Disc Golf

For Fun and Fitness

Don’t call it a Frisbee™. That’s Wham-O’s registered trademark for the flying disc that started it all in the 1960s. The ubiquitous plastic toys have come a long way from being a simple backyard pastime. Today, disc golf is a worldwide, organized sport, with more than 2,500 dedicated outdoor courses in the US alone, complete with competitions, celebrities and fans.

What is the powerful attraction that draws such interest from such a diverse population of athletes and amateurs? Mark Twain famously once labeled golf, “A good walk spoiled.” Perhaps this relatively new sport’s appeal is that it’s more about the journey than the destination.

Not only does disc golf provide a great outing of low-impact fitness-building, it encourages the player to keep at it longer. While any bout of exercise or individual sports practice might grow old after a half-hour, participating in a game of disc golf extends the session to an involving hour or two of gentle upper and lower body conditioning and aerobic benefits. Players are out to constantly improve their handicap.

Hand-eye coordination strengthens, as do concentration skills, all with less risk of injury than with many other sports. Even individuals with a low level of fitness or disabilities can join in, gradually increasing their activity as health recovers.

Economy and convenience are key attractions, too. A disc can cost less than $10 and reservations are not required to play. A dozen manufacturers offer a choice of discs and accessory equipment, including Gateway, Innova and Discraft.

Bill Flynn, commissioner of Trumbull County Metroparks, in Ohio, notes, “The activity provides low-cost recreation to the community, while being low-cost for installation and maintenance.” Such benefits are important to park systems.

Disc golf courses can cover a variety of terrains and no irrigation is required. Areas unsuitable for other activities can thus be used, affording players surroundings of natural beauty and inspiration that might otherwise be overlooked.

As a player advances through a 9- or 18-hole disc golf course, he tries to make his platters fall into a series of special baskets, consisting of a chest-high metal frame surrounded by a chain-link mesh. As in golf, the object is to reach the end of the course in the fewest number of turns. Advanced players choose from their bag of discs according to distance, curves and obstacles. Basic disc categories are drivers, mid-range and putters.

One iconic figure on the disc scene is “Steady” Ed Headrick. He didn’t quite invent the Frisbee, but in 1964, reengineered it into a more efficient, usable form. That’s when interest took off. Headrick coined the disc golf label, later founding several related organizations.

Southwest Florida boasts several disc golf courses: Bonita Springs Recreation Center in Bonita Springs; Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers; Bay Oaks Disc Golf Course in Ft. Myers Beach; and North Fort Myers Community Park in North Fort Myers. None charge a fee to play.

“Disc golf players regularly conduct tournaments to raise funds for individuals in the community and to collect goods and cash for food banks,” comments Tim Townsend, a six-year veteran who locates a course in whatever city he finds himself. “Volunteers also host kids’ clinics, where aspiring players easily pick up the fundamentals.” Inspiration comes watching the more experienced teachers tee off with 300-foot drives, then sink 30-foot putts.

For more information about the Professional Disc Golf Association visit www.PDGA.com.

For directions to local courses call: 239-340-2841 in Bonita Springs; 239-590-3963 at FGCU; 239-822-2788 in Ft. Myers Beach; and 239-707-7884 in North Fort Myers.

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