Disc Golf is Flying High in Santa Rosa

Disc golf is growing rapidly in popularity all over the world. It's one of the fastest-growing sports in modern times, with a 33% increase in games played from 2019 to 2020 alone, and Santa Rosa and Sonoma County are at the forefront of the sport.

Disc Golf Courses in Santa Rosa

Youth Community Park (Rosa Park) — 1701 Fulton Road

Taylor Mountain Regional Park — 2080 Kawana Terrace 

Steve Werner Memorial Disc Golf Course — 2080 Kawana Terrace

Ever since the sport was invented and developed in the 1970s, disc golf—formerly known as Frisbee golf—has had a reputation as being a little silly.

But by playing the sport, or just watching it played well, it is clear that it is a truly athletic endeavor that requires and develops some serious skills.

Locally, founded in 1976 on the campus of Sonoma State University, the United Flyers of Sonoma (UFOS) Disc Golf Club is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the sport of disc golf in the North Bay area, fostering a sense of community among disc golfers and supporting many worthwhile organizations in the North Bay Area.


Members of the UFOS build for the future of the sport by designing and building new courses, introducing new players to the sport, and providing the opportunity to come out and learn disc golf in a friendly, healthy, and pleasurable environment.

Like its cousin (which disc-golfers really do call “ball golf,” and definitely not “real golf”) the object is to traverse a course - usually 18 holes - and hit targets. Instead of mashing a ball with a club, the disc golf player is throwing an 8- or 9-inch, 160-to 180-gram disc toward a target are designed to be spun over long distances at speeds of more than 70 mph, often at an elevated basket strung with chains, that might be 300 to 400 feet away - in pro tournaments, much farther. As in ball golf, throws (“strokes”) are counted, and obviously the fewer the better.


Getting a solid strike on a golf ball is notoriously difficult. Similarly, getting a golf disc to fly properly involves coaxing it, with arm positioning and hand-and-wrist movement, to turn to the left or to the right, to get around trees and other obstacles. Or sometimes even to make it turn to the left and then to the right - or vice versa. Making this more possible and more complicated, golf discs come in hundreds of models that, because of their shape and weight distribution, display different flight characteristics.

Players carry several or dozens of these discs in shoulder bags or backpacks as they play. In recent years, modified baby carriages with racks for discs have appeared on courses - with cup-holders for cold beverages, of course.

The sport has developed jargon to allow manufacturers to communicate each disc's flight characteristics, and so players can tell golf stories. So you might hear someone at Iron Ox's taproom, which is frequented by disc golfers, mention a “hyzer” - a disc thrown with an angle of release that has the outside edge tilted downward - which will cause the disc to sail to the left when thrown by a right-handed player; or an “anhyzer,” (yes, pronounced like the first name of the beer company) which will have the opposite effect.


All told, a well-thrown golf disc can fly a lot farther than would seem possible and can look like it's being guided by remote control.

Online video searches for “disc golf ace” or “disc golf hole-in-one” yield tens of thousands of clips showing hyzer-huckers working their magic. Perhaps partly thanks to its popularity on YouTube, the sport is experiencing an explosion nationwide.

The explosion in popularity has been immediately apparent in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. The UFOS is the oldest chartered disc golf organization in the country, and probably the world. The UFOS built their first course at Crane Creek Regional Park in Rohnert Park.

In Rohnert Park, local leaders eventually warmed to the idea of installing a disc golf at Crane Creek Canyon Park. The rebuilt course, which re-opened in 2009, is generally regarded as a good beginners' course. Most of the holes are fairly open—no “tunnel holes” that require expert disc-threading through trees. (Be aware that there are also cow pies, and this time of year, ticks.)


A third UFOS course is located at Lake Sonoma. The UFOS worked with the Army Corps of Engineers which already been building disc golf courses around various reservoirs that they manage, so it was straightforward.

The course wraps around Lake Sonoma and is set up in an unusual way: There are nine tee boxes and 18 baskets; players hit the yellow baskets on the way out, and the orange baskets on the way back. The course is in an open, park-like setting, and many of the UFOS tournaments are hosted there.

The newest local disc golf course is the Taylor Mountain course, located minutes from downtown Santa Rosa, which wraps around a hilltop featuring beautiful trees, rocks, and vistas. It is a varied course with lots of opportunities for both open and tunnel shots. There are also elevation changes, so it challenges different parts of a players’ game.


Like the sport that inspired it, disc golf is mostly played in beautiful locations. Unlike groomed golf courses, however, most disc golf courses are located in public parks and set in some version of the wild. One benefit of this arrangement is that the vast majority of disc golf courses are free. The other bonus is that playing the game is a fun way to commune with nature.

Vince Ferracuti, co-owner of Iron Ox Brewing Company organizes Ox-sponsored events for the United Flyers of Sonoma, says playing disc golf helped him develop a deeper understanding of the Sonoma County landscape. He says this is something he learned as the student outdoor director at the College of Idaho, which has a course on campus.

“It just really helps you get to know a place in a different way,” he says.

Iron Ox Brewing Company, Pint of Beer and Can


Visit United Flyers of Sonoma Disc Sport Club on Facebook to find out about tournaments and events throughout Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, which take place every day of the week. 

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