The early history of disc golf is closely tied to the history of the recreational flying disc (especially as popularized by the trademarked Frisbee) and may have been invented in the early 1900s.The first known instance of anyone playing golf with a flying disc occurred in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926. Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary School buddies played a game throwing tin plates at targets such as trees and fence posts. They called the game Tin Lid Golf and played on a fairly regular basis on a disc golf course they laid out on their school grounds. But, after they grew older and went their separate ways, the game came to an end. Modern disc golf started in the early 1960s, when it seems to have been invented in many places and by many people independently. Students at Rice University in Houston, Texas, for example, held tournaments with trees as targets as early as 1963, and in the early 1960s players in Pendleton King Park in Augusta, Georgia would toss Frisbees in 50-gallon barrel trash cans designated as targets.
The true pioneer of the sport of Frisbee Golf is Kevin Donnelly, who, until 2011, was unknown for his accomplishment. Kevin began playing a form of Frisbee golf in 1959 called Street Frisbee Golf. In 1961, while a Recreation Leader and then Recreation Supervisor for the City of Newport Beach, California, he formulated and then began organizing Frisbee golf tournaments at nine of the city’s playgrounds he supervised. This culminated in 1965 with a fully documented, Wham-O sponsored, city-wide Frisbee Golf tournament. This highly publicized tournament included hula hoops as holes, with published rules, hole lengths, pars, and penalties, Wham-O prizes and, an event in which Fred Morrison, the Frisbee inventor, was in attendance. In 1967, two years after conducting the first-ever organized Frisbee Golf Tournament, Kevin, then the Coordinator of the Parks and Recreation Section at Fresno State College, California, organized and then taught the first ever college level Frisbee Golf activity course, in which George Sappenfield was registered.
Two of the best-known figures in the sport are “Steady Ed” Headrick, who introduced the first formal disc golf target with chains and a basket, and Dave Dunipace who invented the modern golf disc in 1983, and was one of the founders of Innova. In 1976, Headrick formed the DGA, then later the RDGA and the PDGA. Headrick spun off the PDGA to be run independently and to officiate 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 3000 courses in the US and more than 4000 globally. The game is now played in more than 40 countries worldwide, primarily in the United States, Finland, Canada, Central and Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.