Cardio Disc Golf: A new fitness trend to sweep the nation?

Rattling Chains writer Steve Hill doing a new fitness trend -- Cardio Disc Golf! (photo by Kelly Hill)

Cue intimidating, yet cheesy sounding voice over…

Insanity. P90X. Boot camp. Today’s new, intense workout programs promise to “get you ripped” or give you a “beach body” in no time at all. But, do you know what none of these workouts do?

Get you outdoors.

This is why I am taking this opportunity to unveil the newest trend in extreme physical fitness: Cardio Disc Golf.

The premise is simple, really. Want to get a real workout while also enjoying your favorite sport? Just carry a driver and a putter (or any two discs of your choosing), and run or jog between shots. Work up a sweat, and get in a quick round. You’ll be ripped and ready for summer in no time.

OK, so this isn’t an actual workout program (yet), but after kicking the idea around with Rattling Chains head honcho P.J., we decided I should give it a whirl. We thought it might be fun to see how it would affect my game, and if I could burn a couple of extra calories in the process, then it would be a bonus.

Besides, it kind of merges the best of two worlds for me. Before I started playing disc golf, I was an avid runner, completing numerous half-marathons, and even a couple of rounds of 26.2 miles. Now, though, I don’t always have time to go for a run and play disc golf, so I usually have a dilemma.

Hill tees off on hole 8 at Ford Park in Redlands, Calif. (Photo by Kelly Hill)

And by dilemma, I mean I choose disc golf nine out of 10 times, then feel guilty about not running.

Cardio Disc Golf, then, would assuage any remorse I would feel about not running, plus bring me the pleasure of disc golf. It’s a win-win situation.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that merely running between shots wasn’t enough, so I added a couple of additional stipulations to really take this workout to the next level.

Here are the guidelines for Cardio Disc Golf:

  1. Run or jog between shots and holes.
  2. Take 10 seconds or fewer to line up and throw your shot. Basically, take enough time to get settled and pick a line, but not enough time to catch your breath.
  3. For an easy missed putt, immediately do 10 jumping jacks. (“Easy” may be defined by the participant.)
  4. At the end of the round, do five times as many push-ups as you are shots over par. For example, if you were four over, you end up with 20 push-ups.

So, on one warm April evening, I headed out to my local course, Ford Park in Redlands, Calif. Armed with an Innova DX Teebird, Westside Swan 2, my trusty pair of Asics Gel Cumulus, and the MapMyRun+ app for Android, I embarked on the first test run of Cardio Disc Golf.

It didn’t start well.

My first drive hit a palm tree on the right side of the fairway that I had never hit before. I think I was working the nerves out of my system, but this was not a good omen. My Teebird ended up on the wrong side of a utility shed, forcing me to tomahawk my Swan 2 over it and into the fairway. Lay-up, then putt. One hole, 1 over par.

The second hole didn’t go much better.

After a solid drive and upshot, I missed my first “easy” putt of the round. I was thinking of moving on to the next hole, but my wife, who had come along to photograph the experience, wouldn’t let me off so easily.

“You going to do those jumping jacks?” she asked.

So, I did those jumping jacks, then proceeded to the third tee. Two holes, 2 over par.

I could already feel the burn of the future push-ups I would be doing.

But then, something lovely happened. Back-to-back birdies on holes three and four put me back to even par, and my confidence was soaring, even as I ran past some fellow disc golfers who eyed me with what I could only describe as a mixture of contempt and confusion. There was no time to stop and explain that I was not possessed by some sort of hybrid Steve Prefontaine/Steady Ed Headrick demon, though. I had to run to the fifth tee.

As I played hole after hole in the most expedient fashion possible, I actually started to realize two things:

  1. I was having a lot of fun.
  2. This didn’t actually feel like a workout.

Sure, I was sweating, but I hadn’t lost the grip on any of my drives because of the tackiness of DX plastic. Plus, I noticed that instead of over-thinking my putts, I just simply drained them without much effort. In fact, the only real difficulty came from having to track my drive after looking down to pick up my putter, which I would place on the ground so it wouldn’t get in the way on my reach back. Once I could reclaim its flight path, though, I was back on track and chasing after it.

The round was going swimmingly, and before I knew it, I was still at even par after the front nine.

Then, holes 12 and 13 happened.

Whether it was the fatigue setting in, or just poor form, I absolutely shanked my drive on 12, leaving me up the right side of the fairway, six trees cluttering my line to the pin. My approach shot wasn’t much better, as I lost my grip of the Swan 2 and essentially threw a ground ball up the middle, to steal baseball terminology. This left me with another bogey, and I could feel the wheels coming off.

A good cheering section at the end of a round always makes it feel like more of an accomplishment. (Photo by Kelly Hill)

And off they came.

After I crushed a beauty of a drive on 13, slightly skipping the Teebird uphill on a soft bed of pine needles, I missed an easy putt for birdie. Mystified, I paid my jumping jack penance to the Cardio Disc Golf gods and trotted, dejected, to hole 14.

As I prepared to drive on 14, though, another group was putting at its basket, meaning I had to wait. This gave me time not only to collect myself from the mishaps of the last two holes, but to also create a new rule for Cardio Disc Golf: Jog in place at the tee when you are forced to wait. This kept me in the groove, kept my heart rate up, and drew blank stares from a couple under a sleeping bag near the tee, all at the same time (even though, if you ask me, I should have been staring blankly at them, if you know what I mean). Even though I had a poor drive on 14, I deemed it a success due to its head-clearing capacities.

