This year has been different than any other we have ever experienced. Many of us have endured life upheaval (personal and professional) and continued uncertainty has become an ever-present reality. Working from home, staying 2 m apart, and wearing masks have all become the new normal. Yet, while we live in a different world, our human need for community, connection with others and an escape from our daily reality have become increasingly important. We all crave a sense of belonging, and I have found my community on the disc golf course.
Disc golf. My urban escape. An excuse for me to spend time in our beautiful Toronto Parks, while meeting and connecting with others in my neighbourhood. I’ve met people of all ages and backgrounds, all who are united by a passion for a disc in flight. Many have been playing the sport for a long time, some are re-discovering it, while still others are completely new to the game. Disc golf is experiencing tremendous growth as it is inexpensive, requires only a disc (frisbee), can be played year-round, and is accessible to everyone. The sport is also a COVID-19 friendly activity that can be played following our public health authorities’ recommendations. People do not share equipment and can play together while maintaining physical distancing. Two of Toronto’s newest courses, Beaches Disc Golf Course and Marilyn Bell Park Disc Golf Course, provide an urban escape within site of the city’s bustling downtown core.
Beautiful sunset as seen from hole 5 at Beaches Disc Golf Course in Ashbridges Bay Park. Photo Credit: Trevor Harris.
As legend has it, the origins of the sport date back to the early 1900s when the students of New Haven, Connecticut found that the tin plates used to bake and deliver pies from the local Frisbie Pie Company were great for tossing and throwing. As awareness spread, Wham-O, a California based toy company and employee, “Steady” Ed Headrick, created and patented a plastic version of the pie plate and called it a ‘frisbee’. The words etched in the some of these earliest frisbees were, “PLAY CATCH – INVENT GAMES”. One of the many activities and games that was invented was ‘frisbee golf’, or disc golf, as it’s known today. The chain-style target as well as different disc types were developed for a variety of shots. With over 9,000 courses around the world and almost 300 in Canada today, the sport continues to grow in popularity, with many picking up and learning the basics of the sport.
Left: An early Wham-O Pluto Platter frisbee with the now historic words, “PLAY CATCH – INVENT GAMES”. Top right: The Frisbie Pie Company tins in which pies were baked and delivered, and eventually used as ‘frisbees’. Bottom right: Early vehicle used by the Frisbie Pie Company to deliver pies.
Played similarly to ball golf, disc golf uses discs that are thrown towards a basket (instead of using balls and clubs). The object of the game is to complete the round with the fewest throws of the disc. Players start from a designated tee on each hole, throwing their disc towards the basket target while counting the number of throws it takes to reach the target. Most holes are par 3 and 18 holes takes about 2 hours to play.
If you’re looking to get out and try it for yourself, Toronto boasts a total of five courses. All of them are free to play and are a great way to escape the concrete jungle and explore the natural areas around our city. As each of these courses are located in public parks, be sure to play safely and always respect and give way to other park users.
Top left: People putting during a yoga / disc golf day hosted by Surf the Greats at Beaches Disc Golf Course. Top middle: Winter scene at hole 16 of Toronto Island Disc Golf Course. Top right: Jeff MacKeigan and Cara Hovius with a disc golf basket at Marilyn Bell Park Disc Golf Course. Bottom left: An iconic park scene at E.T. Seton Park Disc Golf Course, “Keep Ya Loot, Give Me Some Truth”. Bottom middle: Tee pad and basket at Hole 5 of Marilyn Bell Park Disc Golf Course. Bottom right: Centennial Park Disc Golf Course view from the tee pad at hole 1.
Marilyn Bell Park Disc Golf Course (course map): This short, beginner-friendly 9 hole course was installed in November 2019 along Toronto’s waterfront and is connected by the Martin Goodman Trail. This course sees beautiful city panoramas and sunset views.
Beaches Disc Golf Course (course map): A fun, 9 hole course just a short walk from the boardwalk and the ever-popular Woodbine Beach. Great for beginners and more experienced players alike. Established in November 2018.
E.T. Seton Park Disc Golf Course (course map): An 18 hole course, located along the Don River and tucked in behind the Ontario Science Centre, was opened in 2011. It features elevation changes with mostly open holes.
Centennial Park Disc Golf Course (course map): Located in Etobicoke, this advanced level course consists of 18 holes over a variety of terrain, including open and forested holes and featuring elevation changes and water hazards. Established in 1980.
Toronto Island Disc Golf Course (course map): An historic, challenging 18 hole course dating back to 1980. Built on Toronto Island, this course can have some tricky wind, but provides beautiful views of the city skyline.
You can find these, and other courses around the world, by downloading the UDisc app, or checking out Toronto’s courses in the map below:
Once you’ve decided to get out and play, you’ll want to pick up a few discs to get started. Selecting your discs is a sensory experience. Each disc has its own touch and feel, and discs come in a variety of colours to suit every taste. There are many factors to consider including the type of disc, plastic, and weight of the disc. When you’re thinking of buying your first discs, aim to get a fairway driver, mid-range and putter. Each disc will have a four digit rating which will let you know about the characteristics of the flight path of the disc.
The first number is for Speed, the second for Glide, third for Turn and the fourth for Fade.
1. Speed (Scale 1 to 14)How fast a disc flies through the air. New players – up to 7 speed max.
2. Glide (Scale 1 to 5)The rate at which a disc remains aloft in the air. New players – Higher glide allows for maximum distance.
3. Turn (Scale 0 to -5)The amount a disc will fly to the right during the initial stages of a right-hand backhand (RHBH) throw (to the left for forehand or LHBH throws). New players – Higher turn discs (i.e. -2 to -5) are easiest to throw.
4. Fade (Scale 0 to 5)The amount a disc comes back to the left at the end of a right-hand backhand (RHBH) throw (to the right for forehand or LHBH throws). New players – Lower fade (i.e. 0 to 2).
Whether you have played before, or maybe have never thrown a frisbee, disc golf is an escape from the everyday this fall (and winter!). This is your chance to get out into our amazing city parks, enjoy meeting new people, and find that sense of community we have all been craving.
Cara and Jeff are the Toronto based co-owners of ChainLink Disc Golf. As avid disc golfers who have played around the world, you’ll usually find them outside on the disc golf course. They installed Beaches Disc Golf Course and Marilyn Bell Park Disc Golf Course in the City of Toronto, and have dreams to build many more. Outdoor enthusiasts always looking for adventure, they enjoy paddleboarding, hiking or exploring sites lesser known. They are always up for (another) round of disc golf or for figuring out where the next course will be – maybe even yours! Find them on Facebook and Instagram.