The early history of disc golf is closely tied to the somewhat mysterious history of the recreational flying disc (especially as popularized by Wham-O Inc.'s trademarked Frisbees) and may have been invented in the early 1900s, but it is not known for sure. Modern disc golf started in the late 1960s, when it seems to have been invented in many places and by many people independently. Two of the best-known figures in the sport are George Sappenfield and "Steady Ed" Headrick who coined the term "Disc Golf" and who introduced the first formal disc golf target with chains and a basket, the Mach 1. He created the first disc golf course at Oak Grove Park in Pasadena, California. In 1975, Headrick formed the first disc golf association, the PDGA, which now officiates the standard rules of play for the sport. The sport has grown at a rate of 12-15 percent annually for more than the past decade, with nearly 3,000 courses in the US and over 3,000 globally. The game is now played in over 40 countries worldwide, primarily in North America, Western Europe, (including the Isle of Wight) Japan and Australasia. In 2009, approximately one out of every five rounds of golf played in the United States will be disc golf rounds.

George Sappenfield and early object courses

In 1965, George Sappenfield, a Californian, was a recreation counselor during summer break from college. While playing golf one afternoon he realized that it might be fun for the kids on his playground if they played "golf" with frisbees. He set up an object course for his kids to play on. Other early courses were also of this type, using anything from lamp poles to fire hydrants as targets. When he finished college in 1968, Sappenfield became the Parks and Recreation Supervisor for Thousand Oaks, California. George introduced the game to many adults by planning a Disc Golf Tournament as part of a recreation project. He contacted Wham-O Manufacturing and asked them for help with the event. Wham-O supplied frisbees for throwing, and hula hoops for use as targets. However, it would not be until the early 1970s that courses began to crop up in various places in the Midwest and the East Coast (some perhaps through Sappenfield's promotion efforts, others probably independently envisioned). Some of Sappenfield's acquaintances are known to have brought the game to UC Berkeley. It quickly became popular on campus, with a permanent course laid out in 1970.

"Steady Ed" Headrick and the growth of the modern game

The first standardized target course was put in by "Steady Ed" Headrick, a flying disc innovator known as the "Father of Disc Golf",[citation needed] in what was then known as Oak Grove Park in Pasadena, California. (Today the park is known as Hahamonga Watershed Park). This park is immediately to the south of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which supplied at least a few of the earliest players. Ed worked for the San Gabriel, California-based Wham-O Corporation and is credited for pioneering the modern era of disc sports. While at Wham-O, Headrick redesigned the Pluto Platter reworking the rim height, disc shape, diameter, weight and plastics, creating a controllable disc that could be thrown accurately. Headrick marketed and pushed the professional model Frisbee and "Frisbee" as a sport. Ed Founded "The International Frisbee Association (IFA)" and began establishing standards for various sports using the Frisbee such as Distance, Freestyle and Guts.

Headrick coined and trademarked the term "Disc Golf" when formalizing the sport and invented the Disc Pole Hole, the first disc golf target to incorporate chains and a basket on a pole. Headrick founded the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), Disc Golf Association (DGA), and Recreational Disc Golf Association (RDGA) as governing bodies for professional, competitive amateur, and family-oriented play, respectively, and worked on standardizing the rules and the equipment for the quickly-growing sport. Headrick abandoned his trademark on the term "Disc Golf", and turned over control and administration of the PDGA to the growing body of disc golf players in order to focus his passion for building and inventing equipment for the sport. Archive: 1978 Disc Golf Association Disc Golf Promotional Development Guide. PDF 11 pages.

Upon his death, Headrick was cremated and his ashes were made into a limited number of discs per his wishes. The discs were given to friends and family, and some were sold with all proceeds going toward funding a nonprofit "Steady" Ed Memorial Disc Golf Museum at the PDGA International Disc Golf Center in Columbia County, Georgia. One of the discs that contains Headrick's ashes will be permanently placed on the roof of the center. When asked why this was to be done, by a member of the local media, PDGA Executive Director Brian Graham quoted an old Frisbee adage, "Old Frisbee players are like old Frisbees ... They don't die, they just land up on the roof."

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