Results from the 3DiscGolf Survey (Part I)
By Josh Woods, PhD, and Dee Leekha ~
Disc golf has changed a lot over the last twenty years.
Two decades ago, there were 4,776 active members of the PDGA in the United States. Today, there are more than 28,861. Americans played in 329 PDGA sanctioned events in 1998. They will play in no fewer than 2,368 in the coming year, per the PDGA.
In 1998, Scott Stokely broke the World Record for distance with a jaw-dropping throw that carried 693 feet. In 2017, Simon Lizotte parked a 726-foot hole during tournament play, and the World Record is now held by David Wiggins Jr. with a distance that exceeds Stokely’s by nearly 400 feet.
Twenty or so years ago, one of the best disc golfers in the world, Eagle McMahon, did not exist.
As notable as new world records and unborn Eagles may be, perhaps the most amazing change in disc golf land can be found on the courses. In 1998, U.S. disc golfers had only 851 places to play, according to PDGA stats. Twenty-four states had fewer than ten courses to choose from. Now we have nearly 6,000 courses in the U.S., and only one state in the nation has fewer than ten.
This tremendous growth has prompted many observers to rank disc golf among the fastest growing sports in America. And yet, while the number of disc golf courses is clearly on the rise, less is known about the quality of this growth.
With so many changes afoot, we decided to take a closer look at the country’s disc golf courses by surveying the attitudes of experienced course developers.
About the Respondents
On January 13, 2018, we invited the members of a Facebook group called 3DiscGolf to fill out an online questionnaire. 3DISCgolf is a forum for anyone who supports the goal of creating safer, smarter and more sustainable disc golf.
Within two days, 156 of the group’s 354 members answered our call. The great majority of them have designed, co-designed or helped construct at least two disc golf courses. Roughly 22 percent of the respondents have worked on ten or more courses.
Members of the 3DiscGolf group are also avid players. Most of them play at least four different courses a month. Over a lifetime, the typical respondent has played more than 100 courses. They also typically play at least once or more per week, and most describe their skill levels as advanced or professional. A clear majority are (or have been) members of a local disc golf club and the PDGA.
The respondents are predominately male, white, over the age of 35, and educated with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The 3DiscGolf sample has at least one representative from 39 states, with large shares hailing from Michigan, New York and Texas. (For more details, see the Appendix).
Course Maintenance and Facilities
Based on a content analysis of 30 randomly selected reviews from Disc Golf Course Review (DGCR), we identified thirteen aspects of courses related to maintenance and facilities that are commonly regarded as “cons” by reviewers. We transformed these thirteen comments into questions and included them in the survey.
We asked respondents, “Please base your answers on your general attitude toward the U.S. disc golf courses that you have played or observed. How big of a problem are the following issues related to maintenance and facilities?” Respondents rated each aspect on a four-point scale: “A big problem,” “Somewhat of a problem,” “A small problem,” or “Not a problem,” with “Don’t know” as a fifth option.
To quickly summarize the findings, we combined two categories and constructed a list of course aspects that were most likely to be considered “a big problem” or “somewhat of a problem” (see Figure 1).
On issues of course maintenance and facilities, the respondents pointed to the lack of a course map on site, no bathrooms, and garbage on courses as key problems. Fairways in need of mowing or trimming, as well as soil erosion and compaction were also considered notable concerns on the courses they played.
Some of the issues found on DGCR were not deemed significant problems by our participants. Surprisingly, for instance, only 11 percent of respondents named broken or missing baskets as a “big problem” or “somewhat of a problem.” The respondents were also less concerned about off-leash dogs, and various types of insects and wildlife. (For more details, see the Appendix).
Course Design and Construction
We also identified twelve course design and construction aspects that often appear in the “cons” list of reviewers on DGCR. We measured our respondents’ attitudes toward them using the same scale, and constructed a list of the five biggest design problems, as seen in Figures 2.
Three of the twelve course design and construction issues were related to tee pads (slippery, uneven, too short), and each one made the top-five list of problems. The difficulty of navigating between holes, as well as boring or unimaginative courses also topped the list of course design issues.
One purpose of this study is to provide information to course developers that may help them build safer and more enjoyable disc golf courses. To our best knowledge, this is the first (publicly available) survey of its kind. As illustrated in the Appendix, this report offers a unique ranking of twenty-five problems by some of the world’s most experienced course developers. Remedying these problems at new and existing courses would likely encourage more people to play and keep playing disc golf.
A second goal of this project is to encourage people of all backgrounds and experiences to come together and share their views. So, what do you think? What are the most important problems facing disc golf courses in the United States? Please join the discussion on the 3DiscGolf Facebook group, and by offering your comments below.
In Part II of our 3DiscGolf survey results, we’ll tackle the issue of safety on disc golf courses. What are the most common safety issues, and which ones are perceived by course designers as big concerns? Is safety on disc golf courses really a problem?
Josh Woods, editor at Parked, is an associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University. His current research focuses on the growth and group dynamics of non-normative sports.
Dee Leekha, author of Business Consciousness®, is the co-founder of Circular Productions, LLC and Houck Design, a disc golf course design company. As an entrepreneur, her business operations focus on uplifting communities and lives through the sport and game of disc golf.
Parked is a non-profit, educational blog. We don’t want to sell you something. No ads. No products. No private sponsors. We just want to include you in the conversation. Please show your support and follow us by entering your email address below. You’ll receive two or three free Parked articles per month. Like Parked on Facebook and Twitter to receive notifications.
Parked is underwritten in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.
