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Even if you’ve never played disc golf—a sport in which players throw Frisbee-like slabs of plastic hundreds of feet with the goal of ultimately landing them in waist-high wire baskets set under a ring of chains attached to metal poles—you’ve likely seen people lined up to tee off at courses scattered throughout green spaces around the Denver metro area. During the pandemic, the game exploded in popularity, particularly among women and kids: The Professional Disc Golf Association saw almost 75 percent growth in both of those demographics in 2021.
Despite disc golf’s low barriers to entry—starter discs cost $10 to $20 each, and most public courses are free—it can be intimidating. Luckily, disc golfers are, on the whole, friendly and eager to grow the sport: A recent survey by UDisc, a popular app many players use to record their rounds and rate and review courses, found that 90 percent of respondents had introduced at least one other person to the sport. Checking the Facebook pages of Denver-area disc golf clubs is a great way to find meetups and clinics for beginners, but if you want to go out on your own, check out our shortlist of free layouts in the Denver metro area, then read our primer on disc golf rules and etiquette below before heading out to bang chains.
Players logged 22,393 rounds through UDisc on this short 18-hole course near Olde Town Arvada in 2021, making it the fourth most popular disc golf course in America. Translation: It’s crowded, and for good reason. Pretty creek crossings and mature trees provide just enough of a challenge for newbies, while more advanced players chase aces (no hole is longer than about 250 feet) and come out to the course’s popular glow competitions, during which baskets are lit up with LEDs, after dark on summer Friday nights.
Bird’s Nest Disc Park
The brainchild of early disc sport legend John Bird (who also designed Johnny Roberts and named it after his contemporary and friend, an Arvada teacher who died in 1994), Bird’s Nest has 24 holes that sprawl across 40 acres of meadow just east of CO 93. Its wide-open nature makes it a good place to work on distance, but watch carefully to track where your disc lands amid the tall, wild grasses. Tip: Let Fido frolic at the West Arvada Dog Park next door before leashing him up to come along on your round.
Geese love this flat, grassy course almost as much as humans do, thanks to the two ponds that the 18 holes weave around. Distances range from 192 to 402 yards, and recently planted trees should make the layout even better in the future.
Harlow Platts Disc Golf Course
Boulder-born pro Eagle McMahon, now one of the best disc golfers on the planet, grew up playing this straightforward nine-hole course with classic Flatiron views—so we’re sure even more experienced players will learn something on Harlow Platts’ rolling hills. Each hole has two baskets, red and yellow, so you can make it 18 by playing through twice.
Interlocken East Park
A lunch-round favorite of cube-dwellers in the surrounding business park, this nine-basket course has two sets of alternate tee pads; pick and choose among the main, A, and B positions to either play or avoid the water hazards (a small pond and a canal). Manicured grass and lots of paved walkways make it easy to navigate.
Paco Sanchez Park
Located along the light rail tracks to Golden and Lakewood Gulch on the west side of the city, Paco Sanchez’s 21 holes are some of the most challenging in the metro area. Its location within a multiuse urban park means the terrain gets a lot of use, so watch out for cyclists and pedestrians, and bring a trash bag to help clean up the course as you play.
Coal Creek Disc Golf Course
New in fall 2020, many of this well-marked course’s 18 holes (mostly par 3s with a few par 4s) are along the lovely but potentially treacherous Cottonwood Extension Ditch. Though there aren’t many trees, elevation changes provide some challenges and, even better, views of snowcapped peaks to the west.
With 18 holes each and separate parking areas, the Upper and Lower Badlands in Camenisch Park (north of Denver, near Water World) combine for a long, challenging day of disc golf. Go with someone who knows the layouts or plan to follow UDisc closely to navigate the rugged courses, which have rudimentary signage. Part of what was formerly the Blair Witch course, the Lower portion offers challenges in the form of thickly wooded sections and dirt tee pads, while the Upper section has longer holes and more elevation change.
Beginners and more advanced players looking to squeeze in a quick post-work round southeast of the city will love Village Greens, an easy, fairly flat 18-hole course west of Cherry Creek Reservoir. Warning: There’s very little shade, so come prepared with a hat and plenty of water.
West Fork Disc Golf Course
This 18-hole layout in the southern suburbs, built in July 2020, has pristine concrete tee pads accompanied by benches throughout. Players must navigate both a ravine and the recreationists using the trail that winds through the course.
Ken Caryl Disc Golf Course
With none of its nine holes longer than 200 feet and most under 150, Ken Caryl’s pitch and putt course southwest of downtown is great for honing your approach technique or for bringing the whole family out for a round. Stop by the equally kid-friendly Farm House at Breckenridge Brewery on your way back to town.
Clark Centennial Park
Mature trees and a canal beautify and complicate Clark Centennial’s nine holes. Beginners: Don’t be discouraged when you see that hole 1 is over 400 feet; it’s the longest, with most of the rest in the high 200s and mid-300s.
Loomiller’s notorious lake will be starved of its steady diet of discs while the nine-hole course is closed for park construction and upgrades until spring 2023. (Psst: If you’ve lost one to its waters, check Longmont’s Play It Again Sports store; they buy discs with names and numbers on them for $2 and will sell yours back to you for the same amount.)
Fehringer Ranch Park
Southwest of town near Bear Creek Lake Park, this locals’ favorite has 18 holes and a substantial warmup area—multiple practice baskets and a throwing net—spread over 135 acres. Long holes, seasonal creeks, and creatively placed OBs (out-of-bounds) make it a technically interesting but still accessible course.
Rules & Scoring
Essentially, disc golf is like regular golf: You count how many throws it takes to get your disc from the tee pad at the start of each hole to the basket. You can take a few steps into your throw and finish beyond the tee pad or the place where your last disc landed as long as you release with your farthest-forward supporting point (almost always your foot) on the tee pad or on the ground within a 30-centimeter-long by 20-centimeter-wide rectangle behind your lie. One exception: Within 10 meters of the basket, you cannot follow through and step in front of your lie. After each shot, either leave your disc on the ground until you’ve thrown from behind it or place a mini disc marker at the front edge and pick up your regular disc. If a shot lands out of bounds—frequently delineated by physical obstacles, like trees, called mandos (short for mandatory)—take a drop and add a throw to your total. Whoever won the previous hole goes first on the next. For most tournaments, 18 holes is the minimum, but many courses have 21 or more. Players often use the UDisc app to record their rounds. Lowest score wins.
With courses seeing record usage, it’s important to observe disc golf protocol, written and unwritten: Check to make sure your target area is clear of other players before teeing off; yell “fore” if an errant throw is heading toward anyone; attempt to return any discs you find to their owners (most people Sharpie their phone numbers on the undersides); and limit your group size to five or fewer, especially if the course is busy. If you do have a larger or slower crew, offer to let faster disc golfers behind you play through.