Disc golf or as my friends and I call it, folf, is a great sport for people looking to get outdoors. All you need to enjoy the game is a frisbee since every course is usually free to play on. The game is similar to golf except you are throwing a disc instead of hitting a ball. The same rules apply. Try to get the disc to the basket in as few throws as possible. Just like golf, a round can be filled with many highs and lows. The challenging part about folf is maneuvering around the trees and bushes that can get in the way on any given hole. It really is a fun sport that is very easy to learn. Plus, it allows you to get outside, breathe in some fresh air, and see some great views. Essentially, its hiking while throwing a frisbee.
If you are a beginner, then this next part is to help you learn about the basic parts of disc golf. For more advanced players, scroll down and I’ll be writing about the different courses in Missoula.
Before jumping into playing disc golf, there are some certain things that players should be aware of. First off, purchasing a disc that is made particularly for folfing is going to be the first step. A regular frisbee isn’t going to get the job done. Most discs can be purchased at a local sports store for $10-$20. Before buying, it is important to understand the different types of discs and what the number on the discs mean.
Types of Discs
There are three different kinds of discs; driver, mid-range, putter. Each of the three are made to fly a certain way and used for different distances. A driver is the disc that is going to go the furthest but can be the hardest to control. The sharp, heavier edges of a driver help the disc cut through the air while traveling at high speeds. The driver is usually used for your first shot off the tee box. Since drivers need to be throw at a high speed to fly right, they may not be the best disc to use for a beginner. A mid-range disc may be a better option because they require less strength to throw and are easier to control. Mid-range discs won’t go as far as drivers but can cover a lot of distance if thrown properly. The main use of these discs are for shots approaching the basket. The last type of disc is a putter. Putters are designed similarly to your regular frisbee. These discs are used when shooting at the basket. Putters fly very straight and are more predictable. Many pro disc golfers like to have a bag full of 10-20 discs, so they have a variety of options for any occasion. If you are just starting up though, I would recommend buying a mid-range disc to try out because they don’t need to be thrown at a high speed to fly right and require less technique. They can fly almost as far as a driver and can be used as a putter. To this day, one of my friends still only uses a mid-range disc when we go out, and he is the best of the group. Then, I only choose to use a driver and a putter. It really doesn’t take a much to get started!
The other thing to be aware of when buying a disc is the numbers listed on them. These numbers are measurements that indicate how a disc will fly.
This is what the measurements will look like on the disc. From left to right, these stats are speed, glide, turn, and fade.
Speed- how hard a person must throw the disc for it to be thrown properly.
Glide- how long the disc can stay in the air
Turn- how stable the disc it, how it will fly at high speed
Fade- how the disc finishes once it slows down at the end of its flight
There are also a few different throwing styles that can used by folfers. This is mostly preference so go with whatever feels the most natural for you.
Backhand -This is the most commonly used throw. Most professional disc golfers use this. Typically finishes to the left.
Forehand (sidearm) -Not as common but can be just as effective. This is the throw I use because I feel like it is less stress on my body. Finishes to the right.
Tomahawk -A throw that isn’t used very often. This is used to throw over obstacles when stuck in a lot of trees.
Courses in Missoula:
Disc golf is an up and coming sport that has started to gain more traction here in Missoula over the years. There are a number of courses in the surrounding area for avid players looking to get their folf fix in or new players looking to get their feet wet. It’s hard to get worn out from playing when there are so many options in the area. After the description of each course, there will be a link to a YouTube video showing pros playing on the course from the ZooTown Open. Each year Missoula holds the ZooTown Open where locals get the chance to watch pro disc golfers come to play their hometown courses.
The first course I have to talk about in Missoula is Blue Mountain. This is the course that I am most familiar with and is definitely my favorite. The course is located on the southwest side of Missoula. There are plenty of parking spots near the bottom of the mountain that allow you to start on Hole 1. Then there is also an alternative starting spot that is further up the mountain allowing you to start on Hole 13. The Blue Mountain course is made up of 18 holes that provide a variety of both open and tight fairways. The course has plenty of elevation changes that gives folfers quite the hike. If you don’t stay in the fairway on a couple of holes, your round can end up being a little rough and wild navigating through the trees and brush. Keep reading for descriptions of the holes I love and dislike on the course.
To begin the course, Hole 1 presents the challenge of splitting a narrow gap of trees to get to the other side of the ravine (pictured below). I have definitely started many rounds by hitting a tree, making me take my second shot from the bottom of the hill so don’t get discouraged if that happens to you.
Moving on to Hole 2, the basket is set on a hill sloping right to left. It can be an easy birdie with a good throw, but if your disc doesn’t land soft, it could get “wheels” and roll all the way down the hill. Fast forward a couple holes to my favorite hole on the course, Hole 4. Not only is it my favorite hole, it also provides the best view from the course. From the tee box on Hole 4, you can see above the trees all the way across Missoula to the “M”. Because the hole starts at the top of the hill and ends at the bottom, it makes for a great folf hole. A person can huck their disc out there and just let it ride to the bottom. The two following holes are played out on flat land with fairly open shots at the basket. Hole 7, my least favorite hole on the course, is straight up a monster of a hill. Usually at the end of this one I need a few minutes to catch my breath. I guess without walking up that huge hill, Hole 10 wouldn’t be possible. Hole 10 (pictured below) is another one of my favorites on the Blue Mountain course. From the tee box, you have to throw over the road and down into the wide-open field waiting at the bottom. Usually, it takes me three throws just to get near the basket. That’s why the video link I provide at the end is so cool to watch because the pros only need one throw to get all the way down near the basket.
