By Asbjørn B.V. Hauberg ~
“20 Questions” is a series of articles about the global culture and commerce of disc golf. The goal is to better understand the sport’s growth by comparing the scenes in diverse regions of the world.
Question 1: Can you think of a cultural norm on the disc golf course that may be unique to Denmark?
The first thing that springs to mind is that people are so welcoming of new players. When I first started, others would offer throwing advice. If I was alone, they’d ask me to join them. This is probably not specific to Denmark, though.
If I had to mention something unique, it might be the Danish self-irony and dark sense of humor: “You’re a very consistent thrower. Consistently off!” Foreigners living in Denmark often mention this: the constant Danish irony. New players are usually spared, but we often make jokes at the expense of others on the course.
Question 2: Does the concept of being “niced” exist in Denmark?
I’ve seen the “Don’t Nice Me Bro” thing on Youtube, but never realized it was a fully formulated superstition. I could be wrong, but I don’t think we have this concept in Denmark. Personally, I can’t keep my mouth shut when my buddy throws a beautiful line. I probably nice people all the time and don’t realize it.
As a side note, given the heavy influence of American music and movies, you might occasionally hear a Danish disc golfer say “nice” in English.
Question 3: American pop culture has perpetuated negative stereotypes of disc golfers. Pot heads, slackers, nerds. Are there similar stereotypes in Denmark?
The Danish Disc Golf Union says it wants to “bury the idea that a frisbee is only for playing on the beach.” Some people think that disc golf is just for kids, but if negative stereotypes exist in Denmark, they are not as bad as the examples you mentioned. But then, few people even know about disc golf here, which is, of course, another problem.
Question 4: Do you have mob golf?
Danish disc golfers are pretty good at limiting their cards to five or fewer players. If there’s a large group playing (e.g., my Disc O’ Boyz play in big numbers sometimes), they will usually let people play through. But they probably won’t turn their music down while you tee off.
Question 5: Do Danish disc golfers commonly drink beer while playing?
Beer is VERY common on Danish courses. So popular in fact that my hometown course in Copenhagen has people (non-disc golfers) regularly dropping by to pick up cans for the 15-cent deposit. I must admit, my own path into disc golf involved six beers and a disc. But I really don’t like it when people leave their cans on top of baskets. That and cigarette butts have inspired quite a few arguments between the “grownups” and “teens” of our sport in various Facebook groups!
Question 6: Post-round celebratory social gatherings: Hang in the parking lot or head to the bar?
People tend to hang at the park, I think. Near sundown, on a nice night, you might see a couple groups positioned on the outskirts drinking beers. I live close to the park, so normally I just head home after rounds. But if I’m playing with friends, it’s not uncommon for us to grab some food nearby or go to a bar to play billiards.
Question 7. We have lots of disc sellers in the US. It’s hard to know which ones are most popular. Is there a clearly dominant online or brick-and-mortar store in Denmark?
Yeah, it’s pretty obvious here. There are three leading sites, including Disc Connection, Disc Import, and GBase Sport. You can arrange to drop by and feel the plastic, but these are not physical stores in the traditional sense. Their owners have not quit their day jobs, so to speak.
Question 8. What’s the most popular disc brand?
Hard to say. When I started playing in late 2013, I was clueless about flight patterns and Discraft’s chart made sense to me, so I bought some of those. As I met more disc golfers, I noticed that Innova had a big following. It was all “Destroyer this” and “Firebird that.” Of course, they were also backing our local hero, Innova-sponsored K.J. Nybo. Speaking of Denmark’s favorite player, check out this sudden-death playoff at the 2020 Memorial Championships between Nybo and Rico:
In the used market, you can also find Lat64, Discmania, Dynamic Discs and some Prodigy, but we didn’t see a lot of Discraft until Paul McBeth and Paige Pierce switched sponsors. Mikael at Disc Import told me that his shop saw a similar trend, but that Discraft’s increase in sales wasn’t enough for it to dethrone Innova, or even snatch second place from Discmania, based on numbers from 2019.
Question 9: In five words or less, how would you describe the chance of landing a full-time, paid, disc-golf-related job in Denmark?
Question 10: How much does an Innova Star Destroyer cost in Denmark?
Just under $20. Limited editions, signature discs and so forth can send prices soaring, of course.
Question 11: Any data or thoughts on the gender breakdown?
I reached out to the head of the Danish Disc Golf Union, Dennis Thygesen. He said the number of registered female players in Denmark stands at about 4 percent. I then did a quick count in two Facebook groups and came up with 3.5 percent and 5 percent women.
I also posed a question in a debate group that’s popular among Danish players: “Why aren’t more women playing disc golf?” I got some interesting reactions from both men and women: Some were practical (lack of toilets), some were cultural (it’s a man’s world), some were physical (it’s not fun when you can’t throw as far as the men), some were focused on appearance (you don’t want to look weird while throwing) and some mentioned the need for girls only-training or events targeting new, women players.
Question 12: What about average age?
There aren’t exact numbers available, but the union’s guess is around 25-35. The group playing at the course I maintain is older than that.
