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On any given day, rain or shine, you may see visitors walking between the trees at Fort Stevens State Park, tossing small discs that look like miniature Frisbees into chain-grid baskets. Some players keep score sheets, marking the number of tosses it takes to get in the basket. Others are more casual, simply enjoying the chance to trek along the rolling terrain, beside creeks and amidst all of the wildlife in the woods.
Welcome to the sport of disc golf — a long-underground pastime that’s quickly gaining steam among outdoors lovers in Oregon, thanks to the addition of beginner-friendly courses at several Oregon State Parks.
“It’s getting people out to the parks — not only to camp but to see the ocean and wildlife, and getting them to utilize the park in another way,” says Chad McHugh, a ranger at Fort Stevens who has played disc golf for the past 12 or so years. “Just seeing elk out there is amazing, and bald eagles flying over you on the shore of the Columbia River is always nice to see.”
Oregon is home to nearly 200 disc golf courses, both community built and professionally certified, dotting every corner of the state. Players join up for casual or competitive games through one of many disc golf leagues or informal clubs, and many participate in a lineup of tournaments throughout the year.
Camping with friends? Head to the top-rated Wilder Disc Golf Course in Newport and take a walk through the coastal forest. (Photo by: Justin Myers)
Whether you’re a pro or a beginner, anyone is welcome to play disc golf on Oregon’s public courses, with just a couple of discs to start (and typically a day-use fee for state parks). New discs cost less than $20 at most outdoor retailers, and some Oregon State Parks have them available for rent. You can even use an old Frisbee, just to try it out.
Playing a nine-hole course at a leisurely pace may take about 45 minutes, comparable to a short hike.
While the idea behind disc golf is quite simple, you can choose your level of competition, from casual to hardcore, carrying a specialized bag of of brightly colored discs — such as putters, midrange and drivers — that travel a variety of distances. The disc is a little heavier than a normal Frisbee and can handle a little more torque, meaning you can throw it harder and shape lines with it better as you decide how to aim it into the basket. Many courses have different tee-off areas for beginners or advanced players.
Don’t worry about wearing any special type of shoes or uniform; unlike traditional golf, disc golf is all about coming as you are and dressing for the weather (especially if you’re braving the cold and rain).
For McHugh, getting a hole in one is always exciting; he’s had just a few over the years. Just as hiking or fishing are a balm for the soul, he finds disc golf to be a great way to enjoy the tranquility of the outdoors and travels across the state to explore a new course whenever he can. He gives props to the thoughtful course designers, especially at Fort Stevens’ Columbia Shore Disc Golf Course, which he helped design. “I moved to the Coast in part because I enjoy nature in this area,” McHugh says. “I get to be out in the well-maintained [disc golf course] areas and do something fun.”
Here are several of the state’s top-rated disc golf courses to explore.
Players of all ages and skill levels enjoy the disc golf action at Sorosis Park in The Dalles. (Photo by: Modoc Stories / hood-gorge.com)
Feel the river vibes at Whistlers Bend Disc Golf Course in Roseburg, with on-site camping for year-round fun.