Hope is a dangerous thing when you have too much of it.
According to a recent report, the Disc Golf World Tour (DGWT) is closing shop and will not be holding events in 2018. At first glance, the gloomy announcement suggests that the DGWT had more hope than it needed.
The quality and professionalism of DGWT events were widely praised by players, fans and media outlets. To some, the DGWT stumble signals uncertainty for the future of global disc golf.
But even as DGWT’s plans for 2018 dissolve, the disc golf forecast for Europe is favorable, and DGWT Director Jussi Meresmaa is sure to continue his work on one of the sport’s most remarkable success stories: Finland.
If you’ve been playing disc golf for more than a week, you probably already know that Finland is a disc golf Mecca. Viewing the country’s disc golf statistics is like playing the Sesame Street game, “One of these things is not like the others.”
Available stats reveal healthy growth in all Nordic countries, but Finland is, most certainly, not like the others. Drawing on PDGA data, Figure 1 below shows that Finland – depicted by the blue ski-jump – currently has roughly one thousand more active PDGA members than all the other Nordic countries combined.
Also based on PDGA data, Figure 2 illustrates a similar trend in PDGA events. Although Sweden has been a traditional leader in running PDGA-sanctioned events, the Finns edged out the Swedes in 2014 and never looked back.
The number of disc golf courses in Nordic countries has also increased over the last two decades. However, according to PDGA International Director Brian Hoeniger, the PDGA’s course counts for Europe are incomplete. For this reason, I reached out to Jussi Meresmaa, who kindly supplied the course data for Finland. The size of each course is unclear, but the total number is impressive. As shown in Figure 3, compared to top disc golf states in the U.S., Finland, once again, sticks out like a sore peukalo.
Although the raw numbers tell the tale, it’s important to note that Finland has a smaller population than Texas, California, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. As shown in Figure 4, Finland has two times more disc golf course per 100,000 residents than Minnesota and fifteen times more courses than California.
In short, the Nordic anomaly is real. But the question remains: Why is disc golf so popular in Finland?
In the next weeks, Parked will answer this question by drawing on insight from Jussi Meresmaa and Brian Hoeniger, and by enlisting writing support from Finnish disc golf blogger Kari Toivonen.
Parked is underwritten in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.