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As Disc Golfers Vie For Glory This Week In Pittsburgh, What To Know About The Sport

Rebecca Devereaux
90.5 WESA
Disc golfer Matthew Miao, of Regent Square, makes a put during a game at Schenley Park on July 8.

This week, Pittsburgh will witness the crowning of several world champions. Their expertise?

Disc golf.

The annual Pro World Disc Golf Championships will be taking place at four area courses through Aug. 8. And while most of us have probably flipped a Frisbee in a park or on the beach, disc golf is much more than that.

Here's what to know:

The Basics

The object of disc golf is simple: get a disc into a chain basket mounted on a pole in the fewest number of throws as possible, much like traditional golf but with a flying disc, instead of a ball.

Courses are typically comprised of 18 “holes” or baskets. Each hole contains several tee pads of varying difficulty. Holes are different lengths and have pars based on their difficulty – par 3, par 4, par 5.

According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, the first recorded occurrence of a disc golf game was in 1926, when several school-aged children created a game they called “tin lid golf.”

The sport struggled to catch on for decades until a group in Rochester, N.Y. began playing regularly and competitively in 1970. From then on, the sport gained popularity and eventually became what it is today.

Today, there are more than 4,000 courses worldwide.

How Can I Play?

Unlike traditional golf, disc golf can be played with very little equipment. An inexpensive set of discs can be purchased for around $20 – individual discs for less than $10.

Credit Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
The discs used in gameplay vary.

For more dedicated players, equipment can include higher-end discs, equipment bags and specially designed shoes. This can cost hundreds.

Discs are shaped differently than the Frisbees commonly tossed around in the yard at picnics. They are smaller, denser and come in different variations based on the distance they are designed for.

A typical set includes a putter for distances of 150 feet and shorter, a mid-range disc for spans of 150-300 feet and a driver for throws of 300 feet and longer.

Drivers have a thinner edge that carries the disc further, while putters have thicker edges that allow the disc to travel in a straight line over shorter distances.

Where Can I Play?

Disc golf courses are free to play. Courses are often in parks and are open to the public. Some local parks that have courses include Schenley Park, Phillips Park, Deer Lakes Park and Knob Hill Park.

Although people are free to go out and play as they wish, there are also clubs, such as the Pittsburgh Flying Disc Society, that hold events and tournaments where other golfers can meet up and compete.

What Is The Pro World Disc Golf Championships?

Roughly 420 players from 10 countries are scheduled to compete for the title of world champion.

The tournament takes place at four area courses: Deer Lakes Park, Moraine State Park, Slippery Rock and Knob Hill Park. Every player will have the opportunity to play every course.

The overall tournament is broken into four different divisions: Open, Masters, Grandmasters and Legends, breaking down further into men’s and women’s.

Credit Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA
90.5 WESA
Some local parks that have disc golf courses include Schenley Park, Phillips Park, Deer Lakes Park and Knob Hill Park.

“The biggest fields are going to be the Open Men and the Open Women,” said Maria Montano, communication director for the 2015 PDGA Pro World Disc Golf Championships. “Those are the top-level players who will be competing with each other, but then anyone over the age of 40 qualifies for the Masters division, and then it breaks it out by year.”

The main event begins with tournament play Tuesday through Friday, and semi-final and final round action happening on Saturday.

Moraine State Park will host the semi-final round Saturday starting at 8 a.m., and Slippery Rock University will host the final round Saturday at noon.

A purse of $70,000 will be handed out at the end of the tournament. Last year, the men’s Open division winner took home $5,000 and the women’s Open winner took home $2,500.

Can I Watch?

Montano said people are welcome to come view the tournament in person, and fans should follow viewing etiquette associated with traditional golf.

“If you’ve ever watched a ball golf tournament on TV, it’s very much similar in terms of how the spectators should act,” she said. “Be quiet when the players are throwing or making their putts. Cheer when they make a good shot or make a big putt.”

She said they are expecting close to 2,000 people to come to the final round Saturday afternoon.

This marks the first time the Pro World Disc Golf Championships have been held in Pittsburgh.

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