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Disc Golf…Golf for the Rest of Us!

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Parks and golf courses across the Pacific Northwest are increasingly welcoming the popular sport of disc golf to their properties. Disc golf requires a totally different set of gear than traditional golf, though the terminology and goals are similar. Instead of a ball and clubs, players use a disc—one of three depending on the situation: putters, mid-range discs and drivers—all different weights, designs and dimensions with varying speeds, trajectories and directional “fades.”  Looking for a new form of recreation? This year-round activity might just be the ticket!

Photo credit: Santeri Viinamaäki

Introduced in the 1970s, the goal of disc golf is to complete each hole in the fewest number of strokes or throws. Think pars, just like in traditional golf. A golf disc is thrown from a tee area—typically a concrete pad—to a target “hole," usually an elevated metal basket called a disc catcher. Tee pads are customarily accompanied by informational signs explaining each hole with basic mapping and boundaries. As a player throws down the fairway, they must make their next shot from the spot where the previous throw landed. Trees, landmarks and other natural obstacles on the fairway can challenge even the best disc golfer. Each time a disc lands in the basket (or chains), the hole is completed. Most disc golf courses in Western Washington offer 9 and 18-hole courses (SeaTac, however, has a 27-hole course).

Photo credit: Justin Cross

Bill Winkler of Lakewood, WA, is a professional, nationally ranked disc golf player who has competed for decades. He credits the late Raymond Seick as an early Northwest disc golf pioneer and mentor to many who was known to share gear and help new players fall in love with the sport. Ralph “Ralphie” Williamson, who passed away in 2011, was another local and 10-time world champion of disc golf who made the sport infectious, and is memorialized by a course and an open tournament. Lowell Shields of Mountlake Terrace, WA, is another longtime accomplished pro and also known to sell disc golf gear.

Like traditional golf, Winkler explained there is a sanctioning organization, the Professional Disc Golf Association, which offers competitive opportunities from local to national (and even international!) tournaments, across age group divisions alongside concurrent opportunities to play as an amateur. The tour season runs between February and the end of September, although local casual play happens year round, rain or shine. Winkler noted there is also a local November fundraising tournament called the Ice Bowl (one of many that happens across the country under the PDGA) to help fight hunger and bring the disc golf community together.

DiscGolf4Photo credit: Bill Winkler

 For those just getting started, it’s really a matter of getting some very simple gear (namely a putter and mid-range disc, approximately $50 for a starter set from brands such as Innova, Discraft and Dynamic) and showing up at one of dozens of Puget Sound area disc golf courses. Many courses are free, maintained by the players themselves, and those located on golf courses may have a cart rental available; Winkler said it’s easy to get between six and 11 miles of walking in, depending on the course. In the South Sound, Disc Golf Armory (on Facebook as @discgolfarmory) is a converted bread truck whose proprietor offers gear and lessons—helpful to understand the grips needed for each disc and, of course, the rules. It toggles between Fort Steilacoom and Riverside disc golf courses.

Ready to scope out the disc golf scene? Winkler advises starting by visiting www.pdga.com and visiting the site’s “Courses” tab. Follow the drop-downs to find area courses near you. There are approximately 63 courses along greater Seattle alone, spanning from Everett to Olympia!  Get some fresh air, make new friends and challenge yourself at disc golf! After an intense game of disc golf and friendly competition, stop by one of our Seafood Bars for a quick bite to eat before heading home.