How many disc golf courses have you designed, co-designed and/or helped construct?
|10 or more||21.79%||34|
About how many disc golf courses have you played?
|More than 200||19.87%||31|
About how often, on average, do you play disc golf, not including during very cold or hot seasons.
|4 to 6 times per week||17.95%||28|
|1 to 3 times per week||55.13%||86|
|2 or 3 times per month||17.31%||27|
|Once per month||2.56%||4|
|5 to 11 times per year||1.92%||3|
|Less than 5 times per year||1.28%||2|
Within a month time span, how many different courses do you typically play?
|More than 6||16.67%||26|
For these questions, please base your answers on your general attitude toward the U.S. disc golf courses that you have played or observed. How big of a problem are the following issues related to maintenance and facilities?
|Question||A big problem||Somewhat of a problem||A small problem||Not a problem||Don’t know||Total|
|Garbage on courses.||22.00%||33||30.00%||45||43.33%||65||4.67%||7||0.00%||0||150|
|Fairways that need mowing, trimming or clearing.||8.67%||13||40.67%||61||42.00%||63||8.67%||13||0.00%||0||150|
|Broken or missing baskets.||2.67%||4||11.33%||17||48.00%||72||38.00%||57||0.00%||0||150|
|Missing, weathered or damaged tee signs.||21.33%||32||42.00%||63||30.67%||46||6.00%||9||0.00%||0||150|
|No course maps available at the site.||24.00%||36||41.33%||62||24.67%||37||10.00%||15||0.00%||0||150|
|Courses labeled as “18 hole courses” that only have 9 baskets and two tee pad locations.||2.68%||4||5.37%||8||22.82%||34||60.40%||90||8.72%||13||149|
|Off-leash dogs on courses.||6.08%||9||13.51%||20||36.49%||54||43.24%||64||0.68%||1||148|
|Insects, ticks, snakes or other wildlife on courses.||4.00%||6||28.00%||42||40.00%||60||26.00%||39||2.00%||3||150|
|Standing water or mud on courses.||4.67%||7||31.33%||47||50.67%||76||12.67%||19||0.67%||1||150|
|Soil erosion or compaction.||18.00%||27||31.33%||47||34.67%||52||14.67%||22||1.33%||2||150|
|No garbage cans on courses.||15.33%||23||32.00%||48||37.33%||56||14.67%||22||0.67%||1||150|
|No public bathrooms near courses.||21.33%||32||40.00%||60||28.67%||43||10.00%||15||0.00%||0||150|
|Incomplete removal of cut tree limbs, stumps or dead trees on or near fairways.||8.11%||12||27.03%||40||45.95%||68||18.24%||27||0.68%||1||148|
For these questions, please base your answers on your general attitude toward the U.S. disc golf courses that you have played or observed. How big of a problem are the following issues related to course design and construction?
|Question||A big problem||Somewhat of a problem||A small problem||Not a problem||Don’t know||Total|
|Tee pads that are too short or narrow.||17.33%||26||36.00%||54||37.33%||56||9.33%||14||0.00%||0||150|
|Tee pads that are slippery.||19.33%||29||42.00%||63||28.67%||43||9.33%||14||0.67%||1||150|
|Tee pads that are uneven, lumpy or rocky.||16.67%||25||38.00%||57||35.33%||53||9.33%||14||0.67%||1||150|
|Players have a hard time finding hole 1.||9.33%||14||30.67%||46||41.33%||62||18.00%||27||0.67%||1||150|
|Players have a hard time navigating between holes on the course.||18.00%||27||40.00%||60||33.33%||50||8.00%||12||0.67%||1||150|
|Players must take long walks between holes.||6.00%||9||14.67%||22||48.00%||72||30.67%||46||0.67%||1||150|
|Players must take a long walk after the finishing hole.||2.67%||4||14.00%||21||51.33%||77||31.33%||47||0.67%||1||150|
|Courses that are boring, unimaginative, too easy, or repetitive.||17.33%||26||32.00%||48||33.33%||50||16.67%||25||0.67%||1||150|
|Fairways that are too narrow.||4.67%||7||14.67%||22||40.00%||60||40.00%||60||0.67%||1||150|
|Fairways that are too open.||6.00%||9||20.00%||30||39.33%||59||34.00%||51||0.67%||1||150|
|Courses that favor right-handed, backhand-dominant players.||5.33%||8||20.67%||31||38.00%||57||34.67%||52||1.33%||2||150|
|No elevation changes.||5.33%||8||20.67%||31||36.00%||54||37.33%||56||0.67%||1||150|
Finally, we would like to ask you a few background questions. First, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association?
How old are you?
|18-24 years old||0.00%||0|
|25-34 years old||13.61%||20|
|35-44 years old||35.37%||52|
|45-54 years old||29.25%||43|
|55-64 years old||19.05%||28|
|65-74 years old||2.72%||4|
|75 years or older||0.00%||0|
What is your sex?
Please specify your ethnicity (or Race).
|Hispanic or Latino||2.70%||4|
|Black or African American||0.68%||1|
|Native American or American Indian||1.35%||2|
|Asian / Pacific Islander||1.35%||2|
What is the highest degree or level of school you have completed? If currently enrolled, highest degree received.
|No schooling completed||0.68%||1|
|Nursery school to 8th grade||0.00%||0|
|Some high school, no diploma||0.00%||0|
|High school graduate, diploma or the equivalent (for example: GED)||5.41%||8|
|Some college credit, no degree||25.68%||38|
What is your current state of residence?
|I do not reside in the United States||3.38%||5|
Are you a member of a disc golf club?
How would you rate your skill level as a disc golfer?
Cover art photo sources: Icy pad, photo by Full Metal Basket Editor James McDonald; “Dirty discer,” pinterest.com; extreme erosion, martindiscgolfclub.wordpress.com; grassy basket, timescall.com; short pad, dgcoursereview.com.