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Take disc golf for a spin

It’s easy to get addicted to disc golf: A social sport played at a leisurely pace in the great outdoors

Disc golf is like “ball golf,” only you throw a specially weighted plastic disc into standing metal baskets—often placed near trees, hills or water hazards. It’s addictive fun that gets you outdoors with your friends.

It even counts as exercise … perfect for a non-athlete like me.

And, unlike ball golf, disc golf costs next to nothing. All you need are a couple discs (which cost about $10 – 15 each). Most courses I’ve played are free; the few exceptions charged no more than $5 for an all-day pass.

Disc golf courses are everywhere now. Just look at the official U.S. course directory (can you even see the map under all those course markers?) It’s also popular overseas, especially countries with a lot of mountains and rugged terrain. Check out this treacherous hole in Norway, for instance.

A great time with friends

Disc golf is a social sport. It’s played at a leisurely pace, so there’s plenty of time to chat with friends, family, or other players you meet. The game can be extremely competitive … or just a chance to get out in the sunshine, where having fun is more important than making par.

Have disc, will travel

Wherever I travel, I bring my discs and find somewhere to play. And when I hear people planning a family vacation or business trip, I look up nearby courses and give them directions and some discs (the trunk of my car is filled with “retired” plastic). Not all of those discs come back—some get swallowed by pricker bushes or diabolically-placed ponds. But I don’t mind if I know I turned someone on to the sport. I often hear great stories—the kind that end with “We can’t wait to play again!”

So, consider incorporating disc golf into your trips. Check out the Disc Golf Course Review website to find courses and user reviews about terrain, difficulty, and even local wildlife (which might be alligator sightings on certain courses in Florida, or the “angry teen” variety). You might even find a great course near home to fine-tune your skills.

Here are my five favorite courses:

  1. Honey Bear Hollow, Peru, Ind.: This course is legendary because it was designed by “Steady” Ed Headrick, designer of the sport’s iconic metal baskets. All of the holes are deceptively short, tempting you to dream about a hole-in-one, or “ace.” But the entire course is in the woods, so actually getting an ace instead of hitting a tree is quite the accomplishment…and the reason I tend to play several rounds here whenever I visit.
  2. Friends of Punderson, Newbury, Ohio: Another one almost entirely in the woods. I like these kinds of courses because the trees and other obstacles serve as “equalizers.” I can play a round with someone who can throw twice as far as me, and still win. Sometimes.
  3. Gateway Hills Park, Ames, Iowa: This is a sentimental pick—it’s the first course I ever played. It’s great for beginners and pros alike: There are plenty of trees and wooded areas to make things interesting, but none of those “long bomb” holes where you need to throw 500 feet for a chance at par.
  4. Mt. Airy Forest, Cincinnati, Ohio: A course for pros, but if you’re up for a challenge and don’t mind winding up 10-20 strokes above par, it’s great fun. There’s a mix of open and wooded fairways, elevation changes, water hazards—and some very, very long holes. Bring your best “driver” discs; you’ll need them here.
  5. Aspen Mountain, Aspen, Colo.: This is on my list simply because, a) you have to take a ski lift to the top of a mountain to get to the first hole, and b) you get to throw off of said mountain. Between that and the extra-thin air, I’ve never thrown a disc farther in my life. Of course, I never actually found some of those discs…

Play a round or two and see if you get hooked on disc golf. And if you’re already a disc golf fiend, let us know your favorite course or courses in the comments area below.