As far as professional sports go, disc golf has flown largely under the radar. But thanks to a confluence of factors — including the rise of YouTube, which until recently almost exclusively covered match play, and the sport’s pandemic-friendly nature — disc golf has exploded in popularity.
More than 26,600 new players joined the Professional Disc Golf Association, the sport’s official governing body, in 2020, an 84% spike compared to the previous year. And because membership typically accounts only for those who played in a tournament, the number of new casual players is likely much larger.
“We’ve been seeing all the same anecdotal evidence — crowded courses, disc manufacturers who can’t keep discs on the shelf,” said Matthew Rothstein, media manager for the PDGA. “Certainly the pandemic gave us a boost because it really played into some of the best aspects of disc golf: You can play it on your own. It’s outdoors. It’s easily accessible and mostly played in public parks, which largely remained open during the pandemic.”
The sport also got a boost last year when ESPN2 aired the final round of the Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship during a two-hour special broadcast. The increased exposure is bringing new types of players into the fold.
Paige Pierce, a five-time winner of the Professional Disc Golf World Championships and the best female player in the game, remembers that when she first started competing professionally in 2010, there were typically fewer than 30 players in the women’s division. Comparatively, there were a record-setting 263 participants at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Disc Golf Championships in California in May. There are, in fact, so many women coming into the game, tournaments are now having to consider how to accommodate the influx of new players.
“It’s really noticeable and really, really cool how many more women are playing,” Pierce said. “We’re working through ‘How can we make more room in tournaments for women?’ Because we don’t want to steer women away, but there aren’t enough tee times in the day for men and women.”
Part of the appeal is also how inexpensive it is to get into. Players need only a disc or two, which range from about $10 to $30 each, to get started. Jake Maxwell, staff member at the CTP Disc Golf Store in Wheat Ridge, said he’ll often build beginners a starter pack that includes discs and a bag for $30 to $50 total, depending on the type of plastic they like.
According to the PDGA, there are 9,300-plus courses nationwide, most of which are free to play.
Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned player, add these five destination-worthy disc golf courses to your Colorado bucket list. Pro tip: Download the app UDisc to navigate courses and keep your score even in areas that lack cellphone service.
Beaver Ranch Disc Golf Course (Conifer)
Variety is the spice of life at Beaver Ranch, which is rated the top course in Colorado by reviewers on the UDisc app. The area features two courses with a total of 62 baskets. The first is a 20-hole short course, meaning no shot is longer than 200 feet. The second is a 21-hole championship course that features two pins on each, known as silver and gold. The silver layout is the easier of the two and basket positions are changed weekly. Baskets on the gold layout, known colloquially as the Angry Beaver, don’t move, but are designed for the most challenging game on the course. Expect a mix of shots, from long valley and meadow drives to tricky tree work, as well as some elevation. And be sure to stop by the onsite pro-shop for gear and snacks.
- Beaver Ranch DGC, 11369 S. Foxton Road, Conifer
- Cost: $12 for a day pass ($10 for Jefferson County residents), $100 for an annual pass ($90 for Jefferson County residents)
- Reservation needed? No, but recommended due to popularity. Call 720-295-9490 to reserve a tee time.
Cross Creek Disc Golf Course (Gypsum)
Located deep in the mountains outside of Gypsum, Cross Creek has a little bit of everything to satisfy the Rocky Mountain player, including water hazards, elevation changes and heavily wooded terrain. The 27-hole layout offers plenty of long shots, most of which you’ll need to navigate through trees, though there are several meadow shots near the end of the course. Expect a challenging round on this course, but beginners shouldn’t be discouraged. Even if you hit a tree or two — or 10 — the hike and scenic views are well worth the trip.
- Cross Creek DGC, 13119 Gypsum Creek Road, Gypsum
- Cost: $15 for a day pass
- Reservation needed? No.
Ghost Town Disc Golf (Central City)
Located at the site of an abandoned gold mining town, this private disc golf course near Central City is a gem for experienced and casual players alike. The course, which features 20 holes, starts with several heavily wooded shot opportunities mapped out along tight boundary lines before opening up to wider shots on the back half. Most holes are fairly short, but what they lack in distance they make up for in technicality. Baskets are sometimes placed among the building relics from the area’s former existence, but don’t hit them — that will not only damage the delicate structures, but also cost you an extra stroke on hole 17.
- Ghost Town DGC, 190 Russell Gulch Road, Central City
- Cost: $10 for a day pass, $5 for walkers and kids
- Reservation needed? Yes; call 303-582-3083 to reserve a tee time.
Double Cabin Disc Golf Course (Telluride)
There are plenty of reasons to visit the oft-ranked best mountain town in Colorado, but the 18-hole disc golf course in the neighboring Mountain Village is a must for enthusiasts. Located on the ski run for which it’s named, players throw uphill on the front nine before making an about-face and throwing downhill on the back nine. Prepare yourself for a hike, as this course climbs a steep 350 feet in elevation. Those up for the adventure are rewarded with panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains and wide open shots where they can really let one sail. Use caution, though, as the course shares the space with mountain bikers and hikers. While you’re there, take a gondola ride between Mountain Village and Telluride for more vistas.
- Double Cabin DGC, 470 Mountain Village Blvd., Mountain Village
- Cost: Free
- Reservation needed? No.
Wondervu Disc Golf Course (Golden)
Nestled on a mountaintop in Coal Creek Canyon, Wondervu is a cleverly mapped private course with ample natural amenities. Thick tree cover persists throughout the 19-hole course, save for a few tee pads where you can see other mountain peaks jutting out of the horizon. Foliage has been cleared from most of the fairways, making the course both amateur-friendly and inventive. And owners say new holes will be added soon. Expect significant elevation changes, especially on the back nine, which will have you hiking up and down from hole to hole. Wondervu is also home to an annual tournament called Discs-n-Dabs, in which teams register for a cannabis-friendly weekend campout and competition. This year’s event is slated for Sept. 3-6.
- Wondervu DGC, 136 Camp Eden Road, Golden
- Cost: $10 for a day pass, $80 for a season pass
- Reservation needed? Yes; reserve a tee time at facebook.com/highaltitudediscgolf/.
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