There are plenty of reasons to get out to McLaren Falls and the establishment of a permanent disc golf course will see it targeted as the 'go to' place for sultans of spin, Cindy McQuade discovered.

If you've seen people fossicking in the undergrowth or bothering the wildlife down at your local park, they may have been just disc golfers trying to track down their wayward pieces of plastic.

Until now, players of the game have had to make do with local parks and reserves to get in a round of disc golf.

This is perfectly adequate for the casual player, but not great for the serious disc golfer, and those wanting to increase the game's profile.


A newly opened disc golf course at McLaren Falls now gives the sport a chance to fly high on the radar, and an opportunity for serious players to have a permanent course that tests skill levels.

And that's also good news for anyone who wants to try a sport that's easy to learn and hard to beat.

What makes the sport so great, according to McLaren Falls course designers, Myles Darrell and John Lee, is that it's inexpensive and people of all different ages and fitness levels can play.

John first started the game at the age of 60 in the United States and in the first five months lost 12kg because of all the exercise he was getting.

While the game is relatively unknown in New Zealand it's got plenty of traction overseas and has done so for decades. The US has over two million players and professional players there can pocket upwards of $100,000 per tournament win.

For people who have never heard of it, disc golf is similar in some ways to real golf. Instead of hitting a ball with a club however, players throw a plastic disc from target to target.

For the most part, disc golf courses are a lot more interesting though, and holes are not placed on manicured greens for gentle putting. The chain metal targets can be placed down gullies, up banks, and right in amongst groves of trees to make play more challenging.

You can play the game anywhere, in almost any type of terrain according to Myles and John. And that's probably what gives the game the edge over other sports - you don't need a permanent course to play, and it's often played in some of the most beautiful parts of the countryside, that most people never get to see.

It's also a great sport for people who are interested in applying the concepts of aerodynamics and gyroscopics. Although it's easy for beginners to have a go, it's can be a very technical sport for people wanting to take it to the next level.

As my knowledge of aerodynamics and gyroscopics is a bit rusty, I needed a refresher on the different ways to make a small plastic disc fly.

Those in the know are able to make them fly, curve, and drop depending on the type of disk they are using.

While we played, Myles and John were able to combine these concepts of physics to spin their discs high over tree tops, then curl them down within metres of the targets.

Like most beginners, I applied the concept of "fling it and see what happens" and that's fine too, because this is a sport that is very forgiving of people who just want to have a bit of fun.

While the current course is quite testing, plans are afoot for a family-friendly 9-hole extension for beginners and children. McLaren Falls Park is a special place any time of the year, but autumnal afternoons spent in one of New Zealand's largest arboretums is hard to beat. Not only is the new course technically challenging - it has the magic of trees - hundreds of species grown over decades thanks to the Bay of Plenty Tree Society.

For people wanting to learn the sport, an open day is being held at the McLaren Falls course at 2pm this afternoon where discs will be available for loan and new players will get tips from seasoned players.

Not only is this a great opportunity to learn how to play the game, it's also the chance to explore a different corner of one of the Bay's most picturesque parks.

Fact File
McLaren Falls: Get there: Take State Highway 29 out towards Matamata at Takitimu Drive roundabout. After 10.3km turn left into McLaren Falls Road. Drive for 5..2km to the park.

Opening Hours: Summer 7.30am - 7.30pm; Winter 7.30am - 5.30pm

Disc Golf: The course starts and finishes at Pin Oak, McLaren Falls.
Discs are available forloan (with small deposit) from the McLaren Falls Cafe´.

For people wanting to attend open day, head to Pin Oak and discs will be free for loan there.