See why more and more people are playing disc golf at Pennsylvania state parks
State parks across the state are discovering a high interest in an activity the whole family can enjoy.
Disc golf is now in 15 of the state’s 121 state parks. It’s a game played like golf, but you use discs similar to Frisbees.
“It’s becoming one of the more popular activities at our state parks, which we appreciate, because it’s nice to have different and diverse activities,” Wesley Robinson, press secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said in a telephone interview.
“A lot of people think about our parks as a place to bike and hike, but there are other activities you can try, and disc golf is one of them.”
It’s a sport that’s gaining in popularity, but it’s not really new. Codorus State Park in York County hosted the Pennsylvania Disc Championship for golf in 2005. “It’s been in place for awhile, and we’re trying to add it at more parks as people are taking to the outdoors and wanting to try new activities,” Robinson said.
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Golf has a higher cost to participate where disc golf is relatively in expensive and simple. “You can show up with a Frisbee and have the time, you’re set to go. It’s very low maintenance,” he said.
The courses, with permission of the park’s management, could be used for disc golf competitions for a fundraiser along the line of a golf outing or 5K run.
“It’s a really good way to get exercise,” he said about walking the course and enjoying the outdoors.
Robinson credits the parks’ volunteer Friends Groups at the state parks for setting up and maintaining the courses.
“It’s cheap, it’s easy and you don’t need to have a lot of skills to do it,” he said, adding that there are people who do play on advanced skill levels. “You hone those as you play.”
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Allen Wadsworth of Martinsburg, Blair County, enjoys the nine-basket course at Canoe Creek State Park. He first saw the sport while spending time in New Mexico. “It was massive there,” he said.
Wadsworth started playing about 10 months ago and is looking forward to playing in a league this summer. It’s similar to golf. “The disc is the ball, your arm is the club, and the basket is the hole,” he explained.
It’s a good way to get exercise as each basket has the players starting from 100 to 800 feet away.
The concept is to start at the tee-box and then “throw as many times as it takes to get your disc into the basket.”
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"It’s a fun sport, it gets you outside to enjoy the beautiful weather, and people of all ages, athleticism, any backgrounds can play it and enjoy it,” he said about the sport growing rapidly and wanting the participation to increase.
As your skills develop, he said, you can focus on getting discs that are better for different situations based on their weight and width of the rim on the disc. He said it’s similar to golf in choosing a driver, iron and putter. The wider the rim, the further it will go.
Players use a back pack to carry their discs on the course, and he said you can take as many or few as you want. “I usually carry about 20,” he said.
While the discs may be easier to find on the course than a golf ball, he said they can get lost, especially in tall grass/weedy areas. He suggests writing your name and phone number on each disc to improve the chances of someone recovering one. They range from $10 to $20 for most styles of discs. They are available at most major sporting goods stores, and there are starter variety packs that have the different styles of discs.
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Wadsworth likes that some courses have trees and wooded areas that create challenges and obstacles. Players learn to throw around trees or skip their discs off the ground to get closer to the basket.
“There’s not really one way to do it," he said. "Everyone has their own concepts.”
He also likes that almost everyone can have a good time playing. At age 30, he’s been out with 10-year-olds as well as those who are twice his age. It’s a game that’s inviting to beginners all the way to the advanced levels of tournament competitions.
State Park courses
There are 9-hole disc golf courses in Fort Washington, Montgomery County; Canoe Creek, Blair County; Clear Creek, Jefferson County; Samuel S Lewis, York County, and Shawnee, Bedford County.
18-hole courses can be found at the following state parks: French Creek, Berks and Chester counties; Moraine, Butler County; Nockamixon, Bucks County; Prince Gallitzin, Cambria County; Hickory Run, Carbon County; Pymatuning, Crawford County, and Prompton in Wayne County.
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There are 36 holes at Gifford Pinchot, York County and Tyler State Park in Bucks County. Codorus State Park has 54 holes, including a 9-hole course specifically designed for children.
Safety and etiquette
The DCNR suggests when playing at a state or local park, or anywhere else in the state, to keep the following tips in mind, so you and others can enjoy disc golf safely:
• Never throw when players or park users are within range
• Remain quiet and avoid unnecessary movements while others are throwing
• Stand behind the player who is throwing until throw is complete
• Allow faster groups to play through when possible
• Remove disc from the hole after completing the hole
• Pick up trash and put in proper receptacles
• Leave the course as you found it (do not alter the course – trees, bushes, etc.– in any way.
If you’re looking for an additional way to let your kids burn off some energy or if you’re just looking for a fun way to spend an afternoon, give disc golf a try. You may quickly pick up the swing of it and want to sign up for a tournament or league. Search disc golf groups on Facebook to find other who are enjoying this sport, too.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.