Pickleball’s uphill climb to mainstream success

Photo Andrea Kessler

By Josh Woods ~

Most newer sports are hybrids of older ones, and pickleball is no exception. The progeny of tennis, badminton and pingpong, pickleball is played by singles or doubles teams who hit a ball back and forth over a 3-foot-high net until one opponent commits a fault.

In 1965, the inventors of pickleball played with what they had – a repurposed badminton setup, pingpong paddles and a perforated plastic ball.

Today’s 4.8 million American pickleballers have much more to play with: In the U.S. there are 38,140 courts, 300 manufacturers of pickleball equipment and hundreds of grassroots clubs.

Continue reading “Pickleball’s uphill climb to mainstream success”

Emerging Sports as Social Movements: Disc Golf and the Rise of an Unknown Sport – Book Summary

By Joshua Woods ~

Emerging Sports as Social Movements is available on Amazon here. Photo Jesse Wright.

One of the most common hashtags used in disc golf social media is #GrowtheSport. It pops up on Twitter more often than hot takes from Brodie Smith.

To many disc golfers, “grow the sport” is an aspirational catchphrase that celebrates the grassroots of the sport and unites the volunteers who made it great. You can find it in social media posts about fundraiser tournaments, new course developments and any number of club activities and volunteer efforts.

But the hashtag can also be found in the promotional materials of private firms. #GrowtheSport appears in the Twitter bio of leading online retailer Infinite Discs, and in the advertisements of disc golf apparel companies. The major disc maker Dynamic Discs invented “Grow Disc Golf Day.” Top pro players like Ricky Wysocki use the hashtag in their social media branding.

Continue reading “Emerging Sports as Social Movements: Disc Golf and the Rise of an Unknown Sport – Book Summary”

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Walk in the Woods in Finland

Finland goes bonkers for disc golf

By Kari Toivonen ~

One of the 16 courses in the Åland Islands, an autonomous, demilitarized region of Finland. The simultaneous construction of 16 courses made this the most ambitious disc golf project in history. Photo Kari Toivonen.

I feel like the boy in the fable who cried wolf so many times that when the wolf actually came, no one listened to him. There have been so many articles about the disc golf boom in Finland, a small country with a mere 5.5 million inhabitants, that you Americans are probably thinking, enough already!

Well, all those previous stories were true, but had we known what was coming, we probably would have gone easier with the drum beating. I mean, now things are really crazy.

Continue reading “Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Walk in the Woods in Finland”

Playing Up Can Be a Downer: Rethinking Tournament Division Rules May Help Grow the Sport

By Cory Wiebusch ~

Eight-year-old Hayden Wiebusch showed up to play at the 2021 PDGA Junior Disc Golf World Championships, but she would not be allowed to take home the trophy for the ≤8 division.

The 2021 PDGA Junior Worlds wrapped up in Emporia, Kansas earlier this month, and nine juniors were crowned World Champions. However, there could have been a tenth, my daughter Hayden who represented Team Throw Pink in the junior girls ≤8 division (FJ08).

She was one of two girls invited to compete in this division and the sole entrant in the field when registration closed on July 2.

Since Hayden was the only registered player in her division, the PDGA sent us an email prior to the event stating, “We don’t run divisions of one at the PDGA World Championships,” and that she was required to “play up” at the main event if there was not a second entrant in her division.

Continue reading “Playing Up Can Be a Downer: Rethinking Tournament Division Rules May Help Grow the Sport”

Chapter 5: Ed Headrick’s Most Influential Achievement Wasn’t the Frisbee

Permanent human-made infrastructures are the key to growth

By Josh Woods ~


Chapter 5 Video Essay

Ed Headrick’s importance to disc golf is not a subject of debate. I mean, the guy perfected the flying disc, invented the pole hole, installed the first formal disc golf course and founded the Professional Disc Golf Association. And that’s only the first page of his resume.

But which of these deeds most influenced the rise of competitive disc golf? Now this is a question worth debating. As I often do when I wonder something, I recently took to the internet and posted a poll on Twitter.

