One of my go-to trails when I just want a good tromp in the woods before starting my day is over off Ponderosa Road south of town. Shortly after I discovered the trail I began noticing trees with duct-tape stripes around them. It took some time, but I eventually learned that these trees were part of a disc-golf course.
Disc golf is like golf, with nine or 18 baskets or trees instead of holes, which you aim to tag with a Frisbee-like disc, starting from a designated tee, between 100 and 400 feet away. How many throws you need to eventually hit the basket or tree determines your score. After you tag the first basket or tree on the course, you walk a short way to where you tee off aiming for the next one. Walking through a round of disc golf affords some good exercise. Players sometimes bring their dogs and find it a fun way to get some outdoor exercise that’s practically cost-free.
My family often plays disc golf on the weekends, and during the winter holidays we played almost every day on the Ponderosa course. The trees are quite far apart and, because you’re in the woods, there are many trees and bushes between you and your goal that seem to actively try to stop you from reaching it. Discs can get lost, so we all help look when one goes astray. It’s all good fun and great exercise. We’ve found other players’ lost discs, which is why you should always write your name and cell number on the discs.
Jerid Ludwig, the main organizer of the Prescott Disc Golf Club, calls his favorite pastime “hiking with a purpose.” A second-generation Prescott native, Jerid grew up spending his free time in the woods. After discovering a course in Flagstaff, he heard about a course here in Prescott off Schoolhouse Gulch Road. He and some friends found the trees, marked with paint, and began spending every afternoon after work playing disc golf.
In 2008 Robert Israel designed the original course at Watson Lake, created a Facebook page for Prescott disc golf players, and asked for help building the course. Jerid jumped in to help, and has been an enthusiastic organizer since then.
With other avid disc golfers he has added nine more baskets to the Watson Lake course, and is working toward building courses at Goldwater and Willow lakes. Courses have also been designed, using GPS pins, at Emmanuel Pines, Ponderosa Park, Schoolhouse Gulch and Skyline Drive.
Jerid owns 32 baskets that he uses for popup events and tournaments. He started organizing tournaments in 2016 and the Prescott club hosts three or four per year. Players come from all around the state for these events.
Last year PDGC hosted the state tournament for almost 300 players. To keep everyone safe during the pandemic, groups of no more than four start from different tees. For the state tournament players were spread out over four courses set up with Jerid’s baskets.
The Prescott Disc Golf Club meets twice weekly, Wednesdays at 4 and Sundays at 2, at the small gazebo next to the parking lot at Watson Lake where the kayak rentals are kept. There are also frequent popup games that are shared via the club’s Facebook page. Anyone can show up to play for no charge, but joining the club allows you to participate in competitions for prize money, which can add some spice to playing.
Getting started playing disc golf could hardly be easier. For very little investment you can purchase discs designed for the sport. I stopped by Greener World, an indoor gardening supply store that also has an extensive selection of discs for sale. Since it has become such a popular sport there are many companies producing specialized discs, like drivers and putters or those designed for speed or glide. Serious players often carry backpacks with a whole range of discs they choose from for a specific shot, just as in golf.
Discs are very affordable, and Greener World even has a selection of used discs for those wanting to try it out. Chris Howell, who works at Greener World, is happy to see the sport gaining popularity. “We’re constantly getting new people in here who are interested and want to try something new.” Born and raised in this area, Chris has been playing for about ten years and has enjoyed all the different courses available.
Beginners are encouraged to start out playing doubles, pairing with a more advanced player. The better of the two throws is counted, and it’s a great way to learn. Playing disc golf is an addictive passion, allowing players to hone their skills in a fun social context, plus get some outdoor exercise without having to worry about getting Covid. It’s fun, free, and safe.
Jerid is constantly working to expand disc golf in Prescott. He hopes to develop a course on the VA campus for veterans to enjoy, and is working to create a youth program with the school district. Developing new courses costs time and money, and Prescott Disc Golf Club is a nonprofit welcoming donations to help realize these projects. Kudos to the town of Chino Valley, which is funding its own disc-golf course. Under the direction of Community Service Director Scott Bruner, the course will have nine baskets and will be perfect for putting practice and beginners.
To learn more about disc golf in Prescott, join the private Facebook group Prescott Disc Golf Club, or contact Jerid at firstname.lastname@example.org. Discs can be purchased at Greener World or online at infinitediscs.com.