The Environmental Impact of Disc Golf – Guest Post


Leave no Trace…

There is an environmentally safe way to go camping, one in which you leave behind what you find, dispose of waste properly, and generally go out of your way not to disturb the wilderness.

If the “leave no trace” ethos works for camping, shouldn’t it be true for other outdoor activities, like disc golf, as well? Take golf: it’s a beloved, centuries-old sport enjoyed around the world, but it’s also a sport that can have a negative impact on the environment.

“Traditional golf attracts criticism from environmentalists for two primary reasons: water and pesticides,” writes Jack Trageser, founder of the School of Disc Golf.

“Prodigious amounts of both are used each week by U.S. golf courses to keep fairways and greens lush, green, and free of weeds. The more radical line of thinking is the environmental impact on such large areas for the benefit — and recreational benefit at that — of so few is unconscionable. Even a good percentage of golf enthusiasts polled about the subject of golf and the environment tend to agree that course owners and greenskeepers need to modify maintenance practices.”

Golf in a Perfect World…

Is there an alternative?

Trageser quotes Brent Blackwelder of Friends of the Earth, who describes golf “in a perfect world”:

Disc golf hole in the park

Disc golf hole in the park

“You’d be playing on an organic course. The maintenance equipment would be charged by solar power. Recycled water would be used for irrigation, and used efficiently and sparingly. There’d be a great variety of wildlife habitats. This idea that you’ve got to make everything look like a miniature golf course with a green carpet is crazy.”

But Traegeser goes onto say that we already have the utopian golf experience in disc golf. It may not be the exact same game as traditional golf, but Traegeser argues it still gives players “the full golf experience.” It’s mentally challenging, with constant risk vs. reward scenarios to puzzle through. And it can be played on terrain that doesn’t require pesticides or watering.

Affecting the Disc Golf Course Environment…

This is not to say that disc golf doesn’t have environmental consequences. On her blog The Average Visitor, Ashley D’Antonio points to a study done on disc golf courses in North Carolina between 1995 and 2010.

Researchers looked at news stories about disc golf written during those years and found that as time went on, the articles began to mention potentially negative environmental impacts of disc golf. Those impacts included vegetation loss, tree root exposure and soil erosion. They also found some impacts specific to the sport: players cutting branches to give themselves more room to throw, and tree bark damage as a result of the discs hitting trees.

D’Antonio argues that knowing about these impacts can influence the construction of new courses.

“For example, knowing that disc-golf activities can lead to bark damage on trees, managers can plant trees with sturdier and more resistant bark,” she writes. “Additionally, managers could consider rotating the location of baskets so that areas that have been highly trampled can be given time to recover.”

As disc golf grows in popularity, players, equipment makers and course managers should take care to treat the game as a chance to enjoy the great outdoors while leaving as little trace as possible.


By Shawn Overturf

Shawn is a disc golf enthusiast and the owner of D-town Disc Golf, a source for all your disc golf needs since 2012. When he isn’t managing his store, you can find him throwing plastic with his kids on courses in Bucks County, PA. Visit him online here: