How the Pandemic Has Affected Disc Golf and the Supply Chain

Nobody saw the surprises, challenges, and often bizarre events of 2020 coming. It has been a very unexpected year. On top of the obvious heartbreak of sickness, death, job losses, and disrupted lives, even small sports like disc golf and pickleball have had its disappointments with the cancellation of major events. But let’s really dive into the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on disc golf in terms of growth and the marketplace.

“Skip the Course. Stay Home”

A lot of people, especially tournament directors and touring professionals, felt an acute sting when the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) suspended all sanctioned events starting March 14th. It felt like much of the year was ruined for competitive disc golf. And yet, many players still felt like they could enjoy recreational play to some extent, especially since many jobs were sending people home, schools were switched to online courses, and other public events were all cancelled. People had time on their hands and parks seems a safe place to socially separate while doing something fun.

Then on March 23rd, the PDGA sent out a letter to registered members to please “skip the course and stay home.” They encouraging leagues not to gather and basically requested that all players avoid their local courses. It wasn’t long before many courses in the most populated cities started pulling their baskets out, just to make sure nobody would gather to play. The request made total sense. After all, the world was in a panic, Covid-19 is very contagious, and staying away from one another is a good way to avoid the spread of disease.

But did everybody get that memo? Conditions can vary greatly in the many different parts of the country. In more rural areas, things pretty much continued as usual because cases of Covid-19 were barely present, if detected at all. More densely populated areas had to take more drastic measures. But it would be incorrect to claim that everybody everywhere was staying at home. Many disc golfers continued to play, whether in small groups, with family members, or alone. Disc golf, in many ways, it a socially distant sport when tournament and league play is removed.

 

With all that said, there are many people who know nothing about the PDGA. They aren’t members, or they play casually, or they discovered disc golf while looking for a way to pass the time. Those people obviously did not hear or head the call to stay home. How do we know? Because disc golf exploded.

A Great Way to Pass the Time

Maybe it was the number of people in forced quarantine from work, school, and other events that fed the interest in disc golf. Maybe the outdoors simply feels safer than staying pent-up in a building. Whatever it was that created the perfect storm, disc golf suddenly became a very popular way to pass the time during the pandemic.

Infinite Discs has a unique perspective into the disc golf growth and interest trends, being a seller of disc golf products. Here is a look at website traffic that hit the InfiniteDiscs.com website from the end of 2019 to the present (June 5th).

The candlestick in June is shorter than the others because the week was not over when the chart was made. We’re not sure if the apparent growth will settle to a new plateau or if it will continue in an upward trend. But the increase in traffic, even dwarfing 2019 holiday sales, shows an obvious increase in interest. The dark blue represents “organic searches,” meaning that those are people who found and visited the website through their own searches and exploration. That is where most of the increase was generated– new people looking for discs.

Disruption in the Supply Chain

While the growth and interest in disc golf and the coinciding desire to purchase discs increased, the ability to supply those discs dropped. With the declaration of a worldwide pandemic, many states in the USA mandated the complete shutdown of “non-essential” businesses and manufacturing. Disc golf apparently is non-essential, but that did not stop people from wanting discs. More people were spending more time either on the course or playing in the backyard. Most of the major manufacturers and distributors of discs and targets (baskets) were forced to shut down or operate on a skeleton crew. Suddenly, manufacturers like Innova, Discraft, MVP, Prodigy, and others were unable to feed the growing demand. Not only could they not keep up, but they were falling behind on previously scheduled manufacturing runs, meaning that the supply would take a long time to catch up, even when allowed to turn the machinery back on again.

For an visually stunning look at the conundrum of disc golf supply vs demand during the pandemic, take a look at the following graph. It shows the sales trend at Infinite Discs from October 2019 through May 2020. The red shaded area roughly designates the time period that several major manufacturers were forced to close and had very limited ability to ship restock.

So, during the steepest time of growth, the disc manufacturers were unable to continue functioning. The obvious effect of that pattern is a drastic drop in inventory levels at disc golf retailers. When new supply is unavailable, old supply drops precipitously.