Continue reading “Chapter 5: Ed Headrick’s Most Influential Achievement Wasn’t the Frisbee”

Chapter 4: Disc Golf’s Where’s Waldo Period

Today’s culture clash began in the 1960s

By Josh Woods ~

In the flying disc tournaments of the 1960s and 1970s, players often competed in multiple Frisbee disciplines, such as freestyle, guts, ultimate and disc golf. Photos from Inquiry History, Flying Disc Museum, Susan Brown.


Chapter 4 Video Essay

A while back I was working on a Where’s Waldo puzzle with my daughter when my mind began to drift to where it so often drifts.

Gazing at the strange assortment of people in the puzzle made me think of disc golf. It’s amazing what you can find when walking through a crowded course on a Friday afternoon, or perusing disc golf handles on social media.

Continue reading “Chapter 4: Disc Golf’s Where’s Waldo Period”

Chapter 3: How Destiny/Dynamic’s Bullet Got Cancelled Before Cancel Culture Was A Thing

By Josh Woods ~

Innova’s Boss received approval from the PDGA’s Standards Committee in 2008, but Destiny/Dynamic’s Bullet was considered too dangerous and did not receive approval in the 1980s.


Chapter 3 Video Essay

I’d rather be hit by a Bullet than a Boss. I mean, I’d rather not get hit at all, but if I had to choose, I’d go with the Bullet.

Of course, the odds of being struck by an original Bullet, made by Destiny/Dynamic in the 1980s, are close to zero, because you just won’t find them on a disc golf course. The Bullet was not approved by the PDGA’s Technical Standards Committee.

Although, as Joe Feidt wrote, the Bullet “was one smokin’ hot golf disc” in its day, the movers and shakers of disc golf deemed it too small, too hard and oftentimes too heavy and ushered in safety standards that are still in place today.

Continue reading “Chapter 3: How Destiny/Dynamic’s Bullet Got Cancelled Before Cancel Culture Was A Thing”

Chapter 2: Disc Golf’s Popularity Contest Began Well Before the Rise of Brodie Smith and It Will Shape the Future of the Sport

Professional disc golfer and social media influencer Brodie Smith, pictured above, suggests that disc golf should be organized more like traditional golf.

Watch the Essay Here:

Chapter 2 video essay

Culture is a little like muscle memory. You can’t see it, but it does something really important.

Culture is the grease in the wheels of sports. It coordinates all the meanings and actions on the field; organizes, motivates and engages all the players, coaches, fans, businesses and media.

Continue reading “Chapter 2: Disc Golf’s Popularity Contest Began Well Before the Rise of Brodie Smith and It Will Shape the Future of the Sport”

Chapter 1: Disc Golf, Like Paul McBeth, Is an Underdog in the World of Sports

By Josh Woods ~

Photo PDGA

Watch the essay here:

Chapter 1 Video Version

Back in 2017, Paul McBeth dropped a sympathy bomb on social media. He was like, check me out. I’m only five and a half feet tall and I weigh less than a panda. I’ll never be the favorite in sports. I’m the OG underdog. Send me some love.

Of course, he didn’t say it quite like that, and he had just dropped out of the Green Mountain Championship due to an injury that was only going sideways. And so, his fans did send love.

Continue reading “Chapter 1: Disc Golf, Like Paul McBeth, Is an Underdog in the World of Sports”

Academic Publisher to Release Book about Disc Golf

By Josh Woods, PhD ~

In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, several sports reached their fast-growth stages.

Skateboarding was headed to the Olympics and regularly appeared on television and in fashion magazines. Energy-drink-powered teens were pulling down big paychecks from esports megaevents. The Ultimate Fighting Championship was filling large arenas with fans and pouring mass-mediated adrenaline into mixed martial arts.

Even a few lesser-known sports were on the rise. Spikeball, the promoter of roundnet, landed deals with Shark Tank and ESPN. Cornhole was appearing on ESPN and courting moneyed sponsors like Johnsonville Sausage. Ax throwing and wood chopping were being nationally televised.

After decades of slow growth, disc golf was also on the rise.

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