The Community of Disc Golfers and About All Things Disc Golf

Do we have a reason to be ashamed of who we are? Should we try to present ourselves as something we are not?

These questions are central to issues like the Collared Shirt Rule for major tournaments or the way that the new disc magazine (FDM) portrays the sport. It seems to me that we cannot disguise who we are and trying to do so will not work. Beyond that, why should we try?

Go to a disc golf course and watch who shows up. Most of those you see will be young, blue collar and counter-culture (let's call that Y, BC, CC). If a park or a potential sponsor or a player cannot embrace (or at least tolerate) Y, BC,CC then they will not like the sport of disc golf. Go to a disc golf tournament and watch who shows up. Mostly the same group. Somewhat older and more dedicated but still BC and CC.

We are not like ball golfers. We are not as wealthy or as conservative as they are. Nor will we be for the foreseeable future. We would look foolish trying to pass ourselves off as something we are not. And our foolish attempt would be immediately transparent to all involved. Hippies in collared shirts are still hippies. So too are Y, BC, CC in collared shirts.

If Flying Disc Magazine were to homogenize itself to the point where it hides the true character of our sport, it does us no favors with parks or sponsors. Sorry but that scam is going nowhere.

So why should we be ashamed of what we are? Some of us find the Frisbee Family to be pretty darn charming and lovable. Since joining the Frisbee Family is purely voluntary, anyone whose ego needs a status bump will go down the road to the country club.

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Simple fact: potential sponsors are out there, and are willing to part with substantial amounts of money to be associated with a positive community event, and to get their company name and logo viewed as many times as possible by the attendees and/or viewers of that event. Its all about advertising.

Simple fact: Those same sponsors would not want to be linked to any illegal or anti-social activity, as it would damage their reputation to be associated with anything negative.

My opinion: Just because the roots of the sport were embedded in hippie counter-culture does NOT mean we have to continue to uphold EVERY aspect of the hippie mindset. I'm all for non-violence, peace and tolerance, but I don't view myself as a radical conservationist or promote the use of illegal mind-altering substances. So we shouldnt wear collared shirts because they are SO elitist (its a shirt for pete's sake, anyone can buy them,a good quality disc is $20, so is a collared shirt!), but we can smoke a quiet doob on the course because of the game's roots? Crap. A sport can evolve beyond what it started out as, as ours has and will continue to do. Disc golf is becoming more and more mainstream whether you like it or not, and we (meaning the people that play and also want to work for the sports betterment) need to try to adapt with this change.

A sport's popularity and its financial situation go hand in hand, but its a catch 22. You need people interested to get any sort of media coverage, but to get media coverage you need to prove that people will be interested. I agree that building a player base is important, and something that we all need to work on. But if we focus on the Y BC CCs of the world, we are limiting ourselves to a potential player base of what- 15% of the population or less? Of those 15% say a third take it up as a sport- thats now down to 5% of the population (approx)....... now how many of these people will work to design courses, arrange and run tournaments, sit on committees at local clubs, or better yet, start new clubs? How many will do sessions at the local schools to educate kids on the sport, and mayb get their families involved (Heaven forbid having a FAMILY playing disc golf!) There will be some who have the drive and motivation, but not very many I would think. So my argument is that supporting this line of logic basically ensures that we will never grow as a sport, as disc golf will sink back to a miniscule player base and maybe eventually just disappear as bigger, newer and better sports come along that capture the publics attention more.

We've just started as a club,and have begun investigating potential sponsorship avenues for our next tournament, and we've found that it is amazing the amount of money out there that companies are willing to donate to the community, but to get this sponsorship YOU HAVE TO PROMOTE A POSITIVE IMAGE AND BE PROFESSIONAL.

If you want to get drunk and stoned at the hole 1 tee, then play a few rounds, get abusive, maybe start a fight, drop a stack of litter and do a bit of vandalism during your weekly disc golf experience, then so be it, but know that you're actually undoing a lot of the good work that some of your fellow disc golfers are doing, and in the long run, once the motivated people give up on the sport, courses will get pulled and the sport will die off very quickly. Your choice.

But who am I to comment, im only one of the ones that are working with other like-minded disc golfers to get MORE courses in the ground for EVERYONE (not just me) to enjoy, and get MORE people hooked on this fantastic sport. So elitist of me to worry about the sports image.
Chasing money makes you do weird things.

