Disc Golf History
“Disc Golf” as it is known today began with “Steady” Ed Headrick, the father of disc golf, modern day disc sports and the driving force responsible for the modern era of Frisbee sports.
Disc Golf Association, (DGA) was established in 1976 by Ed Headrick to form a new international sport and to promote the installation and use of disc golf courses around the world.
The Disc Golf Association (DGA) name was chosen when Headrick coined the term “Disc Golf” after inventing and patenting the original Disc Pole Hole. Headrick had originally wanted to call his invention a Frisbee Pole Hole but ran into issues over the Frisbee trademarked belonging to Wham-O.
1978 Disc Golf Catalog
Prior to DGA, a precursor to the game of disc golf was played by a few devoted Frisbee players throwing Frisbees at carefully chosen “golf holes”… usually drinking fountains, fire hydrants, garbage cans and light poles and the rules were made up on the spot. It was during this time that competitive freestyle had reached a critical mass with frisbee tournaments composed of distinct freestyle skill events. Frisbee golf made its début at a couple of these events in 1974 and 1975 as side activities to the main events comprising of competitive freestyle, focused on trick throws and acrobatic catches. The huge potential of disc golf as a formal sport and recognized recreational activity did not become apparent until after Headrick installed the first permanent Disc Pole Hole course and disc golf moved from a fringe of the Frisbee Freestyle movement and into the mainstream and the disc golf revolution.
In 1974, Headrick approached the county of Los Angeles Park and Recreation Department with the idea of a permanent Disc Golf Course. Sy Greben, Director of the Park Planning Division saw the potential and Oak Grove Park was selected and approval was given to install the world’s first Disc Golf Course. Headrick and Mary Becker from the Park Planning Division designed and constructed the course with the county. In 1976 Ed replaced his Pole Holes which were just poles cemented into the ground with the first DGA Disc Pole Hole that where the first disc golf targets to use chains to stop a disc.
Today disc golf has become incredibly popular and is one of the fastest growing sports. There are over 4000 registered courses with the PDGA in the United States around the world.
From a Niche Game to One of Today’s Fastest Growing Sports
Modern day disc golf started in the late 60’s. The early frisbee golf courses were “object courses”, using anything from trees, trash cans, light poles, chicken wire baskets, pipes to fire hydrants as targets. The roots of the sport begin when “Steady” Ed Headrick designed the modern day Frisbee (US Patent 3,359,678, issued 1966) while working for Wham-O Toys back in the 60’s. Captivated by the flight and feeling of control he could master with the Frisbee, Ed saw potential for the disc well beyond what anyone had envisioned or imagined.
Ed Headrick was one of the main driving forces of early Frisbee sports. Headrick founded the International Frisbee Association, established the Junior Frisbee Championships, established and organized the World Frisbee Championship and went on to create and standardize the sport of Disc Golf.
The game was formalized when Headrick invented the first Disc Pole Hole™ catching device, consisting of 10 chains hanging in a parabolic shape over an upward opening basket, (US Patent 4,039,189, issued 1975). The Disc Pole Hole™ became the equivalent to ball golf’s “hole” and was installed in the first standardized target course (what was then known as Oak Grove Park Pasadena, California). Ed had said one of his many inspirations for the “Disc Pole Hole™” invention was so he and his buddies could get on with playing instead of arguing over whether someone actually had hit one of the objects in their make shift object courses.
An excerpt from “revelation, “Frisbee Golf” by Ed Headrick
“Then an amazing revelation, all my buddies, all my staff at Wham-O, and most of my cult members and I were playing the game I was looking for. Frisbee Golf was right under my nose! Great marketing man right? A game where people would throw an expensive Frisbee into the ground every throw on purpose? Wow! What a market potential!It seems so easy, but what could be better than walking through a beautiful park and throwing at trees, drinking fountains, open car windows and an occasional coed?
Back to the drawing boards and 56 models later a contraption was born. Shazam! Chain! Like Moses and his cracked rules, chains without black leather and a whip. Chain, indestructible, flexible, a pleasant sound. I wish I had invented it, but chain was my answer. Hence the Mach I, II, III and twenty years of blood, sweat and tears.”
An Abbreviated History of Disc Golf
1 million B.C. E. to Present Day – by “Steady” Ed Headrick
Disc golf in one form or another has been with us since the beginning of time. The early cavemen in their search for weapons to extend their ability to slay food probably found rocks before clubs. If they could kill something from a safe distance it would be much safer than a club or a sharp stick.
Test of skill were a necessary pastime, closest to the target sounds familiar! Flat rocks had a different flight and flew further than round objects, skipping flat stones on the water, throwing shields, Eureka! Then came the discus that Discoblus threw which certainly resembled a Frisbee.
In the early steel age sharpened rings were thrown with devastating effect. They flew with accuracy, caused serious injury and looked like the modern Aerobie. Then came the ancient word “scaling” (to throw a thin flat object so that its edge cuts through the air). Pie pans, film can lids and toy flying saucers were the recent predecessors of the modern Frisbee which was invented in 1964 by Ed Headrick, US Patent 3,359,678. He also formed the International Frisbee Association which had over 112,000 members by 1972.
Early Frisbee Targets
Since that time disc golf evolved from man’s natural competitive nature. Early games used targets of trees, trash cans, light poles, chicken wire baskets, pipes, and coeds. The game was formalized when Headrick invented the first Disc Pole Hole catching device, consisting of 10 chains hanging in a parabolic shape over an upward opening basket, US Patent 4,039,189, issued 1975.
The First Disc Golf Course
The first formal disc golf course was built in Oak Grove Park, (Pasadena, California), by Headrick in 1975 and was an instant success.By the time of his death, Ed has designed over 200 courses.
The First Disc Golf Basket
Evolution of the Disc Pole Hole™ catching device.
The Disc Pole Hole has evolved continuously since the first Mach I. For the past two decades our products have been established and accepted worldwide as the industry standard for the sport of Disc Golf. All of our hardware is hot-dipped galvanized from head to toe and guaranteed for 20 years against rust and corrosion. To protect your discs, all of our chains are hot-dipped galvanized and hand polished. Accept no copies or imitations. Let he who is without stone, cast the first disc.
The First Disc Golf Basket Designs
The DGA Mach I Patent: The Invention of the First Disc Golf Basket – 1977 The DGA Mach II Patent: The Invention of Inner Chains – 1984 The DGA Mach III Patent: The Invention of Crossing Chain Links- 1988 The DGA Mach V Patent: The Invention of Sliding Link – 1999
Early DGA Disc Golf Basket Patents