Disc Golf: No Collared Shirts Required

Jul 11, 2014

Nestled deep in the woods of Canterbury, NH is a special type of golf course. No golf carts, clubs or balls can be found here. Bright polos and pastel shorts are left at the country club as well. Here, at Top O’ The Hill, disc golf is the game of choice.

A hole at Top O' The Hill Disc Golf in Canterbury, NH.
Credit Austin Cowan NHPR

For those that have never heard of the sport, think golf...but with a disc. It's that simple. Be careful to use the word "disc," however, never "Frisbee." This, I’m told, is seen as a slur in the disc world.

Disc golf, which is said to have originated with Vancouver school kids in 1926, is golf without all the pomp and circumstance. Players tee off from fairways that are generally thickly wooded and are expected to maneuver a series of hazards.

Marty Vaughn, the owner and operator of the course, has turned the land surrounding his house into a mecca for disc enthusiasts. Rated the number one course in New Hampshire, Vaughn is proud of what he has built.

“I just want the whole world to love this sport. Whether you’re seven or seventy you can play. If you can walk, you can play,” says Vaughn.

Vaughn is right. As someone who has dabbled in traditional golf, I found disc golf to be far easier to pick up. As for being good at it, well, that’s a different story.

I teed off on Vaughn's course with my good friend and avid disc golfer, Joe Montore. Unlike traditional golfers, disc players love the woods. The fairways at Top O’ The Hill are peppered with trees, offering skilled disc golfers the opportunity to bend their disc around and through the foliage.

Marty Vaughn in his pro shop, the biggest in New Hampshire.
Credit Austin Cowan NHPR

Just like ball golf, disc golfers are equipped with a full quiver of options for each shot. Each disc has a different length at which it should be thrown. There are putters and drivers, mid-range discs and high speed discs. Unfortunately, I was not able to master any of these.

For Montore, it was a different story. At one point, seemingly shrouded from view by two massive trees, Montore bent his putting disc around two trees and into the hole. Montore says there’s no better sport, especially for college kids.

“It’s the perfect combination of strategy, coordination and patience. The sport can be a hobby or a competition, and it’s an inexpensive one at that. These days, it’s hard to have this much fun for five dollars.”

Five dollars, that’s all it will take to get you out on the course. With prices like these, Vaughn has seen business boom since the course’s opening in 2011.

“Growth has been exponential. In the beginning when we had seven cars in the parking lot it was a big deal. Now, I have to expand the lot because some days you just can’t find a spot. On the weekends we get over a 100 people.”

What makes the Top O’ The Hill experience so special is the manmade feeling about it. Vaughn is simultaneously the groundskeeper, the disc golf expert and the pro shop manager. A pro shop that he built, I might add.  

He’s a jack of all trades, in love with a sport he hopes will grow.

“I just love it man. It’s peaceful out here. This sport, it will change your life.”