Disc Golf Soaring in Popularity

By Daniel Meyer

Local courses offer outdoor fitness option for people of all ages, skill levels

Disc golf continues to grow as a popular outdoor fitness option, with many embracing the outdoor recreation activity that combines physically throwing a frisbee with the cognitive challenges of golf. 

Thanks in large part to the fact that people want to get outside and overcome the many challenges that emerged during the coronavirus pandemic, the game is being played at various courses throughout Western New York. 

People of all ages and skill levels recognize disc golf as an affordable pastime during the current economic uncertainty of our nation.

Once viewed as a fringe hobby, disc golf is now played competitively that is touted by numerous organizations which help coordinate weekly leagues, host weekend tournaments and manage outreach as part of the constant promotion of the game.

Conceptually, disc golf is very similar to golf. The use of four types of specialized discs (distance drivers, fairway drivers, mid-rangers, putters) provide players the ability to move from each hole as they attempt to try to get their disc into chain-link baskets with the fewest throws as possible. Each course varies, but most holes on par three courses stretch from 250 to 350 feet, with some longer par fours and other unique holes existing among designated out-of-bounds areas, water hazards and out strategically placed obstacles.

But that is where the similarities end, with no sign of golf carts, course membership fees, manicured greens, and specific dress codes. 

That being said, the passion for both sports is evident for those who are dedicated players, with disc golf enthusiasts in Western New York eager to share with anyone who will listen about the joys that come with the physical fitness and mental challenges of playing the game. 

Pandemic relief

Numerous disc golf players who picked up the sport sometime over the past few years point to the simple facts that the game is played outdoors and provides socially distance recreation opportunities, which was craved by many during the height of the global pandemic.

“I started playing last year because I was going bonkers being at home and not at work and what happened is I got hooked,” said Linda Carton. “I wasn’t shocked at all to have learned at the last out-of-state tournament I competed in that disc golf experienced unprecedented growth since mid-2020.”

Carton, a 32-year-old resident of the town of Sardinia, has played over two dozen different disc golf courses in six different states. She believes her mental sanity was saved by learning how to play the game and that her physical fitness level has dramatically improved since she began playing two years ago.

“It was my form of pandemic relief and I’m so grateful to have learned about and developed a great interest in a game I knew very little about until recently,” said Carton.

 “I was first exposed to the game in 2019 when I was in Colorado,” said Keith Pelkey, a 46-year-old resident of the town of Boston. “I then learned more about it over the next year after that, mostly from watching videos online. I began playing in 2020 and increased my frequency in playing throughout the duration of the pandemic.”

“I found it to be a way to meet my desire to get outside and move more during the pandemic,” said Randy Cszonyka, a 46-year-old resident of Getzville. “It’s a lot harder than it looks. The strategy is fascinating and is of great interest to me because you are constantly thinking about what you should alter or charge as you approach a new challenge based on the distance and the landscape.”

Summer fun in the sun

Ray McCown, a 67-year-old resident of Florida who spends the summer months at his sister’s cottage in Evans, recently recovered from a serious leg injury that resulted in him having to give up his weekly golf outings and almost daily tennis matches. Not one to sit idle, he learned about disc golf while on vacation in South Carolina in early 2021 and quickly embraced the sport.

“It’s awesome because I get my competitive juices going and I always break a sweat and get lots of steps in whenever I play,” said McCown. “I’ve been telling more people my age about it and I hope a few more guys I grew up with and some ladies who live near my sister decide to take up my offers to play this summer because I know they will absolutely love it once they get the hang of it.”

“As a school teacher, it’s ideal for me during the summer months to keep me physically fit and to keep my mind occupied and engaged with some strategic thinking,” said Cszonyka. “It provides me motivation to get fresh air and exposure to sunlight and getting my daily steps in. It’s a really fun activity that is I believe is ideal for people seeking something to do in smaller groups as opposed to attempting to find enough people to play a baseball game or another larger grouped team activity.”

“You are definitely exerting yourself,” said Pelkey. “You have to use your core muscles and you really work your leg muscles. It’s important to stretch before you go out, especially your legs and your back. You also get exercise from not only walking the course but carrying your equipment, which for most players can be anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds. You definitely break a swear when you play. I love it.”

Physical and mental

The demand for players to be physically fit but not necessarily top-notch athletes makes disc golf an ideal sport for almost anyone who isn’t severely disabled or limited in their ability to walk and throw a Frisbee. Combined with the strategic mindset needed to move from one hole to another, disc golf offers a rare win-win for a physically and mentally challenging activity.