Disc golf is enjoying a resurgence across the country, especially in northwest Arkansas, where the NWA Open is being held.
WEST FORK, Ark. – There is some debate as to where and when the sport of disc golf began. Some claim it originated in Canada in the 1920s, while others believe the modern form was developed in a California camp in the late 1960s.
Either way, the sport and its popularity grew in the decades that followed.
Disc golf shares common aspects of the traditional game of golf: played on a course, tee boxes, fairways, pars, birdies, bogeys and a healthy competitive spirit.
But you’re probably not going to see flying discs hurtling down the fairway, or hear the chains rattle as you hit the links.
“It’s my ball and my club,” says Kevin Burdick, owner of the Disc Golf Dojo. Burdick inherited his father’s love of the sport and has been playing for more than two decades.
Carrying a bag of records – instead of clubs – is how he navigates Carter Park in West Fork. The park is an 18-hole, par 3 disc golf course, free to the public, and the course it calls home. He is happy to share with anyone interested in returning to the sport.
“I want you to come here and learn some things, of course, from people who’ve played longer than you, but also, you know, who want to come back,” Burdick said.
He encourages his local community, as well as others, to view the sport not just as throwing Frisbee in the woods, but as a challenge where you can be out in nature with friends and strategize with every throw of Frisbee. disk.
“You park, walk to the hole, and play,” Burdick says. “You’re having a good time with your friends, you’re out in nature, it’s just wonderful…it’s just wonderful.”
Disc golf can be intimidating to get started. Watch those who have played the sport throw discs with ease and cover hundreds of feet in a single throw. Burdick says many of them picked it up amid the COVID-19 pandemic, proving how easy it is to follow the course.
“With COVID, it’s really expanded our sport,” Burdick said. “It’s an easy thing to do while respecting social distancing. You go to Amazon, you order three records, it comes to your door, you go to the park and you play.”
Even the professional disc golf scene has seen a boost from the pandemic.
“We’ve actually seen Professional Disc Golf Association, or PDGA, membership nearly double in the year since COVID,” Burdick explained.
Locally and across the country, the resurgence in popularity of disc golf has helped tournaments pop up and continue in every community.
In Northwest Arkansas, 200 professional and amateur gamers gathered for the fifth annual Northwest Arkansas Open presented by Dynamic Discs.
“This is the biggest disc golf event in the state of Arkansas,” said tournament director Matt Loyd.
This year’s tournament featured players from two different countries and nine states. Played over the course of a weekend, several disc golf courses in northwest Arkansas hosted players.
Loyd expressed his thanks to the cities and their park departments for their help and involvement in maintaining the courses and supporting the sport. With that, he says, disc golf will continue to grow and more courses could open in the area.
“We’re all here to try to have a good time, to have fun, to try to grow the sport,” Loyd said. “It’s a lifelong sport, all ages can play, and so we really want to make sure that we continue to grow this event and not just people coming from out of state and other countries, but here in the community, we want more local players.”
Over the years, the Northwest Arkansas Open has drawn top professional players into the competition. This year, two players made the top 35 in the world and finished in the top two places.
Joel Freeman of Colorado in first, and of Ozark, Missouri, Andrew Presnell in second.
Presnell started the sport a decade ago, and even a player of his caliber took a while to get to grips with things.
“You have to go out and try a few times because I was really, really bad the first time. Honestly, I couldn’t see myself going anywhere with that,” Presnell said with a laugh.
But he says anyone, with a little practice and patience, can make it in the world of disc golf.
“Once you get that really good shot, you know, you kind of get that hook, and then once you keep doing it more and more, then, you know, you’re going to get addicted and it’s addicting once you catch that bug,” Presnell says.
As disc golf continues to grow in popularity, there are many leagues and resources available to help people get started.
Down in the river valley, the Western Arkansas Flying Disc Association, or WAFDA, is a great starting point for anyone looking to join the league or find more information about the area’s disc golf scene.
Another great tool and resource is UDisco, a website where you can find local classes, arrange matches, connect with friends, and track scores.
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