About Ed Headrick
of Disc Golf
and Dga's founder
Headrick envisioned the Frisbee design which was awarded U.S. Patent #3,359,678. Ed saw the potential to create something more with the Frisbee and during this time frame Headrick founded the IFA (International Frisbee Association) to help in the promotion of Frisbee sports. Ed began filming commercials promoting Frisbee games, and Frisbee sports events like the Worlds Frisbee Championships held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Disc Golf Association, (DGA) was established in 1976 by Ed Headrick to form a new international sport and to promote the installation and use of disc golf courses around the world. Ed coined and trademarked the term “Disc Golf” and he envisioned a game that would explode in popularity. “Steady” Ed traveled around the country to install courses, to recruit players to the new game and to add people to the Professional Disc Golf Association, a new disc golf association he created to establish the rules of the game.
Disc Golf Basket
In 1977, Headrick and his son Ken developed the first modern disc golf catching device for disc golf, US Patent #4,039,189, which they trademarked “Disc Pole Hole”. The Disc Pole Hole created a standardized catching device with hanging rows of chain that could catch a disc thrown from all directions. Today there are over 7,000 disc golf courses installed throughout the world, the majority of them based on the same DGA Disc Pole Hole baskets Headrick designed.
"Then an amazing revelation... what could possibly be better than walking through a beautiful park and throwing at trees, drinking fountains, open car windows and an occasional coed? Back to the drawing boards and 56 models later a contraption was born. Shazam!... Chain, indestructible, flexible, a pleasant sound... Hence the MACH I, II, III and twenty years of blood, sweat and tears."
- "Steady" Ed Headrick on Inventing the disc golf basket
Ed Headrick, also known as “Steady” Ed Headrick, (June 28, 1924 – August 12, 2002) was an American toy inventor. Headrick served in combat in the Army in WWII and was a deep-sea welder. He is most well-known as the father of both the modern-day Frisbee and of the sport and game of disc golf.
Headrick’s career began its tenure at Wham-O where he asked for a job making toys and was told they were not hiring. He asked to be hired without pay to prove his worth and was taken up on his offer. One of his early tasks was finding something to do with all the excess stock of Wham-O hula hoops left over after the Hula Hoop craze had run its course.
Headrick eventually worked his way up to the head of research and development at Wham-O where he experimented with plastics and rubber and designed popular toys like the super ball. Headrick’s role was to come up with new toy ideas and to come up with ways to improve toys that were not selling well. It was this job which led him to re-evaluate Wham-O’s flying saucer which had been created by the American Inventor Walter Frederick Morrison.
With the flying saucer, Headrick envisioned not a better selling toy, but a redesign and invention of something bigger. Headrick’s solution was the Frisbee design which was awarded U.S. Patent #3,359,678, and is the Frisbee disc design the world is familiar with today. With his new Frisbee design patent, Ed saw the potential to create something more with the Frisbee. Headrick began a marketing and advertising blitz. With Ed’s position at Wham-O, he began not only to heavily market the Frisbee by promoting the trick throws and games you could play, but he shifted the focus of the Frisbee to a sport. Ed Headrick promoted the Frisbee, Frisbee games, and Frisbee sports events and rose to the ranks of Executive Vice President at Wham-O. During this time frame Headrick also founded the IFA (International Frisbee Association) that grew to over 85,000 members, to help in the promotion of Frisbee sports.
Ed competed in Frisbee Freestyle events and Frisbee sports like GUTS, but also practiced target shooting with Frisbees. Headrick, his son Ken and his friends created object courses through the city and parks. They would walk and challenge each other to hit things like trash cans, signs, trees, etc. with their Frisbees. Some nights Ed, his son Ken and his friends would sneak on to golf courses to play rounds of golf with discs. His skill with the Frisbee earned him the nickname “Steady”.
Target shooting with Frisbees became Ed’s new passion and he saw tremendous potential in Frisbee Golf as a legitimate game and sport with dedicated courses that regular people could play and even compete in tournaments. At Wham-O, Ed became increasingly focused on Frisbee Golf’s potential and wanted to create and standardize a new game and sport called Frisbee Golf. Through Headrick’s efforts, the Frisbee brand had become very important to Wham-O’s bottom line. As the owners of the Frisbee Trademark, however, Wham-O did not share Ed’s same vision for the viability of the standardized game of Frisbee Golf that Ed had. Wham-O would not allow a license of the Frisbee trademark to be used for Frisbee Golf.
In 1975, Ed’s tenure at Wham-O ended and ties between Headrick and Wham-O eventually split. Headrick left the company to start out on his own to focus all his efforts on his new interest, which he coined and trademarked “Disc Golf”.
