Disc Golf in Ashe County NC!

Going Golfing, Disc Style

Ben Whitehead, a student at ASU, goes for a birdie on the par 4 1st hole at the disc golf course at Glenn C. Hilton Park in Hickory. Disc golf popularity has exploded in North Carolina, with a total of 53 registered courses.
"Oh man, that's gonna be a taco," says my playing partner as I send a drive crashing into a rather large oak 100 feet up the fairway at Glenn C. Hilton Park in Hickory.

No, he's not talking about tortillas, beef, and cheese, but rather the new shape of the driver I've thrown on the par 4 3rd hole, a narrow, uphill dogleg left that requires a slight hook on the drive, a pin-high approach, and an excellent putt.

It's a well known fact that throwing your driver would be considered somewhat improper golf etiquette at most courses, but here not only is it condoned, it's absolutely necessary. But this isn't your average Sunday foursome game.

It's disc golf, and it's taking over a nation.

"Invented"in the mid-1970's, disc golf has been one of the most popular, steadily rising recreational games in North America. It takes the same concept as conventional golf, but without the hefty price tag for equipment, green fees, and the hassle of making tee times. Courses are laid out similar to conventional golf, with par 3's (150 feet and under), par 4's (151 - 300 feet), and par 5's (over 300 feet).

But the absolute best part of disc golf is that anyone can play, you don't need to spend big bucks on a lesson, and it costs fewer than 20 dollars to get started. Tee times? Don't need 'em. Greens fees? It's usually free. What about the hassle of dragging 14 clubs around? Yeah, right! All you need is a disc and you're ready to go.

But go where? There are currently 1,174 registered courses in the United States, and North Carolina is home to 53 of those. That's the most in the nation behind only Texas (96), California (75), Iowa (75), and Minnesota (69). Per capita it's no match, chances are no matter where you are in the state, a disc golf course is nearby. Courses close to Boone include Glenn C. Hilton Park in Hickory, Tombstone Mountain Park in Elizabethton, TN, Winged Deer Park in Johnson City, TN, Borden Park and Warriors State Park in Kingsport, TN.

Most courses in North Carolina are immaculate, with cement "tee box" pads, groomed and cleared fairways, and "pole holes", chained baskets that catch the disc at the end of the hole. The difficulty of courses varies significantly from course to course, and each course offers different challenges, just like a conventional golf course does. Sloping and narrow fairways, water hazards, and out-of-bounds are just a few, and many courses traverse through hardwoods as well as open country.

"One of my favorite courses is Glenn C. Hilton in Hickory," says Ben Whitehead, a senior at Appalachian State University. "It's a challenging course that is always in great condition, and I can play 36 holes in the morning and be back up to ASU by noon for classes."

One of the great aspects of disc golf is the convenience, especially for those who don?t have 4 or 5 hours to spend on a traditional golf course round, and are on a tight budget, such as students. It's also an excellent source of exercise.

"Yeah, being a student I don't have the time nor money to spend on regular golf, although I like the game," says Whitehead. "But I can play two rounds of disc golf in less than two hours, and I get a good workout. That's important to me because I can't often fit both fun and fitness into my school and work schedule. Disc golf satisfies both."

Getting started in disc golf is simple. The only initial cost is for discs, and the type of discs varies in terms of function, price, reliability, and aesthetics. A standard driver, mid-range driver, and a putter will satisfy every beginner and most intermediate player's needs, and can often be bought in a three-pack for less than twenty dollars. No instruction is needed, and the rules are nearly identical to standard golf. One under is a birdie, even is par, one stroke over is a bogey, and so on.

For those who want to test their skill or take their game to the next level, the P.D.G.A. (Professional Disc Golf Association) holds tournaments around the country every year, some with considerable cash prizes. Players can also become nationally ranked and earn invitations to play globally in countries such as Australia, Germany, and France.

Every tournament is unique. There is a tour for professional players, the PDGA, but most are also open to amateur players of all ages and abilities. Tournament rules vary by event, but some formats share similarities with conventional golf. Scrambles, best disc, and pairs are just a few of the different tournaments out there.

But what it all comes down to is fun, and disc golf is all of that and more. So try hanging up those forged irons and that new $500.00 super-duper, platinum faced, nuclear fusion, titanium shafted driver that looks more like a weapon than a golf club for just one day, and test your golf skills with some good 'ole molded plastic.

For more information on everything disc golf, log onto www.pdga.com

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