There has been an explosion in disc golf's popularity over the last two years, and the sport's rapid growth has been notable across the globe. New players, leagues, and courses have popped up rapidly, and there has been explosive growth in nearly every sector of participation: casual, competitive, junior, age-sanctioned, and women.
The sport’s popularity has grown so much that the number of disc-golf courses is increasing at a rate of more than five a day, according to UDisc. That's up from 3.5 per day in 2020 — a 50% increase.
UDisc reported that more than 1.1 million people used the scoring app in 2021, logging more than 17 million rounds of disc golf, a nearly 50% increase over 2020. More than 15x as many rounds were recorded in UDisc last year compared to five years ago!
The Professional Disc Golf Association released its 2021 Demographics Report, breaking down the organization and sport’s growth over another booming year for disc golf.
The report finds that there was a 67% increase in new member growth in 2021. While the percentage growth wasn’t as high as in 2020 (84%), the PDGA continued to attract a huge influx of new members. There was strong growth from junior players and a 92% renewal rate contributed to a more than 50% increase in total active membership. It’s important to note that it’s the first time there have been more than 100,000 PDGA members in a season!
Membership has grown by 105% since 2019! The exponential increase in members means that the membership has more than doubled in the last two years alone. Events are up 48% since 2019; the number of courses is up by just 25%. The disparity in growth rates has meant that popular courses are more crowded than ever.
While there remains a big disparity between the number of male and female PDGA members, there has been strong growth in female membership over the past two years. For the first time, female membership growth (67%) outpaced male membership growth (54%).
Disc golf is accessible for everyone. Disc golf is a game with an extremely low barrier for entry, inexpensive and accessible for people of any age and skill level. One of the mean beauties of this sport is that a lot of our public parks have baskets that you can play for free. Beginning players have access to free courses.
Maybe disc golf isn't for you but you're interested in watching it at the professional level, here are some notable players to keep an eye on:
Paige Pierce has won 5 World Championships and 15 total Major Championships. Pierce has been consistently ranked among the top professional women since 2011. In 2018, she broke the record for the highest PDGA player rating a woman had ever achieved at 978. She was awarded with the PDGA Female of the Year in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
In addition to holding several PDGA National Tour wins, she is the all-time leading women's winner on the Disc Golf Pro Tour.
Catrina Allen is a U.S. Champion and 2x World Champion, and has been ranked among the top four women in the world between the years of 2012 to 2019. Allen entered the professional tour in 2011, where she won 15 events and the PDGA Female Rookie of the Year Award. In 2012, Allen became the second woman to win the PDGA Female Player of the Year Award the year after winning Rookie of the Year.
Allen has won five unique Majors, including the World Championships, and has won the Worlds Mixed Doubles Championships all three times she has competed (2011, 2012, 2013).
Hailey Kinge is the youngest competitor to win the PDGA National Tour Series title at the age of 19 after she won the series finale at the 2021 Music City Open. For 2022, she plans to attend the Disc Golf Pro Tour Elite Series and all PDGA Major events. She has high hopes for the future, “I want to be the best woman to ever play this game and I think that’s possible with the help of Innova."
Ricky Wysocki is a 2x PDGA-World Champion and is widely regarded as one of the best players in the world, holding the highest PDGA rating currently. Recently, Wysocki signed a four-year, $4 million endorsement deal with Dynamic Discs as the largest amount in disc golf history.
Wysocki won the PDGA Rookie of the Year Award in 2011 and the Male Player of the Year Award in 2012. Wysocki has won the PDGA-World Championship two times. In 2016, he won the PDGA National Tour Series, the Disc Golf World Tour Points series, and the Disc Golf Pro Tour points series.
Paul McBeth has won the PDGA World Championships four times in a row and again in 2019, making him a 5x Champion. McBeth has not finished outside the top 2 at a World Championship for the past 9 years. He was the top-rated player of the PDGA in 2015, 2017, 2018, and again in 2019.
Although he played his first professional event in 2006, McBeth's professional career began in 2008, when he played in 29 professional events and earned the PDGA Male Rookie of the Year Award. Along with his five World titles, McBeth has received the PDGA Male Player of the Year three times.
Anyone who’s followed the professional disc golf scene over the past several years is familiar with the name Chris Dickerson. As someone with a United States Disc Golf Championship victory under his belt, an insane career tournament win rate, and a seemingly permanent position near the top of the Disc Golf World Rankings, Dickerson is one of the biggest talents in disc golf.
Disc golf is undoubtedly becoming more popular across the globe. It’s a cheap, accessible, and easy sport for anyone to learn and love! Like traditional golf, disc golf can be played at any age and at any skill level, which also contributes to its rise in popularity. The PDGA is still working to grow the sport around the world through establishing course construction guidelines, starting club teams at colleges and teaching kids how to play through public schools.
It takes one disc and a trip to your neighborhood course to set your disc golf addiction in motion.