© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

The rise of disc golf – Christchurch’s hidden gem

Jessica Swan
Disc Golf
Disc golf players in Christchurch   Flex Line Media

Christchurch takes the cake for hosting the most popular disc golf course in Australasia. Many players flock to the park before dawn, with numbers sometimes reaching 500 visitors on a weekend.

The course is at a favourite local hub, Jellie Park.

The accolade is far from trivial for members of the local disc golf community, claiming the spot attracts international attention.  

Christchurch Disc Club’s chairman Paul Deacon says the sport’s global growth is simply accelerating.

“Outside of New Zealand, disc golf is perhaps the fastest-growing sport in the world. We are seeing perhaps six new players per day just in Christchurch which, if sustained, means over 2000 new players per year.”

While the club was first founded in 2016, he says the rapid increase in interest has occurred over the past two years, including the noticeable participation of many more women.

Their sporting corporation is registered as a charity, claiming to offer benefits for mental wellness, social inclusion, the environment, tourism and curbing anti-social behaviour. 

They also claim to have extensive benefits for physical health, with the New Zealand Heart Foundation accrediting disc golf as “the perfect gentle exercise for sedentary adults”.

Describing their culture as very welcoming and friendly, disc golf players say people on the fringes can easily join and find tūrangawaewae – with both each other and nature.

Sport development advisor at Sport Canterbury, Mike Peacock, agrees disc golf is a great alternative to the structure of some mainstream sport.

Disc golf is similar to traditional golf, instead players use a flying disc instead of a ball and clubs.

“Because the nature of disc golf is casual, it offers the flexibility to play whenever the participant wishes to."

He recognises the sport is growing across Canterbury, and further courses are needed to keep up with the demand.

This growth is accounted for in the club’s 15-year plan, aiming for four percent of the population to be actively playing disc golf in Canterbury.  That would be 16,000 players in Christchurch based on its current population. 

But Deacon says if they factor how much Ōtautahi is estimated to grow, it would likely be over 40,000 players in around 15 years.

 

Their goals include establishing 20 disc golf courses in Christchurch and over 75 courses in Canterbury. At a national level, they could boast around 300,000 players before the end of the time frame.

To facilitate this growth, the hunt for funding new courses is under way. Currently, Christchurch has six disc golf locations in Ilam, Parklands, the Red Zone, North New Brighton, Styx and Islington.

By December, they’re hoping to infiltrate Hornby, Bromley, Broomfield and Harewood. Come 2022, they’d like another three to six. 

These courses are set up in partly wooded areas in public parks.

Deacon explains these areas are often under-utilised and disc golf helps to re-vitalise them, while improving safety for all park users. Many of the current and planned courses also coincide with school locations, which is an outreach for tamariki and their families.

Setting up a new location includes gathering support of community boards, designing a course, inviting council to walk around the proposed course and then officially applying for formal approval.

In terms of resources, Deacon clarifies just like any voluntary organisation time and money is limited. Hence, their focus lies on installing courses from their club’s priority list.