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History of Disc Golf - The Origin

The history of disc golf is a very interesting topic to explore. Why is that? It’s extremely difficult to pinpoint a true origin or creator. Looking back in time, there have been a number of people who have found examples of others throwing some kind of circular object towards a tree, trashcan, or light pole. However, when we’re talking about the birth of disc golf as we all know it, the story becomes a little less blurry and a bit more complex.

Most of us would be familiar with names like “Steady” Ed Headrick, Dave Dunipace, Ken “The Champ” Climo, and Paul McBeth. No doubt, these are all significant figures in disc golf and names that the average disc golfer might know. Have you heard of heard of George Sappenfield and Kevin Donnelly? If yes, give yourself some bonus points. If no, that’s why we’re here!

In the mid-1960s, Sappenfield and Donnelly came together with the idea of golf being playable with Frisbees. A lot of the original desire for this was directed towards creating a recreational activity for children since that is where Donnelly had drawn his idea from. As a child in the late 1950s, he played a version of the game on the street with his friends. If only they had known how big this would be for all ages. Naturally, they both needed support from somewhere to keep this idea moving. Fortunately for them, they didn’t need to look far. Who else but the company who designed the modern disc, Wham-O?

 

Old black and white Wham-O ad

Image - Old Wham-O ad celebrating the Frisbee

 

This is where “Steady” Ed comes into the scene. His involvement with Wham-O and passion for Frisbee could be seen in the passion of Sappenfield and Donnelly. He did what he was able to and helped get Frisbee Golf included in the “All Comers Frisbee Meet” that Wham-O was planning.

 

Old Frisbee golf target

Image - Old Frisbee Golf Target

 

Why is all of this so important? Why do we need to look back and learn names like George Sappenfield and Kevin Donnelly? The answer is very simple. Appreciation of the past leads to the enrichment of the future. When we look back and celebrate all of the great things those men and women did to launch the sport, we bring honor to their dedication. The picked up the idea, molded it, formed it for all of us, and now, they have passed this wonderful sport on to us. What will we do with it?

Next time we dive into the “History of Disc Golf” series, we’ll look further at what happened when Frisbee Golf was seen in a bigger light and how other companies and organizations took notice. The explosion of the sport was steadily approaching.

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