Disc golf soars in popularity

Pure Flight Disc Golf gives community members an opportunity to connect with each other.

By Henry Shorr

Disc golf has seen a massive rise in popularity in recent years with more courses and players than ever before. Now, the Mahoning Valley has its very own disc golf retailer: Pure Flight Disc Golf.

Disc golf, which became popular on YouTube through channels like JomezPro, follows the same basic rules of golf with the big difference being that the objective is to throw a disc into the chains of a large metal basket. The activity has been around for decades, with a pro-tour, a world championship and now, multi-million dollar sponsorship contracts for some professional disc golfers.

Drive through any neighborhood in the greater Youngstown area and it is easy to find a set of disc golf baskets in a public park. Justin Edwards, director of the Office of Career Exploration and Development at Youngstown State University, remembers a time when finding courses was not so easy.

“When I first started, the closest courses were 45 minutes away from Youngstown, and I’ve had a really great opportunity to help the sport grow and see about a dozen courses that are about half-an-hour [out] of YSU,” he said.

Edwards, who has been playing disc golf for about eight years, had a personal hand in designing most of the courses around Youngstown. He helped put courses in Austintown Park, Wick Park, Canfield Farms and many more in the Valley. 

“I’ve been really lucky to be able to connect with a lot of folks in the community — directors at some of the local parks to help raise funds — and design local courses,” he said.  “The first course in the Mahoning County, actually, was at Boardman Park, and I was lucky to be able to design that course, help with the installation and create a lot of the first tournaments and events we did in the area. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities to help grow the sport in this area.”

Sophomore marketing major Carmen Quattro said he loves the growth this sport has seen in Youngstown. He has seen the work Edwards has put into the courses and greatly appreciates it.

“My favorite course is Boardman — it’s the first course I ever played. That course has grown a lot — Justin has put a lot of work into that. The new concrete tee pads have worked a lot, I love that. Wick Park — that’s a good course that’s coming along great — and Austintown. Those are probably the three courses I’ve played the most,” Quattro said.

Both Edwards and Quattro are excited to have a disc golf retailer in the Mahoning Valley. Luke Shelton opened Pure Flight Disc Golf in 2021 as an online retailer. With the boom in disc golf during the COVID-19 pandemic, he saw a need in Youngstown and decided to fulfill it himself. 

“I go on a lot of disc golf road trips — I go on vacation with the sole idea to just play as many courses as I can — and one of my favorite things to do is to go to the local disc golf shops in those cities,” Shelton said. “And every time, through the years, I would say to my buddies who were with me, ‘We need something like this.’ So I figured, well, why not? I’ll do it. I’m not going to wait for someone to do it, I’ll do it.” 

In February, Shelton opened a brick-and-mortar Pure Flight Disc Golf store in Hubbard. Edwards sees great value in a physical gathering spot for disc golfers in Youngstown — not only socially, but educationally as well. 

“Pure Flight Disc Golf is going to be an important part of keeping people engaged throughout the entire year. Those of us who are really dedicated, we play in zero-degree weather and we’re out all year round. But that’s not feasible for everybody,” Edwards said. “Having a disc golf store as a central location for people to find discs and learn about the sport year-round, I think, is going to draw a lot more people into the game.”

Quattro sees Pure Flight as the start of something bigger in the Mahoning Valley.

“I think it’s great. We start here now and it’ll eventually lead to other stores. It will be really good for us,” he said. 

There has been nothing but growth in the Valley — not just in terms of quantity of courses, but also in the size of the community. All over, disc golf has seen a vast increase in popularity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is all too present in Youngstown. Edwards believes a big part of this growth was because of the want to socially distance while still being active outside.

“It’s a safe activity to be outdoors and in nature with people and in that fresh air. Especially as traditional activities and sports activities — things like gyms and bowling alleys or whatever else that might be that we did indoors — became less accessible,” he said. 

He said he believes accessibility plays a large part. Every course in Youngstown is free to play and all someone needs is a Frisbee. 

Shelton, who also runs leagues and tournaments around Youngstown, has seen a big rise in the number of people who attend these events since they started again, post-pandemic.

“Every day I would go to the park, one course or another around here, and I would see new people. And then once things got kind of back to normal those same people, I would see them at leagues. And the pandemic lasted so long that those people who I saw making their first throws are pretty darn good now. It’s awesome,” Shelton said.

With the increase in demand and a vacuum of supply, Shelton knew he wanted to be the one to foster growth in this community.

“I don’t care what it takes to make disc golf grow and succeed and I don’t want credit — I just want it to grow. Don’t be a spectator and wait for it to happen, go do it,” he said.

He and Edwards have helped make it possible for people like Quattro and others to enjoy a sport they love close to home with a large, friendly community. Edwards described why he loves disc golf and why people should try it.

“Disc golf, for me, is one of the purest forms of what I call ‘flow.’ Flow is that moment when you lose track of time. An hour can fly by just like that. And being out on the disc golf course gives me that in such a real way where I lose track of time. You throw the disc, you watch it fly, it’s almost like time stands still in a certain way,” Edwards said. “That’s an experience that is worth trying, and even if you can’t make the disc fly that far – heck, you’re getting out, you’re walking, you’re getting some exercise. There’s no negative to getting out and playing some disc golf. It’s all positive for the psyche, for the physical body, all around.”

Pure Flight Disc Golf is located at 6178 Youngstown Hubbard Road and pureflightdiscgolf.com