Hundreds of disc golfers come to P.E.I. for largest Canadian tournament ever

·3 min read
The players competed at the Hillcrest Farm disc golf course. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)
The players competed at the Hillcrest Farm disc golf course. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)

Disc golfers from across the country hit the course all week on P.E.I. at the 2022 Canadian National Championships.

More than 468 players representing Canada and five other countries came to the Island for the multi-day tournament.

Organizers say that's the largest attendance ever seen at a Canadian event for the sport, which unlike golf uses a flying disc instead of a ball and club.

Tournament director and co-founder of the Maritime Disc Golf Association Benjamin Smith said disc golf exploded in popularity during the pandemic, with the player base in the region more than tripling in the last two years.

"We are very socially distanced, friendly, very easy to play outside, easy to keep the equipment clean," he said.

"There's something that has a bit of a mystique to it. These discs will shape and bend and do all sorts of things, and when you kind of unlock that magic, that secret sauce, there's just this feeling that is so euphoric. It's really hard to explain, and I think every person that is out here shared that feeling at least once in their life."

Jane Robertson/CBC
Jane Robertson/CBC

The open divisions were held at the Hillcrest Farm course in Bonshaw, which was recently named the third-best disc golf course in the world based on user rankings on a disc golf directory app.

"Certainly Islanders should take an immense amount of pride. You have four of probably the top 10 courses in all of the country here," Smith said.

"We get more requests from people from Finland and Sweden and all through the United States to come here and experience this."

A creative sport

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

Disc golf has very similar rules to golf, with players trying to get a disc into a basket in as few throws as possible. But Smith said other than some standardization with regards to where you can throw the disc from, the rest of the sport is very free form.

"Everything else is creative," he said.

"Some people physically can only throw one or two ways and that's totally legal ... Instead of a golf ball where you have to stand up and address it in the exact same way as everybody else does, you're free to pick left, right, up, over, roll it sideways, backwards, upside down."

Kirk Pennell/CBC
Kirk Pennell/CBC

Jacob Smith's Island Disc Golf Company is the only store on the Island that exclusively sells disc golf gear. He said there are over 1,000 types of discs approved for use, and that the average disc golf aficionado would have about 15 to 20 discs in their bag at any given time — some of which are for specific shots.

But Jacob said a beginner would be able to purchase all the discs they need for about $45.

"It's pretty reasonable to get into the sport," he said. "And people do really love to get into it. There's so many different plastics that you can look at and touch and feel and, and throw and see how they fly. So it can be quite addictive."

'Huge community'

CBC/Kirk Pennell
CBC/Kirk Pennell

The pro purse for the championship is $10,000. But players of all skills participated in the event.

Torontonians Heather Gilmore and Lauren Ho came to P.E.I. just for the event. Both are at amateur level, though Gilmore did play ultimate Frisbee for about 20 years or so.

"The pandemic happened and ultimate got shut down. So my ultimate team was immediately like, 'How do we keep playing?'" Gilmore said. "[With disc golf] you still have obviously the support of everyone around you just to do well. But it's still all about you and how you're doing."

Ho has been playing for about a year. She said that while it's a very individual sport, there's a "huge community" of disc golfers that is very welcoming and willing to lend a hand to new players.

"It's really great to get out and exercise and just walk around and be able to meet other players from around the world," she said.

The championship wraps up on Sunday.