Nowadays there are a lot of different disc golf basket options available. Up and coming manufacturers like Prodigy, Dynamic Discs, and MVP have more affordable course basket options that are making it easier than ever to get a disc golf course installed.
While some of the newer baskets are only known and have been tested by only a small population of the sampled survey, the most well known basket is clearly the Innova DISCatcher.
Disc Golf Basket Familiarity
From the basket options included in our survey, at the beginning of 2017 only 29.35% of respondents were familiar with the MVP Black Hole while 77% were familiar with the Innova DISCatcher.
Favorite Disc Golf Baskets
When we break down baskets by those rated “Above Average and The Best” the most favorable baskets are the Mach X, Innova DISCatcher, and Dynamic Discs Veteran.
On disc golf podcasts and in the professional world there is talk about reducing basket size to align disc golf more with traditional “ball” golf. While a few pros are in favor of smaller baskets, the vast majority of those who participated in our State of Disc Golf Survey (88%) strongly feel that disc golf baskets are currently about just right. 9.7% wish that course baskets were bigger while just 2.3% want disc golf course baskets to be smaller.
Looking at the results of the 2017 State of Disc Golf Survey, we can get a glimpse of how much money is spent by disc golfers during the past year. On this year’s survey, we didn’t ask if that money was spent specifically on equipment, or on tournament fees, or on travel, etc. but instead asked the survey participants to generally consider how much total they spend on the sport. These are the results:
As you can see, the majority replied that they spent between $200 and $499 on disc golf in 2016, with the next largest groupings made of people who spent slightly less than that, or who spent up to $999. If you put those three highest groups together, then you have almost exactly 70% of respondents spending between $100 and $999 on disc golf during the year.
By looking at the answer choices, you’ll noticed that the spread became larger as we moved to higher dollar amounts, so the first three choices went from $0 to $199, where the latter four choices covered from $200 to $2000 or more. Thus it was natural that more people would fall somewhere in the middle. But what might seem surprising is that 13.76% of respondents claim to have spent $1000 or more on disc golf in 2016, and 32.73% spend $500 or more on disc golf in 2016. That’s a respectable percentage of players that are spending a significant amount of money on disc golf.
How Did We Spend that Money?
Undoubtedly some of that money is spent on discs, bags, and other accessories. But one factor which could likely tally the higher expenses which would take players into the $500+ categories are things like tournaments and travel. Let’s look at responses that shed some light on the costs of tournaments.
So, with 73.1% of respondents who played in tournaments in 2016 (the vast majority), and those tournaments all have registration fees. And then we figure that 63.4% of players would travel 4 hours or more to play in a tournament, it makes sense that significant travel and tournament play is a contributing factor in disc golf spending. In fact, 22.7% of survey respondents said that they’d “go anywhere” to play a tournament. That implies fuel costs, boarding costs, and more.
Now let’s look at how disc purchases might have calculated into those spending totals:
Looking at these survey results, it would appear that many players are quite conservative when it comes to buying discs. We can see that 42.5% purchase between 0 and 9 discs. If you average a cost of $12 per disc (some are much more expensive, and some are less), then you’re looking at an investment under $100 or just over that amount on discs in a year.
Once we move into those people who bought 10-29 discs, which is a collective 40.1% of those surveyed, then we can estimate that they spent at least in a range of $120 – $350 on discs during the year.
Even though disc golf is an inexpensive sport compared to many others out there, where most courses are free to play, and equipment costs are very low, the truth is that players find ways to spend money on the sport they love. If not in buying discs and equipment, then in tournaments, travel, league fees, and more. Those spending choices are not a bad thing when it comes to the growth of disc golf. The fact that so many players are slapping money on the barrel for equipment, accessories, and tournament support means that disc golf can continue healthy growth, with more opportunities for players, and a growing body of enterprise surrounding the sport we love.
There are many ways to carry disc golf discs around. It’s not uncommon to see recreational disc golfers simply carrying around a disc or two in their hands. Many diehards use carts or strollers where they can wheel around dozens of discs at a time. In the 2017 State of Disc Golf survey we asked, “What kind of disc golf bag/cart do you predominately use?”
The majority of surveyed disc golfers use some sort of backpack bag. The backpack has been the trendy way to carry around discs over the past half decade, and with the recent addition of the more affordable backpacks like the Prodigy BP3 and Dynamic Discs Sniper, we expect this trend to continue to rise.
For the recreational disc golfer, the single strap “starter bag” is still an adequate way to carry more than a handful of discs along with a water bottle, keys, phone and other on the course necessities. Small disc golf bags with a single shoulder strap had the second greatest share at 13.7%.
In addition to the increased popularity, the share of disc golf carts, especially among tournament players, is on the rise. 8.6% of surveyed disc golfers said that they primarily use a cart. Go to any PDGA sanctioned tournament and the percentage of cart users is substantially higher. When we ran the survey in 2015 disc golf carts were not even an option.
Over the last two years the biggest decline in disc golf carrying is the “Large Disc Golf Bag.” In the 2015 survey, 34.3% of those surveyed used a large disc golf bag with or without shoulder straps. Almost half as many (16.8%) primarily use a large disc golf bag according to the 2017 survey.
