Golf and disc golf (also known as Frisbee golf) are two popular outdoor sports that involve throwing or hitting a ball/disc into a target. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct differences when it comes to history, equipment, courses, rules, and accessibility. This guide will examine the origins, gear, play, expenses, and overall pros and cons of each sport to help you decide which one may be better suited for you.
History of Golf
Golf is an ancient sport whose origins date back to 15th century Scotland. The first written record of golf is James II’s banning of the sport in 1457 because it interfered with archery practice. Early golf was played on crude courses called “links lands” close to the sea. The first 18-hole golf course was the Old Course at St Andrews Links in 1764.
Golf grew in popularity in the late 19th century thanks to innovations in equipment like the gutta percha ball. The first golf clubs emerged during this time as well. Golf’s first major tournament was 1860’s British Open. The sport spread across the British Empire in the late 1800s and early 1900s, first reaching America in the 1880s. Today golf is played worldwide by an estimated 60 million people.
History of Disc Golf
Disc golf originated in the 1960s, combining concepts from golf and flying disc games like ultimate Frisbee. The first disc golf course was established in 1959 at Oak Grove Park in Pasadena, California. Disc golf grew through the 60s and 70s due to the development of the modern Frisbee by Wham-O toys and the nationwide popularity of Frisbee as a recreation.
Pioneers like “Steady” Ed Headrick, Dave Dunipace and Ken Westerfield helped establish the first disc golf associations, standardizing rules and equipment. Headrick also invented the Disc Pole Hole, patenting the first disc golf basket. The Professional Disc Golf Association was formed in 1976, helping make disc golf a globally competitive sport. There are over 8000 disc golf courses worldwide today.
The most essential equipment in golf is the golf club. A standard set contains woods, irons and a putter, often 14 clubs total. Other must-have gear includes golf balls, tees, ball markers, gloves and golf shoes with spikeless soles. Bags to carry clubs while walking the course are also key. Additional accessories like rangefinders, ball retrievers, umbrellas and towels can further aid play.
Club technology has evolved from wooden-shafted clubs and feather-stuffed balls to today’s metal drivers with graphite shafts and multi-layer urethane coated balls. Other innovations like hybrid clubs integrate features of woods and irons for versatility. Custom fitting and club adjustment helps optimize clubs for each golfer’s body type and swing. Proper club sizing, loft angles, lie angles, shaft flex and grip size improve performance.
Disc Golf Equipment
The main piece of equipment in disc golf is the specialized flying disc or Frisbee. Discs come in 3 main types – drivers, mid-range discs and putters – each with different flight characteristics for various shot shapes and distances. Drivers have sharp edges for speed and distance. Mid-ranges provide accuracy and control for approach shots. Putters have very little lift for short shots into the basket.
Discs vary in stability profiles as well – overstable, understable or neutral. Discs also come in different plastics offering a range of durability, flexibility and grip. Many top players carry 10-20 discs in their bags to cover all possible shot shapes. Other disc golf gear includes mini marker discs, towels, UV-protected gloves and specialized shoes. New technologies like disc waterproofing continue to emerge.
Golf courses typically cover 120-150 acres of land and 5-7,000 yards in length for 9 holes, with 18-hole full courses being twice as long. Fairways average 50-60 yards wide and holes range from 150 to 600+ yards. Greens are meticulously maintained grass surfaces where the ball is putted into the hole. Hazards like bunkers and water lie between tee boxes and greens.
Many courses are links-style built along coasts with sandy dunes, while parkland-style feature trees and ponds. Famous courses include Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St Andrews and Pinehurst. New course architecture trends towards environmental sustainability, strategic challenge and playability for all. Renowned golf architects like Jack Nicklaus, A.W. Tillinghast and Pete Dye influence course design worldwide.
Disc Golf Courses
Disc golf courses are made up of 9 or 18 holes containing multiple tee pads, fairways and targets. They utilize and preserve existing land and terrain features. Grass teeing areas lead to fairways of trim grass, dirt, sand or wooded paths to natural obstacles like trees, brush and waterways. Greens are replaced by standardized disc golf baskets acting as holes.
