Disc Golf: Santa Fe’s Secret Outdoor Sport That Everyone Should Be Playing

Sara Headley | SantaFe.com - July 5, 2015

A warm summer day with a slight breeze in the air; the local church bell rings twelve times. Three groups of golfers walk in the park, through the trees and across the grass. They take turns driving and putting towards the holes, laughing and chatting the whole way. It is a quiet scene, full of fun and friends. But, this isn’t a regular golf course; this is Ashbaugh Park off Cerrillos Road. This is a disc golf course. And these are all members of the Santa Fe disc club, the Dead Plastic Society. They’ve been playing here and at other area courses since the mid-nineties.

Disc golf is not just a local sport for Santa Feans. It is an international game with people playing in tournaments, competitions and small weekly games. There are professional and amateur leagues as well as simple friendly groups who like to just get together to play – like the Dead Plastic Society. Most people who play are simply passionate about promoting the sport, having a good time and getting outside. Wendy Gerner, of the Dead Plastic Society, says when they first started playing at Ashbaugh Park in 1994 the park was a haven for crime and drugs. “We used to find hypodermic needles every week,” says Gerner. “But, the more people kept playing disc golf here, the cleaner it got.” The park is Santa Fe’s first official disc golf course, designed by Chris Meyer in 1992. Today, players have beautiful trees and a mountainous horizon to watch as they enjoy the game.

(Wendy Gerner, photo credit: Sara Headley)

What is Disc Golf?

Expanding on the principles of regular golf, disc golf was developed by the original Frisbee inventor, Ed “Steady” Headrick, in 1978 when he designed the first disc golf catching pole. Headrick hoped to create a community of people through this new game and help people gain confidence, skills and opportunities through the sport. Players throw discs of different weights and sizes, putters and drivers hoping to put their disc in the hole in the fewest throws – using the same par system as regular golf.

Today, disc golf leagues, groups, tournaments and individual fanatics are everywhere. A professional circuit exists with events taking place all over the world. People gather frequently to play a friendly game, compete in challenges, and teach or mentor each other. This community of people is greater than you can imagine.

Disc Golf in Santa Fe

In Santa Fe, there are four established disc golf courses scattered throughout the city. Three are open to the public with varying degrees of difficulty, number of holes and pars. The fourth course is located at the Institute of American Indian Arts campus on the southside of town. The course on the IAIA campus is now open, but requires a membership to play. Designed by David McCormack of Gateway Disc Sports, the course has best equipment in the state and is the only membership based disc golf course in the state and is a “prime example of high desert disc golf.”

The Santa Fe Disc Golf Club is dedicated to promoting the sport in Santa Fe and creating a fun and helpful community. They host weekly play on many days of the week at two of the local courses: Ashbaugh Park off Cerrillos Rd and Arroyo Chamiso Park behind The Genoveva Chavez Community Center. The league mixes it up, though, so there’s always something new to try – from putters only and random partners challenges to bag tag challenges in which players compete for numbered tags based on rank.  

(Bag tags, photo credit: Sara Headley)

Events and Tournaments

For disc golf enthusiasts there is no end to the options available for courses, groups and events in New Mexico. Leagues are all over the state and are sponsoring tournaments to join every day. We have created a list of groups and events for newcomers and experienced players to play any time of the year.

Elite Brothers Disc Golf was founded by a group of disc golf enthusiasts with the purpose of creating New Mexico tournaments. They did, and the response among the players from all over the country has been overwhelmingly positive. Their next event is the Sipapu Summer Slam in July. Although registration is closed, the beautiful terrain and talent is something most novices would appreciate watching. The next open registration event this group offers is in September – The New Mexico State Doubles competition, also in Sipapu. Look ahead to this fall’s Pendaries event, too – most players give it rave reviews.

New Mexico Disc Golf Community lists many tournaments and courses in the state as well as those they host. On their website, they also list reviews of courses in the area. Upcoming NMDG events include The Four Corners Open in Farmington at the end of July and the New Mexico State Championship in Ruidoso in August. Look ahead to September in Red River as the NMDGC hosts the Red River Ski Area Disc Golf Championship and The Battle at Glorieta Camps in October.

Los Alamos Disc Golf announces the Discraft Ace Race on August 8 in Los Alamos. Ace Races are held at local courses all over the country. They are timed events and players are only allowed a single shot. Each player uses the same disc, created newly each year by Discraft. A new twist on the game, Ace Races are a fun way to switch up the traditional par system of the game.

For more information on upcoming events, disc golf rules and regulations, videos and tips, The Professional Disc Golf Association is the best place to look. Their list of events worldwide spans most of the year from Estonia to Illinois! They also rank the listed tournaments based on skill level, so players interested in advancing their game can find tournaments that will challenge them on every level.

(Maple Hill Disc Golf Course, photo credit: Ildar Sagdejev)

More Information

For course maps (it can be tough for newcomers to find the holes, understand the order of play or the par system), Udisc is a mobile app that offers score cards and maps for courses all over the country.

Disc Golf Course Review lists courses all over the country and rates them based on players experiences. It offers directions and anecdotal insights to the course, so players have a preview of the locale before they trek out there.

New Mexico Disc Golf hosts a website for the states’ players to learn more about upcoming events, courses and other important information.

To learn more about the Santa Fe Disc Golf Club, check out their Face Book page.

To contact The Dead Plastic Society, you’ll just have to show up at Ashbaugh Park on Sunday morning. They don’t have a website or Face Book page, just old school play. “We’re older and more into having fun,” laughs Luke Carparelli of the group. “The Disc Club was put together about two years ago. They’re younger and more interested in competition. We just like to have fun. We’re kinda rowdy, too.”

(Luke Carparelli and Juan Bernandez, photo credit: Sara Headley)