It was 9 a.m. on a Saturday and just a few hours earlier, Mark Pryor had finished his night shift at Noosa Yoghurt’s manufacturing facility. His work is just up the road from Cache La Poudre DGC, one of the great disc golf courses in Colorado, which is nestled in the trees between the town’s elementary school and creek.
On this Saturday — like most Saturdays — Pryor met up with Chris Alder after work to play disc. About two hours in, the twosome had already walked the course about four times.
Alder was giving Pryor a hard time for not getting an ace — disc golf lingo for a hole-in-one — as they started their next round. Pryor usually racks up at least one ace a week.
“He was like the Tiger Woods of disc golf,” Alder said of Pryor.
Pryor first stumbled across disc golf in 1996. The City of Fort Collins had drained a pond at Edora Park and on the muddy bottom were a few dozen discs.
“I was like, what is this? I had never heard of disc golf,” Pryor said.
The game of disc golf
Disc golf is played with a “disc” similar to a Frisbee. There are thousands of disc options, from putters to drivers, which help a player reach a desired target: a disc golf basket.
The baskets, most of which are an Ed Headrick design, according to the Disc Golf Association, hang on poles stuck into the ground. The circular, chain-metal baskets entrap a disc thrown into them from any direction.
Rules are similar to traditional golf but with a disc rather than a club and ball. Players start from the tee box, usually a level area where they can take a few steps. Each throw is a “stroke” and each hole has a “par” number. The player moves through each hole by tossing again from where their disc previously landed, with the goal to have the fewest strokes possible to get the disc into the basket. Strokes or penalties are also accrued for going out of bounds.
Scoring also is like traditional golf. Players get a point for every stroke. The person with the lowest number of strokes for the entire course wins.
History of disc golf
The father of disc golf, Ed Headrick, was a toy inventor for the Wham-O company. He was rethinking the company’s original flying saucer and that resulted in the creation of the Frisbee in the 1950s, according to the Disc Golf Association. Headrick knew the Frisbee could be so much more and extensively marketed its broader uses — trick throws and games. He also founded the International Frisbee Association, which led the way for the new sport.
With Headrick’s lead, people began using Frisbees for target practice, making challenges out of trying to hit things like trees, trash cans or light poles. When Wham-O didn’t share Headrick’s vision of a Frisbee golf sport, Headrick split and joined his son to start the first disc golf company in 1976 and a year later, he designed the disc golf basket.
There are now thousands of disc golf courses throughout the world, most of which are free to play.
A morning at Laporte
Pryor and Alder said the smaller par-3 course at Laporte is one of their local favorites.
“It’s getting into nature,” Alder said about the course, which is mostly in the woods. “It’s short, but the trees make for challenging shots.”
After learning about disc golf in the late 1990s, Pryor became a competitive player, even winning the Colorado State Disc Golf Championship one year. But two back surgeries later, he can’t toss the distance he used to, and the shorter holes allow him to still enjoy the sport.
It also allows him to take his toddler granddaughter out to enjoy the pastime with him.
A sport for everyone
Because most courses are free, and a used disc can be picked up for a few dollars at a local sports or disc golf shop, disc golf has also become a great family sport.
“The great thing is the activity,” Alder said. “It keeps you on your feet and keeps you moving. And everyone is so friendly. We meet a lot of people from all around.”
Because of its growing popularity, many more communities over the years have set up courses in parks or opens spaces. Disc golf can be enjoyed while traveling so look for a local course on your next outing or cross-country trip. Stop for lunch and play a round to stretch your legs. Most courses are dog-friendly — as long as pet/leash law are followed — so they’re a great option for getting exercise for you and your dog.
Here’s a small sampling our picks for great disc golf courses in Colorado.
Eastman Oxbow Disc Golf Course in Windsor. Located at Eastman Park, this 12-hole par-3 course is a fairly open course located among scattered trees along the Cache La Poudre River.
Edora Disc Golf Course in Fort Collins. Probably one of the oldest courses in northern Colorado to have baskets, the moderately hilly and slightly wooded 18-hole course weaves through Edora Park and has been remodeled several times. It has a variety of short and long holes to make it enjoyable for all levels.
University of Northern Colorado Disc Golf Course in Greeley. This nine-hole, par-3 course weaves through campus. It’s best to play this course on nights and weekends because the campus is crowded with students during school hours. Parking is free after 5 p.m.
Tip: College campuses, middle and high schools are great places to find disc golf courses. Be aware that many courses limit playing hours to evenings or weekends because of the risks to pedestrians.
Centennial Park in Longmont. This well-maintained 9-hole course has water features that will challenge players of all levels. It’s a beautiful course with a mix of trees, a creek and park features.
City Park Disc Golf Course in Pueblo. Created in the early days of Headrick’s promotion of disc golfing, this course is the third oldest course in the country, according to the City of Pueblo. It’s 18 holes with concrete tees, easy-to-read signs and park facilities.
Widefield Disc Golf Course in Colorado Springs. Like many larger urban areas, Colorado Springs has several disc golf courses. This 18-hole course has a variety of shots from open to technical and features a small stream to toss over on a few holes.
Camenisch Park (Badlands) in Federal Heights. With easy parking and set in a well-maintained park, this 18-hole course is moderately hilly and lightly wooded and is part of the Hyland Hills Park & Recreation District.
Johnny Roberts Disc Golf Course in Arvada. This 18-hole course was renovated in 2014 and is located in Memorial Park behind City Hall and Police Headquarters. It is moderately wooded, with a small creek running through the middle.
Exposition Park Disc Golf Course in Aurora. This open 18-hole course provides players with distance and water challenges as it weaves around three small ponds and the creek that connects them.
Other Colorado favorites
Steamboat Springs Ski Area uses part of its ski mountain in the summer for a disc golf course. This makes for a wide mix of challenging wooded holes, wide open spaces and steep inclines. You can drive to hole one, which is at the top of Burgess Creek Road at the bottom of Thunderhead lift.
Tip: Many Colorado ski resorts boast disc golf courses on their slopes during the summer months. It’s a great way to get some mountain hiking and disc golf in at the same time.
Baldridge Disc Golf Course in Montrose. This course has gone through some major changes over the past decade but now is a well-marked course with a variety of trees, hills and open spaces, as well as one water challenge.
Buena Vista Disc Golf Course. This course is on a ridge adjacent to the river and behind the town’s baseball fields. It consists of tall desert shrubbery and cactus, providing players with a change in scenery from the typical city disc golf courses.