member base of the PDGA, which leads to PDGA competitors in sanctioned events. It’s all cyclical. In the next ten years, I see disc golf as a staple in local, community, county, and state parks. More and more government organizations are starting to see the benefit of including disc golf in their master plan for the community. More exposure could lead to a larger commitment from sponsors, which could lead to more National Media attention. I would love to see disc golf become part of school curriculums, emphasizing the physical and recreational benefits of the sport. In short, in ten years, this sport will take on the form that skateboarding currently embodies
BL: You mention the benefits of disc golf in the community, could you elaborate on these benefits?
MD: One of the best facets of disc golf is its ability to take an otherwise unwanted portion of open space and create an aesthetically pleasing beneficial space for the community. Just being able to give people a reason to get outside and do an activity in a natural environment draws a lot of attention to city planners. During a round on a course of average length (6000 ft), a participant walks around 2 miles, including the walks between holes and following errant throws. It’s an inexpensive and entertaining form of exercise that nearly all people can play.
BL: What regions have the best players or most courses? What’s different from region to region?
MD:It’s not that regions produce better courses or players, but trends do pop up based on location. Each type of ecosystem and environment provides a unique challenge for players and competitors. In open areas, wind can be more of a factor. In wooded areas, obviously the foliage becomes an issue. At a higher elevation, discs have a tendency to fly differently. I think players appreciate the difference in terrain, and that is why the National Tour has been so successful. It gives players an opportunity to travel around the country and experience the different types of disc golf courses.
Disc golf is still a young sport. With under 50 years of organized play, their is still plenty of opportunity to get in on the ground level of what could be the next big ESPN highlighted event. To find courses, ways to get involved, and questions about bringing disc golf to your community, check out the Professional Disc Golf Associations website. In the mean time, fly straight and get those birdies.