Everyone dreams of winning on the PDGA National Tour, playing every event, traveling the country, living the disc golf life. I dream of that anyway.
I found the game too late for that to be a reality. I have too many responsibilities and obligations to make the leap. Not to mention that I don’t have the game for it. But I could win my local disc golf series.
Living in northern California, I have several series in which I can compete. California has one of the largest disc golf communities in the country. Communities and clubs vie for the privilege of hosting the final event. Players commit to travel and expense to compete.
Winning pays off just in the prestige of having beaten the hundreds of golfers competing in each division across our large state. The payouts can be substantial as well, helping successful golfers support their disc golf habit.
The NorCal series has the highest level of competition and is the largest series I’ve played. Events in this series go as far east as Grass Valley and as far west as Santa Cruz.
I have also had the privilege to compete in several of the newer, smaller, yet well-run Sierra Tahoe Series events all around Lake Tahoe. This series also draws players from Reno, Nev., and Sacramento, Calif. There is a nice variety of courses in the Tahoe area with a committed group of disc golfers supporting the series. Local businesses and national companies support the events and the growth of disc golf in Tahoe.
I started golfing in the state-wide Arizona Cactus series that unites all the disc golf clubs in Arizona with events in Flagstaff, Show Low and the greater Phoenix area. Arizona has golf that can be played year-round with sanctioned events in every month of the year.
Disc golf series play several important roles for the growth of disc golf. Series get golfers moving to other areas and generate ideas, competition and a sense of a larger community. Golfers feel like they are a part of something while competing in series events. But what will be the future of the disc golf tournament series?
The PDGA could start to sanction series like they sanction leagues. The weekly leagues, weeklies — if not dailies like at my local course — are the beginning of disc golf competition for most disc golfers. I imagine that all tournaments were born from the most committed golfer in an area putting together regular competition.
These events now have the option of being sanctioned by the PDGA. This is a good thing from my perspective. Sanctioned leagues introduce regulated competition, hopefully, to increase PDGA membership and tournament participation.
Who knows whether the PDGA gets involved in the disc golf series. But I do think there is some opportunity to up our game regarding how tournament series operate. Big series, like the NorCal, that have hundreds of golfers who play in at least one event have an opportunity to do a lot more with their events.
I would love to see events like these start to drive commerce in the communities that host the events. With enough investment from players, organizers and the PDGA, we could start to see more business sponsorships and partnerships. Hopefully, the business sponsors will start to compete for the final event.
With the kind of competition we see for registration in these events, prices should go up with the higher demand. This is simple American economics. Higher registration costs will yield more money for communities. More income from golfers will indicate to businesses that investment in disc golf is worth their time and more importantly money.
Higher registration costs will also raise payouts. Higher payouts will drive attendance. Each cycle feeds into each other cycle. We are shooting ourselves in the foot by keeping our endeavors small, local and underfunded.
Large series events need to become more exclusive. This is not a trend disc golf has yet to embrace — exclusivity. But with every series event filling, we no longer need to work to fill events but need to work to make them higher quality. And I don’t mean more rounds of minigolf or CTP competitions or another keg of beer.
We should continue to use the PGA as a model, particularly for large series finales. Spots should be reserved for the top 20 points leaders until a designated time. Discounted entry — if not free entry — for the highest point earners.
PGA events don’t fight to keep spots open for the locals like disc golf tournaments. They allow for sponsor’s exemptions where a sponsor who supports the event to a certain financial degree can choose a golfer or two to be in the event despite qualification.
More events need qualifiers. Worlds has a points requirement for invitations. There are a handful of other events that require golfers to earn points or win qualifiers. Every PGA level tournament has qualifications even if it is just to have a tour card, which must be earned.
Almost all disc golf tournaments only require that you get to the computer in time and you can pay to play as a pro. There are enough disc golf tournaments that we can start having more exclusive events.
Disc golf is cool enough to support bigger events. It is time to start thinking bigger.