Modern day disc golf started in the late 60's. The early frisbee golf courses were "object courses", using anything from trees, trash cans, light poles, chicken wire baskets, pipes to fire hydrants as targets. The roots of the sport begin when “Steady” Ed Headrick designed the modern day Frisbee (US Patent 3,359,678, issued 1966) while working for Wham-O Toys back in the 60's. Captivated by the flight and feeling of control he could master with the Frisbee, Ed saw potential for the disc well beyond what anyone had envisioned or imagined. The game was formalized when Headrick invented the first Disc Pole Hole™ catching device, consisting of 10 chains hanging in a parabolic shape over an upward opening basket, (US Patent 4,039,189, issued 1975). The Disc Pole Hole™ became the equivalent to ball golf's “hole” and was installed in the first standardized target course (what was then known as Oak Grove Park Pasadena, California). Ed had said one of his many inspirations for the "Disc Pole Hole™" invention was so he and his buddies could get on with playing instead of arguing over whether or not someone actually had hit one of the objects in their make shift object courses.
The first known instance of anyone playing golf with a flying disc occurred in Vancouver BC in 1926. A group of school age kids played a game with tin lids, which they dubbed Tin Lid Golf. They played on a fairly regular basis on a disc golf course they laid out on their school grounds.
As they got older and into the more standard school sports, the Tin Lid Golf play faded out of the picture, only to be remembered many years later by one of the participants when they heard of the organized disc golf play of today.
Other similar accounts, both pre and post the advent of plastic flying discs, occurred in the 1930's, ˜40's ˜50's, and ˜60's, each ending in a similar way. One 1960 instance of disc golf was even a commercial attempt to market a packaged game of Sky Golf by the Copar Plastics company in Chicago. However, the Frisbee culture was just in its infancy at that time and the Copar game just didn't catch on.
The most interesting discovery of disc golf that fizzed out came right at the point when the modern day Frisbee culture started to mushroom into its current state of being. It is somewhat of a mystery why it didn't catch on at that time, especially when you learn of the people involved in that account.
In 1965 George Sappenfeld was a recreation counselor during summer break from college. While playing golf one afternoon, he realized that the kids on his playground could play the golf game with Frisbee discs. He remembered his idea when in 1968 he finished college and became the Parks and Recreation supervisor for the Thousand Oaks, CA Parks and Recreation Department.