Celebrate National Disc Golf Day

Valerie Nothnagle, Reporter

According to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), there are over 7,500 disc golf courses in the United States and millions have used them to play. The PDGA has grown steadily after disc golf became a formalized sport, with upwards of 100,000 members having joined since 1976 and more than 3,500 annual tournaments available to compete in. Then, in August of 2015, the International Olympic Committee granted full recognition to Flying Disc sports. This new status allowed disc golf to grow globally and is now recognized each year on the first Saturday of August. In 2023, National Disc Golf Day lands on August 5th.

The person credited with the creation of the sport is “Steady” Ed Headrick, also referred to as the Father of Disc Golf. Records of people using flyings discs to play golf-like games long precede Headrick, but his inventions that he patented during the 1960s and 70s established the standards in disc golf that are still used today. He was the inventor of both the Frisbee and the basis of all Disc Golf targets, the Disc Golf Pole Hole.

In order to play disc golf, all you need are a couple of throwing discs and a local course. This game’s procedures and objectives are very similar to traditional golf, the biggest difference being throwing a disc instead of swinging at a ball. Players begin the game at a rectangular area usually made of rubber, cement, or brick, called a tee pad. From there, they toss their discs until they land one in the designated target, a basket with chains on it designed to trap the discs. Then, they progress to the next tee on the course; there are usually either 9 or 18 holes in a single course. The goal is to get the disc in the basket in the least number of throws possible, and the player with the lowest amount of cumulative throws at the end of the course wins.

There are a multitude of factors that can be attributed as to why disc golf is one of the fastest growing international sports. Playing this game is relatively inexpensive, as the only equipment needed is a collection of throwing discs. Additionally, the vast majority of courses are free and open to the public; this means that memberships are not required and there aren’t any fees. Disc golf also offers a low-impact, cardiovascular workout that is suited to people of all ages and abilities. The accessibility of the game makes it a great bonding activity for families and friends that want to spend quality time outside. 

Disc golf has reached Hershey, and there are quite a few courses to choose from. Shank Park contains a 5,262 foot course with 18 holes that are spread throughout the 90 acre park. The tees are concrete and clearly marked with the hole number, so it is easy to traverse the course despite how far apart each hole is. This course also provides a bit of a challenge to amateurs; there are holes of different elevations, tees in both wooded and open areas, and differing distances between tees and baskets. 9 holes are about 300 feet, 8 are between 300 and 400 feet, and there is one final challenging hole longer than 400 feet.

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Also nearby is the Hotel Hershey course. It is a smaller course with 9 holes. The hotel allows year round gameplay and it is open to the public—guests get complimentary discs. The tees are less obvious to spot since they are simply a part of the grassy surroundings, but this means that it is easier for players to adjust their throwing distance in accordance to their abilities. If playing as intended, holes range from 156 to 420 feet, and the location is mostly open and hilly.