It’s golf, but not as you know it. Disc golf may be lesser known than its ball-based counterpart, but you may be interested to learn that there is big money in a rising sport that is now played in 40 countries.
Paul McBeth, the world’s most successful disc golfer, recently signed an endorsement deal worth $10 million with Discraft, and is at the forefront of the game’s recent explosion in popularity.
The Huntington Beach, CA, resident is a five-time Professional Disc Golf Association world champion and is crowned by many critics and observers as one of the greatest players of all time. With more than 6,500 disc golf courses around the United States, and over 70,000 active PDGA players across the globe, now is the perfect time to test that throwing arm. Ready to get started?
McBeth helps deconstruct the sporting discipline and training needed to excel in disc golf.
Disc Golf Basics
Disc golf may seem like a new concept, but it actually dates back to the early 1900s. The first game was believed to have been played in Saskatchewan, Canada, among school friends, but it was not until the ‘60s and ‘70s that different organizers held more formal tournaments. In some places, the game was known as frisbee golf.
These days, disc golf is the preferred name and is promoted by the PDGA. Courses typically feature nine or 18 holes, with an average distance of 200 to 400 feet per hole, but these numbers varying from course to course.
The game generally takes place outdoors, where obstacles such as trees, hedges, and bodies of water threaten to the block the flight path between the player’s disc and the target hole. Similar to traditional golf, the player must complete the course with the fewest actions possible, but instead of using a club, the disc is thrown into baskets that are usually elevated off the ground. “I discovered disc golf through my father, who had played 20 years prior to me getting into it,” says McBeth. “I knew about it my entire life, but I didn’t start out until I was 14 years old.”
The coronavirus pandemic encouraged many people to take to the outdoors, and this has allowed disc golf to thrive. “Yes, 100%, the sport is growing,” says McBeth. “Participation has nearly doubled over the past year with the pandemic. I don’t think there are any limits with the sport of disc golf. It is something that can be played by anyone, anywhere, in any stage of life.”
How To Get Started In Disc Golf
Disc golf provides the opportunity to get outdoors and exercise, offering great mental and physical health benefits. And with many courses open without an entry fee, it’s never been easier to learn a new skill. “To get started, I would suggest spending time learning what discs are available, and what they all do,” says McBeth. “I would then suggest spending a lot of time learning to throw straight. Throwing straight is the hardest thing to do in disc golf, and once you accomplish that you can spend time learning different angles and how to manipulate the disc. Another pro tip would be to download the Udisc app to easily find courses near you.”
Training for Success
“In the offseason, I’m in the gym five days a week,” says McBeth. “I do a mix of cardio and weights, while focusing on my nutrition. During the season, my routine is less structured due to the travel and practice required. It is more difficult to get in the gym (when competing), so I do a lot of bodyweight workouts, along with running.”
Building Throwing Power
“Having a strong core allows me to dictate the angles of my throws,” says McBeth. “Knowing how my body works and functions allows me to increase accuracy on the course. One of my favorite drills is to get into a swimming pool, up to my neck, and practice my form with water resistance. This improves my speed and creating a power pocket. In addition to this, I do various ladder drills to work on my explosiveness and quickness.”
Improving Disc Golf Accuracy
“First, check the discs you are throwing, and make sure they are the right discs for the shots you are trying to perform,” says McBeth. “I would then suggest going to YouTube, as there is a lot of content out there with the best players in the world not only playing, but also teaching. You can then film yourself and compare your form to those players. Don’t be discouraged to take one step back, in order to take two steps forward.”
Improving Disc Golf Technique
“Our sport is still so young,” says McBeth. “So, there are not a lot of organized training opportunities and coaches available right now. The players who improve most rapidly are the ones who are self-disciplined and put the time in. Film yourself, watch yourself, compare yourself.”
The Sky is the Limit
With disc golf being broadcast on major networks such as ESPN and CBS Sports, the 30-year-old is using his position as the game’s most successful player to serve as an ambassador. “I like to use Kobe Bryant as a motivation,” says McBeth. “Kobe had a Hall of Fame career as No. 8 and as No. 24.”
McBeth is keen to bring the same prestige to disc manufacturers, that other athletes have brought to sneaker brands. “I want to do something similar with the different disc manufacturers I have represented,” says McBeth. “My goal is to keep my body in great shape and make wise decisions throughout my career. If I am feeling great, I might look to keep going like Tom Brady.”