If you’re looking for a cheap and casual sport to try this summer, might I suggest a round of golf? Not the traditional golf of knickers and country clubs, but rather the up and coming sport of disc golf. You only need a disc and place to play, and yes, you can even play disc golf in Prague. I met one of the premier Czech disc golfers to play a round and talk about how the sport is growing in this country.
The rules of disc golf are pretty simple. You throw from the tee area and try to put the disc into a specialized basket some distance away. Holes have “pars” like regular golf, and there are different types of disc for shorter or longer shots.
I hadn’t given much thought to disc golf since moving to Prague, so I was surprised to hear about a new course in Ladronka park. In fact, there are four courses in Prague and several more nearby. There is already a foundation for the sport in the Czech Republic, as a quick web search led me to the Česká asociace discgolfu (ČADG). I inquired if someone from the association would play a round with me, and my request was graciously answered.
Disc golf isn’t completely unknown here, as the ČADG has almost 100 fee-paying members. One of those members, Lukáš Filandr, is among the most passionate supporters of the sport in the country. He was kind enough to meet me at Ladronka to tell me about disc golf in the Czech Republic and try to turn me into a passable player. Considering he’s been playing for eight years and is one of the top Czech players, he’s certainly qualified.
Lukáš explained that disc golf in the Czech Republic came from two separate sources. Flying discs were pretty scarce before the revolution, but the sport of ultimate frisbee made its way here a few years later. It was in this community that the first informal disc golf tournaments were played in the late ’90s. A few years after that, a Czech from Odry returned from America excited about a new sport he had tried, and a small, but faithful disc golf community sprung up in Moravia as well.
Early on, the biggest challenge was finding places to play. About a decade ago, the first official tournaments were held, but because there were no permanent courses at the time they had to use temporary baskets. Each group of golfers would carry the basket from hole to hole along a pre-determined course as they played. Finally, the first permanent course in the Czech Republic was installed in Nučice in 2010. Now, the country has over 20 of them.
It will naturally take a while for Czechs to get used to disc golf in their parks. Lukáš said that some confused people have used the baskets as rubbish bins or even as a changing station, as evidenced by a dirty diaper left behind. Once he found a family having a picnic on the soft, comfy surface of a tee area.
Before we played our round, Lukáš gave me a few pointers. I consider myself a decent disc thrower, but discs for golf fly differently than recreational ones. For a right-handed thrower, a backhand throw will break hard to the left while a forehand tends to drift right, unless you alter the angle of your throw. Lukáš showed me the proper throwing technique, and after embarrassing myself with a few warm-up throws, we were ready to play.
I knew I was in for a humbling experience when Lukáš stuck his first throw about 5 meters from the basket, while mine drifted into the bushes. I managed to bogey while Lukáš made his birdie easily. The average length of the holes Ladronka is around 100 meters, which is longer than the other courses I played. And it is certainly more challenging. Our 9-hole scores: I was +14 while Lukáš scored a cool -5.
Of the courses I played, Ladronka was the best. The holes are longer and the layout is more interesting. However, we were lucky that it was a somewhat overcast day, because the park is full of human obstacles when it’s hot and sunny. Keep that in mind if you plan to visit Ladronka for disc golf.
In addition to Ladronka, I visited two other Prague area courses:
DiscGolfPark Chodov – This 9-hole course is located in the Park U Chodovské Tvrze. It isn’t such a challenging course as most of the holes are quite short, but it would be ideal for beginners. You can borrow discs from the restaurant in the center of the park for a deposit of 100 CZK, although they have a limited supply. All of the discs had been lent out when we first arrived.
DiscGolfPark Krejcárek – This quaint 6-hole course is near the Strážní tram stop in the Park Krejcárek. It’s also pretty short, like Chodov, but there are more trees to increase the difficulty level. What makes this course great is the privacy – aside from a few joggers and dog-walkers, you have the park to yourself. It is possible to borrow discs from the nearby Ulita youth center.
There is also a short 4-hole course in the central park of Stodůlky and several others a short train ride away. I’m eager to visit the island course in Kolín, among others. For a complete list of courses, check the CDGA website.
So, will the sport continue to grow in the Czech Republic? Considering the Czech affinity for outdoor activities and sport, it’s quite likely. Only halfway through this season, the ČADG is on pace to have more participants than ever before. Lukáš hopes to keep raising awareness of the sport and would like to see the formation of clubs for disc golf in the future. Anyone can play, so if it sounds like your kind of thing, grab a disc and get out there!
Have you ever tried disc golfing in Prague?