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Hitting the chains

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Disc golf under the Big Sky

Story and photos by Wes Overvold
EBS Staff

As the sun sets on a Montana spring day—morning snow showers followed by T-shirt weather in the evening—I grab my collection of technicolored discs and hike over to Bozeman’s Rose Park for a quick round of disc golf.

Hosting 12 holes that are pockmarked with prairie dog burrows, the Rose Park course is tucked neatly amidst the sprawling development of Bozeman’s North 19th Avenue corridor. The course also represents what’s driving this area’s growth: a desire to take in the sights, smells and sounds of Montana’s expansive landscape—and disc golf is a perfect way to do that.

On any given day, Rose Park experiences a constant stream of disc golfers often accompanied by four-legged caddies keeping the ground-dwelling spectators at bay.

On a hillside above Big Sky’s Meadow Village, the Bighorn Ridge course incorporates elevation with a mix of open and forested holes.

On a hillside above Big Sky’s Meadow Village, the Bighorn Ridge course incorporates elevation with a mix of open and forested holes.

In the past two decades, disc-golf courses have become staples in growing, active communities throughout the country, and southwest Montana is no exception. With seven different nine-, 12- and 18-hole courses around Bozeman, Bridger Canyon, and Big Sky, there are many opportunities to combine the challenges of the game with a walk through Montana’s forests and meadows.

Since its inception in the 1960s, the growing popularity of disc golf has been largely attributed to its accessibility. Courses are often free, the equipment required is both affordable and minimal, and people of every skill level can enjoy playing.

Disc golfers range from serious aficionados, toting upwards of 50 discs in their bags, to the casual recreationalist with a borrowed disc or two. The sport allows participants to take an approach that best fits their lifestyle, as well as competitive spirit.

The discs are unique to the game and divided into three categories: driver, mid-range, and putter. Drivers have a flatter, aerodynamic design to slice through the air and glide the farthest. Thrown from a “tee box” made of concrete, mulch or just a patch of dirt, the driver performs best with a powerful yet controlled throw.

Mid-range discs are more stable and easier to handle for throws that require better accuracy than a drive, but still offer considerable glide. These discs are recommended for those just entering the sport who are looking for a one-size-fits-all approach.

For the final toss, disc golfers use a putter that most resembles the classic “Frisbee-style” disc, designed to fly straight, slow and predictably. Putters give you the best chance to hit the chains hanging in a 4-foot-tall basket serving as “the hole.”

Within these three disc categories exist a seemingly infinite number of alterations in weight distribution, edge design and materials. Each design is meant to give the disc a different flight path, and highlight factors such as speed, glide, turn and fade. These differences, however, won’t affect the overall enjoyment of hearing the chains jingle as your disc lands squarely in the basket.

The Rose Park course isn’t considered the most challenging in the area—the main hazard is the distracting view of the Bridger Mountains—but it does have all the elements that make this sport so popular: a combination of spending time outdoors and enjoying the surrounding landscape.

Much in the way “ball golf” is utilized as an excuse to be active, socialize and improve your skills, disc golf provides the opportunity to compete in tournaments, or offers just another excuse to unwind and soak up the day’s last bit of sunshine.

Visit for information on disc golf courses in the area, and find the tee box nearest you.

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