Rural Missouri - May 2018 - 18
Disc golf offers entertainment and exercise for all
by Zach Smith | email@example.com
pring rains muddy the ground. Dreams of
home runs and kite ﬂying are dashed. The
tennis rackets and soccer balls are left by
the door. But four ﬁgures, bags slung over
their shoulders, walk through the park all smiles.
Just ask Stan Balke, Rod Braman, Bob Freudenberg and Will Haenni - all members of the Jefferson City Disc Golf Club - and they'll tell you there's never a bad time to go
As the name suggests the sport bears the most similarity to golf in terms
of rules, gameplay and terminology. It's been around since the 1970s and in
the years since has grown a passionate following. The Professional Disc Golf
Association has more than 100,000 members worldwide. There are about
6,000 disc golf courses in the U.S. and more than 150 in the Show-Me State.
"It's a giant community, more people than you'd think," says Bob. "It's a lot
of fun and it's a great way to get out in nature."
"It's hiking with a purpose," Rod adds with a laugh.
Another similarity between golf and disc golf is in the hardware. A disc golfer's bag contains a variety of tools for different types of throws, but the drivers,
mid-range discs and putters will cost considerably less - usually less than $20
- than their club-shaped counterparts. With discs in hand, you're ready for the
At ﬁrst glance the discs may look similar but each has speciﬁc characteristics. Driver discs are less accurate but more aerodynamic for achieving maximum distance and have an edge for slicing through the air to curve around
obstacles. Putter discs are broad and meant to ﬂy straight for short distances.
Mid-range discs ﬁnd a happy medium between the two, offering the golfer a
blend of accuracy, distance and control.
"You have to add your technique to it as well," says Stan. He points out that
while initial instincts will tell a ﬁrst-time golfer to throw a disc at an angle like
a Frisbee, a ﬂat and fast throw is usually key to making the discs perform their
best. "I can throw every one of the discs in my bag ﬂat and they will do different
Each golfer starts the hole from a designated tee
pad and attempts to land their disc in a chain-link
basket in as few throws as possible. Each hole has a
par designation and the golfer with the lowest number of throws is the winner.
For each hole,
starts play on the
that a basket may
have multiple places
it can be positioned,
depending on the
course, which can
increase the distance and technical difﬁculties
of each hole.
If a disc is
of bounds or in a
water hazard, the golfer receives a drop
either 1 meter
RURAL MISSOURI | MAY 2018
in from the boundary or in a designated space.
Throw your disc into the trees - especially during spring and summer - and you'll ﬁnd yourself
coming up with some creative solutions to the disc
golfer's version of the sand trap. It's an assumed hazard of the sport that if you play, you will lose a disc at
some point to the weeds, water or leaves. For that reason players often use a variety of different colored discs
depending on the season and environment they are playing in and write their contact information on each to
help ensure it is returned.
Designing each hole is often determined by the property. Many courses are
located in public parks and the players, their clubs and appropriate parks and
recreation departments work together to map out the layout and decide who
will be in charge of maintenance. Because the players share their area with
other park goers, Stan says a well-designed course not only takes into account
challenging gameplay but also the walking trails, playgrounds and ballﬁelds to
minimize the chance of an accident.
"Safety ﬁrst is the No. 1 consideration," says Stan. "The other things are
elevation and the types of throws. You have to make it fair for everybody, or at
least competitive for them."
Although the sport may not often make national sports news save for a few
highlights aired here and there on ESPN, disc golf clubs have strong ties to local
communities. The Jefferson City club's 75 members come from all over central
Missouri and many hold memberships with other clubs, helping to maintain
their courses and host tournaments. JCDGC's annual Labor Day weekend open
tournament registers around 100 players, and other tournaments are fundraisers for community organizations such as the Samaritan Center or Day Solutions. Stan also is working with Special Olympics Missouri to teach the game to
athletes and add disc golf to the group's list of sports.
But you don't have to be a young Olympian to enjoy the sport. Despite the
rough terrain of most courses, some have ADA-compliant holes. Stan, who has
played in two PDGA Amateur World Championships, points out that one of his
competitors in that tournament was an 86-year-old grandmother.
"I think if it is ever an Olympic sport it will really break out because anybody
can play it," Stan says. "It's good exercise, too."
Another beneﬁt is that unlike regular golf, disc golf can
- and by enthusiasts, often is - played year-round.
In January, Bob and some friends kicked off the new
year with a round of disc golf in the snow and
"That's what I love about it," Rod adds.
"There are no greens fee or tee times -you
just go and play."
For more information on disc golf
or to ﬁnd a course near you visit
There are as many different throws as there
are disc golfers. Clockwise from top left, Bob
Freudenberg, Will Haenni, Rod Braman and Stan
Balke aim for an ace - the sport's equivalent of
the hole in one - at a target on the JC Miller
Disc Golf Course at Binder Lake in Jefferson City.