State of Disc Golf Results: Tournaments

 

Once again, tournament season is upon us. We’ve already seen the top pros battle it out on some of the first big events of the year. For those of us that love to watch the pros compete, this is a great time. We have video of the tournaments that have already taken place, and the anticipation of our favorite locations yet to come. We’ll explore the State of Disc Golf survey results revealing our interest in watching and cheering for professional disc golfers in a future blog. For this week’s blog, let’s take a look at OUR participation in tournaments.

Playing Tournaments

Along with the pros returning to the tournament scene, those of us who enjoy participating in tournaments are also getting busy checking out the local and regional competitions. Not only have I signed up for several upcoming tournaments, I’ve also scheduled dates for when registrations open, to make sure I can sign up before they fill up. (I would like to explore how many tournaments reach capacity and how fast in future surveys.)

I’m somewhat hooked on tournaments and try really hard to make sure I attend my favorites. Not everyone feels the same about competing, which is why we asked questions about tournaments in our State of Disc Golf survey. We asked WHY you attended tournaments, if you did, and which kind you attended. We also asked what keeps you from playing in tournaments, and what it would take to make you start.

 

There are a variety of reasons why we play disc golf, and regardless of the reason, many of us enjoy the competitive side of the sport. There is something about our nature that makes us want to compete. I’ve noticed that for many of us, participating in an event fills that need, even if we don’t think we can win. Others DO want to win and will take steps to make that happen. Still others are completely fine playing casual rounds alone, just competing to beat their own records. Let’s see what the survey reveals.

 

Tournaments: Yes or No

 

Let’s look at the first tournament-related question, “Did you play in at least one disc golf tournament or event in 2021?”

 

Although over half of us say we played in a tournament, I expected that number to be higher. Since there are so many casual tournaments and events, which bring out people who ordinarily wouldn’t play in more serious tournaments, it just seems like there would be more of us competing. We’ll look at why people don’t compete later, but for now let’s look at the types of tournaments we attend.

What Kinds of Tournaments?

Of those who indicated that they did play in a tournament in 2021, we asked which type of tournaments they played: sanctioned or non-sanctioned. Of the 4,476 people who played a tournament last year, 75% played in a non-sanctioned tournament, and 81% played in a sanctioned tournament.  Here are some graphs showing how many of each type of tournaments we attended.

 

Why We Compete

 

Personally, I like the social aspect of competing. There are a lot of people in other areas that I only see at tournaments. It’s great to reconnect with them. And to compete against them. Most of us have a few reasons for playing tournaments. Let’s look at the survey results to see what some of those reasons are.

 

About 3/4ths of us enter a tournament for the competition. Seems kind of obvious, but that still leaves about 27% of us who don’t care about competing. The second most popular response is to try new courses. A third of use listed that as a reason for competing. Although I agree with the response, and it is definitely on my list, It surprises me that the percent is that high. Most of the tournaments that I play in are at courses I’ve already played. It’s kind of rare that I compete on a course I’ve never played before.

I like the third most popular reason people list for playing in a tournament, which is for the prizes or payout. Over 73% of us want to compete, but only a fraction of that number are doing it for the winnings. It makes me think that these same people would be competing with their buddies in a casual round if they weren’t playing at a tournament. Our species likes to compete!

No Thanks!

When I talk to people about tournaments, the number one reason people give for not competing is because of their skill level. They assume that everyone else at a tournament will be better and/or more experienced. I expected that to be a top reason selected in the survey. It turns out that it was the second most popular. The number one reason is because of time, or the lack of free time. Most sanctioned tournaments are at least two rounds, which is a big time commitment. We asked the people who said they don’t play tournaments what reasons they have for not playing. Here are the survey responses.

 

 

This Year VS The Past

As I mentioned near the beginning of the blog, the data showing the number of people who did and didn’t play tournaments in 2021 surprised me. I see tournaments filling incredibly fast and I see newer players getting into the tournament scene, so the ratio seemed odd. To confirm my suspicion, I pulled up the results of prior surveys to see how they compare to the most recent survey. Here are the results of the question about tournament play for the years 2015 and 2019:

 

 

 

Clearly, we’ve seen more interest in playing tournaments in the past. The pandemic undoubtedly played a part in the lower numbers. It also contributed the larger number of newer players.  We know from the survey results that a good number of people didn’t play because they don’t feel like they are good enough. However, if you look at how fast many tournaments fill up, it is evident that there is a large number of people that want to compete, despite the percentage of people who don’t want that experience.

