Spin Out At McLaren Falls Park
Most Kiwis have thrown a frisbee around their backyard or at the beach – but the fast-growing sport of disc golf is taking things to a whole new level at McLaren Falls Park.
Disc golf is a great excuse to get outdoors with a group of family or friends and enjoy this 190ha botanical park that’s only a 20 minute drive from Tauranga’s CBD. McLaren Falls Park has more than 500 different species of trees and the colours in autumn are simply stunning. A full game of disc golf will take you about 50-90 minutes and there’s no need to book a “tee time” like traditional golf. Just turn up and play when you want.
In Aotearoa, the game is growing rapidly and there are now almost 100 courses spread around the country. McLaren Falls course is regarded as one of the best in the country (but also most challenging).
It’s similar to traditional golf in that players walk around fairways to complete 9 or 18 holes in the fewest possible shots. But instead of hitting balls with golf clubs, players throw a plastic disc (similar to a frisbee) and aim to land them inside a metal basket which has loose hanging chains to help catch the discs.
While you’re navigating water hazards, steep hills and ridges, don’t forget to admire the incredible view and enjoy native birdsong in the surrounding trees.
The course starts at Pin Oak Flat and you can pick up a map from the information centre when you first enter the grounds.
If you don’t want to spend hours fossicking around for a lost disc, it’s a good idea to take some spares with you. Proper discs are recommended – they’re more streamlined than traditional frisbees and fly further.
You can purchase discs or rent them from The Falls cafe at the entrance of the park.
If you really get hooked on the sport, there’s an enormous range of colourful disks you can buy, each with different flight characteristics and uses (in the same way you’d play golf with different clubs).
Seasoned pros know how to make their discs fly, curve and drop in exactly the right spot, but flinging it wildly into the air is also a perfectly acceptable approach.
In addition to the 18 basket course, there’s also an easier nine basket option for beginners and younger players. There’s plenty of signage around the course to explain the rules as you go, and you can rent discs from McLaren Falls café.
(Image: Local Robbie Minshall marks a hole in one!)
It's a game that anyone can play regardless of age or athletic ability – but the metal baskets can be perched among trees, down gullies or sit high up on hills, providing quite the challenge and endless opportunities to howl with laughter at your opponents’ misfortune!
Disc golf is hugely popular in North America and northwest Europe with professional players pocketing six figure sums for tournament wins.
Disc golf was invented in California in 1975. Finland has a similar sized population to New Zealand and has over 700 courses.