Disc Golf and the Conceivable COVID Crash


In 2020 the world was rocked by a rapidly spreading respiratory virus. Panic spread; governments shutdown all non-essential services. People were left with a lot of time on their hands with nothing to do. Based on the guidelines at the time no one wanted to get too close to each other for fear of spreading a virus that wasn’t fully understood at the time. Those who still had jobs and received the stimulus checks had nowhere to really spend the money. Most restaurants were closed, people weren’t driving as much as they used to, and collectively we didn’t want to fund too many of Daddy Bezos’s personal space flights.nnWith the concerns for social distancing most sports weren’t an option. Social distancing in basketball is just horse. In football it’s just playing catch. People started to look more into those weird metal things in the park by them. Disc golf was, and still is, a great social distance sport by nature. Standing around the tee, most of us kept a 4-6 foot spacing before social distancing entered the vernacular. Of course, there were the people who have no sense of personal space and the close talkers but that’s part of life. Seinfeld was making fun of close talkers back in the 90’s. Generally speaking, disc golf is a great sport for social distancing, especially when you play like my friends, and I do. The safest place to stand is in front of the basket. The only time people had to worry about being too close was when you’d tee off but that was an easily avoidable situation.nnThrough a confluence of several factors disc golf boomed through the back half of 2020 and into 2021. Places like the PDGA saw unprecedented growth. In 2020 the new membership grew 84% and active membership saw a 33% growth. In December of 2021 the PDGA gave out its 200,000th membership number. At the time of writing the PDGA has added at least 96,000 new members. That’s in about 3 months. Recent rule changes have incentivized people to join, specifically if you want to play in a B-Tier or higher.nn

PDGAnnThe real question, is this slowing down anytime soon? You can look at the retail side of disc golf and say that the bottom is about to fall out. Discs are in stock now. at the height of the pandemic and for months after, it was nearly impossible to get the disc you wanted. You either had to be on the manufacturer’s website as soon as a disc launched or pay scalper prices on places like eBay. As I sit here in February 2022, that’s not the case. Sure, some molds are still a challenge to find but for the most part the staples are easy to get at retail price.nnWhat does this all mean for disc golf? Are we growing, slowing, or dying? As I look at the landscape of disc golf, I can’t help but think the growth is slowing. We are still at an elevated pace but nothing like the huge influx we say through late 2020 and into 2021. The PDGA added 32,000 new member a month since crossing the 200,000-member mark. What the most likely scenario we’re seeing from the manufacturers’ is twofold.n

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There is a link to the original MVP Discs post if you click the image.

nOne, many of the companies, not Innova, invested heavily in new machinery. They added new injection molding machines; new hot stamp machines; new DyeMax (logo printing) machines. they have a higher capacity to get the discs out to people. They are still behind as many haven’t started up their large batch custom runs yet. But things are heading in the right direction.nnSecond, the supply chain issues are starting to work themselves out. The initial spike in demand combined with the lack of plastic for the discs was a recipe for the supply disaster we saw. Things are improving as prices remain steady and supply increases. I write this with uncertainty as the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine heightens. That has the potential to derail the weakened supply chain, again. But I remain optimistic.nnWhen you look at a YouTube channel like Jomez Productions, you can see the growth in disc golf that’s more realistic. The PDGA growth is amazing but, it doesn’t capture the whole picture. The growth that Jomez has seen since September 2019 is amazing. In 2019, they peaked in views at 4.8 million. As the season winds down there is a steady decline into January until coverage resumes in February. Because of the pandemic more than half the disc golf pro season was cancelled and we see a minor dip from March through May 2020. Jomez peaked in October of 2020 with 5.3 million views, an approximate growth of 10 percent. The peak in 2021 was in august with a view count of 8.3 million; a 57 percent increase from the 2020 peak. At this time in 2022 it’s too early to tell how many views they’ll get but I wouldn’t be surprised if they crack the 10 million view mark for one month. All numbers were gathered through SocialBlade.nnWith all this to consider, I believe that disc golf is going to continue to grow and a steady pace. They year over year growth is going to be higher than it was pre-pandemic, but it won’t be able to sustain the incredible pandemic growth. I do think the PDGA will see a flattening of active membership over the next few years. By no means do I think that the PDGA will struggle financially. Handing off the operations of the National Tour to the Disc Golf Pro Tour was a smart financial and optics decision.nnDisc golf is in an exciting time. We’ve seen unprecedented growth in the sport both with new players and new courses. We’ve seen new media companies come in and try to shake up the industry, Joe’s Disc Golf included. Where is disc golf headed over the next five or ten years? I’m not sure but I’m excited for the possibilities!nn

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