When you get right down to it, the prevailing organization for disc golf is the PROFESSIONAL Disc Golf Association. There are a lot of things that I'm sure would have been done differently if the sport had not been organized upside-down, but the actual situation in 1976 was that the IFA was already propping up "professional" Frisbee players and holding "professional" disc golf events for those guys made sense. By the time Kransco bought Wham-O and the ax came down on the IFA money, the PDGA was seven or eight years old and we couldn't let go of the "professional" model. So we continue to (my opinion only) waste time and resources trying to breath life into an idea that stopped making sense 25 years ago. That's when the cart got in front of the horse, and we have been chasing it ever since.

However, you can't deny that what the PDGA has been doing is working on some level, as more courses go in and more people take up the sport every year. So if it's working, can it really be broken? And if you want to be considered "professional," really how much of a bother is a golf shirt?

One of the real strengths of disc golf from a recreation standpoint is the wide demographic appeal of the sport. When you talk about skateboarding, that is an example of a sliver demographic...teenage boys who don't participate in team sports. The actual number of kids in that demographic VS the number of people in the demographic covered by disc golf is tiny. Disc golf appeals to non-conformist of any age, not just 13-18 year olds. From a recreation services standpoint, a disc golf course should be much more attractive to a community than a skate park.

However, there are a lot of companies that want to sell stuff to 13-18 year olds, and they have used skateboarding as a marketing cliche to the point that any 13-18 year old kid who looks like he might break into your car is called a "skate punk." Communities install skate parks because the mass-marketing media has convinced them that 13-18 year old boys who don't play team sports won't do anything else. From what I've seen, a bunch of them will play disc golf if you put in a course.

Companies have not mass marketed using disc golf because they can't figure out who we are. The truth is we can't figure out who we are either. I read a lot of threads that seem to indicate that I should have a lot of tye-dye in my wardrobe. I actually have a lot more (GASP!!!) collared shirts that I have tye-dye anything. It's that wide demographic again...It's great when you want to make the argument that people old and young, educated and not, middle class and poor will all be able to use a course and as such it has the potential to provide services to a huge portion of a community's population. But from an advertisers point of view, how do you target it? Are you targeting a 15 year-old skate punk or a 55 year-old college professor? Is that 45 year old guy teeing off on # 2 a carpenter or a lawyer? Who knows? We don't even know.

So I don't even think you can say that wearing a collared shirt is trying to make us into something we are not, because that implies that "we" can be defined as one thing. However it certainly does make some of us pretend to be something we are not, in the same way that the kid hanging out at the skate park in the black pants with the black Misfits T-Shirt who is only dressed that way because it's what he perceives as his skate punk "uniform" from media messages is pretending to be something he is not.

Right now I'm pretending to know what I'm talking about. If I show up at the course wearing tye-dye, it's because`I'm pretending to fit in as a disc golfer...or at least what I'm perceiving from this thread that a disc golfer should look like.

Anyway, I love the idea of a for-profit model for a disc golf tour. But really, there is nothing stopping that from happening now. If you found a sponsor willing to throw big $$$ into a disc golf tour, why would you go through the PDGA? For the insurance? The problem is that the big $$$ sponsor is not there, and we have self-taught generations of disc golfers that TD's who make money are bad. I'm afraid any attempt to run a for-profit disc golf tour would fail miserably.
Nice post Scott, makes a lot of sense.
Speaking about the sport's image, It would help if golf discs weren't the only outdoor sporting good sold in head shops. Just this morning, I heard a radio commercial for a new "adult fun store" in east Dallas, where you could get hookahs, blah, blah, blah, "and Frisbee golf!"

Since I have paraphenalia in my office at work (DG-related, I know what you were thinking), lots of people have been educated about the sport, and fortunately, most people do not even know enough about the sport to even have a sense of what demographic it pulls from, unless they happen to listen to certain radio commercials.