It is the fact that we do fill so many tournaments that I don’t worry about people who don’t want to play them. Not only are tournaments not in danger of going away, the bigger problem might be that there aren’t enough to go around. Whether or not future TDs need to consider some of the reasons people have given for not attending tournaments remains to be seen.

We would love to hear about YOUR tournament experiences and what you see tournaments looking like five years from now. Post below and let us know your thoughts.

 

 

State of Disc Golf Results: How Often We Play

As I write this blog in early March, it has been snowing recently and the temperature will approach zero tonight in northern Utah. I suspect there will still be a few local golfers that will still huck today. However, most of us will be holed up inside, waiting for a reprieve from the inclement weather. While we still play disc golf year ‘round here, there are days that the local courses remain empty, or nearly empty. Almost every time that happens, it is related to bad weather.

How often we get out to play can be heavily influenced by where we live and the weather conditions we experience. Extreme temperatures, rain, snow, and excessive winds can reduce our playing time. The level of our desire to improve also plays an important part in how much time we carve out to throw. And of course we all have life events that dictate our free time or lack thereof, such as school, family, and careers.

How Often We Play

In this blog we will explore the survey question that asked how often we get to play disc golf. We’ll breakdown those numbers based on where we live and our skill level, to see if those factors play a part in how often we play. And we’ll look at other demographics, liked age and gender, just to see if we can find any interesting numbers.

The question we asked in the survey was, “On average, how many rounds of disc golf did you play per month in 2021?” The options to choose from ranged from zero to ‘31+’ days. Here are the survey results. The first graph shows the results in raw numbers, and the second graph shows the results as a percent of the total.

 

 

 

Over ten percent of us are getting out to play 20 or more times per month, which is a lot of disc golf. If you are playing competitively, you are likely one of the more frequent players. Nearly a fourth of us are playing, on average, at least once every other day.

At the other end of the active spectrum, a tiny percent of us aren’t even averaging one round per month. Maybe from injury? Or an excessively busy schedule? Whatever the reason, at least they were able to fill out the survey!

The ‘one-percenters’ in this survey average more than one round per day. Whether they are going out a couple times per week and getting multiple rounds each time, or playing at least one round per day, they are the lucky ones. Or they are unemployed or retired, or professional disc golfers.

Where We Live

I started the blog discussing the weather and how it affects local disc golf. My first thought in seeing the results is that there may be a direct correlation between where we live and how much we play. Yes, we CAN play in pretty much any kind of weather. We are just more easily motivated to play when the temperatures are above a certain temperature, and when the ground isn’t covered with snow, ice, or mud.

To test my hypothesis, I took all of the southern US states and Hawaii, compared the number of rounds they played per month with the rest if the country. Not an exact science, but there is a reason why many pros gravitate to those states in the winter. Low temperatures and poor weather can still a factor, but winters in the states north of them are colder and have more snow. For the comparison, I took Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Hawaii. I compared those to the rest of the states. Here are the results, shown as a percentage of people in each group:

So much for that theory! There were some categories that the Southern states were slightly higher in, and others they were slightly lower. Overall, we can’t conclude that the states with warmer winters get in more rounds. Their hands may be less numb, but they aren’t playing more than the rest of us.

Skill Level

Another aspect of disc golf that I wanted to explore is to see if there is a correlation between our skill level and the number of rounds we play per month. My initial thought is that someone who plays more, gets better and considers themselves as a higher level player. Also, we could say that someone who is as better player may be more interested in playing more to maintain a competitive edge in leagues and tournaments. Below is a chart showing the percentage of each skill level, according to their monthly number of rounds.

 

This time the numbers are more aligned to what I would expect. Professional disc golfers represent a higher percentage of each number category above 15 per month, and is second to advanced players in the 10-14 category. In fact, the skill levels in the categories above 15 rounds per month are in order, from low to high, according to skill level. Conversely, beginners and intermediate players take the top spots in the categories below 10 rounds per month.

 

Conclusion

 

Since we are all active enough in the sport of disc golf that we took the time to fill out a survey, read the results, or both, we all enjoy the time out on a course. Sometimes the number of rounds we play in a month is dictated us and our desires, and sometimes it is dictated by our schedules and life circumstances. Hopefully, this year will see us getting in a few more rounds per month than last. We’ll conclude this blog by comparing last year’s results to a few years ago.