In 1976, “Steady” Ed Headrick and his son Ken Headrick started the first disc golf company DGA, (short for Disc Golf Association). The purpose of DGA was to manufacture discs and targets and to formalize the game for disc golf. The first disc golf target was Ed’s pole hole design which basically consisted of a pole sticking out of the ground.
In 1977, Headrick and his son Ken developed the modern catching basket for disc golf, US Patent #4,039,189, titled Flying Disc Entrapment Device, which they trademarked “Disc Pole Hole”. The Disc Pole Hole created a standardized catching device that had a chain-hanger that held vertical hanging rows of chain out and away from a center pole. The vertical rows of chain came together forming a parabolic shape above and angling down towards a metal basket that attached to and surrounded the center pole, and could catch a disc from all directions.
Ed and his company DGA revised and obtained patents for basket designs until his death in 2002. Today there are over 7,000 disc golf courses installed throughout the world, the majority of them are DGA Disc Pole Hole baskets Headrick designed.
In order to focus on creating the rules and standards for the sport and game as well as to create a self-sufficient dues-paying membership base, Headrick began the PDGA, the Professional Disc Golf Association. Through the PDGA, Headrick and fellow disc golfers like Victor Malafronte worked to come up with the first rules and standards, which were printed out in small binders. Ed headed the PDGA until 1982 before turning the daily operations over to be run independently by an elected body of disc golf players. Headrick was PDGA member number 001 and today there are over 103,000 PDGA member numbers and over 40,000 active paying dues members, and PDGA continues to be the overseeing body for the sport of disc golf, with an elected board of directors.
In 2002, Headrick suffered two strokes while attending the Professional Disc Golf Association 2002 Amateur World Championships in Miami, FL. He was able to get a medical flight back to his home in La Selva Beach outside of Santa Cruz California, where he passed away soon afterward, on August 12, 2002, surrounded by his family and his friends. Ed’s widow Farina Headrick took over running DGA when Headrick passed away.
As per Ed Headrick’s wishes, his ashes were incorporated into a limited number of discs. The discs were given to friends and family and the limited remaining discs are for sale with all proceeds going to a 501 c(3) nonprofit to fund the “Steady” Ed Memorial Disc Golf Museum at the PDGA International Disc Golf Center in Columbia County, Georgia.
A lifetime of Achievements
INVENTOR & FOUNDER
Invented and patented the modern day Frisbee
Created and Trademarked the term Disc Golf and founded the sport of Disc Golf
Designed and Installed the first Disc Golf course
invented and patented the first disc golf basket with chain, the Disc Pole Hole
Invented and PATENTED first disc golf basket with successive row of chain strands
Invented and PATENTED disc golf basket chain design with crossing chain strand
Invented and PATENTED disc golf basket with sliding link chain holder
Founded The International Frisbee Association (IFA)
Founded Disc Golf Association (DGA)
Founded Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA)
Founded Recreational Disc Golf Association (RDGA)
Established and organized the first World Frisbee Championships and the Junior World Frisbee Championships
Established the first Disc Golf tournaments and a $50,000 landmark Frisbee Disc Golf Tournament in 1979
When Ed Headrick began working at Wham-O, Fredrick Morrison’s toy flying saucer was a niche toy languishing on the sales shelves. Ed Headrick had a vision for what the disc could become and with a fundamental redesign of the saucer and a marketing blitz the Frisbee craze caught fire and took off beyond even Ed’s most optimistic vision.
In order to formalize and create disc golf there needed to be a standardized target which Headrick could build a sport around. Today it is easy to take a disc golf basket design for granted. At the time imagining a target that could stop a Frisbee from any direction and using rows of chain links to do so was considered revolutionary by all the Frisbee players who were playing forms of golf with Frisbees. Today every outdoor disc golf basket made is a copy and variation of Headrick’s original disc golf target invention.
Ed Headrick’s Inner Chain patent was another revolutionary step in the evolution of disc golf as a sport. As the sport grew and became more competitive Ed began designing smaller, heavier discs that could be thrown with more accuracy and speed. It was clear that smaller and heavier discs were becoming more popular and that they were going to replace the Frisbees for playing disc golf. Today most outdoor disc golf baskets make use of Headrick’s original inner chain invention.
Ed Headrick’s Cross Link patent was a further progression of his original disc golf target patent. This patent modified the use of inner chains by both creating a system to prevent heavier weighted discs from bouncing off the inner pole and also to create more chain surface to entrap a disc. This patent design was first put into practice with the release of the Mach III disc golf basket.
