Disc Golf is experiencing an unprecedented surge in popularity. The sport has attracted countless enthusiastic players who have recently discovered the game. New courses are popping up in parks all around town, and tournaments now receive extensive media coverage with multiple cameras following the top players. The growth of disc golf can be seen in the increasing tournament payouts and player contracts, with some players now earning seven figures a year. In this article, we will delve into the numbers that illustrate the explosive growth of disc golf and explore how the sport is expanding in terms of player growth, course development, and tournament payouts.
Disc golf’s player base has grown exponentially in recent years. The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) serves as a testament to this growth. In 1976, the PDGA issued its first PDGA number to “Steady” Ed Headrick, PDGA #001. It took 41 years for the PDGA to reach 100,000 members in 2017. However, the pace of growth accelerated significantly after that milestone. It only took four years for the PDGA to double its membership and reach 200,000 members in December 2021. Since then, an additional 40,000 members have joined in less than a year, suggesting that the PDGA may reach 250,000 members before 2023.
While the PDGA has active members in over 70 countries, the actual number of disc golf players worldwide is estimated to be much higher. Conservatively, there are at least 4,000,000 players globally who play disc golf regularly. This estimate does not account for non-PDGA members who participate in the sport. The true number of disc golfers worldwide could be significantly higher than the conservative estimate suggests.
To meet the growing demand from disc golf players, the number of disc golf courses has increased rapidly. On average, 5.28 new courses are built every day, which equates to one new course opening every four and a half hours. The total number of disc golf courses globally is estimated to be over 15,000, spread across more than 80 countries. Notably, over 70% of all disc golf courses have been built within the last decade, indicating the recent surge in course development.
The responsibility for building new disc golf courses often falls on dedicated disc golfers and designers who recognize the increased demand in their local areas. These individuals take the initiative to identify suitable public land, propose new courses to their local authorities, and contribute to the growth of the sport. If you have noticed more backups on the courses in your area in recent years, consider taking the opportunity to propose a new course and make your mark on the booming sport of disc golf.
The professional side of disc golf has also experienced significant growth, as evidenced by the increasing payouts for top players. While the specifics of sponsorship agreements are generally kept private, it is clear that more players are now able to earn a comfortable living solely from playing disc golf. In the past, even top athletes relied on tournament winnings to make ends meet. However, the landscape has changed, and several players now earn seven figures a year from their sponsorship agreements alone.
Concrete numbers can be observed in tournament winnings, which have seen substantial growth. The average 1st place cash payout for the MPO (Male Professional Open) division in DGPT Elite Series and PDGA Major events has nearly tripled since 2019. Similarly, the average 1st place cash payout for the FPO (Female Professional Open) division has nearly quadrupled during the same period. In 2022, both the MPO and FPO divisions saw players earn over $100,000 in a single season, marking the highest single-season tournament earnings in disc golf history.
The DGPT Championship in 2022 had the largest pro purse in disc golf history, totaling $302,000. The winners in both the MPO and FPO divisions received a 1st place prize of $35,000. Interestingly, the minimum payout for players who qualified for the DGPT Championship in 2022 was the same as the 1st place payout given to the winners of the same event in 2019. This demonstrates the significant increase in payouts over a relatively short period.
Disc golf has experienced explosive growth in recent years, with increasing numbers of new players, courses, and tournament payouts. The PDGA membership has grown exponentially, surpassing 200,000 members in just four years. The number of disc golf courses has also skyrocketed, with an average of 5.28 new courses opening every day. Tournament payouts for top professionals have seen substantial increases, with players now earning seven figures a year from sponsorship agreements alone. The growth of disc golf is evident not only in the numbers but also in the enthusiastic community and professional coverage that the sport now enjoys. The future looks bright for disc golf as it continues to attract new players and expand its global presence.