July 2017

Quiz time! What is this object?

It’s not a fire pit, odd-looking flower pot or something that belongs on a pirate ship. It’s a disc golf basket!

Disc golf is a sport that is played in over 40 countries. There are organized leagues and tournaments for those who wish to play competitively and there is even a governing body, the PDGA (the Professional Disc Golf Association) that sets the rules for the game. But anyone can join the fun–even children and those with limited mobility. The only equipment you need to play is a set of weighted discs made specifically for disc golf, which look and feel a little bit different than a normal flying disc. A starter set consists of a driver for long throws and a putter for short throws. A disc for medium throws is nice to have but optional for beginners. The cost for each disc starts at around $15 to $20, and each player should ideally have their own set. Regular toy flying discs aren’t suitable for disc golf because of their light weight, which means they don’t fly accurately. A disc golf course is played like a regular golf course, in that each player stands at a tee and throws their disc toward the basket, which is the “hole.” Each hole has a sign to indicate the par and target distance. Like regular golf, disc golf courses have either 9 or 18 holes.

Disc golf does not have a huge following in Alberta, but it is a growing sport. There are a few disc golf courses in and around Calgary. My husband, son and I have been looking for a family sport we could play together, and disc golf fit our requirements of being low-key, fun and local. So we decided to give it a try.

We bought starter discs for the three of us, and on one winter Saturday, headed to our closest course at Baker Park, which is home to a maintained 18 disc golf course. Baker Park is located across the river from Bowness Park in NW Calgary.

After a bit of searching, we found the start of the course. The paths were icy, but the course was busy with lots of groups playing. As we threw our first disc, we quickly found out that throwing a golf disc is not the same as throwing a regular Frisbee ™. The harder we threw, the worse our shots were! What was going on? The group of university students behind us were much more skilled, which made me feel frustrated and a bit pressured that our slow speed was holding them up. But then we saw a family with toddlers ahead of us, just playing for fun and not caring about how they threw their discs. That made us relax, and our technique improved–a bit. When we made a bad shot (which was often!), we just laughed at ourselves. Our discs landed in the tree branches more than once. We didn’t keep score because we were over par by a long way!

We finished the course in about two hours and felt very accomplished. We went for a walk around the park to explore. There were lots of people at the park, but it didn’t feel crowded. Near the disc golf course, we came across a group of adults holding out their arms with their palms flat, and a crowd had gathered around them. We soon figured out why. Chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches swooped from the trees to grab the food from open hands and they even stopped to perch for a bit. After one chickadee landed on my son’s shoulder, an older gentleman gave us each a generous handful of seeds and we soon had feathered friends landing on us, too. The chap said that he lives nearby and these local birds are not shy when it comes to being fed this way. Here is a photo of my son feeding a nuthatch. He said that its feet felt like magic.

Calgary Disc Golf

We fed them until we ran out of seed and the weather turned dusky. As we headed home for some hot chocolate, we all said what a great afternoon we had. We tried something new, we found a new favourite park, and most importantly, had some great family time.

For more information about disc golf in Calgary, please see www.albertadiscgolf.com and http://calgarydiscgolf.com.

Written by Carla Knipe
Carla was born in the West Kootenay region of BC and has lived in Calgary for the past 8 years, following 12 years of living in the north of England–thanks to her British husband. She is the Mum of one busy son, is a freelance writer and is also a university student through Athabasca University. In her spare time she enjoys being outdoors and loves anything to do with books.