by | Oct 30, 2021 | Disc Golf

History of National Disc Golf Day

Nobody knows when and who invented this sport or even who played it first. Different reports over the years show that people have played golf with a flying disc, but they are separated after years. According to all reports, each of these stories is unique.

Allegedly, a group of children threw in their early 19th century. People believe that this is a forerunner of the current sport. During this sport the modern version Returning to Canada in the late 19th century, people in the US happened to be playing this game as well since the 1960s, or so the stories say, and it became a formal sport a decade later.

One such case was when college student George Sappenfield began working as a recreational advisor on a break from university. He didn’t think this would lead him to invent a new sport (for him). One afternoon while he was playing golf, he wondered if the kids would like to play in his playground too, but with frisbees. They did. A year later, when he found out that his recreational class teacher, Kevin Donnelly, had also promoted Frisbee golf for children, he found a soul mate. When Sappenfield finished college, he sought help from the American toy company Wham-O for a frisbee golf tournament that he wanted to sponsor. Wham-O was impressed, offered Sappenfield a job, and promoted the sport everywhere. Unfortunately, that momentum slowed when Wham-O changed its advertising plans.

During his time at Wham-O, Sappenfield had already introduced his colleague Ed Headrick to the sport. Headrick became an important contribution to the sport, so that he is known in the USA as the “father of disc golf”. He founded the first official disc golf course, created (and patented) the frisbee, which was to be used in the game for a long time, and established various organizations to develop and promote the sport. More on that later.

In New York, Rochester, Jim Palmeri, his brother and a small group have also played competitively disc golf since 1970. They were surprised to hear from the International Frisbee Association (IFA). put together by Ed Headrick and Wham-O – and wanted to see how many people play this game in the US. They started an event called the American Flying Disc Open (AFDO) and even a prize for the winner – a brand new 1974 Datsun B210.

1975 was an important turning point for disc golf. Headrick saw the promise the sport made and as a senior executive at Wham-O reevaluated the value of disc golf to the business. That same year he introduced disc golf at the Frisbee World Championships and it was a great success. With this in mind, Headrick resigned from his position at Wham-O and formed the Disc Golf Association the next year. Soon after, he founded the first version of the Professional Disc Golf Association, a non-profit organization that currently governs the game internationally. He developed the official rules for this game and also invented and patented the disc golf chain and basket target.

Wham-O himself continued to sponsor the World Frisbee Championship, a move that helped promote disc golf in the US and Canada.

While Jim Palmeri and Co. were playing, the Berkeley Frisbee Group and, separately, the University of Michigan designed golf courses on their campus.

It wasn’t until six years ago that the sport caught renewed interest due to features posted in ESPN’s Top 10 Plays on Sports Center.

The day itself was the brainchild of Minnesota PDGA State Coordinator Jason Wilder and Throw Pink co-founder Sara Nicholson. They also consulted disc golf legends Dan “Stork” Roddick, Jim Palmeri and Tom Monroe about the date and eventually settled on August for two reasons. First, the iconic American Flying Disc Open, which launched this month, and second, Ed Headrick patented the first disc golf course, which is now standard on all disc golf course designs (pardon the pun). This day was approved five years ago and the US has been celebrating it ever since.