The following two holes are pretty wide-open after that. That leads us to Hole 13 which is another of my least favorites. The biggest reason why is because the hole isn’t great for my throw. Since I throw forehand, all of my throws usually end with a sharp right curve, and on this hole, that’s the last place you want to go. The right side is full of trees and bushes so throwing that way is an easy way to lose a disc. These last handful of holes are back into the forest and present quite a few obstacles. Speaking of obstacles, Hole 16 is full of them. Before you take on this hole, there is a perfect little rest stop to sit. My friends and I call this “the spot” because there is a big, comfy log bench there. Back to Hole 16, which some call “Merkwood” because of all the trees off to left of the fairway. This hole can really ruin a great round of folf if you get stuck in there! Once getting past that hole, the last two holes go by quick, and just like that you’ve folfed Blue Mountain!
I hope you enjoyed reading along as I described how I felt about my favorite course, Blue Mountain, here in Missoula. If you were having trouble following along or want to see how the course looks, watch the pros play it at last years ZooTown Open!
Across town on the southeast side of Missoula, there is another disc golf course in Pattee Canyon. This course provides a good combination of both short and long-distance holes. Unlike Blue Mountain’s elevation changing terrain, Pattee Canyon’s course is pretty flat throughout. The majority of the obstacles blocking the goal at this course are going to be trunks of pine trees. I would say most of the holes are straight shots which can sometimes be hard for beginners since discs have the tendency to finish hard left or right. But overall, this is a great alternative to Blue Mountain since that course can become crowded. Here is course map to follow along with. Plus, there is a video at the end showing what the course looks like.
When driving up to the course, there is a sign says “Disc Golf Parking” so it’s hard to miss. From the parking lot to Hole 1, there is a long walk, but it is well marked as well. The first two holes are wide open except for the occasional tree and the long grass. That’s the exact opposite of what you’ll see from Hole 3 and Hole 4. Both these holes have a very tight window between two rows of trees. It’s going to take a very straight throw to get through them and reach the pin. The next few holes are in the forest but still provide a good folfer with lines to hit. Hole 7 is one of my favorites on this course because it’s so short. It gives you a real chance to hit a hole in one and there’s no feeling better than that. The next two holes, 8 and 9, are in the dense forest. Both are covered with trees which can make them pretty difficult. Hole 10 is more of the same from the tee box, but then opens up as you get closer to the basket. After that is another one of my favorites. Hole 11 is another of the more open shots on the course. It provides a good chance at getting a birdie. The next few holes are more of the same, shooting through a tunnel of trees. Hole 15 can be a little deceiving considering it starts with a shot from the tee box that goes into a wide open field. What makes this hole tough is usually the second shot is going to need some luck getting through the guardian trees blocking the basket. The last three holes of Pattee Canyon are each unique and provide shots of all different distances. Hole 16 is a short open hole that gives a chance at a birdie. Next is Hole 17, which is another long, straight window through the trees. Then to finish off, the last hole has the first change of elevation on the course with a shorter, slightly downhill hole.
Pattee Canyon provides another great option for disc golfers in Missoula. Unfortunately, the ZooTown Open doesn’t have a video on YouTube of the pros playing this course. I did happen to find a video of a guy playing all 18 holes. This is a chance for you to see how the course looks and plays.
About 20 miles outside of Missoula, just past Clinton, there is another disc golf course called Sky Ranch. It is a private ranch course that is open to the public but asks folfers to pay $5 at the dropbox located on the course. Sky Ranch is complete with a practice basket and measured driving range! I have not been able to try this course out yet since it is further away, but I intend on going as soon as I can get a group together to go out. I did watch the video of the pros playing it during the ZooTown Open, and the course looks awesome.
The course has a mix of holes in the trees and then a couple that are wide open as you can see from the map below. It’s always fun to see who has the biggest arm of the group on holes with nothing blocking your way.
Sadly, this is another course that I have not gotten the chance to play. The main reason being it is usually only open from November to February. During the other months of the year, Linda Vista is home to a golf course. To play the course, it costs $5 at the golf course cafe. I thought this course may have less obstacles in the way than others since its on a golf course. After watching the pros play the course, it seemed like there was always a big bushy tree blocking the basket though. To bad we can’t play this course at the moment. It looks like a great change of pace from the forest courses.
Give it a Try!
I know many of you are trying to stay safe and keep your distance from others in this pandemic. Disc golf is a great way to still keep your distance while being able to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather we have been having here in Missoula. We are lucky to live in a place that has a variety of options available. This leaves players, like myself, wanting to go out and experience all the courses. I really hope this content makes some of you want to pick up a disc and go try out folfing! If you’re looking to give disc golf a shot, these are the best locations in Missoula to do it!