Disc golf takes full flight in Denver metro area

Many find the sport suits them to a tee, and the price is right


Chris Ball is a Grammy-nominated songwriter who has composed music for many television shows and toured for seven years as a musician with the rock band Firefall.

The 53-year-old Highlands Ranch resident still found time to become a competitive amateur disc golfer.

“When I traveled with Firefall, I brought my discs with me sometimes and I would go play,” Ball said. “I would do a lot more at home. It is just so easy to get out for an hour at a park near my house or to a field just to go practice and hone the same shot over and over again.

“Going back to my teenage years, I loved to play freestyle Frisbee, just playing in a park. I just thought disc golf was a lot of fun at first. It was just kind of fun to mix Frisbee and golf, throwing at a basket. We’ve come a long way from throwing ultimate discs at trees in a park and calling it ‘golf’ `or ‘frolf’ "

Disc golf can be hard to play.

Throwing a small disc a long way takes skill, practice and can be challenging to master. The sport is played like traditional golf, except that flying discs are used instead of a golf ball.

The sport was created in the early 1970s with the object of completing each hole with the fewest strokes, or throws, in this case. The discs are thrown at metal baskets.

There are four types of discs used in disc golf. There are distance drivers, which are thin, sharp-edged, dense and require speed when throwing. Drives can go up to 400 feet if thrown properly. Fairway drivers are easier to control and usually have more glide time. Midrange discs are bulkier and less aerodynamic with a more rounded outside lip. Putters are shaped more like traditional Frisbees and are heavier.

“Disc golf, I would have to say over the past 10 years, is a growing sport here in Colorado and across the country,” said Ray Woodruff, the Colorado Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) coordinator and Rocky Mountain Women’s Disc Golf Championship tournament director. “I was first introduced to the game in 1996 and enjoyed several years of recreational play until joining the tournament scene in 2007. I have been on the board of directors for the Mile High Disc Golf Club since 2011.”

In a 2019 PDGA demographics report, the association reported it has 120,000 lifetime members and 46,00 active players. Colorado has 1,195 PDGA participants. The PDGA points out that as many as 500,000 people play the sport regularly. The 2019 PDGA course directory lists 6,316 courses in the United States. There are more than 100 courses listed in Colorado. Some courses are private and many were created by homeowners associations.

“Practicing in a field is the key to what it takes to be a decent player,” Ball said. “The sport is fun, there are hundreds of free courses nationwide and you don’t have to be a great athlete to enjoy getting out in the fresh air and playing. But to become really good, just like anything, you have to practice.

“Now, I play for the love of the game, being outdoors and in Colorado, where we have incredible courses up in the mountains. We have great courses in and around Denver, and it is free. That’s a big part of it. The only thing that costs you is if you lose a disc.”

According to PDGA demographics, only 8% of its membership is female, but there were 134 women who played in the Rocky Mountain Women’s Disc Golf Championships on Aug. 2-4 at Purple Park in Superior.

Erika Weir, a PDGA member since 2014 who resides in Denver, was one of the entrants in the Open division. She finished fifth.

“What makes a good disc golfer to me is the first thing you have to do is be patient and be willing to learn,” Weir said. “A lot of times, you have discs that may or may not work for you and you need to work through them or be willing to switch to another disc. Obviously being passionate and having a good work ethic about it is super helpful. If you have any background in throwing it’s helpful. Maybe you throw a football or maybe you were a former softball or baseball player. Those skills translate, too.”

Brandon Nelon, of Littleton, has been playing disc golf for 10 years. The president of Dragon Disc Golf Club — which on its website lists “home courses” in Aurora, Littleton and Greenwood Village — is the director for six local tournaments this year.

“The sport is growing worldwide,” Nelon said. “I know the Denver area has a huge disc golf following. It’s going to continue to grow. It’s growing every year and it’s not on a downward trend, either.”


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