While many of the nearly 5,000 courses in the United States boast grand vistas, glorious flora and some fauna, others are tucked along steep terrain and small creeks, providing a use for parkland not suitable for much else.
"Disc golf courses can be built on land that is sometimes deemed 'unusable' by other potential park amenities," says Scott Keasey, general manager of the Watsonville, California-based Disc Golf Association Inc. (DGA), a manufacturer of disc golf equipment. "We like trees and we like hills. All of that is used in our course development."
Disc golf equipment often is inconspicuous on the course: The metal baskets for catching discs and the concrete or rubber pads for teeing off camouflage easily among the trees, boulders and tall grasses that provide obstacles.
Ed Headrick, who designed and patented the Frisbee for Wham-O Toys in 1966, later invented the disc-catching, metal-chain baskets that helped turn Frisbee tossing into the disc-golf sport. He established DGA in 1976 and also the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), based in Appling, Georgia, as the governing body for both professional and recreational disc golf. Headrick, listed as player No. 1 in the PDGA, died in 2002.
"Compared to traditional golf, it's an infant," says Keasey, who's been playing the sport for 20 years. "But disc golf has some legs."
The sport is growing fast, says Brian Graham, PDGA executive director; membership in the PDGA grew by 18 per cent to 25,000 members last year.
In disc golf, players tee off at each of nine to 18 holes (or more), trying to land their discs in a Disc Pole Hole (the basket) in as few throws as possible. Discs whip around trees and might even roll or bounce along the ground. The player with the lowest cumulative score wins.
Most of the courses are on public land; playing usually is free.
And there are no golf carts.
John Bird, of Longmont, Colorado, a longtime disc-golf player and course builder, is partial to his state's courses, ticking off ones in Aspen, Snowmass and Conifer as among the most scenic. The PDGA lists the Aspen Mountain course as the highest in North America — more than 11,000 feet above sea level.
"One everybody would want to play, definitely, is Aspen," says Bird.
Here's Keasey's admittedly subjective list of five favourite scenic disc-golf courses in the U.S.:
1. De Laveaga Disc Golf Course, Santa Cruz, California: "Regularly considered one of the 'must play' courses in the country, it has challenging holes and greens, and the beautiful 27th hole, known as the 'Top of the World' ... overlooks the entire Monterey Bay."
2. Whistler's Bend Disc Golf Course, Roseburg, Oregon: "This one has great holes on a beautiful piece of land that is bordered on most sides by a circular bend of the Umpqua River. Camping is available on the course, making for a great camping/disc golf getaway."
3. Blue Ribbon Pines Disc Golf Course, East Bethel, Minnesota: "This is a private, pay-for-play course with beautifully manicured holes and great layout. The signature Hole 4 is tightly lined on both sides of the fairway by 100-foot pine trees."
4. Flyboy Aviation Disc Golf Course, Whitesburg, Georgia: "This private course, built within a gated airpark community, is not easy to access to play, making it even more of a treat. It has wonderfully designed holes and is well manicured. Not often do you have to take time out from playing a hole to allow an airplane to land on one of the grass runways."
5. Pickard Park Disc Golf Course, Indianola, Iowa: "Travelers to Iowa are rewarded with a beautiful course in rolling prairie land.... Beautifully manicured, every hole seems worthy of a camera shot."
A ranking of players' favourite disc-golf courses is published each year online by Disc Golf Course Review.