Infinite Discs took up a mantra of “More the 50,000 discs in stock” in 2017 when we were able to move into a larger facility and increase our inventory levels. It was our goal to stay well above that level for the long term. We printed thousands of promo cards stating that mantra. But the supply chain challenges of 2020 made it impossible. Here is a graph showing Infinite Discs disc inventory levels starting in November of 2019 (the peak of inventory before Black Friday sales kicked in) to the present.

When we combine the sales levels with the decrease in inventory levels, you can easily see the correlation. Again, when interest and sales increase, but the ability to restock is removed, the balance of supply vs demand is broken.

Sorry, We’re Out of Stock

One easy product to discuss when pointing out the effect of the pandemic on disc golf purchases is baskets (or “targets”). With many people taking up backyard putting to pass the time, the demand for disc golf baskets sky-rocketed, quickly clearing retailers out of inventory. Much of the time, large items like baskets are drop-shipped from the manufacturers when they are ordered through online vendors. That is a logical way to avoid the issues of storage and the high shipping costs of moving heavy items around the country. A customer buys a basket, then the online retailer sends an order to the manufacturer to ship directly to the customer.

But if the manufacturers are closed…then drop-ship orders are no longer available. So even if the baskets are technically in a warehouse, they aren’t accessible. Infinite Discs tried to battle that problem as things started to shut down and immediately ordered large shipments of baskets that in some cases took weeks to arrive. Suppliers were basically piling baskets on pallets and shipping them out before having to lock up and go home for an indefinite period of time.

So in many cases, the choices were few when it came to obtaining portable baskets at a time when people most wanted portable baskets. That lack of supply existed with other products as well.

Where Are the Popular Discs?

For many years, Innova has been the highest-selling brand at Infinite Discs. Without making detailed comparisons through the years, it is safe to say that they represent a large portion of the disc golf market. Innova’s manufacturing facilities are located in California, and that was one of the first states to shut down businesses because of the pandemic. If the discs in highest demand were not being manufactured for a couple of months, then how do you think things are looking for Innova now that they are back in business and trying to catch up?

Once again, here at Infinite Discs, we can share a little bit of insight into that problem. We have an algorithm which calculates the number of discs we need for each disc model and in each plastic type based on 30-day vs 90-day sales vs discs in stock. That way we can restock based on the sales trends in an attempt to keep the right quantities in stock for every disc. We recently placed a restock order with Innova for nearly 16,000 discs based on that algorithm because the demand was so high and the inventory levels so low after the shutdown. At the time of this blog post, our current inventory level for all Innova discs in stock is 3,975 discs. That means that the shipment that we’re still awaiting should have four times our current inventory, just in restock! But Innova is struggling to meet those quantities as they have spent days putting the shipment together, because they have many more retailers making similar demands, and they too are at very low inventory levels after having a couple of months without manufacturing.

Take a look at popular Discraft disc models. In the case of Discraft, where signature Paul McBeth discs are a huge boon to the brand, keeping certain discs in stock at all is a challenge for the same reasons. Last week, Infinite Discs had these totals available for certain models:

Luna = 0
Malta = 0
Anax = 0
Zeus = 0
Zone = 0

Those are some of the hottest discs in the current Discraft line-up, aside from the Buzzz. None of them were in stock. Not a single disc in any kind of plastic. After a small restock, we’re back to zero again this week.

In May the new Paul McBeth Hades was announces as soon as Discraft was able to open up their operations again, along with a slew of other signature discs. With nearly 1,000 Hades in stock at midnight of the release day, Infinite Discs was sold out by morning. One of the most hotly anticipated signature releases, the Paul McBeth Tour Z Swirly Luna, was one that we’d asked for 1,200, but received just short of 100. To this day, we’ve still received no more than 300 total of the disc after two small, follow-up shipments. Why? It is Discraft’s fault? Nope. They also cannot keep up with the new demand and the depletion of inventory when they too are trying to make up for lost time.

When Will Things Turn Around?

Basically, the Pandemic caused a huge increase in interest, when it comes to Disc Golf. The cancellation of tournaments and the plea not to assemble in groups didn’t stop new players from picking up the game. The new increase in demand has drained the market of discs and other supplies. How long will it take for the market to catch up to the new demand and eventually normalize? We don’t know. We’re struggling to keep discs in stock, but people won’t stop buying them. Will there be an eventual shortage? Will it take months or years for disc makers to meet a new surge that was never anticipated or expected?