I do like Dave's idea about a for profit company running the Pro Tour, but I am afraid that it would cause most tournaments to be unsanctioned, unless we put some meaning into the Pro Tour by making the points count for something, like subsidizing the costs for the top point earners, or cutting in half the number of participants in a WDGC.
Maybe we can work it all out within the current PDGA set up but we NEED to totally seprate PRO and AM. If you want to show a "PRO Level" face to a sponsor, then your tournament shouldn't have a bunch a "AM level" players in it, it should be ONLY Pro's. The two should not play on the same "DAY" at all, the PROBLEM is that the TD's NEED the AM entry fees to make large purses for the PRO'S and untill that's Changed to were the PRO's winnings are by "Pure Sponsorships and not ENTRY FEES", nothing will change, jmho.

If you totally seprate the AM's from the PRO's, then you make the PRO's wear the collared shirts, fancy short's, docker style slacks, whatever to impress the sponsor's and give a "PRO" face for the general public to see. Let us AM's play our game, wear what WE choose, if you "DIVIDE" the AM's away from the PRO's, we don't need to "Set the Image" for the sport, we AM's can just have FUN and play for the LOVE of the game! Someone in the PDGA needs to set a "Numerical Limit" on the level of play, that "FORCES players to step up from AM to PRO. If the PDGA pursued sponors only money for the PRO Winnings, wither "Mom & Pop business level or Mega Corporation", then all this IMAGE stuff makes sense! If your just an AM, you should be playing for the "Love of the game", not a plastic reward, jmho.

The PDGA and it's PRO level players, need to be "weened" off the AM entry fee money for their prize winnings, the PDGA needs to work MUCH harder, ie: set up a special committee to find local/area/national sponsorship to pay the PRO Level players prize winnings. At 50+ and a little over a year player, I'm going to be a lifetime AM player, why do I have to spend $40 to purchase a collard shirt, when I'm never going to be infront of a TV camera, UNLESS the Tournament "combines" both AM and PRO players on the same DAY??? I play in T-shirts, that's what I will show up to play in any tournament I might play in, not going to buy a different "wardrobe" just to play in a disc golf tournament!!

B.J. (bogeyman) Ondo
Colorado Springs, CO.
Hootie said:
Simple and/or viewers of that event. Its all about advertising.

Simple fact: Those same sponsors would not want to be linked to any illegal or anti-social activity, as it would damage their reputation to be associated with anything negative.

I could agree with this statement, but I'm thinking there are sponsors out there that want to target our demographic regardless of the extra curricular activities DG is associated with.
The HIgh times and Zig Zag reference I made previously was just a point, not a suggestion and I'm sure there are other sponsors out there.
I dont really think what we do as individuals is as deterring as things like;
we play for free in parks on courses that are not all considered full service park facilities.
There are a LOT of course that dont even have tee signs and MOST dont have scorecards.
Its my opinion this is way more detrimental to our image and future image than everything else combined.
I'm not saying disc golf should only be pay to play, but I'm thinking more play to play facilities that are generating revenue will attract some attention and having tee signs and scorecards at ALL disc golf courses surely couldnt hurt!

Would it be safe to say Skate boarders and Snow boarders probably have a high % of those partaking?
it doesn't keep mountain dew away and they keep building skate parks and more runs on the hills for the snow boards each year.

what about major league baseball.
lets see, there was the amphetamine phase of the 70's Cocaine phase of the 80's, all the while players have been smoking grass and steroids ever since which are probably worse for young kids than any of the others and none of this has kept sponsors away or has companies afraid to "tarnish their image" by being associated with an industry whose players are doing drugs.
The stands are filled with fans and most of them are drinking, some drinking heavily,, ,so who is the main sponsors of baseball? you guessed it,,,,Bud light and miller light and they have pured billions into the game and it works for them.
Did years and years of baseball players doing drugs hurt them or keep them away?
NO and I wonder why not?
probably way too much money involved to worry about it or too many people who do drugs themselves to make it an issue??

