Disc Golf is Growing in Popularity
It is among the fastest-growing sports in the world. For the uninitiated, the rules of play are similar to traditional golf. But, instead of swinging a club to hit the ball, players here throw discs to get them to land in metal baskets fitted from a pole in the ground.
The objective is to complete each basket by using the fewest number of throws. Usually, a course is made up of 9 to 18 holes. Competing players start at basket number one and complete the course in the correct order. Players with the least number of cumulative throws are declared winners. Players of all fitness levels can play the game.
A disc golf course is often a rough terrain with trees. At present, there are more than 7,500 disc golf courses in the US. It is played by many people all over the world in as many as 40 countries. Based on the positive experience of this game and the enthusiastic participation of players, the game is rapidly growing, with new courses being set up in both urban and rural areas. As of 2020, the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) has more than 71,000 active members all over the world.
The History of this Fascinating Sport
It all began at the Bladworth Elementary School in Canada. It was 1926, and Ronald Brandon Cain, along with his group of buddies at the school, happened to play a game called Tin Lid Golf.
In the earliest known version of this game, tin lids were targeted and thrown into 4 feet wide circular areas drawn on sandy patches of the school ground. However, as they grew up, they forgot all about the game.
Disc golf, as we know now, evolved in the 1960s.
There’s a lot of contention about who was the first to come up with the idea. Generally, it is believed that several groups of people played the game independently in the 1960s. For example, Rice University students in Texas held disc throwing tournaments with trees as the primary target, as early as 1964. Also, in the early 1960s, players at the Pendleton King Park in Augusta, Georgia, practiced tossing discs into targets made with 50-gallon barrel trash cans.
Frisbee golf was played in the Alameda Park at Santa Barbara, California. Teenagers of the Anacapa and Sola street areas participated in this game. This game continued for several years. A collector’s edition disc from the Alameda Park still exists, and it is very rare. Only a few of these discs were made.
“Steady Ed” Headrick and Dave Dunipace
The contribution of two early players, Dave Dunipace and “Steady Ed” Headrick, elevated the game to the way it is played today. Headrick helped set the formal rules of the sport and established the DGA (Disc Golf Association) and the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association). He also founded the Recreational Disc Golf Association (RDGA). The PDGA was established for competitive sports and the RDGA for family events.
The first formal target for disc golf, made with chains and a basket was invented by Headricks. Headricks designed and patented the modern-day Frisbee when he was working at Wham-O toys. He also designed the first standard target course for disc golf at Oak Grove Park in the La Canada Flintridge, located in California.
Nowadays, the park is known as the Hahamonga Watershed Park. He is credited to have coined the term “disc golf” and trademarked it. He also patented the Disc Pole Hole. Later on, he abandoned his trademark on the term “disc golf” and assigned the administration of PDGA to the increasing number of disc golf players.
Dave Dunipace designed the modern disc in 1983. The addition of a beveled rim to the disc gave it greater accuracy, and it covered more distance. He was a co-founder of Innova, one of the most well-known manufacturers of discs.
Some Disc Golf Techniques to Note
You will have to focus on techniques to improve the game. The better you can develop good throwing habits, and the more your game will improve. Beginner disc golfers often make the mistake of focusing too much on covering the distance. However, at the start, you should be mastering the technique of the game. Distance will follow automatically afterward if the technique is right.
First Tip: Running on the tee pad does not improve your throw
It is a common mistake made by many new players. It seems only logical that running on the tee pad will grant you the momentum to get the discs to cover more distances. However, in reality, running only tends to make the throw erratic. If you want a good throw, walk up a few steps and release the disc in a smooth motion. With some practice, you can get your discs to reach where you intend them to. Also, remember that a fast motion might cause the disc to lose direction. Take it slow, and you might as well be surprised by the improvement. These techniques also reduce the risk of injuries.
Second Tip: Decide on the right grip
The disc can be held in various ways. The usual way to grip a disc is to place the thumb on the upper side of the disc, and the other fingers below it. Some people use two fingers on the lower side of the disc, while others use three fingers. You can also try placing the index finger on the rim. Try different grips to find out which one is convenient for you. Once you figure it out, keep practicing it.
Step-By-Step Ideal Throw Technique
Use Hip Rotation: The better is your ability to rotate the hips during the throw, the more you gain power and velocity. Just so that you don’t get off-balance while doing it, you should be bending your knees a little bit and lowering your body. The idea here is to keep your center of gravity balanced. With some practice, you can better understand how far to stretch your feet and how to place your feet on the ground. You will have to reach back with a fully extended arm. Again, the further you can reach toward the back, the more power you can assimilate on the throw.
Your line of sight: Look away from the target when you are reaching back. This, in turn, allows for maximum hip rotation. Align your line of vision with the target when you release the disc.
Hold the disc close to your chest: Lead with your elbow so that you can get a straight throw. Otherwise, the disc tends to take a circular motion. Keeping the disc close to your chest while you make the throw will also help you to gain more power. With this technique, you should be able to get a ‘whipping’ motion on the disc.
Take a big final step: While you are releasing the disc, take a strong, big step towards the front. Just don’t stretch it too far so that you lose balance on the throw. Also, use your back leg to push your body forward. This will get you to cover more distance on the throw.
Allow follow-through: Allow follow-through of your body after releasing the disc. Don’t stop the normal motion of the body after completing the throw. This will reduce the chance of injuries. Besides, follow-through also adds to that final push on the disc. It also helps you to maintain consistency so that you can proceed comfortably from one throw to the next.
Types of Discs
To start with disc golf, one must be aware of the type of discs. You have four basic types. These are distance drivers, control drivers, mid-rangers, and putters. Some manufacturers present discs that can perform two or more types of actions. These are called hybrid discs. However, for the sake of simplicity, here is a brief description of the four basic disc types.
Distance drivers: These have a sharp edge and are relatively thin. These take a lot of power to throw, and they can cover a large distance. Able players can cover more than 500 feet with these discs.
Control Drivers: They are also known as fairway drivers. They are easier to throw and control. They make it easy to maintain a balance between accuracy and distance.
Mid-range discs: These are a little heavier than drivers, which means that they will not cover long distances. However, they are perfect for practicing your throw.
Putters: These are bulkier than the other types, but they can help make an accurate throw over short distances.
Disc Golf and COVID-19
Although COVID-19 largely hampered professional sports, disc golf has seen an opposite trend. In more than one place, disc golf has grown in popularity. The main reason is that this sport can be played in a socially distant manner. In places where restrictions were not imposed, the game saw more players joining in to experience the fun. Discraft and Infinite Discs reported an increase in sales during the pandemic. In fact, the demand exceeded the supply. Many retailers turned to sell online after their brick-and-mortar stores were closed during the pandemic.
These players are currently at the top of their game.
Disc golf is a happening sport, and many tournaments keep getting organized for players to display their prowess. Here are some of the upcoming events. The full list and schedule of upcoming events can be obtained at the PDGA website.
Masters Cup presented by Innova – National Tour on May 28 – 30 at Santa Cruz, California
Fort Steilacoom Open- Driven by Innova – May 29 -30 at Lakewood, Washington
Kansas City Flying Disc Challenge presented by Discmania – May 29 -30, Kansas City, Missouri
Splinter City Showdown Driven by Innova- May 29- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Hastings Disc Golf Grand Prix- May 29- Hastings, Michigan
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