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Who Invented Disc Golf and Why?

Published 02/08/2022, 7:25 AM EST

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While some might be clueless, disc golf is probably one of the fastest-growing sports today. With rules structured like regular golf, the game possesses countless unique qualities. Of course, the invention of disc golf is the result of a long (and slightly undocumented) journey. However, ultimately, the game managed to reach the point which has helped it flourish into what is today.

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Though there are countless moments to look back on, one can never fail to appreciate Ed Headrick, the father of disc golf.

Even if people like George Sappenfield and Kevin Donnelly helped kick start the whole game, Headrick remains at the front. Of course, Sappenfield and Donelly’s contribution is invaluable, which ultimately led to Headrick picking up an interest in the sport.


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Who invented disc golf?

As mentioned, the golf disc’s history isn’t exactly well documented. No matter how you look at it, there is no one incident that points to the golf disc’s invention. Headrick’s involvement, though, was surely the beginning of it being in a competitive light more widely.

Ed, who worked as an executive at the toy company Wham-O, took interest in disc golf back in 1975. The same year, the sport became a part of Wham-O’s World Frisbee Championships. Headrick installed the first course himself. Irrespective of changes needed later, it was a correct step.


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A successful World Frisbee Championship has Ed pursue the prospect of something more. He resigned from Wham-O, and the Disc Golf Association came into existence in April 1976.

Next came the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). Ed sold lifetime memberships for $10 at tournaments, the first being the Boulder Flying Disc Festival in 1976.

The next big step was the $50,000 Tournament in 1979. You needed to qualify for an invitation, which was another plus along with the huge cash prize. “Ed was very dedicated to the idea that his events should be ‘pro’. That was part of the reason the word Professional was in the name of the association,” said Dan ‘Stork’ Roddick. “He wanted to make them a big, big, big deal”. 

When did Headrick pass away?

In time, the Disc Golf World Championships were introduced, along with tours for the PDGA. Slowly, the organization grew, with more events being sanctioned every single day.

Headrick passed away in 2002, surrounded at home by friends and family. His ashes were added to a limited number of discs, which were handed out to friends and friends. Some were sold, and the proceeds were given to the “Steady” Ed Memorial Disc Golf Museum at the PDGA International Disc Golf Center in Columbia County, Georgia.


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Some of Ed Headrick’s patents

  • Frisbee Paten
  • The Disc Golf Basket
  • Inner Chains Invention
  • Basket Crossing Chain Invention
  • Basket Sliding Link Invention

Today, there are thousands of active members playing disc golf. What started was Headrick, as the number one member is now a sport, only hoping to grow with time.


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Devika Pawar is a Golf and NBA writer at Essentially Sports. A psychology graduate from KJ Somaiya, Devika has an experience with sportswriting at Republic World for around two years now. She loves NBA a little too much, and is a dedicated Golden State Warriors fan.
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