The diversity of landscapes and obstacle challenge defines each course’s unique play. Holes range from 150-1000+ feet. Topography, elevation changes, open/wooded fairways and skill level dictate design. Signage provides rules, tee order, distances and “mandatories” dictating required shot paths. Notable course designers include John Houck and Steady Ed Headrick. Famous disc golf locations include Järva, Maple Hill and Winthrop.
Golf Rules & Scoring
Golf follows strict rules and etiquette enforced by marshals and peers. Players take turns hitting shots while avoiding distractions or damage to the course. The lowest score wins after completing all holes. Scores are counted as number of strokes per hole, adding up to a total score for 18 holes.
Par provides a benchmark – the expected number of strokes to finish a hole, usually 3-5 based on length. Birdie and eagle are finishing 1 or 2 strokes under par, while bogey and double bogey are 1 or 2 over. Handicaps allow players of different abilities to compete by adjusting starting scores based on skill level. Penalty strokes are added for rule infractions, like hitting from out of bounds.
Disc Golf Rules & Scoring
The Official Rules of Disc Golf govern professional and recreational play. Similar etiquette of taking turns and avoiding distraction apply. The goal is to traverse each hole from tee to basket in the lowest number of throws (strokes). The total score after all holes determines the winner.
Scores are counted per hole based on number of throws plus penalty throws if applicable. Par is 3-5 throws designated by course. Completing a hole in 1 under par earns a “Deuce.” 2 under is an “Ace” – a rare feat. Players are grouped in divisions by gender, age and skill. Ratings help track throwing accuracy statistics for tournament play qualification.
Golf – Costs & Expenses
Golf is an expensive recreational sport due to both equipment and playing costs. New golf clubs cost $200-$600 for irons, $300-$500 for woods and $150-$350 for putters. A full new set averages around $1000-$1500. Golf balls cost ~$25-$50 per dozen. Green fees to play 9 or 18 holes range from $15 at local courses to $100-$500 at elite clubs. Private club memberships cost $2500-$15000.
Additional expenses include golf bags ($150+), shoes ($100+), gloves ($15-25) and other accessories. Range buckets for practice add up at ~$5-$15 per large bucket. Lessons run $50-$150 per hour. Frequent club replacement, driving range practice and greens fees make golf a big investment for regular play, hence its reputation as an elite sport.
Disc Golf – Costs & Expenses
One major advantage of disc golf is that startup costs and recurring expenses are very low compared to traditional golf. Discs can be purchased for about $10-$20 each depending on model and plastic, so a starter set of 3-5 discs runs $30-$100. Other gear like mini markers, towels and gloves runs under $10-$20 each.
The vast majority of disc golf courses are located in public parks and allow free, year-round walk-on access for casual play. Even tournament entry fees max out around $75-$100 on average. The ability to practice putting and throwing in any open field or park area avoids driving range fees. For less than $200, anyone can access a lifelong disc golf hobby. Advanced players still spend freely on collectible discs.
Golf – Pros & Cons
- Refined skill development with immense depth
- Established history & traditions
- Beautiful, manicured courses
- Enhanced mental focus and discipline
- Social game for business and charity events
- Very expensive to get started and keep playing ($1000s in fees/equipment)
- Steep learning curve to play consistently well
- Slower pace of play – 4+ hours for 18 holes
- Elite country club culture is restrictive
- Environmental impact of course maintenance
Disc Golf – Pros & Cons
- Extremely affordable – discs under $20, free courses
- Quick to learn basic play, lifetime skills growth
- Fast pace – complete 18 holes in under 2 hours
- Play year-round in any weather
- More environmentally friendly than golf
- Less formal structure, refereeing and coaching
- Lack of food/beverage amenities at most courses
- Fewer facilities overall compared to golf
- Smaller professional tournament scene
- Negative stereotypes of “stoner” culture
In summary, golf and disc golf offer enjoyable, challenging athletic pursuits in the outdoors. Golf provides meticulously crafted facilities and rich competitive traditions, but requires significant upfront and recurring costs. Disc golf delivers accessible year-round play and rugged courses with player camaraderie, but lacks some of golf’s infrastructure and elite culture.
For those seeking a more casual, affordable and nature-centric sport, disc golf is the clear choice. But golf remains unrivaled for prestigious tournaments and history-filled courses. Ultimately personal preference, budget and lifestyle will dictate which sport is a better fit. Both deliver rewarding play and experiences in the great outdoors if approached with passion.