Discin’, frolfin’, chuckin’ some plastic. Whatever you might call this popular disc flinging sport at your local disc golf course, it’s an amazing summer activity that’s relatively low cost and provides you with a little physical activity and some fresh air. If you haven’t tried this sport out yet, or are skeptical about it in any way, I hope to convince you to check this amazing sport out soon. I will give you some basics for getting started here in the Chippewa Valley with some local resources for obtaining discs and a couple of disc golf courses to give a try.
For those completely unfamiliar with disc golf, it’s a sport played very similarly to regular golf, but using frisbee-like discs that are thrown into baskets instead of knocking a ball into a hole with a club. The rules are somewhat similar. You have out-of-bounds zones, a tee off location, various options to meet different obstacles on the course, and the ultimate goal is to get the object in the designated location in as few throws/strokes as possible. Courses range in size and difficulty, but all holes run a par three rule, despite what some courses may claim. There are hundreds of discs to choose from and dozens of companies that make official PDGA approved discs. Most discs can be filed into one of four categories: distance driver, driver/fairway driver, mid-range driver, and putt & approach. The two biggest disc manufacturers are Innova and Discraft who have some distinct differences I will cover in this blog post. There are dozens of other companies that have cropped up over the years and their discs are great, but I’ll focus on the two I’m familiar with. Both companies have unique plastics that they make their discs from and each have their unique value system for disc characteristics.
Innova has been around since 1983 and has brought some innovative (get it?) concepts to the sport. Here’s a link to an Innova guide to get you started on choosing your first disc. The most unique feature of Innova’s discs is the inclusion of a numbering system for four separate performance measurements for each disc. These are the disc’s speed, glide, turn, and fade.
Speed is obvious in that the higher the number, the faster the disc.
Glide is how much the wind affects the disc with a lower number meaning it’s minimally affected, and a higher number meaning it will be more susceptible to windy conditions.
Turn is a bit confusing unless you play disc golf already. I would recommend reading more about it on Innova’s website once you start to understand how the disc moves through the air.
Fade is when a disc begins to veer off course and will fade left when you throw with a traditional forehand using your right hand and uses a 0 for minimal fade, and a 5 for a hard and early fade.
Innova, like Discraft, has many types of plastic to choose from. I will not cover all of the plastics, but you can read more about them here.
Star plastics have the best grip even when wet and are very durable.
Champion discs are also very durable and are more stable than the other plastics.
XT is a durable plastic and has a great grip while also being a little more affordable than the Star or Champion plastics.
Various Pro plastics were designed to meet professionals’ needs through the years and have various characteristics.
DX plastic is the more classic plastic and is far less durable than the rest, but much more affordable.
Discraft has been around a little longer than Innova having been founded in 1979. A little fun fact about Discraft, they were the company who was allowed to create the molds out of “Steady” Ed Headrick’s, the father of disc golf, ashes when he passed and manufactured a limited number of discs from those molds. Luckily, or unluckily depending on your preference, Discraft has a much simpler system for measuring disc characteristics as they give only one number, a stability rating. The number indicates if the disc, if thrown standard forehand with the right hand, will veer left, called “overstable”, or veer right, called “understable”. A positive number means it will veer more left and a negative number means it will veer more right. Drivers tend to be overstable and approach/putters tend to be stable, or fly relatively straight.
Discraft plastics are also fewer in variety, compared to Innova’s thirteen plus options, but are certainly comparable.
FLX, Ti, and ESP plastics are all outstanding for durability, grip, and performance, but are also the most expensive.
Z plastics are a little less grippy, but very durable.
Jawbreaker and X plastics are the opposite in that their grip is outstanding, but are not quite as durable as most of the plastics.
Pro D has great grip, but is by far the softest plastic and the most prone to damage. It is also the most affordable of any of the discs.
Now that we have the discs figured out, you need to find a place to buy them. Locally, there are many places to purchase discs. Any of the major department stores should have some selection as well as the major sporting goods stores such as Scheels. Most of the big box stores tend to sell their discs at suggested price ranging from $10 to $18 and their selection can vary. Be careful when going to department stores like Target or Walmart as they often sell little known and/or non-PDGA approved discs that will not likely have the quality characteristics or durability you will find in the higher end Innova and Discraft plastics. There are some local game-based stores that also carry a few discs such as Games by James.
Finally, you need to choose a course. There are several courses to choose from within a thirty minute drive from Eau Claire, but two definitely stand out at the top, Mount Simon and Tower Ridge. If you wish to find others, DG Course Review is a great website. This site provides reviews, difficulty levels, and the characteristics of each course including landscape, tees, basket types, etc. Mount Simon is one of the most beginner friendly courses I have personally ever played and Tower Ridge is the exact opposite. Mount Simon (Directions) is located within the city of Eau Claire on the peninsula jutting out into the Chippewa River just north of downtown Eau Claire. It has nine holes that are mostly located in an open park setting with a sparse display of trees as obstacles and sports a total course length of 2,165 feet. Parking and playing are free for Mount Simon. Tower Ridge, located in the Town of Seymour (Directions), is a 36-hole course divided between two locations referred to as Tower Ridge 1 and Tower Ridge 2. The course is heavily wooded and frolfers can expect to spend some time in the brush looking for lost discs. The holes are moved periodically changing the course length but can max out at 5,775 feet for Tower Ridge 1 and 5,894 feet for Tower Ridge 2. This makes the total course length over two miles long. Frolfers are also expected to pay a parking fee of $3 per day for the course. I recommend trying out Mount Simon first and then moving to Tower Ridge when your ego is too boosted from how easy Mount Simon is. Works on me every time.