It is rather impressive how similar the results are from the prior survey. In every number category the results are practically the same. With all of the growth we’ve seen recently, and the life-changing pandemic, we are still throwing at about the same amount as before. Perhaps that is a good thing.

Tune in next week when we will look at more survey results.

State of Disc Golf: Skill Level

When we start out playing disc golf in a club, we are frequently confronted with the decision of which division is right for us. At a club league, it’s pretty easy to determine whether or not we are playing in the division for our skill level. If we are regularly crushing the competitors in our division, it would be time to move up to the next division. If we are the ones getting beat by significant margins, maybe a lower division would give us more competition.

When we step up to sanctioned tournaments, we have to reevaluate our skill level to determine the best division for us. A local tournament will attract a different skill level for a particular division, versus a national event. Our PDGA rating can help us find the best fit, and sometimes restrict our decisions. Having our rating and seeing how we perform at tournaments and during league can help us overcome the Dunning-Kruger effect (overestimating our skill level).

While the subject of tournaments is something that we will discuss when we analyze the results of that part of the survey, today we will cover how we view our skill level. We will look at the breakdown of skill levels based on other demographics, such as age and gender. Finally, we will look at how those numbers have changed from previous surveys.

Our Skill Level

 

Let’s start out by looking at how we answered the question, “How would you rate your skill level as a disc golfer?” As discussed above, how we rate ourselves can be based on a variety of things. Even those who chose, ‘Professional’ may have done so for a variety of reasons. Are they playing in the pro division for the competition, despite having a PDGA rating that would qualify them to play in an Amateur division? Here is the breakdown of how we self-identify our skill level.

 

 

With half of us identifying as having intermediate skills and more than ¾ of us identifying as a beginner or intermediate player, my first thought explaining those numbers is the rapid growth we’ve seen in disc golf the past couple of years. We could conclude that since there were a lot of people who just started playing, they wouldn’t have progressed past the Intermediate level by now. We can look at other data in the survey to see if that hypothesis is correct. First, let’s see how those numbers have changed since earlier surveys.

Checking out the survey results from 2015, we see a higher percentage of players identifying as being in the Advanced or Professional divisions than this year’s survey.

 

 

Skill vs Time Playing

 

Let’s compare the skill levels when they are sorted by the year the player started playing disc golf. That should show us how the pandemic affected our skill levels as a group. Here is the chart:

 

 

We can see that around 30% of all survey respondents started playing in 2020 or sooner, and identify as a beginner or intermediate player. That certainly accounts for the larger number of total players in those divisions, as compared with the survey results from seven years ago. It will be interesting to see how fast people move up skill levels in future surveys.

Now let’s take another look at our skill levels and organize them by gender and age. We’ll start by looking at data from last week, our numbers when sorted by gender. Although the number of women taking the survey was up over 2015, the percent of women dropped a bit this year compared to the earlier data. Here is the chart showing the numbers for 2015 and 2022:

 

 

 

Here is how the number of each skill level look, when sorted by gender:

 

 

As we can see, the skill level representing the largest number of men is intermediate. It represents 48% of all respondents, and over half of all the men who responded. For the women, the beginner/recreational division is the largest. Nearly half of all women who took the survey are in this skill level.

Sorting By Age

 

If we were to look at our skill level according to our age group, what would we expect to find? More pros in the prime ages? More beginners in the younger groups? We can find out by sorting age groups into skill levels. We’ll start by looking at the raw numbers, then we’ll sort them by skill level and the percentage in that age group. Here is the raw data:

 

 

I think it is more interesting to see how each age group is divided according to skill level. In other words, it is more interesting to look at the age group that you play in, for example, and compare it to the same age group in 2015. First, let’s take a look at the results for the most recent survey.

 

That tells us that the group with the highest number of pros is the 51-60 age group, which has about 5% of its members that are pros. The group with the highest percentage of beginners is the 71+ age group (not counting the under 12 age group). Interestingly, the 12-17 age group has the highest percentage of intermediates AND advanced players.

We can now compare those numbers to the ones in 2015.