Question 13: If you had to guess, do most players join formal groups for competitive disc golf (clubs, unions, associations) or play casually with friends or alone?
Most keep it casual. Here in Copenhagen, there are tons of casual players who aren’t members of anything except maybe a Facebook group. I built a course in the southern part of the country, where nobody had even heard of disc golf. It’s located next to a school and the teachers thought the baskets were feeding cages for sheep. Not exactly a PDGA stronghold.
But I started spreading the word, and now we have a great little group of disc golfers there playing twice a week. These folks aren’t really interested in disc golf on a national or international scale. They’d rather pay the local guy who mows the fairways than some union or association, which – in their minds – isn’t giving anything back to their part of the sport. For this reason, official membership statistics surely do not reflect the true number of players in Denmark.
Question 14: Is disc golf perceived as an environmentally friendly sport in Denmark?
My initial thought was “yes, of course – everybody loves the sport! We don’t use herbicides or pour tons of water in our fields like traditional golf.” But then I started thinking about it and problems came to mind.
For instance, one of the biggest issues at my home course has been the natural tees. Because the park is classified as a “protected area,” it has been impossible to get permission to build proper tee pads. The guys at the local municipality apparently think the park looks prettier with giant, muddy holes at each tee than a level, green turf pad. This is hopefully about to change after years of negotiation.
I heard of another example the other day: A course was just about to add 9 more holes. They wanted to use part of a state forest that was classified as “untouched.” This got some people very upset. The opposition went to great lengths to stop the expansion and even brought the case to our national minister of environmental affairs. In the end, I think the plan went forward, but with heavy restrictions. They cannot mow the fairways, trim shrubberies or even remove dead trees. The “nature preservation agency” probably assumes that players will lose interest once the course gets overgrown.
Question 15: The income tax rate in Denmark is much higher than in the US. Do you think a higher tax rate helps or hurts the development of disc golf?
I certainly think it’s beneficial. Like the situation in Finland, we have local municipalities that have formulated goals to sustain public health and utilize common outdoor spaces. Disc golf is an affordable way to fulfill these goals. It’s suitable for all ages, genders and age groups regardless of physical capabilities. If you’re familiar with Michael Plansky’s book on course design, it’s also a great way to breathe life into underutilized areas.
Question 16: Are most courses located on public land and free (or very affordable) to play?
Yes, almost all our courses are public and free. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I think there are only a handful of courses that are pay-to-play and most of them are for tourists or “one-time-visitors” and are not really what “real” disc golfers are looking for.
Question 17: Who pays for and builds Danish disc golf courses?
Most courses are funded by local municipalities, but volunteers put in a lot of effort cleaning out fairways, helping with installments, doing maintenance work and so forth. Unfortunately, funding for course design sometimes falls short. We’ve seen significant growth here, but some of the new courses have safety issues. Holes near playgrounds, roads or park benches. Blind throws and doglegs flanked by walking paths. As someone who wants to see the sport thrive, professional course design probably tops my wish list.
Question 18: How does the landscape, geography or weather affect how people play disc golf in Denmark?
Think flat. Our highest point is 560 feet above sea level. We play year around, even in snow, but lately we’ve seen only rain. The country is nearly surrounded by water and wind is often a challenge. This may explain why a lot of players are spin putting like K.J.
Question 19: The three best courses in Denmark?
Brutal question. There are many beautiful courses that I haven’t played. But here goes: Bundgaardsparken DGC in Aalborg, Fredtoften DGC in Kokkedal and Eghjorten DGC in Hillerød. I’m a big John Houck fan. Houckian in ways, these courses are all examples of tough layouts that don’t use tons of artificial OB. It’s the course that kills you. Thoughtfully designed mayhem for the overaggressive player. So much fun.
Question 20: You can only point out one thing: What’s the best way to grow the sport in Denmark?
Bring disc golf to the people, not the other way around. I’m a firm believer that small, safe, beginner-friendly courses with excellent signage and free disc rental are the keys to growing the sport. Like most disc golfers, I want to play big, 18-hole championship courses all day long. But there’s just no way monster courses can attract new players.
If we want real growth, we need short courses, nice courses, pretty courses, places where people want to go for a stroll, and maybe throw a few discs. As an example, there’s this bustling course in Virum, north of Copenhagen. Never thought they’d get a course in there. It’s in an old city park with big oaks, lots of flowers, statues, people walking their dogs. But the local municipality put a course in anyway. It’s close to shopping and public transport. It’s a relatively short layout, so the risk to pedestrians is low. There are always people playing this course and you can tell from the local Facebook page, there’s a steady flow of new players coming in.
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Parked is made possible in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.
Asbjørn B.V. Hauberg lives with his wife Lea and two kids in Copenhagen, Denmark, just 3,200 feet from Valbyparken disc golf course. He works as a music and outdoor activities teacher. Asbjørn designed and maintains a disc golf course in the southern part of Denmark and is currently writing and compiling advice for others who are trying to establish courses, clubs and events.