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Spa Thermal Park’s hidden gem: Taupō Disc Golf Course

What is the fastest-growing sport in New Zealand?

Put together a lovely afternoon outdoors, a group of mates and a plastic disc for a cheeky round of disc golf!

During the pandemic, Kiwis were searching for ways to spend more time outdoors, finding the simple joys of disc golf!

At the peak of its growing popularity, Ken Harris co-founded the Taupō Disc Golf Course and cemented Taupō as a must-visit disc golf destination.

What began as a reminder of home for the U.S native quickly became one of the best disc golf courses in New Zealand. The Taupō Disc Golf Club hosted the Taupō-Nui-a-Tia Disc Golf Classic this April, a massive tournament with over 160 national players.

Learn more from Ken to inspire a bit of friendly competition between mates or an enjoyable activity with the whānau.

Paired with a post-victory soak in Otumuheke Stream, a free hot spring at Spa Thermal Park, this hidden gem is the perfect way to spend your autumn afternoons. From professionals to the weekend warrior, a round of disc golf just might be your new Taupō must-do.

What are the benefits for time-time disc golfers?

1. It's free and affordable

2. It’s exercise while you’re walking the course

3. A great way to be outside for a few hours

4. The course at Spa Thermal Park caters to all ability levels

5. It’s a great way to spend time with your family or friends

6. It's just good for the soul!

Who can play disc golf?

Red-18 Championship Course: Hole 1

That’s what I love about the game – it’s for everyone!

You go on the course and see kids as young as 2 years old up to people in their 80s. If you can walk around, you can play.

It's for anyone who wants a nice walk in the park and a little competition.

What is disc golf?

The concept is very similar to golf.

In this case, your arm is the “golf club,” and the disc is “a golf ball.”

You throw a disc from a tee and work your way down the course towards the hole. So, where that disc lands, you take your next shot.

The hole is not a hole in the ground but a basket. A metal pole concreted into the ground, rises to a basket, approximately waist-height, with chains that hang down. When you throw the disc, it hits the chains and drops down into the basket.

Red-18 Championship Course: Hole 11

The goal is to get the disc into the basket.

Each time you throw it is considered a “stroke.” Like golf, you want to have the lowest number of strokes to complete a hole. So, if you complete a hole in 3 throws, or “strokes,” and I complete a hole in 4, you’ve won that hole.

Typically, the game is in public parks, like ours in Spa Thermal Park, and is free to play. There are many benefits to that:

  • You can play as many times as you want during the day
  • No tee times
  • Play by yourself or with a group of mates
  • Open to all skill levels
  • Adds a great interest within a communal space

That’s what we found a Spa Thermal Park – while parts of the park are well utilized, there was a lot of the park that was not used or seen. It’s a beautiful park and a great way to take advantage of it.

How can one get started playing disc golf? Any tips?

1. All you need is a disc. You just need to start with one. You can even rent one from AJ Hacket Bungy & Swing Taupō or Torpedo 7. If you’d like to purchase, there are online places like the Disc Shop. There you can find guides on buying a disc and what is best for beginners.


2. When you go to the course, check out the main signboard. It has the course map on it and etiquette rules as well. Take a photo of the course map to know what's ahead. There's also the UDisc app, which you can download, has maps of all the courses in the world, and you can keep your score on it.


3. Learning how to throw – there are heaps of great tutorials online, like Latitude 64, for mechanics, different types of shots, your grip, and beginner basics. In the beginning, you can keep the game simple – throw back-hand to maintain control of where the disc is going.


4. Practice, get better and have fun - It's just practice to get better, like any other sport.


5. Join the Taupō Disc Golf Club! - To make it accessible, it is just $10 per year to be a member. And you can contact me through the Facebook Page or by email at taupodiscgolfclub@gmail.com. But you don’t have to join the club to play the course.

What makes Taupō Disc Golf Course a top-tier NZ course?

For anyone who has been to Spa Thermal Park, it is a beautiful park. There are big, beautiful trees, the natural hot springs at Otumuheke Stream and the Waikato River are stunning. But so much of the park is underutilized.

Red-18 Championship Course: Hole 13

When you play our course, you see parts of the park that you may not have otherwise seen. And there are heaps of amenities like:

But in terms of the actual course, the Blue-9 Hole and Red-18 Championship Course both use the space well.

When you’re playing disc golf, it’s different from playing ball golf. In regular golf, you want the fairway and open lane. Where in disc golf, you want those obstacles.

We curse them...but that’s what makes the game fun.

You don’t want every hole to suit every right-handed back-handed player, where everything shoots off the left. You want a course that forces a right-hand, back-hand player to try different things and challenge them. Especially as you get better in the game, you want to learn different ways to throw.

And this course does that.

It has wide open holes where you can really chuck it out as far as possible, but it also has these narrow, gap-through-the-tree holes where you’re just trying to thread the needle.

The course itself takes in all the sights and challenges all levels of players and it’s a beautiful walk in a beautiful park.

What are some recent updates to the course that improved the game experience further?

Since the original design, we’ve made a couple of updates.

Hole 1 had a bit of a questionable sightline. We’ve moved the tee box over, allowing you to see anyone coming into the park. Also, we’ve turned that main tree into what we call a “mandatory” where you have to stay to the left and avoid a pathway.

Hole 3 now has a tee box.

Hole 5 had a big tree fall over, so we’ve added an entirely new Hole 5 to the Red Course within the trees, adding more difficulty.

There are more bits and pieces as we look forward to the future.

What do you love about disc golf in the Taupō region?

Red-18 Championship Course: Hole 15

There is a reason that Taupō is the events capital of the country. There are so many amenities here, and we’re central to the North Island, which draws people to this place.

The Taupō Disc Golf Club itself is a fast-growing club. There are club members from Hawke's Bay who come here to join our club. All the club’s work has been voluntary – donating materials, time, and tools. We’ve done a lot of stuff on the course to improve it and make it an asset to the town.

It's another great sporting venue in the town.

It’s going to draw more visitors as the game will get more popular.

On your next visit to Taupō, play on this hidden gem. 

All you need is a disc, your mates and a few free hours for a great autumn afternoon!  

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