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FAQ City: Why Is Disc Golf So Popular In Charlotte?

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FAQ City recently received this question from Adam Derbidge: How did Charlotte become a disc golf epicenter? With over 15 courses and host of the Disc Golf Pro Tour, we seem to be a destination for fans of the sport. How did it take off, and who should we thank?

Disc golf has had a fairly recent boom in Charlotte, but the sport has an interesting history, too.

What Is Disc Golf?

Disc golf is very similar to golf, according to Joseph Phillips, who is an owner of Another Round Disc Golf and Tap Room in Charlotte.

“I think disc golf has a decent parallel with golf, except you don't really need a whole bag of clubs, "Phillips said. "Disc golf is so much cheaper.”

These discs can be any color from basic white to sky blue to pink.

“It’s not a huge cost, you can spend 30 or 40 bucks and have a great starter set, and go out and really learn those things,” said Phillips, who recommends starting off with four to five discs.

When Did Disc Golf Get Started?

According to discsportshistory.com, the first-ever game of disc golf was played in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1926. But the group of students who played it called it "tin lid golf." The modern iteration of the sport started in California, according to Mark Huether, who is also the director of operations for Charlotte’s Disc Golf Club. In 2018, he won theProfessional Disc Golf Association'sAmateur Disc Golf World Championships.

“Disc golf was started in California, and some of those folks came over here and some supported by Whammo, who made the original Frisbee. They started to grow the sport in North Carolina,” Huether said.

In the late 20th century, Huether said, a major disc manufacturer, Innova Champion Discs, moved their business to Rock Hill, South Carolina, bringing the sport to the East Coast.

“They ran a number of world championships in Charlotte,” Huether said. “So, that sort of started Charlotte's history. They ran the 1986 world championships on temporary courses.”

When Did Charlotte Start To See A Boom In Disc Golf?

Prior to the 2012 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships, several disc golf courses were built in Charlotte. 2012 was a major year for the sport. The number of courses and the World Championship in Charlotte cemented the city's place as a prime spot.

“Then in 2012, the PDGA, they realize that the undertaking we put on to be put into an event like that couldn't be duplicated easily or anywhere else,” Huether said.

In 2019, the championships were aired over the Thanksgiving holiday, introducing more people to the sport.

What Else Makes Charlotte A Spot For Disc Golf?

“It's a perfect mix of weather,” Phillips said. “You can play disc golf year-round, but you also have the seasonality stuff. You can see courses change. Also, there's just a huge public park infrastructure here. For disc golf, you've got courses in every part of the town. So, like a lot of cities, you've got maybe one or two decent public parks, but Charlotte just has all these fantastic parks all over the city that are free to play.”

Huether agrees.

“I like to be out in the woods,” he said. “I like to be around nature, and it's a sport that I can do that but not be confined by some court or actually have to even pay a lot because most around of our courses are free.”

Has COVID-19 Impacted Disc Golf?

More people are actually playing — in Charlotte and around the world.

Last year saw the PDGA’s biggest spike in members ever, with the association going from 53,000 amateur and professional players to 71,000.

"Disc golf is a socially distanced sport," Huether said. "You play with your own equipment ... and so I think people saw they were forced to experience disc golf.”

Huether works with the parks and recreation department to implement more courses in Charlotte. But this growth — before, during and after the pandemic — has been happening across the world.

"The sport itself, it's just it's taking off," he said. "In Northern European countries, Finland, Switzerland — all those places.”

Where can you go to play disc golf in the Charlotte area? Here's a map.


Alexandra Watts is an interim assistant producer on Charlotte Talks. Previously, she worked with WFAE as a Report for America corps member, reporting on local government and community issues through a partnership between WFAE and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.