The Golfers and Courses
There are hundreds of sports deeply established around the world. From staples like baseball, basketball, and soccer to regional favorites like cricket or rugby these sports are well beyond the “early years” and have roots hundreds of years deep. While new sports pop up all the time, it’s rare to find a sport that has moved beyond its initial start while it shows booming growth. One of those sports: disc golf. Disc golf has always said to be growing fast and being a future sport. This article is about disc golf growth.
According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, PDGA, at the start of 2000, there were 5,653 active members of the PDGA. At the time, the most recent PDGA member number issued was 15970. Along with the members, 1,017 disc golf courses were established (851 in the United States). Those numbers are certainly nothing to shake a stick at, but let’s compare them to what we have today.
As 2017 got underway, the PDGA marked 35,662 active members. That’s a 530% growth in active members just 17 years. What is even more astonishing is the fact the PDGA issued member number 90,940 (469% growth). While that comes out to an average of just over 4,500 new members per year, 2016 saw 10,774 people join the PDGA.
Again, in 2000 there were 1,017 disc golf courses recognized by the PDGA. Today, you can find 6,976 courses around the world. In 2000, Texas was the state with the most courses (84). Today in 2017, 24 states have over 84 courses with Texas still on top with 381. These numbers change constantly, so they are a close estimate of the status in May 2017. It’s safe to say, regardless of where you live in the United States and Europe, there is at least one disc golf course within a reasonable distance to you.
International Disc Golf Growth
Looking internationally, Finland blows the doors of Texas with 575 courses throughout the country. The biggest disc golf growth per capita has taken place in Finland. There have been 70 new courses every year since the 2010 and the trend seems to continue. In 2010, Finland had about 150 courses and this summer the amount of 600 courses will be broken. Now there are four times the amount of disc golf courses compared to golf courses. Here’s a short read on Case Finland.
The following infographic illustrates the course status of the biggest disc golf states of the United States and Finland. Courtesy of DiscGolfPark. Disc golf is growing fast also in many other countries, such as Estonia, Czech Republic and Sweden.
Up until a few years ago the PDGA National Tour was the marquee disc golf tour. Home to the biggest tournaments in the sport, this is where the best of the best competed on a weekly basis. Along with the growth of membership and courses, the demand for bigger and better tours became louder and louder.
That’s where the Disc Golf World Tour and Disc Golf Pro Tour come in. With the Disc Golf World Tour playing host to events internationally and the Disc Golf Pro Tour focusing on events in the United States, the number of elite disc golf events have also grown.
In 1999, the PDGA recognized 335 events for a total purse of $693,300. In 2016, the PDGA had 3,104 events with a purse of $3,959,190. Both the Disc Golf World Tour and Disc Golf Pro Tour host events with the winner taking home $10,000.
Future of Disc Golf
The future is bright for both of these tours as 2017 marks only year two. It’s taken a lot to get to this point in the sport, but with the foundation built, the possibilities are endless.
It’s easy to see that disc golf has seen exponential growth over the last 17 years. The more you dig in though, the more you realize how much of disc golf growth has happened in just the last few years.
The mainstream sports like basketball, baseball, football, and soccer, are mainstream for a reason. They’ve been around for hundreds of years. At one point each one of those sports saw exponential growth. It was “the next big thing” before it became the “big thing.” This is disc golf’s time. This is the time of growth. You might as well jump on board now because disc golf isn’t slowing down.