There's a saying " perception is reality" and while theres a chance that one day in the future, with enough change, that people wont look at disc golf and disc golfers and think most are partaking in extracurricular activities.
The thing is thats not today and not anytime soon and possibly not ever.
Play dress up for the job interview all you want changing the mindset of of how we are looked at isnt going to happen for a long time and maybe never.
I just dont see why we really need to make it an issue, 2 states reformed marijuana laws this November and more states will follow suit as this country has a liberal swing over the next 8 years and maybe from here on out.
pot use is at all an all time high and its acceptance's is growing as well ( in the blue states at least)
I'm well aware that not everyone partakes and of course it shouldnt be all out in the open and we should definitely have rules saying it is not allowed during EVENTS.
Nothing will keep casual disc golfers off the pot and its these casual golfers that will watch disc golf if its ever on TV,,,, so stop and thing about this for a minute!
By trying to force a change to the image of our sport out of its natural evolution, is sending mixed signals.
To me its really a non issue and something that shouldn't really make a difference, besides theres really not much that can be done to change how people perceive disc golf and disc golfers.
I say Just " roll" with the flow and concentrate on better and more important things like making sure EVERY course has tee signs and scorecards when new players show up,,, oh yeah if a course design is out dated or unsafe,,,CHANGE it!

On the flip side of this rant:
last night I went to a fund raiser for someone in my old neighborhood that lost oxygen to his brian during a knee surgery.
There were tons of items to bid on and many others that were raffled off.
sitting there I thought "I could have donated something to the event that could have helped raise a few more $$ and also gotten some exposure for my company".
This particular crowd was filled with BLUE collared people 45-55 who know what disc golf is and a lot of them were around when we were playing at our catholic grade school campus from 1968-1980.
I'm guessing 80-90% of the people there knew about "frisbee golf" but I doubt very many know how big the sport has become, not only in St louis with 24 disc golf courses, but in the country with over 2500.
Most of these people grew up around the extra curricular activities and a huge % of them probably still partake to this day or have friends that do that they do not look down on.
The thing is,they were also there with their parents, friends and business associates in this public setting. ( the other 10-20%)
I imagined giving away a bag full of discs and a portable basket and would have loved to be able to do it, but the facts are even in this room with a high % of liberal minded folk, I really questioned whether it would have been socially acceptable or not. Personally I am not ashamed of ANYTHING to do with disc golf or my efforts to grow this sport, but there was a question in my mind of how the reaction would have been for a item like disc golf compare to the other items, like trips, dinners, golf clubs, golf rounds, TV's etc..
For my own test marketing I wish I could have donated and watched the reaction and found out how much $200 worth of product could raise in an auction in this crowd.
This was a crowd of people that I think would watch disc golf in their homes, would play a round if it was in front of them and probably wouldnt care of their kids were avid disc golf enthusiasts.

I'm still very skeptical of their reaction to:
" OK up for bid,,, a set of frisbee golf discs a portable basket and 2 free rounds at the best pay to play course around"
I imagined snide remarks and people pointing fingers and whispering at those bidding.

I guess I'm a bit conflicted on this topic;
one hand I say, its not really an issue but on the other its obvious I feel differently when our sport is put into the publics eye in a forum such as a charity fund raiser.
To a large extent, the "pot problem" is a red herring. There is no disc golf here where I live. The big stoner sport here is softball. You probably wouldn't guess it form looking from the stands, because there are no hippies here, either. Just a bunch a rednecks. There is still a ton of pot in this community. To listen to us talk, you would think pot didn't exist except around disc golf courses. There are A LOT more pot smokers than disc golfers in this country, so we have no monopoly on stoner's free time. We let pot become an issue, when really it's not. Skateboarding and snowboarding show that if somebody thought disc golf would help them sell their product, the pot issue really would not stand in the way.

The issue Dave brings up that has always troubled me is the seeming contradiction in what we want. We want a pro tour with a big sponsor and we want to be taken seriously as a legitimate mainstream sport. We want our courses to be free and all the money from our leagues and tournaments to go back to our Clubs and players. Those things right there do not fit together in my mind. It has always seemed to me that if we want the sport to be "big-time," we will have to be willing to pay more money and see less of it come directly back to us.

There is a larger picture, one that gets complicated by what you want on one hand and what you are afraid of on the other. Disc golf has never been consistently presented to the parks and recreation industry as a revenue generating pay for play activity. If it was a serious revenue generating activity, you would see a significant attitude change for the positive from parks and recreation departments about the sport. However, you would also see more departments running their own events. That would mean Clubs kicked off courses with nowhere to hold their own leagues and events. That would mean more unsanctioned tournaments. Parks departments don't need the insurance coverage, and they certainly will be looking to make more of a profit that the PDGA payout scale will allow.