 

 

The 2015 graph shows that the 61-79 age group had the highest percentage of pros, with nearly one in five members of the age group identifying as a professional. The 51-60 group took the top honors for the percentage of the most beginners, although the group barely beat the 30-35 and 41-50 age groups. The 71+ age group was the intermediate leader and the 12-17 was the advanced leader, both groups holding on to the titles for 2015 and 2022.

It’s interesting to see the change in how many people consider themselves ‘advanced’ players. There were more advanced players than any other skill level in all but one age group in 2015. But in 2022, the advanced division wasn’t the largest in any group. Instead, the intermediate division was the most popular in every division.

Check back next week when we will continue to look at more survey results.

2018 State of Disc Golf Survey: PDGA Membership & Tournament Participation

This week’s examination of the 2018 State of Disc Golf Survey focuses on PDGA membership and tournament participation. As always, the results tell us plenty about the hardcore disc golf enthusiasts who are well-represented in the survey, but in this case, with the help of some supplemental data, they also help us better understand the broader disc golfing population. The most interesting question that arises is: Who belongs to the PDGA, and why— or why not? Let’s look first at the survey data alone.

disc golf survey

Figure 1

disc golf survey

Figure 2

  • A little more than half of the 11,230 respondents said they are now or have at some point been PDGA members (Fig. 1)
  • A large majority of those who said Yes are either current now or plan to be in time to play tournaments this season (fig. 2)
  • More than half of those who said Yes to the PDGA question also said they joined the PDGA in the last 3+ years (fig. 3)
  • Most respondents played in multiple PDGA events last year as well as multiple non-PDGA sanctioned events (fig 4)

We know from other survey results this year and those from surveys in past years that the disc golfers who respond tend to be from the nucleus of the disc golfing population— what I like to refer to as the Inner Core. People who eat, sleep, and breathe disc golf. Learning that most play multiple tournaments each year and belong to the PDGA is no big surprise. But take note that the response rates and affirmative responses are higher for questions asking about tournaments in general and non-sanctioned events than PDGA events. It appears that nearly all PDGA members play tournaments, but not all tournament players belong to the PDGA, a line of inquiry that gets more interesting when we consider the big picture.

disc golf survey

Figure 3

The disc golfing population is accurately represented as a large circle with a small Inner Core and an even smaller bullseye (fig. 6). An estimated 2.5 million people play disc golf at least once a month (the PDGA’s website says 2 million, but their number hasn’t changed for at least 5 years). At the center of this population are those who are plugged into the small, tightknit ‘disc golf community’— an estimated 100 to 150,000 who play at least local tournaments, belong to their local clubs, and proudly display disc golf shirts and stickers. The Inner Core. In some cases (but, importantly, not all) we also belong to the PDGA.

If you are reading this, odds are pretty good you are in not just the red dot but the white bullseye as well. Reading about disc golf online is typical ‘Inner Core’ behavior. So is completing disc golf surveys, which is why the results usually tell us much more about the five percent of all disc golfers who play tournaments than the 95 percent who don’t.

disc golf survey

Figure 4

If you and the disc golfers who answered this survey accurately represented all disc golfers, the PDGA would have more than a million members, right? That is obviously not the case (the PDGA currently has around 42,000 active members), but have you ever wondered what a disc golf organization with that many members could accomplish? It’s an exciting question, which brings us back to our original questions: Why do disc golfers join the PDGA—or, in the case of the overwhelming majority, why not?

The data suggests that players join the PDGA and renew each year for two primary reasons: participation in top-tier events and maintaining a player rating. Both are perks that require an active membership. It seems that while a large majority of Inner Core disc golfers play tournaments, a healthy minority are satisfied with non-sanctioned events and therefore see no need to join the PDGA.

disc golf survey, disc golfer breakdown

Figure 5

Almost to a person, those regular disc golfers who keep it casual but still love the game don’t belong to the PDGA. Most are likely unaware it even exists, and those who do might be balking at paying annual fees that average $50 just to support a cause.

One final piece of this week’s finding has until now gone unaddressed. Of the 6,176 who said they had joined the PDGA at some point, more than half said they had joined in the past 3+ years. Disc golf is growing, and fast. Just remember when you hear the impressive PDGA numbers regarding membership and event growth that it is just (to use one last metaphor) the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, the sport is growing even faster. In this case, though, the unseen will not sink us. Quite the opposite.

 

 

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