It is fun, it is growing more popular every day, it is National Disc Golf Day on August 6 this year! Celebrated on the first Saturday of August each year, this day honors the sport of disc golf. Like golf, but not entirely, this sport uses the same general rules and etiquette but requires a disc to play. Turns out, even the world recognizes the fun in this game; not only has its fame grown by leaps and bounds in India, but it is also the fastest-growing sport in the world!
History of National Disc Golf Day
No one knows when or who invented this sport — or even who first played it. Varying accounts over the years show people have played golf with a flying disc, but they are separated by years. By all accounts, each of these stories have been isolated incidents.
Allegedly, a group of children in the early 19th century threw tin lids at circular ‘targets’ drawn in the sand on the playground at Bladworth Elementary School in Saskatchewan, Canada. People believe this to be a precursor to the current sport. While this sport — the modern version — came back to Canada in the late 19th century, people across the U.S. had coincidentally been playing this game for a while, too, since the 1960s, or so the stories say, becoming a formal sport a decade later.
One such instance was when college student George Sappenfield began working as a recreation counselor while on break from his university. He did not think this would lead to him inventing a new (for him) sport. One afternoon as he played golf, he wondered if the children in his playground would like to play too, but with Frisbees. They did. A year later, after finding out that his instructor in a recreation class, Kevin Donnelly, had also promoted Frisbee golf for children, he found a kindred spirit. As Sappenfield finished college, he went on to seek support from the American toy company Wham-O for a Frisbee golf tournament that he planned to promote. Wham-O was impressed, offered Sappenfield a job, and he went on to promote this sport everywhere. Unfortunately, this momentum slowed down as Wham-O changed its promotional plans.
While at Wham-O, Sappenfield had already introduced his colleague Ed Headrick to this sport. Headrick went on to become a major contributor to this sport, so much so that he is known as the ‘father of disc golf’ in the U.S. He founded the first official disc golf course, created (and patented) the Frisbee that would be used in this game for a long time, and founded various organizations to develop and promote this sport. More on that later.
In New York, Rochester, Jim Palmeri, his brother, and a small group of people had also been playing disc golf competitively since 1970. They were surprised to hear of the International Frisbee Association (IFA) — put together by Ed Headrick and Wham-O — and wanted to see how many people played this game in the U.S. They launched an event they called the American Flying Disc Open (AFDO) and they even put up a prize for the winner — a brand new 1974 Datsun B210.
1975 was a major turning point for disc golf. Headrick saw the promise this sport delivered, and, as an executive at Wham-O at the time, reassessed the value disc golf brought to the business. In this same year, he introduced disc golf in the World Frisbee Championships, and it was a huge success. Seeing this, Headrick resigned from his post at Wham-O and started the Disc Golf Association the next year. Soon after, he founded the initial version of the Professional Disc Golf Association, a non-profit that currently internationally governs the game. He went on to develop the official rules for this game, and also invented and patented the disc golf chain-and-basket target.
Wham-O itself continued to sponsor the World Frisbee Championship event, a move that helped introduce disc golf to people all over the U.S. and Canada, too.
While Jim Palmeri and co. were playing, the Berkeley Frisbee Group and, separately, the University of Michigan, designed golf courses on their campuses.
As recently as six years ago, this sport gained renewed interest because of features done on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays on Sportscenter.
The day itself was the brainchild of Minnesota PDGA State Coordinator Jason Wilder and non-profit Throw Pink’s co-founder Sara Nicholson. They consulted disc golf legends Dan “Stork” Roddick, Jim Palmeri, and Tom Monroe about the date, too, finally settling on August for two reasons. One, the legendary American Flying Disc Open launched this month, and two, Ed Headrick patented the first disc golf course, which is now par for the course (pardon the pun) for all disc golf course designs. This day was approved five years ago, and the U.S. has been celebrating it ever since.
National Disc Golf Day timeline
A group of children at Bladworth Elementary School in Saskatchewan, Canada are reportedly the first ones to play a version of disc golf.
A key future player in the world of disc golf, Kevin Donnelly, from Newport Beach, California, plays 'Street Frisbee Golf' — he later helps organize several significant Frisbee golf tournaments.