Running up the side of a hill toward 15, I encountered another group of three disc golfers, and continued to jog in place. As one of them took his drive, I could sense a bit of tension growing between myself and the group, which I understood. Here I am, two discs in hand, jogging in place and breathing heavily while they are trying to drive. However, I was a man on a mission, and I was determined to remain patient while they played.

Luckily, they extended the courtesy of the play-through, and I took the opportunity to rationalize my lack of etiquette.

“I’m not crazy,” I pleaded through huffs and puffs. “I’m writing an article for a disc golf website. It’s called, you should check it out.”

“Rattle them chains?” one of the guys asked.

Sure, that will do, I thought. And off I drove.

After shooting par on 15, I ran toward the tee on 16, where another group was gathered nearby playing a separate hole. This time, no one even acknowledged me. I took this as a clear sign that I was being viewed as the crazy guy in the park. And I loved every second of it.

My tee shot on 17 landed right in the fairway, and as I debated if I should use the Teebird or the Swan for the long approach uphill (I chose Teebird), I felt the dull, nauseating pain of cramping in my sides begin to creep in. I two-putted, leaving me three over for the round.

One more hole, I thought. One more hole.

Then, at the tee for 18, I was greeted by a glorious sight: my one-year-old daughter, begging for daddy to pick her up. After driving a wonderful downhill bomb, I scooped that little girl up and carried her down the hill with me, like I was running the home stretch to a marathon and she was my cheering section. (Plus, the extra 20 pounds of cargo made the workout even more challenging!) I put her down to run around in the grass, drained my birdie putt, and completed the required 10 push-ups that came with being 2 over par for the round.

Cardio Disc Golf requires five push-ups for every shot you finish over par. (Photo by Kelly Hill)

It was finally over, and I felt fantastic. The endorphin high had kicked in.

When all was said and done, these were my statistics for the workout:

  • 18 Holes
  • 2 shots over par
  • 20 min., 25 sec.
  • 1.63 miles
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 10 push-ups
  • 166 calories burned

After looking at those numbers, one thought entered my mind: Only 166 calories? I worked way harder than that!

Oh well. At least it was enough to offset a celebratory beer (Great White, by Lost Coast Brewery), and I had tied my personal best for a round of disc golf. All in all, not too shabby.

Sure, it wasn’t quite as fun, or relaxing, or even as cerebral as a traditional round of disc golf. But, it was certainly worth the effort, if for nothing other than the odd looks emanating from the fellow golfers in the park. While they were enjoying their beers mid-round, I knew I was working mine off as I galloped past them. That’s always a good feeling.

So, will Cardio Disc Golf sweep the nation as the next big fitness trend? I doubt it. But I’ll try it again, someday, just to make sure I can keep my guilty runner’s conscience at bay.

Steve Hill’s ideal Cardio Disc Golf playlist would include Huey Lewis & the News, without apology and without irony. Share your disc golf adventures with him at steve [at] rattlingchains dot com, and follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.


0 thoughts on “Cardio Disc Golf: A new fitness trend to sweep the nation?

  1. I started doing this last year and plan to keep it up this year as well (minus the jumping jacks and pushups). It takes some of the boredom out of running and is also good disc golf practice at the same time. I do this at a local 9 hole course, usually have the place to myself so I don’t get many weird looks. It’s a short course so I just carry a putter, good practice for putter drives/upshots.


  2. I think this is a great idea. The only problem I’ve encountered with this concept is that those of us who are playing by simply walking, often have our focus disrupted by some “Mercury” wanting to run through our fairway during a crucial throw. While I warmly support and welcome this concept of fitness, I think we have to come to some compromise as to the timing of personal routines on our courses. Maybe each new course will have to have a couple of extra chain targets for runners to exercise to and fro. If popular enough, maybe each course will have to designate certain times of the day for marathon action. I do believe, however, that encouraging an onslaught of intermittent running enthusiasts through normal playing action will eventually meet some intense resistance. I’ll be interested in other commentaries on this.


    • Luckily, my course is set in a multi-use park, so fellow golfers are plenty used to playing around fishermen, families, etc. If I were to do this on a consistent basis, though, it would be in my best interests to play in the morning when no one was there. I don’t want to have to wait at every tee when I golf regularly, and that goes double for when I have to run in place!


  3. One guy here is Santa Cruz lost 60 or 70 pounds by running during his rounds (he earned the name Running Man), and I do it regularly myself. It’s great exercise, and also a great way to discover the benefits of throwing quickly, before your brain can ‘get in the way’.


    • I am thinking of exploring something like this for another article, Jack. I think it would be great to get in touch with people who have used disc golf to lose weight. We can make disc golf the new Subway!


  4. Good article. Sounds like a good workout, physical and for disc golf. Forget the push ups though at my usual 1.6 over par per hole, I would have to do 144 push ups after 18 holes. That’s too gross for me.

    I’ve been trying to figure out how this could be played in a foursome, and cannot. Any variation I can think of results in more jogging in place than anything else. If you can run right to your disc instead of to the disc farthest from the basket, you’d have to add rules for the interference that might happen.


  5. Been doing this for awhile (minus the pushups and such). Facebook even has a “speed disc golf” page with some rules discussion!/pages/Speed-Disc-Golf/165208173506564 . Some differences are that 1) number of discs is not limited (tends to be self-limiting anyway), and we run for time that’s adjusted up and down by score (say, +/- 30 sec for over/under par). Some difficulties include what to do about lost discs and such. See discussion board on facebook page for more.

    As far as other players, I limit my play time to early morning, and don’t have any problems. I don’t like waiting, and I don’t like distracting other players. Luckily, most disc golfers don’t play early mornings!!


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