With the exception of the “Turbo Putt,” the different putting styles are pretty evenly distributed among disc golfers. 28.5% of respondents said they use the “spin putt” while 25.7% said they push putt. 39.1% putt using techniques that combine elements of both the spin and the push putt. Less than 1% of putters regularly Turbo Putt from inside the circle, so if you’re among this minority, congratulations! You are in the 1%.
Putting Stance Used
When it comes to putting stance, almost all disc golfers use the traditional staggered approach. Only 10.9% of surveyed disc golfers use a straddle putt.
The Controversial Jump Putt
One of the more controversial disc golf calls is the “jump” or step putt. Those who don’t jump putt feel it is an unfair advantage. Those of us who do jump putt think the 10 meter rule is fantastic as it makes it easier to make long putts. Slightly more than half of those surveyed jump putt while 47.5% said that they do not jump putt outside the circle.
So, do you wanna throw far? Or at least farther than you can right now? As disc golfers, I think we all would say we’d like the ability to get our discs a little further down the fairway. Those of us who have had the opportunity to play long championship level courses know that the guy in the group with the longest drive has a nice advantage. Of course, you can argue, “drive for show, putt for dough” right? But I don’t think too many folks would disagree that a good drive won’t hurt your chances of pulling in that dough either.
How Far Do Disc Golfers Throw?
So, how do we throw far? I don’t think anyone will argue with or be surprised with the answer I found from the results of the State of Disc Golf Survey…but what looks like the key ingredient to throwing far is: Practice. Practice, practice, practice—specifically, field work. Let’s take a quick look at the numbers.
Here we see how all participants in the survey answered our question about average driving distance. In my last article, I analyzed how practice affected our skill levels, and I identified weekly field work as a good indicator and separator for how well we play disc golf. Well, as I broke down how far we throw compared to whether or not we did weekly field work, I found a pretty consistent pattern.
This chart shows the percentage of people within each throwing distance that do field work at least once per week. Of everyone who took the survey, 31.5% said they do field work at least every week. As we can see, there is a pretty consistent trend—The farther you throw, the more likely it is that you are doing field work at least once per week. Again, I don’t expect any of this to be surprising, but there was one other pattern I found to be pretty interesting–disc ownership.
How many discs do we own? And is there any correlation to how far we throw? To analyze this, I broke down the answers for the number of discs we own into three based on the responses we get. Each account for about 33% of the total: 0-30 discs (33.3%), 31-80 discs (35.4%), and 81+ discs (31.4%). Then I plugged these three in with how far we throw in the same way I did with weekly field work, and here is what I found.
First, a look at those who own 30 or less discs. We see the highest response percentages with those who throw the shorter distances.
The 31-80 discs range has the most representation in the middle distances.
Then, naturally, the 81+ discs answer was most popular with the farthest throwing groups.
So, does this mean all you need to do to throw far is by more discs? Not exactly, but I think what this is a good indicator of is how involved we are in disc golf. The more discs you own, I’d think the less casual your disc golf experience is.
So the secret formula to throwing far isn’t all that secret—just get out there and practice! Field work works, and stay involved in disc golf (aka, let that disc collection grow a little bit :)). Of course, proper technique is key. There are so many great tutorials out there to help you, like this one from Will Schusterick:
In the State of Disc Golf 2017 Survey, we asked thousands of players a couple of questions about subjects that are sometimes a bit touchy when it comes to playing the game with others. First of all, we thought we’d ask about the speed of play. We’ve all met those players who like to take their time before each throw, seeming to measure the weight of each disc in their hand, drawing imaginary lines through the air, and finding their apparent moment of zen before finally taking their throw. Or, perhaps you are bothered by that pushy player that wants to step up and throw right away, regardless of who should take the box first according to turn order. Is the game generally too fast for you? Or is it too slow for you? Here is what the surveyed players thought:
Which statement about speed of play typically applies to you for recreational disc golf rounds?
Despite those occasional irritations when it comes to speed of play, the majority 57% of those surveyed felt that the rounds move along at the right pace. But when it comes to those who wish the speed of play were different, it is more about wanting to take their time, rather than wanting to push the pace up a notch. 35.6% of players like to take their time, so if you add together those who are content, and those who like to take their time, you come up with 92.6% who are fine with the way things are or who like to take their time, so apparently it is a vocal minority of 7.4% that wishes things would speed up.
The percentage of those who feel the game is too slow was higher when narrowed down to those who called themselves “professional” on the survey, with 12% feeling the game moves too slowly. However, those who called themselves beginners, recreational, intermediate, and even advanced, fell right in line with the majority who are fine with the pace of the game.
How important is it that those around you stand still and are silent before you throw?
This is another touchy subject in some casual and competitive rounds. We’ve heard announcers say things like, “Oh, that is a shame,” when an observer coughs or makes a sudden noise just as a professional is throwing. For a really good player, should it make a difference if there is some background noise or movement in their field of vision? Let’s see how those surveyed responded when it comes to stillness and silence before the throw:
For all the emphasis on being silent during putts or throws, it looks like it is a huge minority that fines the silence to be “very important”– so much so that they won’t throw with a potential distraction. That 7.7% pales in comparison to the 69.2% majority who feels that it is only “somewhat important” and who are not generally bothered by a little noise or movement. That 7.7% also pales in comparison with the 23.1% who feel that silence and movement is “not important”.