What are your thoughts on the pandemic and it’s effects on disc golf? Did you see an increase in interest in the game? Are more people on your local courses now? Share your experiences in the comments below.

State of Disc Golf 2019 – Growth

I loved writing this topic about The 2019 State of Disc Golf Growth because I myself am new to the sport of disc golf. I have heard of disc golf before, but never actually had gone out and played disc golf. I decided to see how the sport has grown from 2018 to 2019. As a newcomer to the sport, I think this article was helpful to me to know what I can do as a new disc golf player to help generate more popularity of the sport. disc Most of us are familiar with the popular hashtag #GrowDiscGolf). The shared belief behind the rallying cry began with the first disc golf pioneers and became an integral part of the sport’s very personality as it spread to the next generation of new players, and then the next. The conviction that we have a duty to share the sport is encoded in the DNA of every die-hard player and has been for decades, long before the advent of social media.

The 2019 State of Disc Golf survey asked several questions that sought to measure and identify the details of this most singular aspect of the sport – a topic which is finally attracting some well-deserved attention. Disc golf’s continuous and quick growth is obvious as we had more responses than the year before. Disc golfers across the globe are doing their part to grow the sport and with an increase of almost 10% in responses in our survey, you let us know what you’re doing to grow disc golf.

GROWTH

In just the past three years we saw that nearly 14% of respondents had heard about disc golf for the first time. Compare that to when respondents actually played disc golf for the first time and that number is up to over 53%! We did see a slight dip in growth from 2017 (19.2%) to 2018 (17.4%).

Our survey also showed that disc golfers are doing an amazing job at sharing the sport with others. 85% of our disc golfers have shared equipment, ran a disc golf league, or helped install a course physically. Last year, this number was at 88%, so again a slight dip in growth, but players are doing an amazing job at sharing the sport with their friends and family.

DISC GOLF COURSES

Disc Golfers still have trouble growing the sport because the lack of courses available made to us. In our survey 63% said there were no permanent courses added to their area, and 30% said only one course was added to their local area. The number of courses added from last year to this year in our survey dropped about 10%! There is still growth being made but with well over half our respondents not having a new course built in their area means there’s still room to grow.

Most of our disc golfers do have access to multiple courses. 63% of our respondents said they have between 3-6 courses in their local area. The lack of new courses built
could help explain why disc golf didn’t grow as much in 2018 as in 2017. What improvements do you all want to see in the growth of the sport in the year 2019? What are you going to do to continue to help Grow Disc Golf? Comment below and let us know.

What improvements do you all want to see in the growth of the sport in the year 2019? What are you going to do to continue to help Grow Disc Golf? Comment below and let us know.

 


 

 

2018 State of Disc Golf Survey: Disc Golf Growth

Disc golfers have been purposeful and proactive about growing their sport since Steady Ed Headrick installed the first permanent ‘Pole Hole’ course in Pasadena, California more than 40 years ago.

Most of us are familiar with the hashtag #GrowTheSport (and the more recent #GrowDiscGolf). The shared belief behind the rallying cry began with the first disc golf pioneers and became an integral part of the sport’s very personality as it spread to the next generation of new players, and then the next. The conviction that we have a duty to share the sport is encoded in the DNA of every diehard player and has been for decades, long before the advent of social media.

The 2018 State of Disc Golf survey asked several questions that sought to measure and identify the details of this most singular aspect of the sport— a topic which is finally attracting some well-deserved attention. Disc golf’s unstoppable and organic grassroots growth machine is empirically obvious, observable in thousands of communities around the world. In my new book, The Disc Golf Revolution, I dedicate an entire chapter to it and provide numerous examples from around the world. Answers to one question posed in the survey add a degree of quantification to one of the book’s main assertions: disc golfers do more than talk the talk.

