Austin Disc Golf Growing In Popularity

Roy Varney

Last Saturday, the Waterloo Disc Golf club hosted their annual “Ice Bowl” tournament in north Austin. The tournament boasted a field of 125 competitors, which, given the game's recent surge in popularity, came as no surprise to the organizers.

Disc golf, a game where individuals throw frisbees of varying sizes at short metal targets, has grown into an underground sensation and Austin is among the primary hubs of its expansion. Professionals in the field attribute increasing participation to the laid back nature of the sport, its affordability and appeal among younger audiences.

According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, membership in Texas increased by 972 participants between the years of 1999 and 2012. Additionally, Texas offers 216 disc golf courses – 44 more than second place California.

Vinnie Miller, an Austin professional, said the variety of courses is a big advantage in attracting players.

“In Austin and the central Texas area, we are kind of blessed that we have so many different parks,” Miller said. “Whereas, some other communities you might only have one course, and you don't have a lot of want and need to play it.”

Waterloo Disc Golf Club is the largest Austin-based disc golf club, and hosts a variety of yearly tournaments. The club is in its 15th year, and uses money raised from the tournaments to improve local disc golf courses and charities. Last November, the club held a tournament that raised $8,000 for the local Ronald McDonald House and $2,750 to renovate Zilker Park's course.

The social media coordinator for the Waterloo Disc Golf Club, Troy Herman, said the sport attracts many young players due to its affordability.

“(For) as little as a couple dollars, you can buy a disc,” Herman said. “And you can go out to a park that's free, and you can throw and play.”

Nearly 60 percent of the PDGA's members are between the ages of 20 and 40.

Herman said the biggest difficulty the sport faces is overcoming its misconstrued reputation.

“Some people, who don't know the sport, they cliché it as a shirtless, beer drinking, cigarette smoking… type of sport,” Herman said. “The disc golf community is made up from everybody.”