Disc-Golf Course Design

As one of the nation’s fastest growing sports, a well-designed disc-golf course can have a significant impact on a local community.

Disc golf is becoming increasingly popular.

Disc golf uses discs inspired by the original Frisbee flying disc, but modified for weight, rigidity, and aerodynamics to optimize flight characteristics.

Disc-golf courses resemble golf courses in that players start at tee pads and progress through fairways to greens.

More urban in nature, the first disc-golf courses were established in open spaces on college campuses, which had been designed by landscape architects for overall park use. Early disc-golf course elements were rudimentary, and targets included light poles, flagpoles, or Hula Hoops.

In 2001, there were only 1,250 disc-golf courses worldwide. A decade later, more than 4,200 disc-golf courses are in operation.

The sport’s rapid expansion is easy to understand, particularly given the current economic climate. The initial investment in equipment (one disc) is minimal, and the rules are easy to grasp. There is no need for expensive clubs, exorbitant greens fees, or memberships to country clubs. All that is required is a willingness to go outdoors, move around, and have fun.

The pace of disc golf tends to be relaxed, casual, and family-friendly. As players progress and refine their skills, tournament play is increasingly available, and can be highly challenging as well as competitive.

On the professional disc-golf circuit, sponsored by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), the total tour purse has increased from $800,000 in 2000 to over $1.9 million in 2009.

Municipal parks and recreation departments looking for low-budget additions find disc-golf courses a valuable investment. For the comparable cost of a set of bleachers on the sidelines of a ball field, recreation departments can add a disc-golf course that players use daily, year-round.

Local course enthusiasts walking the fairways help keep undesirable vegetation at bay, reducing mowing expenses. Additionally, thoughtfully constructed courses utilize broad areas of a park, encouraging foot traffic that can serve as a deterrent to criminal behavior in typically less-traveled areas of larger parks.

Effective Design

While it is a simple matter to place a random series of baskets in an expanse of park property, the optimal design of a disc-golf course is the natural province of a trained landscape architect, particularly one versed in the strategies and nuances of the sport.

A high-quality course is accessible and challenging to players of all levels, provides interest through variations in distance and topography, makes thoughtful use of natural and man-made obstacles, and maintains tight integration with other features of the park, including allowing for future expansion.

Through formal site analysis and the design process, a skilled landscape architect can design a unified course that highlights and protects desirable plant species, and reflects a sense of place. The architect can prepare graphic signage for the course that relates to the particular character of the site, and can prepare a set of drawings to allow a contractor to build the course in harmony with the client’s vision.

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