Why is there more scientific research on knitting than disc golf?

Knitting around treeSocial scientists have studied almost everything under the sun. As one example, a group of psychologists once set out to determine whether the speed and flow of men’s urination in public bathrooms can be affected by invasions of personal space (1).

In my own discipline, sociology, someone published a prestigious paper on “The Turkish Pigeon Handlers of Berlin” (2).

Researchers have examined whether strip club dancers receive higher tips when they’re ovulating (3), whether country music makes you suicidal (4), and whether wet underwear is uncomfortable (5).

I recently discovered forty-three serious academic studies on knitting.

And yet, the total amount of attention given to disc golf by social scientists falls somewhere between very little and none.

Consider, for instance, the studies on disc golf available through JSTOR, one of the largest digital libraries of academic journals and books in the world. In late August 2016, I searched JSTOR for articles and books with the word “disc golf” in the titles.

Here’s the number of studies I found on disc golf: Zero.

When I used the same search procedure for other sports, the results, as illustrated in the table below, were quite different.


Search Topics Number of Articles and Books in JSTOR
Football 534
Baseball 495
Darts 332
Golf (“ball golf” that is) 208
Tennis 174
Basketball 161
Boxing 146
Soccer 120
Knitting 43
Skiing 34
Scuba diving 12
Badminton 11
Bird watching 10
Volleyball 7
Kayaking 5
Snowshoeing 2
Skateboarding 2
Snowboarding 1
Disc golf 0


Is the lack of academic research on disc golf a problem?

Maybe not. If you’re someone who cringes at the idea of having more people at your favorite course, any type of added attention may seem undesirable.

But if you want to see the sport grow, then your answer should be yes. As I argue in my next post, the social sciences, and sociology in particular, could be an important key to growing the sport. And yet, not surprisingly perhaps, the need for social research has not received much attention from the movers and shakers of disc golf.

Convincing the disc golf community that social research may benefit the sport will be just as difficult as convincing the academic community that disc golf is worth studying. It will be an uphill climb, no doubt, but I live in West Virginia, and uphill is our specialty.


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(1) R. Dennis Middlemist, Eric S. Knowles, and Charles F. Matter (1976). Personal space invasions in Lavatory: Suggestive Evidence for Arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33(5): 541-546.

(2) Jerolmack, Colin (2007). Animal Practices, Ethnicity, and Community: The Turkish Pigeon Handlers of Berlin. American Sociological Review, 72(6): 874-894.

(3) Miller, Geoffrey, Joshua M. Tybur, and Brent D. Jordan (2007). Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: economic evidence for human estrus? Evolution and Human Behavior 28: 375–381.

(4) Stack, Steven, and Jim Gundlach (1992). The Effect of Country Music on Suicide. Social Forces 71(1): 211-18.

(5) Bakkevig, Martha Kold, and Ruth Nielsen (1994). Impact of wet underwear on thermoregulatory responses and thermal comfort in the cold. Ergonomics 37(8):1375-89.

Photo by Raffaella Amoroso.


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