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Is Disc Golf the Next Huge Sport in America?
The world of sports has seen many changes over the years. However, in recent years there has been little to no change to speak of. Sure, the NBA seems to have taken over as the dominant league with the MLB seemingly drifting slightly behind. But the major sports are still the major sports. Basketball, football, baseball, soccer, hockey, golf, etc. Is it time for a new sport to rise up and find a new niche for us to let out our competitive fire? I think so.
Disc golf was officially started in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in the early 1900s. However, modern day disc golf began to popularize in California, on the campus of Rice University in Texas, and in Augusta, Georgia. Back then, players would make baskets out of 50 gallon barrel trash cans and throw frisbees into them. The game was also played by throwing frisbees or smaller discs at light posts, street signs, trash cans, and other objects in California during this time.
Nowadays, disc golf has grown to include a basket with chains that you see in many parks around the world. What was seen as a recreational park game for years has suddenly been thrusted into the spotlight as people look for something to do during the Coronavirus outbreak that allows them to be outside while also social distancing. If you drive by a park that is open and houses a disc golf course, chances are you have probably seen a decent amount of people playing recently. It may seem like this came out of nowhere, but this has been a long time coming.
As an avid golf fan, I am saddened by the decline in golf courses in the U.S. The number of U.S. golf courses are currently dropping by around 200 courses per year. This is a tragic statistic but one that makes sense. Golf courses (as much as I love them) sadly take up a huge amount of land and property. They also cost an immense amount of money to maintain. Start throwing in the fact that to simply play the game of golf you need to purchase expensive clubs, expensive balls (especially expensive if you hit a hook or a slice), expensive green fees, and usually over 3 and a half hours to complete a round, you can see why there might be a decline. Not to mention how expensive it is to learn the game and the time it might take.
This is where the rise in disc golf comes into play. The reason we love golf is that it is you against a piece of land. Sure, you are competing against others, but you are trying to beat a piece of property. No matter how good you can get, you never win. That is why you will consistently play and practice. We are always chasing the next best score we can make. It truly is a beautiful game.
Disc golf involves all of these same characteristics, and also negates the previously listed reasons you may not be able to play. Discs usually cost no more than $20, most all courses are free or incredibly cheap to play, there is no barrier to entry (you simply walk to the first tee box and throw your disc), a round can take as little as an hour or an hour and a half, you quite literally “take a walk in the park”, and it is easy to learn but incredibly difficult to master.
All things considered, it truly is open to anyone and incredibly easily accessible.
Remember how previously I said golf courses are declining by about 200 courses a year? Well, from 2011 to 2016, the number of disc golf courses in the U.S. nearly doubled from 2,982 to 5,467. This is an average gain of 497 courses annually.
Only 26% of golfers are between the ages of 18 and 34 and over 60 percent of disc golfers are between the ages of 18 and 34. There is a huge young demographic that is taking to the parks to take up the wonderful game of disc golf. It provides a competitive environment, no barriers to entry, and allows you to spend time with many people in beautiful places.
The one thing that had been truly holding disc golf back was the lack of following the Professional Disc Golf Association had. There have been many disc golfers in the past that paved the way for the PDGA, but now the players on the pro tour are more competitive than ever and gaining a large following.
Some of the biggest names in Professional Disc Golf are Ricky Wysocki, Eagle McMahon, Simon Lizotte, Nate Sexton, James Conrad, Kevin Jones, and of course, Paul McBeth (there are many others I could add to this list, but it would take up far too much space).
The number one player in the world is Paul McBeth. He has been called the Tiger Woods of disc golf and has gained quite the following. Just like in traditional golf, in disc golf you want to shoot “under par”. A “perfect round” would be 18 under par on a regulation 18 hole course. Paul McBeth has done this not once, but twice in the past two years.
In his first 18 under round, McBeth was even featured in a popular SportsCenter segment “Haven’t Seen It, Should.” The link to this video is here:
This video gave disc golf a huge boost around the world. However, the biggest boost is currently coming from YouTube sensation and ultimate frisbee trickshot artist, Brodie Smith. Brodie, who currently has almost 1 million followers on Instagram and 2.21 million subscribers on YouTube, has recently become a professional disc golf player. He and Paul McBeth have teamed up to shoot videos and play in events together to bring a large amount of excitement to the disc golf world. Between Paul McBeth, Brodie Smith, and the wonderful camera work being done by Jomez Pro at the professional events, disc golf is finally gaining a large viewing.
Couple all of this together with people’s current desire to be outside, and you have a perfect scenario for disc golf to not only continue to grow, but to potentially have an exponential boom in 2020.
As someone who loves sports, especially golf, I cannot recommend disc golf enough. If you haven’t tried it, you should. If you want to give it a shot but don’t know where to start, reach out to me or any other disc golfer and we would love to help point you in the right direction to get outside and start playing. Here’s to hoping the game of golf and the game of disc golf both continue to provide memories that will last a lifetime.