Frisbee disc golf game to tackle child obesity

Finley Scanlon and Max Barbour try out 'flying' golf. Picture: Toby Williams
Finley Scanlon and Max Barbour try out 'flying' golf. Picture: Toby Williams
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A new weapon has been unveiled in the battle against soaring rates of childhood obesity – the humble frisbee.

The toys are being used to play a new form of “flying” golf, with youngsters at a cluster of East Lothian primary schools among the first in the country to enjoy disc golf as part of regular PE lessons.

Already a hugely popular celebrity hit in the United States, where it has been established since the 1960s, the game sees players throw discs rather than hit balls around a grassy course.

Teachers hope the mix of gentle exercise, mental focus and hand-eye coordination is the perfect way of getting exercise-averse kids off the couch and running about.

US-born Seamus Scanlon and his wife, Julie, who run a disc golf business in Dunbar, are to offer dozens of specially-designed frisbees to pupils at East Linton, West Barns, Innerwick and Dunbar primaries after staff opted to include disc golf alongside traditional sports in the PE ­curriculum.

Mr Scanlon, 45, originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, said: “It’s a low-impact, passive, lifelong sport – and it’s growing fast.

“When we do demos, one of the things we notice is that the active, sporty kids do well but the surprising thing is that kids who are more into books also do well.

“It’s just a matter of focus and using your body.”

Much like classic golf in which a ball is hit towards a hole, this version has players throwing at basket-shaped targets, or catchers, over a course measuring dozens of metres.

As well as providing discs and catchers to the four schools, Mr Scanlon will also train teaching staff so they can deliver disc golf as part of a two-hour per week PE target set down by the new Curriculum for Excellence.

A keen fan of the sport for 20 years, the entrepreneur and his wife run a course at Dunbar’s Foxlake Adventures, which boasts nine holes covering three kilometres.

“Anyone can have a go and when you play, you’re using all your muscle groups,” he said.

“There’s also balance, hand-eye co-ordination and stamina involved in the fact you’re walking hundreds of metres to cover the course. Playing the nine holes at Foxlake takes about 45 minutes.”

The new fitness drive comes as the latest figures show one in nine of Lothian P1 pupils are classed as overweight, with 3.4 per cent clinically obese and 2.4 per cent of children – almost 200 pupils – “severely obese”.

Across the country, the financial implications of the obesity time bomb are huge, with figures suggesting the epidemic could cost up to £175 million in treatments for weight-related illness and decreased production caused by absence from work.

Education chiefs in East Lothian said they had decided to introduce disc golf to PE classes after P5-7 children at Dunbar Primary came forward in droves to take part in taster sessions.

A council spokeswoman said: “Active Schools thinks this is a great sport because it is accessible to everyone. The opportunities are on the doorstep of the schools so we are looking to create a new sport in Dunbar.”

In the swing of things

DISC golf is played like traditional golf but with flying discs and catchers instead of balls and clubs.

One point, or stroke, is counted each time the disc is thrown and when a penalty is incurred.

The goal is to play each hole in the fewest strokes possible. The player with the lowest total strokes wins.

Each hole begins with a tee throw – tee throws must be completed within or behind the designated tee area.

The lie is the spot where the player’s previous throw has landed. It is marked with a mini disc or a thrown disc turned over towards the hole or designated fairway.

The player’s next throw is made from behind the marked lie.