We looked at those who called themselves “professionals” on the survey to see if the competitive nature of their game play makes the distraction factor more or less important. It turns out that 17.1% feel that silence is “very important” and 66.1% feel it is “somewhat important”. That leaves 16.8% feeling it is “not important”. So, to a small professional players find distractions to be a nuisance.
In fact, moving through the categories from beginners to advanced, the more advanced the player, the higher percentage that said silence and stillness was important, though never a majority.
To no surprise, the vast majority of disc golfers throw right handed which helps to explain why disc manufacturers don’t focus on left handed discs (that’s a joke). 90.7% of disc golfers surveyed throw with their right hands, 7.1% with their left, and just 2.3% of disc golfers have the coveted advantage of being able to throw with both hands.
Primary Driving Style
The vast majority of disc golfers surveyed prefer the traditional backhand drive. What surprised me was how big the disparity was. Nearly 83% said that they primarily drive backhand while only 16% use the “forehand,” “sidearm,” or “flick” as the preferred option. And that guy that throws thumbers all the time is the rare exception as only .7% of disc golfers throw overhand as their primary driving style.
Primary Approach Style
When it comes to approach shots, the percentages are very similar to drives with slightly more disc golfers choosing the backhand from short range. Almost 85% of disc golfers surveyed will choose a backhand throw for a wide open approach shot.
In the immortal words of NBA Hall of Fame-er Allen Iverson…”We talkin’ about practice!”
Every disc golfer has at least pondered the question as they’ve pulled late nights in their garage or backyard with a stack of putters and a practice basket. Or they ask it as they throw their arm out at the local soccer or football fields. “Is any of this really helping me?” “Am I getting any better?” I think most folks with any experience in developing a skill or a good habit would agree with the old adage that practice makes perfect, or at least practice makes you better than you were before.
Of course, our analysis of this question today is imperfect, but it is still very interesting to look at how the surveyors rated their own skill levels in conjunction with how often they practice. While there may be some discrepancy between how one disc golfer would rate his/her skills compared to another, I think it is a somewhat safe assumption that those who took this survey that participate in PDGA tournaments (about 3/4 of the survey played in at least one PDGA event last year) rated themselves simultaneously with what division they play in.
So first of all, let’s just look at how good we think we are. Just shy of half the folks who took the survey consider themselves intermediate, while the advanced disc golfers just barely outnumber the recreational and beginner players. So, just shy of 75% of the disc golfers surveyed rate themselves as being below advanced in their skill level. I think that this is a decent reflection of the true state of disc golf, and really most sports. There tend to be more casual participants than serious competitors (probably) because of the work, time, and practice required to compete at a top level.
Now for a look at our practice trends. We asked about practice putting and field work. It looks like putting is the most popular form of practice, which makes sense considering it is the most convenient of the two, requiring the least amount of space. About 60% said they practice putting at least once per week, while only about half of that, approximately 30%, said they do field work practice at the same frequency.
So in playing around with the data I decided to use the one week mark to divide the practice time frames up. In my opinion, practicing your disc golf game off the course at least once a week is a pretty good indicator of taking your disc golf game seriously and of seeking improvement in your game.
So, here is a breakdown of what percentage of players within each skill category answered that they practice putt and practice field work at least one per week. The percentages look to trend somewhat how I would have predicted them, at least in relation to each other. The higher the division, the more that golfers within that division practice at least once per week.
First, lets break down the practice putting. Again, I think it is important to remember that this is the most convenient form of practicing. 78.8% of disc golfers who consider themselves to play at the professional level practice their putting at least once per week. while each division drops at a pretty consistent 10% from there on out. With the Rec/Beginner division at 51.1%, we know that the majority of players within each division are practicing at least once per week. Of course, we do not know the intensity of each player’s practice routine, but at least they are going out and getting the practice done.
Now, the field work is where things get a little interesting. Just under half of professional level disc golfers say they do field work at least once per week. Then between the pro and advanced divisions there is a slightly larger difference (11.6%) than the difference we saw in practice putting (8.6%). Then only about 27% of both Intermediate and Recreational/Beginner disc golfers practice field work at least once per week.
So across the board we see that consistent field work is less common than consistent putting practice, but perhaps the field work is the difference maker for those who feel stuck in the advanced or intermediate skill range? More research would be needed to make a definitive claim. But I definitely find it interesting to see the slightly larger gap between skill levels when it comes to field work.
But at the end of the day, this data just reinforces what we already know–if you practice, you are going to get better. Practice makes perfect. There is no substitute for hard work. Nothing worth having comes easy. Or, one of my personal favorites that I first heard from Paul McBeast McBeth, “Everybody wants to be a beast, until it’s time to do what beasts do.” So go out, work hard, and maybe give the field work a little more time than you have before. Here’s to a 2017 disc golf season where we all find improvements in our game through our practice!