A lot of this "perception" issue goes away with some money. If the disc golf course generates zero income and a lot of complains, your parks department employees with have a lot to say about our "image." If the disc golf course starts showing a net profit of $30,000 a year, suddenly our image isn't really going to be much of an issue. Collared shirts are silent. Dead Presidents speak loudly.

Certainly, if the sport is at a level to sustain a major tour and attract major sponsors, your local park district should be able to throw up a shack, stock it with discs and Gatorade and pay a high-school kid minimum wage to charge you admission and sell you a Destroyer and a candy bar and make a tidy profit at the end of the season. If you think the sport is at that level and you want it to be more mainstream, then why are you not down at your local park asking them to do this? If you don't think the sport is at that level, then who are we fooling thinking some company is going to come sponsor our pro tour if your park can't even turn a profit on your local course?

I think for the most part we control our own destiny and we like it that way. We run our own leagues. We run our own tournaments. The majority of money we pay to play in these event comes right back to us in payouts. For the most part, we design our own courses. We don't give money to the host park in the way of admission fees. We do our own thing in our own little corner of the World. There are a lot of advantages to that, and we have enjoyed those advantages. Then we act surprised that we are underestimated, misunderstood, stereotyped or whatever else we are. Well, that's the downside to how we are. To a large extent we are a secret. If our secret gets out, surly we will lose the control we have enjoyed.

So I've always been confused by the contradictions in what we seem to enjoy about the sport and the direction the sport wants to head toward. It just seems to me that a future with a big pro tour will inevitably mean destroying a lot of what we have, whether we are all wearing collared shirts or not.
The question is, is skateboarding not seeing the same issues within a town of 40,000 ,building a park that disc golf is. I say that it probably is despite being on TV and having the following that it does. The challenge for our skatepark, wasn't the inherent danger and liability the discussion was about the potential for extra curricular activities, underage drinking, and vandalism. I was pretty amazed actually that the discussion revolved more around potential policing costs than city liability or the cost of the actual project.

Thankfully our little town decided to build the park, which is colocated with our disc golf park. Unfortunately the vadalism and policing costs concerns were right on the money. 13 Toilets were destroyed in the public restroom facility they built on site in the course of 12 months. Thankfully the city seems to have attributed the vadalism to the skate park and not the disc park, but they may close both the restroom and the skate park, as a result.

Anyone who has raised funds or tried knows what its like to fight the perception regardless of how they feel about the perception fair or not.

But there is a lot of truth in this thread about we are who we are, our membership is varied but small. The only strength comes from increasing our membership. Most of us like what we are. We do or we wouldn't have fun and enjoy the events as much as we do. Its too bad is has to be so hard to convince people to give us a try.
Mr. Elis,For the most part i agree with your article but there is a annoying and sadly growing contingent of golfers who find it neccessary to let you know how there round is going, no matter how far away from them you are, or if you even care. They tend to sreak in mono sylabic-ebonics\white trash. I go with my kids and the only thing i want to here from these people is fore. Instead its a barrage of F-bombs that nearly drives me to a pay to play. Im no prude. Im not a snob. I just love and respect this sport. I do love the diversity of my fellow enthusiasts also, but discretion in ones behavior must be observed. This is a family sport that while continuing to grow in popularity, still needs the main stream support that the local loadies so obviously want to alienate. I hope as a collective, we the golfing community can disuade these folks from blunting the growth of disc golf. Respectfully, Scot Lambert
I have seen drinking or drunk disc golfers ruin events.I've been next to sponsers made uncomfortable by the aroma in parking lots for courses.I'm sure these things happen all over our country and I'm just as sure this can't be helping.Its hard for me to condem acts like these,because I smoke and drink.

We need not condemn the acts, but we also do not need to condone the time and place.


Steve Belliveau said:
I have seen drinking or drunk disc golfers ruin events.I've been next to sponsers made uncomfortable by the aroma in parking lots for courses.I'm sure these things happen all over our country and I'm just as sure this can't be helping.Its hard for me to condem acts like these,because I smoke and drink.
You hooked me up with a great Buzzz at Fort Custer last summer. I still have the Buzzz today. In fact...it's with me every day. Great stuff. Thanks you very much from the bottom of my bag.

mark ellis said:
Cent inquired: Can I buy some weed from you Mark?

If I ever change professions I'll give you a call. In the meantime I could hook up with a great Buzzz.


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