Golf as an American sport is in decline. According to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association the number of people who play 'ball' golf has gone down from 30 million to about 26 million in the past 8 years. A New York Times article this year points to time as a critical factor. Walter Hurney, a real estate developer and golf aficionado said:
"There just isn't enough time. Men won't spend a whole day away from their family anymore."
Disc Golf however has been on the rise. Named the fastest growing sport in America, in the past 30 years an estimated 12 million people have played the game. The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) has around 12,000 members, and disc golf courses are popping up in every state. Created in the 1970's, disc golf has inherited much of its lingo and rules from 'ball golf'. The difference is that instead of a ball and clubs, disc golf uses a flying disc. The goal is to throw the disc from a tee, across a fairway to a 'hole', which is usually a suspended metal basket (as shown in picture). The player with the fewest strokes or 'throws' at the end of the game wins. Yet that is where the two sports begin to part ways.
"My dad can't understand why I don't play golf," said Chris Aruin, the club secretary of the Richmond Disc Golf Club in an article this week from Eastern Progress. "He knows I like nature, but a golf course is fake nature. This is the real deal."
Indeed, Golf courses can require tremendous upkeep, resulting in high 'greens fees'. Disc Golf courses by contrast are adapted to their surroundings. An empty lot, a wooded park, or any other underused area of land is a potential disc golf course. All you need is a place to stand, a disc and a basket. In creating a disc golf course there is no need to water, fertilize, or change the landscape.
Take a walk in the woods along a disc golf course, and you might not realize you are in the middle of a playing field until you hear 'FORE!' and the sound of discs bouncing off of trees. The PDGA website serves as the primary gathering place on-line for disc golf information and has a comprehensive directory of disc golf courses.
Disc golf inherently has a low environmental impact, and the PDGA Environmental Committee works to organize potential impacts of existing and proposed courses. However, for such a green sport there is little in the way of 'green' gear, certainly an opportunity the entrepreneurial TreeHugger audience could fix.
From personal experience I can guarantee disc golf is just as challenging as the more traditional game. And with the low price of entry to courses (most often free), and inexpensive gear to get started, the game fits into any budget. Getting outside with the family for a game of disc golf is something everyone can participate in; it is easy to do, easy on the budget, and easy on the planet.
So, pick up a disc and give it a go. Don't forget to learn more tips about going green in the outdoors with TreeHugger's handy guide for How To Go Green: Outdoor Sports. Disc golf action image credit goes to formatc1.