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Now, there was a suitable target for the discs, and, borrowing liberally from the terminology of golf, disc golf was born. In 1975, Headrick designed the first disc-golf course in Pasadena’s Oak Grove Park and founded the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).
Over the years, the chain basket has evolved a bit—and the discs have transformed into intricately designed pieces of plastic that vary in weight, composition, spin and glide angle. Some fade to the left or right. Drivers fly the fastest and farthest, midrangers have the best blend of control and speed, and putters are used for close-distance shots.
McBeth tossed discs for the hell of it for a couple of years before heading out to the course one day and finding “everything just clicked. It was weird. The game suddenly came really easily to me.”
His game caught the attention of Innova Golf Discs, a company out of Rancho Cucamonga, which asked to sponsor him. He turned professional shortly after, in early 2007.
He has been ranked as high as eighth in the world and played the U.S. Championships twice (finishing 11th in 2008 and 35th in 2009) and the World Championships twice (finishing 17th in 2008 and 35th in 2009).
His career-high low score is 21 under par on a 27-hole course, and he’s nailed 20 aces so far, his longest a 514-foot shot at a course in Palm Desert.
And he has no doubt that the game will only continue to grow.
“When I signed up for the PDGA in 2005, I was around [player] No. 27,000,” he said. “Now it’s up to 40,000. I think that the more people are exposed to it and realize that it’s a sport that any average person can play and how inexpensive it is, it’ll grow even more.”
Another thing in disc golf’s favor: exercise. While it’s not particularly strenuous tossing a disc 50 to 75 times (most of the toll is on the shoulder and sides), you’re walking about a mile and a half during a typical 90-minute round at Huntington Beach’s course.
“People my parents’ age don’t necessarily get it right away, but younger people really do,” McBeth said. “They realize how fun it is and how much exercise they can get from playing.”
Though old fogies may not embrace it as readily, it truly is a sport for all ages. At the world championships last year in Kansas City, McBeth said the record was broken for youngest player (6) and oldest (86).
At the moment, no disc golfer this side of 12-time world champion Ken Climo, who has his own line of discs, is making enough money in the sport to draw a living wage. Most professional tournaments pay the winner around $750, with purses driven by competitors’ entry fees.
But McBeth and Eckman think it’s just a matter of time.
“Last year, ESPN was sounding really serious about televising a couple of events,” Eckman said. “Once that happens, it could explode.”
Huntington Beach Central Park, 18000 Golden West St., Huntington Beach. Professional Disc Golf Association, www.pdga.com.
This article appeared in print as "Pole-In-One? OC is home to several courses for the growing sport of disc golf."
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