The Invention of Disc Golf

invention of disc golf

Hello to all my fellow disc golfers and anyone who is looking at getting into disc golf! Isn’t disc golf such a wonderful sport?

A hobby to get away from the world and not worry about anything else but flinging a disc as far as you can until you get close enough to throw your putter straight into the chains and get that satisfying ring! It’s a great way to get outside just enjoy nature, enjoy time with friends and relax the mind from all of our other cares.

Yes, there are times where it can get stressful during competitions and tournaments, but even those seem to be more relaxed than other sports. The air is filled with electricity and excitement as putts go up and everyone watching wonders if it will hit the chains. Even the players themselves love to see a long putt come from their opposition because it is just so thrilling to watch good disc golf!

Now you might be asking yourself why I describe disc golf this way and what is my point of it all. Well, if you’re anything like me, you’re a pretty curious person. Being so curious I like to look up random facts about the world, and especially random facts about things I very much enjoy. An obvious one of my favorite things to do is disc golf, so I wanted to share with all of you today the origins of disc golf.

Along the way we can examine where it came from, who is the father of disc golf, and what did it look like to play in the early days? Were there all the discs that we have now? Did courses look the way they do now? How did it all work?

These are some of the questions that we will be answering today!

The Father of Disc Golf

“Steady” Ed Headrick was the man responsible for what became known as disc golf. He got his first real start in frisbees as a toymaker for the company Wham-O where he took the design of the Flying Saucer made by Frederick Morrison and tweaked it into what became known as the frisbee.

Steady Ed didn’t stop there though, he knew that to get the frisbee out there and more well known it would need some help getting recognition and have an idea what to do with a frisbee. Soon that is when various “frisbee sports” started to form and gain popularity such as Ultimate Frisbee and GUTS.

Ed still wanted to take things a little further as one of his favorite pastimes was to go out around town and throw frisbees at selected targets with his son Ken and other friends. They would select garbage cans, trees, poles, whatever they could see and target to throw at. Ed and company would even get onto golf courses at times to play golf with their frisbees! This is what really started to turn the creative cogs in Ed’s mind, and he petitioned Wham-O to allow him to start using the frisbee for Frisbee Golf.

Wham-O didn’t like the idea nearly as much as Ed did however, and they decided not to allow their frisbee to be used in Frisbee Golf. Ed eventually split from Wham-O where he was finally able to organize and create DGA (Disc Golf Association) the very first disc golf company. He started to manufacture disc golf discs and thus, the sport of disc golf was born!

There were small advancements made as time went on, such as Ed and his son Ken coming up with increasingly better ideas at what kind of target to throw discs at such as a simple pole sticking out of the ground, but then started to add the iconic look of chains hanging down and a basket underneath to catch discs as they hit the chains.

Before Ed passed away in 2002, he formed the PDGA to become the governing body of disc golf and help the sport continue on by allowing people to become paying members of the organization. Ed was PDGA member 001 as well as the head of the PDGA until he passed the torch to a group of people selected to be the board of directors of the PDGA.

He then passed away shortly thereafter, leaving a legacy enjoyed by over 40,000 members and thousands more who just play disc golf for fun.

Early Disc Design

The first disc golf discs were much like an ultimate frisbee or a putter. They were all round-rimmed discs that didn’t go very far no matter how hard you threw them. It wasn’t until one man in particular wanted to have a disc that could fly farther than all the rest. That man’s name is Dave Dunipace. Dunipace was an avid participant in frisbee sports after their conception by Ed Headrick.

He played in the ultimate frisbee games but had particular interest in the distance throwing which he was quite good at. However, he wanted something that would be easier to throw farther. Something that would take to the air and keep going much better than the rounded rims of early frisbees.

That is when he came up with the first disc specifically designed for disc golf: The Eagle. Its beveled edge allowed for a more aerodynamic flight and would cut through the air while still gliding like the other discs. It changed the game forever, as well as Dunipace’s life forever.

The Eagle was just the start of a long line of discs to come out later and the beginning of one of the most revolutionary disc golf companies today: Innova Discs.

Wrap Up

Disc golf is such a fun sport, and it didn’t just come out of nowhere. Like any other great invention or idea, there were multiple minds at work to innovate and revolutionize the way things work. “Steady” Ed Headrick saw a vision of what could be and decided to make it a reality. He loved spending time with his son and his friends just throwing a frisbee at whatever they could see and wanted to share that with the world.

Dave Dunipace wanted to create something beyond just a typical frisbee. He wanted to push the boundaries of innovation and so came up with the modern disc design. These are just some of the key moments in disc golf history that help to shape the sport today, but they are not the only ones that factor into it.

There are people who influence and change the sport even today. Who knows, there may come a day that one of you reading this article right now might be one of the people that creates that exciting new change!

Keep on getting out there and keep on playing. Enjoy the world around you as well as this special little world of ours known as Disc Golf.


About Joshua Christensen

I am an ultimate frisbee player turned disc golfer. I have been playing disc golf for a few years now and have fallen in love with the sport and love to do what I can to further its growth!