I’m always looking for ways to spend time outdoors as a family, and something fun and new always helps coax my teenagers away from screens. After reading about a disc golf course near our house in Maple Valley, we decided to try it out. On a recent Sunday afternoon, we picked up a few inexpensive Frisbees from the store and headed out to find a disc golf course called Gaffney’s Grove.
What is disc golf?
First, the basics! Disc golf is a sport somewhat similar to golf, but instead of hitting a ball with a club, you throw a disc or Frisbee. Instead of holes, as with regular golf, the “holes” in disc golf are typically metal baskets mounted on a pole. The baskets have chains around the edges.
If you’ve ever been to a park that has a disc golf course, you might have heard the clink of the chains as discs land in the baskets. For each hole (basket), there’s a tee-off spot, usually a concrete pad or rubber mat where you stand to make your first throw.
How to play disc golf
To play, stand on the tee and throw the disc towards the basket. It will take several throws to get your disc all the way to the hole. As in golf, you throw again from where your disc last landed. The goal is to make it into the basket in the fewest number of throws. All these features point to the reason the sport is named after (regular) golf.
The biggest and best difference between regular golf and disc golf is that most disc golf courses are free to play, often located in public parks, and for equipment, you only need a disc that costs around $15. It’s not exclusive, it’s fun for nearly all ages and it’s free or inexpensive to play. Hooray for disc golf!
It’s not exclusive, it’s fun for nearly all ages and it’s free or inexpensive to play. Hooray for disc golf!
One note: Some courses have a posted "par" but they're pretty hard for a beginner to achieve. Just try for the fewest throws. You can bring a little notepad to keep score if you like, but you don’t need to. Just have fun.
Is disc golf easy to play?
No one in my family plays golf, and neither my husband nor I had thrown a Frisbee in at least a decade. So for our first time playing, we went in with low expectations. The first thing we learned is that disc golf can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes the hole/basket is located around a curve or behind a tree! It took all of us, adults and kids, many, many throws to hit the basket at each hole. We played through all 18 holes in about an hour and a half, getting a bit better at it by the end.
Even though we were unskilled first-timers, we had a great time playing disc golf! We laughed when a disc landed in the bushes (usually mine) and we had fun being out in the woods with an activity to focus on. Our local course is in a pretty, forested area, so we had plenty of scenery to take in while we played. In fact, we enjoyed our disc golf game so much that we bought beginner discs for each family member and have played several more times since our first outing.
Tips for families trying out disc golf:
- Research which course to try. Some are better for beginners or are less crowded. A website called DG Course Review lists and rates courses by state.
- Print out the course map before you go, or snap a pic of the map, which is usually posted near the first tee. It’s not always easy to see the layout.
- Wear good shoes, courses can be rugged with roots or rocks.
- Bring water because you will do a lot of walking.
- If more experienced players are behind you, step aside and allow them to play through. (This is a good time to watch and learn from their technique, too.)
- You can try the first time with a Frisbee-type disc.
- Send someone in your group ahead as a “spotter” before throwing, especially if the course has other players — you don’t want your disc to collide with another player!
- Elementary-age kids and older can play this game; if you don't feel like playing an entire 18 holes, no big deal. Stop whenever you want.
- Some courses have a “lost and found” if you lose your disc.
- If you like playing you can upgrade to a real disc golf disc. (Disc golf discs are generally smaller, heavier and stiffer than a regular Frisbee.) Experts recommend starting with a beginner disk, either a midrange or a putter. Choices abound on Amazon, including a single beginner disc or a set (for throwing different distances).
- Just like on any trail, pack out what you pack in.
Where to play disc golf around Seattle
Ready to play? Here’s where to find courses around Puget Sound.
Seattle-area disc golf courses
Lakewood King County Park, Seattle
This course has 18 holes and reviewers say this one is good for beginners — not because it is technically easier — but because it is well laid out. For the first hole, you throw over a small pond. (Pro tip: If you have younger kids, this spot is also where you'll find the White Center bike playground.)
Location: 11050 10th Ave. S.W., Seattle, WA 98146
Mineral Springs Disc Golf Course, Seattle
Located in the Northgate neighborhood., this is a 9 hole course that you play twice using either different tee pads or baskets. Reviewers say the course is tight (as in the holes are close together), challenging and better for seasoned players.
Location: 1500 N. 105th Street, Seattle, WA 98133
North SeaTac Park, SeaTac
This park’s course has 18 holes on a fairly flat course that is a mix of open and wooded areas. No water or restrooms available.
Location: 13001 20th Ave. S., SeaTac, WA 98168
Nick Loutsis Park, Carnation
Find this 9-hole course in a City of Carnation park.
Terrace Creek Park, Mountlake Terrace
Located in Mountlake Terrace, this course has 18 holes. The course has lots of hills and reviewers say it feels more like a hike than other courses.
Blyth Park, Bothell
This course is called Howling Coyote and reviewers say it’s a great beginner course for families, with shorter throws and less vegetation to lose your disc in. It has 10 holes. It is in a park so there are restrooms, a children’s play structure and picnic tables in the park.
South King County and Tacoma-area disc golf courses
Lake Fenwick Park, Kent
The course at Lake Fenwick Park offers 18 holes. There are no restrooms but you can find portable toilets across the street.
Location: 25828 Lake Fenwick Road, Kent, WA 98032
Game Farm Wilderness Park, Auburn
The 18-hole White River course offers options for how challenging a course you want to play. Restrooms and are benches available.
Location: 2401 Stuck River Dr., Auburn, WA 98092
Gaffney’s Grove, Maple Valley
This 18-hole course, adjacent to Lake Wilderness Park and Lake Wilderness Arboretum, features short throws and low canopies. Find portable toilets onsite, plus restrooms near the children’s play area. Free parking by the first tee.
Fort Steilacoom NW Disc Golf Course, Lakewood
This course has 18 holes. Reviews say the course is highly technical and offers a mixed woods-and-open-space setting.
Location: 8202 87th Ave. S.W., Lakewood, WA 98498
Riverside Park, Sumner
This is an 18-hole course along the Puyallup River. It also features alternate courses and pretty views. Reviewers say to print out the course map and bring it with you because the layout can be confusing.