When asked “In 2017, which did you do to grow the sport,” 88 percent of the 5,952 who responded said they had introduced at least one new person to the game, and 83 percent said they had given discs or other equipment to a prospective or new disc golfer. More than 20 percent said they had participated in local government affairs in support of disc golf. That is 1,260 people from this small sampling alone who are attending city council meetings and calling their representatives at minimum, with many also dedicating countless hours to work hands-on in partnership with civic leaders. Aside from its broad appeal and accessibility, this is the main reason disc golf enjoys such robust growth and can look forward to more of the same. Other impressive results included:

  • Helped physically install a new course (16 percent)
  • Ran a tournament or similar event (15.9 percent)
  • Ran a disc golf league (14.4 percent)
  • Ran an event or clinic aimed at attracting new players (11.6 percent)
  • Designed a disc golf course (9.8 percent)

If we were forced to identify from these responses something the disc golf community might do better in the future, I would point to the fact that the responses are lower for running an event to bring in new players than for running disc golf leagues and tournaments. The latter are aimed mostly at players who are already enamored with the sport, whereas the former seeks to bring new people into the fold.

Tipping Point?

Other survey questions sought to determine the rate of growth in disc golf, and whether it is accelerating in recent years (Spoiler Alert: the answer is ‘Yes’). The answers corroborate player and course growth data that is already available from the Professional Disc Golf Association and DGCourseReview.com, and I believe they also indicate an important shift in the public perception of disc golf. Whereas growth in the past was almost entirely due to the unceasing efforts of those early disc golf pioneers — steady progress despite stiff headwinds — today the efforts of an even greater number of disc golf diehards are bolstered rather than buffeted by external forces. They are more often welcomed now, if not summoned, by local governments and school officials.
Infinite received more than 11,000 replies to the survey question ‘When did you begin playing golf?’ Nearly 75 percent named a year between 2006 and 2018, and less than 20 percent selected 2000 or earlier.

A closer examination of the more recent years helps us to nail down when the shift I mentioned began. 2006-2010 accounts for 16.5 percent, while nearly half of all respondents indicated a year between 2013 and 2017.

Another question asked disc golfers how many permanent courses within a 10-mile radius of their homes had been added and deleted in 2017, and the responses unsurprisingly reflected growth across the board. 20 percent of the 6,230 survey takers reported one new course, and 5 percent reported 2 or more. Less than one in 10 reported a course closure near them in 2017, a figure that looks strong compared to the ‘courses added’ responses. But that number will likely fall even lower as the sport’s popularity continues to rise and less courses are installed on a provisional basis.

All the available data from Infinite and elsewhere confirm that disc golf has entered a new phase of growth. The world is noticeably more receptive to and knowledgeable about the game, and the pace of its expansion is ratcheting higher and higher. The foundation of organic, grassroots support? It’s alive and well, bigger and stronger than ever.

Following Professional Disc Golf

As disc golfers, most of us watch professional disc golf. 85.6% of those surveyed said that they watched professional disc golf at least once in 2016. The preferred method of watching professional disc golf is after production YouTube videos where nearly 94% of those who “watched professional disc golf” participated.

About two thirds of those who watched professional disc golf spent time watching live videos (30.8% less than post production). 46% followed live scoring during tournaments, 70% watched instructional videos or clinics, and 28% attended a tournament where they watched the pros live.

Favorite Professional Disc Golfers

71.4% of those surveyed follow professional disc golfers. At Infinite Discs, we regularly see the impact of professional disc golfers as their “signature discs” regularly outperform sales of ordinary stock discs.

Among those that follow Professional Disc Golfers, Paul McBeth, Ricky Wysocki, Nate Sexton, and Simon Lizotte were the favorites of 2016.

Disc Golf Podcasts

Many disc golfers get their disc golf news and pro information by listening to podcasts. 28.9% of those surveyed said that they listened to at least one disc golf podcast. The most popular disc golf podcast according to respondents is Smashboxx.TV (71%) with the Disc Golf Answer Man (64.1%) close behind. Inside the Circle was the only additional Podcast that at least 20% of Podcast Listeners had tuned into at least once.

Growth of the Sport

Most of the participants surveyed (78.8%) would like to see disc golf grow and become a mainstream sport. Only 4.5% would like disc golf to stay small while 16.7% have no preference.

 

 

The Coexistence of Disc Golf and Traditional “Ball” Golf

This weekend Northern Utah will host the Pureline Championships disc golf tournament on the Sherwood Hills “ball golf” course. The TD, Steve Suhaka, has spent countless hours meeting and negotiating with the course owners and groundskeepers to allow us to have this tournament there. The price agreed on to reserve the course for the day is not cheap, but the course is amazing, and we’re hoping that this tournament will open doors for potential of a future permanent disc golf solution on this underutilized land.

