I’m probably preaching to the choir with this blog. If you’re a disc golfer you know exactly how much better you feel after a round. Some people call disc golf “therapy” but it’s not, it’s therapeutic and it’s great. I think disc golf (overall) has a calming effect on me. We all get wound up from time to time, and sometimes throwing some plastic on the course is just what we need.
Is it the hour and a half long walk in the fresh air?
Is it the time spent socializing with friends, or time finally alone with your own thoughts?
Maybe it’s the familiar sounds of chains as you hit a tester.
For me, disc golf is a healthy way to be competitive that tires me out. I compete against the course and myself. I find that other competitive activities can become addicting. For example, I love playing League Of Legends Teamfight Tactics. It’s got a ranking system and a game takes me 40 minutes to play. But if I lose I can keep playing and playing on until I feel like I did well. Sometimes that takes a few games, and then I lose an hour and a half of sleep. Luckily disc golf isn’t like that for me.
Disc golf has a built in time where I can’t play. I don’t play in the dark, and my elbow can realistically only take a few hundred throws per day before I get too exhausted. Even using disc golf carts to lessen the strain on my body still gets me a little tired. But if you are tired after a couple rounds, do check out some disc golf carts. I feel significantly less tired after a round when I use mine. I enjoy competing in tournaments against others, but when I’m playing I’m mostly competing against previous round Streeter. Nothing’s better than turning a stupid bogey from last round into an easy par.
Maybe you’re reading this blog because you’re looking for ways to feel better both physically and mentally. I’m writing this blog in the hopes that it helps persuade someone to take up disc golf. Or, maybe you can use this blog with a friend or a loved one who is struggling a little bit with their mental health. Here’s the science about why disc golf is good for you.
1. Lower your risk of Depression.
You could stop right there if you wanted to, lowering depression risk is a great way to improve your mental health. The Stanford Woods Institute found that 90 minutes of walking through a natural environment showed a lowered amount of neural activity in the area of the brain that’s linked to mental illness.
That’s about how long it takes me to play a round of disc golf, especially if I have to spend a few extra minutes in nature finding my disc.
2. Positive messages from the disc golf community.
There’s local clubs to join, leagues, dubs, and plenty of online groups you can join. One of my favorite groups is Disc For Life. Have you ever seen a disc that’s left in the basket with markings all over it saying things like “Your Round Is Not Over” and then someone’s name? The disc will often have writing on it asking you to play a hole and then leave it for someone else to throw.
Disc For Life shares that it’s okay to not always be okay and helps support others who are affected by suicide. The first time I saw a disc with this group's name on it I cried a little bit. It’s wonderful to have a community in disc golf sharing a positive message and helping people. ESPN did a short story on this if you’re interested in learning about the group.
3. Exercise is a stress reliever.
Sure disc golf is not as aerobic as running a marathon, but disc golf is absolutely a workout. I don’t think I’ve ever had a round on our Eagle course where I don’t sweat. Even a small pitch and putt course is fine for getting you outside and moving. Those 25 footers always get my blood pumping, especially if I make one. Let’s look at the Mayo Clinic writeup on exercise and stress.
Sure, golf can add to your stress sometimes. But every time I take a bogey I remember that it’s just part of the game. And I wouldn’t love it as much if it were easy. Laughing off those little miscues will definitely lower your stress levels.
4. Disc Golf will improve your ability to concentrate.
Do you have trouble focusing? If you do, practicing disc golf regularly is a great way to help. Having a routine to focus on will help you out immensely. I really like this article from golfstateofmind.com. It’s about improving your game through being present and being on. I like disc golf because after I throw my shot I watch it land and think about something else until I get to my next shot. One of my favorite feelings is parking a hole, because I don’t have to think about that next shot. How does this apply to concentration? It’s applicable because you have to stop and focus hard for about 30 seconds and then learn to relax.
5. Disc Golf is going to help your memory.
This one was a little more interesting to me. I once made a funny tweet about disc golf. I was so impressed with chess grandmasters and their ability to recall all of the moves of every game they’d ever made. Then I met disc golfers and they can tell you every throw they’ve ever made on their home course.
Consistent playing of golf seems to help with memory loss. According to a study in 2018 published in the National Library of Medicine, “learning golf is feasible and safe for elderly people with cognitive problems.” It’s the concentration and movement that helps stimulate them. Those are both things that transfer from golf to disc golf.
Now that we’ve got five science backed reasons that disc golf will help your mental health I’d like to look a little further into the topic of mental health in disc golf.
One reason that I linked articles to ball golf and not disc golf is because there isn’t an obscene amount of money in disc golf. Innova Disc Golf might be the one company who could afford to sponsor such research, but Innova Disc Golf really wouldn’t get much return on investment from it. They’re a business, and I’d have to hear an argument that people knowing about disc golf as a stress reliever would improve their distance drivers or fairway driver sales.
The PDGA might be able to sponsor that research as well, but then people would complain about where their dollars are going. The money isn’t in disc golf yet to have our own studies published regularly.
I have a bunch of questions that I’m unable to answer. Questions like…
- Does the overall score of your round affect your mental health? I assume that even a mediocre round is better for you than no disc golf at all. But is your best round ever going to be better for you mentally? Does finishing a stroke worse hurt you mentally?
- Can I get the same effects of a round of disc golf just by throwing my distance drivers and watching them fly in an open field for an hour? Sometimes it’s about the flight of the disc and not the score for me. Seeing my Wraith flip over and ride that anny before slipping back to a hyzer, that’s probably my favorite thing to see in disc golf.
- Would practicing putting for an hour improve my mental health because I’m outdoors, or would it improve it because I’ll have a better score next time from all that practice?
- How does the law of diminishing returns work on disc golf? Am I getting the same benefits from a single round a week that I would from playing every day? Does playing a second round in a day decrease my stress level or does the extra tiredness I feel diminish that?
These are just a few of the questions that I hope would be answered if there ever was a study conducted on disc golfers and their mental health. I’m not a scientist or a doctor, I’m just a curious guy with a disc golf blog.
I think what we can take from this blog, and the other blogs and studies that I’ve linked, is that disc golf is good for your mental health. It lowers your risk of depression, the community spreads positive messages, you can exercise and relieve stress, your concentration will improve, and consistent disc golf will help your memory. So get out there and get chucking some plastic, it’s good for you.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397