Take a shot at disc golf

Glide Disc Golf pro shop owner shares the 'simple joy of throwing a disc and watching it take flight.'
Glide disc golf owner Mike Bakta, wearing a hat and glasses and a black t-shirt, stands in front of a red wall with the Glide logo visible behind him.
Photo courtesy of Glide Disc Golf.
“We have a great disc golf scene. We've got a great collection of courses ... I feel super fortunate in that,' says Bakta.

Disc golf is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the United States, and despite our less than ideal climate for a majority of the year, Wisconsin has a thriving disc golf community. In Madison, we have four public courses for disc golfers to enjoy, and the state of Wisconsin boasts more than 300 courses across the state.

Mike Batka — owner of Glide Disc Golf — is one of those spreading the love of the sport with other Midwesterners. His shop, located on Milwaukee Street near Hiestand Park, carries all things disc golf, from the colorful discs themselves to bags, apparel and other goods to elevate your game.

“It’s not transactional,” Batka says. “I feel like what we have created at the shop is that it feels like it sort of is that central hub of the Madison disc golf community.”

Back in 2007, Batka relocated from Milwaukee to set up the Glide shop and serve the disc golfers of Madison. While there has been a thriving community since he opened, Batka says interest has boomed in recent years.

“I feel an obligation to be one of the drivers — not the sole driver — but one of the catalysts for growing the sport locally,” he says. “So whether it’s through running leagues or tournaments or, you know, partnering with Madison parks and running clinics … all of that.”

In addition to growing in numbers, disc golfers are becoming more diverse.

“The cool thing is that it’s one of the few sports where I will see three generations of people come into our shop,” says Batka. “You might have a 10-year-old, a 45-year-old and a 65-year-old — and they’re all going out to play.”

Glide and Batka are also hosting the 2022 United States Women’s Disc Golf Championships, which will be a great opportunity to show the greater disc golf family what Madisonians are all about.

An interior short of the Glide disc golf store, with wood floors and long rows of various discs on display, plus shelving running the left wall that shows various bags.

Photo courtesy of Glide Disc Golf.

“This isn't going to be completely elastic and snap back to what we once were, there's going to be some stickiness to this,” says Bakta. “And I think it's going to have a fundamental shift in how people choose to kind of spend their time.”

“I really honed in on the U.S. Women’s Championships because I felt, after having talked to a lot of people that have competed in those events, that they definitely felt a little bit like second class citizens,” Batka says. “For the longest time, it was just a sport dominated by guys in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, and now you’re seeing the sport skew younger, and you’re seeing the sport get a little bit more gender equity.”

If you’re interested in giving disc golf a go, Batka suggests starting with one to two discs before getting too ahead of yourself.

“People will come in sometimes and they’ll say, ‘Hey, I want to get four or five discs and a bag and get started,’ and I’m actually going to suggest that they dial it back,” he says. “Two hands, two discs.”

A putter and durable fairway driver are all you really need at first — Batka says you’ll likely drop around $20-25 — and he says to focus on getting lots of reps in with a few discs.

“Then, come back in a few weeks, and if you’re still enjoying the sport and want to add, then we can add. You can go a long way with just two, three, four discs.”

He also suggests taking advantage of the expertise available among the disc golf community, including his very own staff.

“Everyone who works for me disc golfs,” says Batka. “[And] regardless of whether you are coming in to buy your first discs, or if you’re a person who’s come in who has been playing longer and is more accomplished than me, I treat them the same and treat them equally … There isn’t any sort of club that you have to be in.”

Where to disc golf:

The Basics:

  • Get to know your disc: To put it in golf terms, “It’s sort of like the disc is both the ball and the club combined into one.” Batka says to familiarize yourself with your discs and get comfortable throwing, since sometimes it is the “archer, not the arrow,” that needs practice.
  • All about the release: Focus on slow and smooth tosses rather than trying to flex your muscles by throwing as hard as you possibly can. When you release the disc, think low and flat.
  • Have fun! Before opening Glide, Batka attended a business seminar that instructed him to come up with a single phrase to encapsulate his future business. The result? “Helping people have fun throwing discs.”

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