I don’t have financial numbers, but know from general observation that this golf course is rarely (if ever), at full capacity. The course, including 200 acres of land and a nice club house is currently listed for sale for just $2,000,000, which leads me believe that the golf course itself is not very profitable. When I called to make a “tee time” to play a round this afternoon and the course pro admitted that it’s never busy so reserving tee times isn’t necessary.

Why are the course owners opposed to having disc golf on golf courses if it has potential to bring extra revenue for almost no additional cost?

I went with Steve to one of the negotiating meetings with the owner (an elderly lady in her seventies) and it seemed that her two big concerns were:

  1. It would interfere with the “ball” golfers experience.
  2. The discs would cause damage to the greens, and nice greens are where the money is made.

I saw this video on my Facebook feed this morning posted by Dude Apparel that illustrates the cultural judgements of Skiiers attitudes towards Snowboarders in the 1980’s.

When this news report was filmed, ski resort operators simply refused to allow snowboarders to ride their lifts. A similar attitude likely exists between many “golfers” and disc golfers. The reason they are likely opposed for now is because they don’t fully understand.

Is this a real issue? Is it simply judgments and stereotyping that make it difficult to get disc golf on ball golf courses, or are there negative consequences that make having  the disc golf option a bad idea?

After having the temp course in for two days the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The course manager has even requested that we leave the baskets up for a few more days. Now that it appears we have overcome the stereotyping and potential conflicts, it looks like having a coinciding permanent disc golf course might indeed be a real option.

If we look at golfing trends, a disc golf option really is something many golf courses should consider.

Graphs Comparing the Growth of Disc Golf and the Decline in Ball Golf

Here are trends showing the number of golfers in the United States according to the National Golf Foundation. As you can see, the trend over the past five years has been declining for both “total golfers” and “committed golfers”.

Decline in Ball Golf GraphIn disc golf there isn’t a survey that accurately reflects the total number of people that play disc golf in a way similar to the NGF data. However, the trend in active PDGA member clearly shows a rapid increase in the amount of tournament participating disc golfers.

numberofpdgamembersgraph

Number of Traditional Golf vs Disc Golf Courses

While the number of open ball golf courses has declined for the last decade, the number of disc golf courses have dramatically risen in most areas.

This Graph is not an apples to apples comparison, but the trends are clear. For statistics used in the graph, ball golf only counts 9 hole courses as a “half” course, and the number of disc golf courses displayed is any sized course including the little 6 holer. In addition, I was unable to dig up US only courses, so the disc golf course statistics displays course throughout the world and not just in the US.

In Utah unprofitable golf courses, many of which are publicly owned, are a big problem for local governments and economies. Many cities have had to spend public taxpayer funds to pay the bills because the golf course revenue alone is not self sustaining. In recent years, several courses throughout the state have been shut down because they simply lost too much money. The question of what to do with the current public golf courses has been a political hot topic. One of these courses, the Jordan River Par three course, was completely shut down as an operating golf course and has now been transformed into a permanent disc golf course that requires very little public maintenance. With disc golf, they don’t have to maintain expensive greens and fairways or mow as often. At the Jordan River course, it doesn’t even look like they water a good portion of the disc golf course.

What Disc Golfers are Willing to Pay for a Round of Gold

The reality is that most disc golf courses are in public areas that are free to play. In general, disc golfers are used to playing a round without financial constraint. However, if the course is excellent and well maintained, almost all disc golfers are willing to pay for a round of golf.

From the 2016 State of Disc Golf Survey we see that 95.6% of disc golfers are willing to pay up to $3 for a round and almost 90% are willing to pay up to $5. There starts to be a significant decline when the rounds get more costly, but more than half–53.6% of respondents said that they are willing to play up to $10 per round.

While the average disc golfer isn’t willing to pay as much per round as the average ball golfer, they are willing to pay to play. Perhaps many financially strained and closing golf courses could remain open by creating additional revenue streams through disc golf, even if disc golf is only available during non peak hours.

