Tossing discs instead of swinging clubs

LIHUE — John Zimmerman, the kahu at the Kalaheo Missionary Church, has been playing disc golf for a long time.

“I’ve played at 446 courses in 42 states, and four countries before moving here four years ago,” Zimmerman said Thursday while helping Phil Worwa with a disc golf session for the Puakea Golf Course Golf Academy students. “In Hawaii, where we have nine courses on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, I’ve played eight of the nine. The only reason I haven’t done the ninth course is because it’s on Bellows in Waimanalo and I’m not in the military.”

Worwa, a longtime advocate of the golf game played with flying discs instead of clubs, said Shenanigan’s at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Mana is hosting a tournament free for PMRF employees, and $10 for the public if registered before July 13.

The tournament is scheduled 4 p.m. July 18 and is scored like traditional golf but involves throwing a disc from a tee-off point to a target (a basket with chain sides). Players will keep count of throws, or strokes, and similar to golf, the lowest number of strokes wins.

“This is one of the few times where we have an organized disc golf game going,” Worwa said “Kauai doesn’t have any disc golf courses, but there is interest from all kinds of people.”

Worwa said the disc golf sessions provided weekly to golf academy students provide an alternative to hitting the ball with clubs by having the young golfers take aim at the baskets and instead of hitting, throwing to land the discs in the baskets.

“Through the years I’ve played, I’ve only had four ‘hole in ones,’ or landing the disc in the basket from the tee,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve had the discs hit the post, but you have to get the disc in the basket. There is something magical when you hear the chains chink.”

Worwa said the game usually involves three different discs — a driver, a mid-range, and putter — each disc capable of accomplishing different things in flight.

Trees, shrubs and terrain changes along the fairways provide challenging obstacles for the golfer. Disc golf shares the same joys and frustrations of traditional golf, whether it’s sinking a long putt or hitting a tree halfway down the fairway.

There are differences, however, Worwa said.

“Unlike the traditional game which can take several hours to complete, disc golf is fast,” Worwa said. “We can complete nine holes in about 45 minutes. It’s also a lot of fun and provides exercise. It also enjoyed by people from 12 years old to seniors.”

Worwa said unlike golf clubs which can get pricey, discs are inexpensive, and due to its growing popularity can be found here on Kauai.

The PDGA is the governing body for disc golf which has more than 3,700 courses in the United States, 395 in Canada, 746 in Europe, including 29 in Finland, 30 in Alaska and nine in Hawaii.

Steady Ed Headrick is considered the father of disc golf, Worwa said.

“He lived his life and died in his sleep,” the Santa icon said. “When he died, his ashes were incorporated into several of the discs which were being manufactured.”

Zimmerman said he had an opportunity to get some of those discs, but his wife said, “I don’t want Steady Eddie in the house.”

For more information, people can visit the golf academy on Thursdays when Worwa and Zimmerman work with the 30-plus young golfers from about 10:30 a.m. For more information on the Shenanigan’s tournament, call Erick Greffrath at 335-4983, or email


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