Why? Because disc golf is so much better. For the uninitiated, the sport is like regular golf, but instead of clubs and balls you whip Frisbee-like discs — weighted and contoured for curl and distance — and instead of holes there are metal baskets set on poles with hanging chains that absorb the impact of incoming projectiles. Touted as “the world’s fastest growing sport,” there are courses in hundreds of cities and towns in more than 40 countries around the world. In Canada, there are over 200.
But how is it better than regular golf? Let us count the ways:
Golf: Rounds are expensive, and if they're not you get what you pay for.
Disc golf: Rounds are nearly always free.
Golf: The equipment is pricey and cumbersome. Without a car, it's pretty much impossible to get to a course.
Disc golf: A basic set of discs comprising putter, mid-range and driver costs as little as $30. The discs slide neatly into backpacks -- leaving plenty of room for refreshments -- and weigh considerably less than a six-pack (to use a random comparison).
Golf: Is time-consuming, especially when you live in a large city and most courses are located in the surrounding countryside.
Disc golf: An 18-hole round takes about half as long as does regular golf, and I can bike to three different courses -- all free -- from my home.
Golf: Dress codes? Ugh...
Disc golf: Flip flops? Extremely tight jeans (pictured above)? Oversized foam cowboy hats? Sure!
Golf: Many courses are pleasing to the eye, but can't really be described as "natural."
Disc golf: Most layouts are inconspicuous and fit right into their lovely parkland settings.
Golf: Your furry friend wants to join you? Forget it!
Disc golf: As long as Fluffy doesn't chase and chomp the discs, you can both get some exercise.
If you're heading to my adopted hometown any time soon, I can think of no better way to kick off your visit — or to diffuse the stress of a Bay St. boardroom — than with a round of disc golf on Ward’s Island. This is one of the world’s premier tracks, a 6,925-foot stretch of bucolic parkland with Lake Ontario to the south and prime views of the downtown Toronto skyline to the north. It hosted the Professional Disc Golf Association’s World Championships back in 1986 — six years after the course was established — and each July hosts the pro-am Toronto Island Open (with a purse of over $700. Almost enough for Leafs tickets!).
One of my favourite things about disc golf on Ward’s is that the course changes with the seasons. On gorgeous spring days like today, tulips burst from the wet earth and still-bare branches allow for pleasingly forgiving shots out of the rough. In summer, thick foliage makes for challenging drives, and in fall colourful leaves carpet the course, making wayward discs tricky to find. (NB: Do not go with yellow, orange or red gear at this time of year.) I’m keen to try courses outside Toronto, however, which is where the PDGA steps in with a handy on-line course directory. On my worldwide wish list, these three are at the top:
De Laveaga Disc Golf Course, Santa Cruz, Calif.: As if this coastal Californian city isn't gorgeous enough, it’s also home to the "Dela," a world-renowned 27-hole course in the forested hills above town. Among the highlights is the precipitous 27th hole, aptly dubbed "Top of the World," which features a tee box that's nearly 600 feet from the pin and 100 feet above it. Each May Santa Cruz hosts the Masters Cup, with at least one round played at the Dela.
Jarva DiscGolf Park, Stockholm: Europe's first professionally-run course costs around $8 to play (for 27 holes), but by all accounts is worth every penny. There’s a pro shop/licensed café, and the "holes" run through a challenging, hilly landscape. The Stockholm Open has been played here for the past 17 years.
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, UK: Site of the PDGA’s British Open on several occasions since 1983, Essex Disc Golf's 27-hole home base (pictured below) in the University of Essex's Wivenhoe Park is set on over 200 acres of parkland, much of it landscaped in the 18th century.