It is an original sport practiced with a Frisbee and rules derived from golf. The goal is to reach a metal basket with as few throws as possible on a course of 9 to 18 holes. † The great advantage Disc Golf shares with golf is that it is practiced in beautiful environments, usually in parks or in Forest. It is also accessible to everyone and very easily accessible.” summarizes the American Federation (PDGA) on its website.
Invented in 1975
American inventor Ed Headrick, who pioneered the early models of modern Frisbees, created Disc Golf in 1975. He was also the founder and director of PDGA, the United States’ sports regulatory body, from 1976 to 1982. Disc Golf first flourished in public parks in American cities, with local authorities leaving Ed Headrick and his gang to install their equipment, hoping to breathe new life into the often-visited places. † It took a while, but the park managers finally said, hey, we really liked what you were doing in this park. We have another place where you could do the sameexplains Brian Graham, director of Disc Golf Development for the PDGA. The more courts we installed, the more people started playing. The sport developed organically. †
In 2018, the PDGA listed 37,000 licensed players for 6,300 jobs in the United States. The pandemic has completely changed the situation in 2020. Faced with successive incarceration and the inability to get together as a group, Disc Golf, which is played in nature and promotes social distancing, has seen its popularity explode. The sport has grown nearly 300% in just one year, with 110,000 licensed players serving 13,300 jobs in 2021, before reaching 213,000 players in 2022. “In total, 8 to 12 million Americans have played Disc Golf at least once,” adds the Sports Planning Guide.
Professional career and TV broadcasting
Covid-19 also allowed Disc Golf to appear on American television for the first time. Faced with the cessation of major sports normally broadcast on the major national channels, Disc Golf has reached an agreement in 2020 with CBS Sports and ESPN2 to broadcast its professional circuit. And the public has a deal, as 225,000 viewers watched the Disc Golf Pro Tour in November 2020. By comparison, the hockey league (NHL) attracted an average of 400,000 viewers per game in 2021, 276,000 for the football championship (MLS). †
The first professional Disc Golf competition was held in Massachusetts in June 2016. The PDGA does not disclose how many professional players are active today, but during the last PDGA World Championships, one of the most important Disc Golf tournaments, there were about 150 on the course. More and more competitions are being organized at the local and regional level, with individual prizes of up to $20,000 in case of a win. † We have a professional circuit with athletes working full timenotes Brian Graham. None of them are very rich, but they live from their passion. I think our sport will continue to grow in such a way that more and more players can earn a living from it.”
A sport in 40 countries
At the amateur level, Disc Golf has the advantage of being almost free. All you have to do is buy your Frisbee and find a field, often free to enter or rent for a few bucks. Not physically demanding, it is also suitable for all ages and allows you to spend a morning or an afternoon in nature, in the open air. All these advantages have allowed Disc Golf to develop internationally. The sport is present in almost 40 countries today, mainly in Australia, Canada and the Scandinavian countries.
In France, the practice of Disc Golf is sanctioned by the French Federation of Flying Disc (the other name for Frisbee). The first course was created in 2002 in Seine-et-Marne (77), and 20 years later, France has 110 courses. Neither the FFFD nor the National Disc Golf Commission (CNDG) communicates the number of players in France, but the country hosts national championships every year. The best active player, Sylvain Gouge, won the league title 13 times. In 2018 he also became European champion.