The 9 hole Mulligans golf course in Ogden, Utah is now also a championship level disc golf course used for the Utah Open, a premier tournament that will be on the 2017 Disc Golf Pro Tour. With the way things seem to be going with our trial experience, perhaps we will also see the Sherwood Hills golf course on this exclusive tour.

Have you played disc golf on a ball golf course? If so where is the course at, and what was your experience?

 

The State Of Disc Golf: Growth

The State of Disc Golf 2014—Who Are You?

This is the Part 1 a seven part series which delves into the 1,422 responses from the survey The State of Disc Golf: 2014. This series will focus on the current state of disc golf and this first article covers “Who are today’s disc golfers?”.

In this first article, we hope to shed light on the question, “Who are you?” The first few questions of our survey asked a little bit about you specifically as a disc golfer. We asked: How long have you been a disc golfer, which state do you live in, and how often do you play disc golf?

We acknowledge that the results here are a reflection of the disc golf community who is in some way, shape, or form, is involved with disc golf online. We recognize that it would be inaccurate for us to claim that this survey is a proper reflection of the entire disc golf community as a whole. While 1,422 responses in a week is fantastic (thank you everybody who took 15 minutes to respond!), we must remember that there are many more disc golfers out there. Now without further explanation, enjoy the results.

Where are todays disc golfers?

The first question asked was “Which state do you live in?” All fifty states in the USA were represented, as well as a strong showing from Canada and outside of North America. California is dominant with 120 responses. Does this make California the top state for disc golf? Maybe.

The image to the right is color coded according to where most respondents are from, as well as the number of respondents from their respective states.

Our breakdown is this: the disc golf mecca of the world is still the great lakes area. With a strong and active disc golf community and more courses per capita than anywhere else – if you’re in love with disc golf, move there. California and Texas have sheer numbers of people and many courses to help numbers out. Areas such as Kansas and Utah show a disc golf scene which is starting to become fierce. Disc golf isn’t migrating into these areas, it’s just beginning to boom.

How long have you been a disc golfer?

Your responses to this question were not nearly as varied. Over half of those surveyed have been playing disc golf for only three years or less and 87% have been play for less than ten years. This is solid evidence to the claim that disc golf is the fastest growing sport in the world. Players in the sport are new to it, and those who have played for a long time are still going strong and loving it. Given more time, and the current rate of growth, expect to see higher level competition become more lucrative, professional, and exciting.

A decent portion also responded as being in the 6-10 years of being a disc golfer category – this is where you will likely find many of today’s disc golf leaders. Those who have been playing for 6-10 years received 190 (15%) responses. Only 13% of disc golfers have been playing for 11 years or more.

How Often Do You Play Disc golf

Those surveyed not only are aware of disc golf online, but they’re also active on the course. When respondents took into account the seasons and responded how frequently they play, you can see why courses throughout the country have trails beat in them near each tee pad.

Most players hit the course at least two times a week, where a large core of players are out playing four times, five times… every day. Those who said they play “rarely” were only a blip on the radar; 4 people of the 1,422 respondents said rarely. Clearly, once a player catches the disc golf bug it stays and it’s contagious.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, disc golf is growing. The floodgates are opening for the sport, and new players are coming out in droves. Where areas like Michigan and California were the primary centers for disc golf, you can now find a stronger and more organized presence of disc golf in nearly every state. A majority of players have been enjoying the sport for a short time – as these players continue to gain experience, watch the level of competition become more and more competitive, year after year. Results in coming surveys will reveal club participation and how disc golf is becoming more organized.

We encourage you to share this information
Yes, the data is interesting; but it’s also useful. Feel free to use these results when approaching parks & rec about implementing and better utilizing disc golf in your community. These results clearly show that disc golf is exploding. We are headquartered in Utah where these results have already been shared with city officials to get additional courses approved. Explain to your local decision makers that disc golf provides an opportunity for people to get outside and active, and that it’s a sport that so many people can and will enjoy!

What will change in 2015’s results?
Next year when this survey is administered we will ask additional questions, such as gender and age. Feel free to write in the comments below any of your thoughts, and/or what you would like to see asked in next years survey, relevant to “Who is today’s disc golfer?”

The next article in this series will be published on February 4, and will cover Disc Golf Memberships.