Frisbees, Wham-O’s genericized trademark for flying discs, aren’t just the realm of beach-goers and college kids anymore. From Ultimate Frisbee to Kan Jam, the sporting aspects of the flying disc have expanded far beyond what its creator, Fred Morrison, could have imagined when he “discovered” the invention in 1938. According to Wikipedia, he and his wife were throwing a cake pan on a beach in Santa Monica when they were offered a quarter for it. In his words, “That got the wheels turning, because you could buy a cake pan for 5 cents, and if people on the beach were willing to pay a quarter for it, well, there was a business,” he reportedly told The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in 2007.
A Sport is Born
In 1965, decades after the original invention, a California camp counselor by the name of George Sappernfield came up with the idea of playing golf with flying discs. But it was “Steady Ed” Headrick who formalized the game with basket goals and the foundation of the sport’s governing body, the Professional Disc Golf Association, or PDGA.
The Object of the Game
As with traditional club-and-ball golf, the object of the game is to navigate a course in as few strokes as possible. Courses vary greatly in layout and environment, ranging from thick, densely-wooded courses to wide open courses with long fairways; many courses combine both of these elements, adding a unique challenge. What each course has in common is a target of “par,” typically 3, 4, or 5, corresponding to the challenge and length of each hole.
Instead of holes, the targets consist of a metal basket mounted on a pole, set in concrete. Chains stretch from the top of the target to the basket, and form a target for golfers to aim at, which deaden the disc and allow it to drop into the basket.
At a bare minimum, players generally carry three discs: a “driver,” a “mid-range” disc, and an “Approach/Putter” disc, although more advanced players carry several of each, often in a specially-designed bag. These discs are used variously to achieve greater distance, control, or accuracy, depending on what is required of the shot. The discs themselves are smaller, flatter, and considerably heavier than “catch discs,” and are made of a flexible plastic material, as opposed to the hardened plastic favored for catching. Each disc has its own characteristics, including speed, glide, turn, and fade.
Discs and other equipment are widely available at many sporting goods stores, as well as online. Once you have your discs, it is recommended you practice before playing the local course. Similar to golf, achieving distance, accuracy, and low scores doesn’t have to do with brute strength, but rather with finesse and consistency.