Ed Headrick’s Sliding link invention was another advancement in disc golf target design that is now widely integrated and copied by other basket designs today. The design created a way to disperse and absorb the added energy of modern disc golf discs that needed more stopping power while minimizing the risk of slower discs being rejected and bouncing back out of the disc golf target. The sliding link is a very popular addition to the disc golf basket design that has found its way into almost every outdoor target sold today.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson with Ed Headrick
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson is an American talk show hosted by Johnny Carson under the Tonight Show franchise that ran from October 1, 1962 through May 22, 1992.
The 3rd Degree Featuring
“Steady” Ed Headrick & Fred Morrison
3rd Degree is an American game show that Celebrity panelists guess the relationships between contestants and aired in syndication from September 11, 1989 to June 8, 1990,
Ripley's Believe it or Not!
“Steady” Ed Headrick ash discs
June 28, 1924 — August 12, 2002
We used to say that Frisbee is really a religion, “Frisbyterians”, we’d call ourselves. When we die, we don’t go to purgatory. We just land up on the roof and lay there.
“Steady” Ed Headrick, died in his sleep early Monday, August 12, 2002, at his home in La Selva Beach, CA. He was 78.
No services were planned, but there was an open house and a party to celebrate his life.
Headrick, who had high blood pressure, had suffered two strokes while attending the Professional Disc Golf Association 2002 Amateur World Championships in Miami, FL.
The strokes left him paralyzed on his left side and weak on the right. Still, he had remained in high spirits even signing autographs on Frisbees from his bed at a Miami hospital. He returned home to California Aug. 6 after doctors determined that physical therapy would not aid his recovery and that his condition would continue to deteriorate.
Headrick’s ashes were molded into a limited number of memorial flying discs. A memorial fund has been created by the family and was used to establish and found “The Ed Headrick Memorial Museum”.
“The Ed Headrick Memorial Museum”, is home to the Disc Golf Hall of Fame, and showcases many historical items from the early days of our sport.
As per his wishes, his ashes were incorporated into a limited number of discs. The discs were given to friends and family and the limited remaining discs will be sold with all proceeds from the sales going to a nonprofit fund for the “Steady” Ed Memorial Disc Golf Museum at the PDGA International Disc Golf Center in Columbia County, Georgia.
A tribute to “Steady” Ed by Victor Malafronte (PDGA #002)
The frisbee world lost it’s founding father today. “Steady” Ed (PDGA #001) Headrick died at 3:30 AM today (12th August 2002). He was surrounded by his loving family and close friends at his home in California. “Steady” ED suffered a stroke while attending the PDGA Amateur Worlds at Kendall Park in Florida. He suffered another stroke while at the hospital. Although his condition was grave, “Steady” Ed continued to hang on. He still had his sense of humor. However, his condition was starting to deteriorate. The strokes left him paralyzed and unable to speak. It was only a matter of time before he would leave this world. “Steady” Ed did not want a funeral. He wanted everyone to have a party. To celebrate life. “Steady” Ed touched the lives of millions of people from around the world. He was the father of frisbee and disc golf. He dedicated his life to spreading the joy and fun of the frisbee game and especially disc golf. His vision, enthusiasm and selflessness has given us a way of life that will endure until we come to the last disc golf hole. For those of you who are not old timers, “Steady” Ed invented the Wham-O Pro Model frisbee in 1964, founded the IFA in 1969, the WFC Rose Bowl events in 1974, hired Dan “Stork” Roddick in 1975, invented the Disc Pole Hole and created the DGA in 1976. He installed nearly 800 disc golf courses in 20 countries. He was a husband and father of 4 children. He was my friend, my mentor and butt kicker when I needed it. He was our ambassador, our disc golf renaissance man. We urge everyone who was touched by this great man to hold a moment of silent celebration in his honor and memory. If you can do it, then present your “Steady” Ed Memorial Disc Golf or frisbee event for the world to enjoy. And, never forget the man who gave you the game that you love to play. Play it again for the man you once loved. And then, play it again!
It changed mine, big time! We will surely miss him!
- “Steady” Ed said, “Disc Golf will change your life!”
– Victor Malafronte – (PDGA #002)
Ed Headrick Obituaries-External Links
- Frisbee pioneer aimed for the heavens – San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate Bay Area & State News.
- Ed Headrick, Designer of the Modern Frisbee, Dies at 78 – New York Times, Obituaries.
- Frisbee inventor dies – BBC News, World Edition.
- Frisbee designer Ed Headrick left behind one beloved piece of sporting equipment—and a strange last wish – Sports Illustrated, SI Vault Edition.
- Ed Headrick, He put a new spin on the Frisbee – and saw it rise to worldwide sales of 100 million – the guardian, World News Obituaries.