Five Trends Shaping Disc Golf’s Future (part 2)
TREND #3: Growth vs. Capacity
By any metric, disc golf is growing at a significant pace. Courses, tournament purses, PDGA membership…all are expanding steadily and impressively. The question is whether the sport can handle this magnitude of growth. Reports from the field suggest over-crowding plagues many courses around the nation. Tournaments saturate every weekend throughout the calendar. The PDGA staff is pushed to the brink, as they work tirelessly to handle the demands of the association. Strategically, the disc golf leadership must decide whether to target its resources towards continuing the rapid expansion of the sport, or whether to develop a stronger foundation upon which to handle the the floods of players and new innovations that are poised to enter this attractive, yet suddenly inadequate, sporting space.
TREND #4: Worlds vs. USDGC
So what does disc golf look like at the highest level? Is it a gathering of 100s of players at a rotating venue that crowns as many as 12 world champions? Or is it as little as 100 of the highest rated disc golfers who play one world-class course year-in and year-out celebrating just one champion? The PDGA’s crown jewel event is the world championships. The title of “world champion” is arguably the most coveted in the sport. And it still attracts a huge number of participants every year, who come to compete, yes. But they also come to cavort with their friends they may only see once a year. The United States Disc Golf Championship, though modified over the last few years, has maintained much of its original look and feel. A more narrow focus on top performers results in many only able to imagine participating in disc golf’s fall classic in Rock Hill, which, in a way, makes demand for the event somewhat greater. But the lure of becoming world champion still holds sway with a much wider audience. The trend may not be as much about the whether the World Championships or the USDGC is a superior event. The debate is about whether event managers should be dedicating their efforts towards casting a wide net that encompasses many or an event that narrows the focus to make the most of available resources.
TREND #5: Free Parks vs. Pay-to-Play
Emerging as a backyard game, disc golf has transcended its humble roots to gain access to venues like the Nasu Highlands Golf Club in Tochigi, Japan, the Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont, and state parks throughout the United States. Thanks to hard-working volunteers and advocates, our sport is finding its way to some of the most valuable real-estate around. But with budgets being squeezed and land developers fighting for ever-shrinking open space, disc golf must answer to park boards, resorts, and private land owners, “What’s in it for us?” Clearly, there are soft financials that are attractive to course venue managers, including the number of volunteer hours donated to course maintenance, bringing “heads to beds” during tournament weekend, and food drives that benefit nearby neighborhoods. Yet, a growing number of disc golf courses are generating real revenues through their adoption of pay-to-play models. And, if the courses are worthy, disc golfers are more willing to pay these days. There is an old adage…money changes everything. We’ll see if that’s true in the disc golf course designer and developer space very soon.
The trends are just a partial listing of what is shaping the future of disc golf. We welcome your input and offerings as to what you think will determine the future of our sport.