Disc Golf is exploding. That much is clear. Your home course suddenly has countless enthusiastic players who just discovered the game in the past couple years. New courses have popped up in seemingly every park around town. Tournaments that used to have one media outlet with a couple cameras following the lead card now have tens of cameras from multiple outlets following the top three or more cards. Nearly every weekend, we’re treated to highly-professional, live coverage of a Disc Golf Pro Tour event or PDGA major. Tournament payouts and player contracts are reaching numbers that seemed impossible just a few short years ago, with multiple players in the sport making seven figures a year. So it is clear that disc golf is exploding – but just how much? Let’s look at the numbers.
- The PDGA took 41 years to gain its first 100,000 members
- The next 100,000 members signed up in less than a tenth that time
- Since reaching 200,000, in less than one year, the PDGA has already issued another 40,000 PDGA numbers
- Conservatively, at least 4,000,000 people play disc golf globally
* Player Growth Stats from PDGA Demographics and Growth Reports
In 1976, the Professional Disc Golf Association issued its first PDGA number to “Steady” Ed Headrick, PDGA #001. It took 41 years between that historic day and the issuing of PDGA #100,000 in 2017. Many of the early adopters of the sport could not have imagined that disc golf would ever gain so much interest. But as we now know, in 2017, the biggest phase of growth in disc golf was yet to begin. From that point, it took only four years for the PDGA to hit 200,000 members, an achievement reached on December 24th, 2021. That’s over ten times faster than it took to gain the first 100,000. And the growth has kept accelerating.
In less than one year, since issuing PDGA #200,000, another 40,000 members have already joined. If enough players get a PDGA membership for the holidays this year, we could hit 250,000 members before 2023!
The PDGA has active members in over 70 countries, but PDGA members make up just a fraction of the total, active, global disc-golfing population. Estimating conservatively, there are at least 4,000,000 players across the world who play disc golf regularly. And that’s a low-end estimate; the actual number could be much higher!
- On average, 5.28 courses are built every day
- There are estimated to be over 15,000 courses globally
- Over 70% of all disc courses were built in the last ten years
- There are disc golf courses in over 80 countries worldwide
* Course Growth Stats from UDisc Growth Report
As the number of players in the sport has increased, naturally the number of courses has had to increase to keep up with demand. But the number of new courses that went into the ground this past year is truly jaw dropping. Each day, on average, 5.28 new disc golf courses opened for play. That’s one new course every four and a half hours, and one new hole every 30 minutes or less!
It is estimated that there are over 15,000 disc golf courses across the world, spread between over 80 countries. And those numbers, huge as they are, are rapidly increasing. Over 70% of all disc golf courses have been built within the last decade.
Most of the courses being built are created by players who have seen the increased demand in their local area and have taken the initiative to do something about it. Dedicated disc golfers and designers like those on the Innova Ambassador Team are driving the growth of the sport from the ground up. If you’ve noticed the courses in your area start to have more backups in the past couple years, go identify the right piece of public land, contact your town with a proposal for a new course, and make your mark on the booming sport of disc golf.
- The top paid athletes in disc golf make seven figures a year in sponsorship agreements alone
- The average MPO 1st place payout at DGPT Elite Series and PDGA Major events has nearly tripled since 2019
- The average FPO 1st place payout at DGPT Elite Series and PDGA Major events has nearly quadrupled since 2019
- 2022 saw the highest single season tournament earnings from a player in both the MPO and FPO, each winning over $100,000 dollars
- 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
* Payout Growth Stats from PDGA Event Archives
PDGA membership is growing exponentially each year, new courses around the globe are opening at an astonishing rate, but what about the professional side of the game? Perhaps the most notable markers showing just how much disc golf has blossomed in the past few years can be seen in the money paid out to top pros. Though the specifics of sponsorship agreements are mostly kept confidential, it is safe to say that more players are able to make a comfortable living solely playing disc golf than ever before. A sport that just a few years ago had even its top athletes relying on their tournament winnings to scrape by, now has multiple players making seven figures a year from their sponsorship agreements alone.
Tournament winnings come with more concrete numbers, and those numbers are impressive to say the least. The average MPO 1st place cash in 2019 was $4,548 and for the FPO, it was $2,082. Two years later, in 2021, the average MPO 1st place cash had nearly doubled to $8,748 and the average for the FPO had more than doubled to $5,245. This year, the MPO average 1st place cash reached $12,058 and the FPO’s hit $7,903. That’s a 165% increase for the MPO and a 280% increase for the FPO in average Elite Series and Major payouts from 2019 to 2022. In other words, the men have nearly tripled and the women have nearly quadrupled their tournament winnings in just three years!
This year’s DGPT Championship had the largest pro purse in disc golf history at $302,000. 1st place prizes of $35,000 were awarded in both divisions. The minimum payout of $2,500 for the 32 MPO athletes who qualified to play in the DGPT Championship in 2022 was the same as the 1st place payout given to the winners in 2019. The minimum payout for the 16 women who qualified this year was $3,000, which is more than the winning FPO athlete received in 2019 at the same event.
So there you have it. Boom! The explosion of disc golf that you’ve noticed out on the course, we’ve noticed in the numbers too.