George Sappenfield is on break from Fresno State University and working as a recreation counselor when an idea hits him as he plays golf — he wonders if the kids in his playground would like to play golf with Frisbees, and he is right.
A group of avid golfers turn the City of Rochester Disc Golf Championship into a national tournament — they rename it and offer a huge prize for the winner to gain the attention of the Frisbee community.
American toy inventor Ed Headrick installs the first official course at Oak Grove Park in Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California — the targets are simply permanent poles.
The success of disc golf at the World Frisbee Championships suggests that this sport is the next big thing, and Ed Headrick quits his job at Wham-O to create the Disc Golf Association (DGA) — even today, it functions as a leader in the sport.
Ed Headrick coins and trademarks the term ‘disc golf’ around the same time he creates the DGA.
Ed Headrick and his son Ken invent a disc-catching device that is called the ‘Disc Pole Hole’ — it is the first one of its kind and it continues to be used even today.
Ed Headrick patents the Disc Pole Hole.
Dave Dunipace creates a new disc that becomes very popular — he goes on to co-found Innova, a popular disc golf disc manufacturer.
Disc golf appears on ESPN's Top 10 Plays on Sportscenter, taking this sport into mainstream media, too.
The U.S. finally has a special day to celebrate disc golf.
National Disc Golf Day FAQs
What are the names of the three discs you use in disc golf?
The discs used in disc golf usually fall into three categories — drivers, mid-range discs, and putters.
What is the golden rule in disc golf?
The Golden Rule in disc golf is that players have to treat other players like they want to be treated — with respect for the course, their property, and the game.
Where is disc golf most popular?
According to the PDGA Course Directory, from the 6,652 known disc golf courses in the U.S., many of them are in Texas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
How to Celebrate National Disc Golf Day 2021
Play disc golf, of course!
If you have never tried this sport out, this is your chance to learn. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, each state in the U.S. has a disc golf course. So getting onto one should be a piece of cake. You can invite some friends along and make it a group event. For more help locating a course near you, the PDGA Disc Golf Course Directory is a great resource.
Teach someone else about this sport
If you are an old hand at this, maybe you can train someone else in this sport. You can't play? No problem, you can still spread your knowledge. Take what this article gives you and use it in your dinnertime conversation with family and friends. Regale them with tales of this amazing sport, and maybe together, you can plan to learn it too.
Watch a disc golf tournament
Online or virtual, near or far, there are usually special tournaments happening around this day, and throughout the year. The PGDA itself partners with local clubs and establishments to spread awareness about this sport. Look out for their yearly tournament whose details are on their website.
5 Fun Facts About Disc Golf
It is growing in leaps and bounds
This sport is so popular that there are 11,300 courses globally.
Popularity in the U.S.
75% of all disc golf courses are in the U.S. — 8,000 of the total 11,300 courses in the world are in the U.S. alone (even in Antarctica!).
The International Olympic Committee granted full recognition to this sport in August 2015, giving it a global platform.
It was once called 'Tin Lid Golf'
Allegedly, when a group of kids in Canada began playing a version of disc golf, they would throw tin lids at targets, hence the name.
The founders didn't work together at first
Sara Nicholson and Jason Wilder initially worked on individual ideas to get recognition for this sport — a common acquaintance realized this and introduced the two.
Why we love National Disc Golf Day 2021
It is great for a budget
This sport is inexpensive to play. The only equipment needed to play it — the disc — costs an average of $10 to $15 and lasts a good long time. Finally, the courses themselves are open to the public — they have no membership fees or tee times blocking us from playing.
A unique, flexible sport
This fast-growing game takes a simple frisbee-like disc and turns it into a special game. In times of unprecedented demand for safe, inexpensive outdoor games, this sport is a special find.
It brings joy and health, too
This game keeps growing across the U.S. because more and more people are becoming disc golfers. People need a quick activity that brings them joy, and with this sport, players can even test their physical dexterity and mental strength. This game provides disc golfers with a low-impact, cardiovascular workout, and brings different kinds of people together.
National Disc Golf Day dates