PDGA -v- Supporting Disc Golf

Being an old-time disc golfer who’s competitive days are long past, I can relate to the attached article.  Like many who may be reading this post, I love the sport.  It offers social interaction.  It satisfies my inner need for competition, whether it be against others or against myself.   It allows my aging body desperately needed exercise. It is an important factor in my life for calming and satisfying my mind, body, and spirit!  However, the PDGA requires an annual fee to support the sport we love.  But, as the article points out, is it fair?

For the ability to compete, I believe it’s a fair price to pay.  But for advocates of the sport like myself … more a casual player than competitive, I just want to support the game I love.   I believe there are many similar to myself in this respect.  As the article states, this is an opportunity lost, not just for added funding for the sport, but for acceptance and advertising the wonderful benefits of the game.

How do you feel?  Please take the short survey at the end of this post and let us know!


PDGA vs. USGA membership: One way the barrier to entry is higher in disc golf than in ball golf
Posted on February 14, 2013 by frisbeebrain

Saying that I am a disc golf supporter and even an ardent promoter would be an understatement. Kinda like stating labrador retrievers like to chase things and bring them back, or killer whales prefer to eat meat.

I write two for two blogs exclusively dedicated to disc golf, and have a book in the works. My side business – School of Disc Golf – is more about spreading the word than generating income. I produce a TV show/video magazine on disc golf. I have served as an officer for my local disc golf club, helped to design and install several courses, and talk about disc golf to whoever is willing to listen. I proudly hold PDGA #9715, which nowadays marks me as ‘old school’.

However, I am not a current member of the PDGA, disc golf’s governing organization.

In the past membership was a no-brainer, as it was required if you wanted to participate in certain sanctioned events. But raising young kids and injuries have effectively halted my participation in all but local, one-day competitions, so I’m no longer compelled to be a PDGA for that reason alone.

One year, the PDGA sent special stickers to renewing members. They obviously knew that most PDGA members were also tournament players

Don’t misunderstand. Being able to compete in sanctioned events wasn’t the only reason I joined the PDGA. I somewhat enjoyed the magazine that came with membership, in both iterations (Disc Golf World News and the current version), and was proud to do my part in supporting the main organization representing the sport I love. But right around the time I stopped playing in big events I also found myself out of work, and all superfluous expenses had to go. After 13 consecutive years of membership, my streak ended in 2010.

Now I find myself gainfully employed once again and would like to reinstate my PDGA membership, even though my big event days (at least for the foreseeable future) are behind me. I want to support disc golf in every way possible, and even though I feel the reporting doesn’t come close to what we produce daily at RattlingChains.com, I’d like to receive the magazine once again. But here’s the rub: I play in the ‘professional’ Masters division, and as such, I’d have to pay $75.

At this point, I view the cost of PDGA membership – in my case – like the cost of a movie ticket. I can afford both, but it’s the principle of the thing (seriously- $12 to see a movie?). Why doesn’t the PDGA offer a membership level for people who simply want to support the sport’s growth- who don’t play tournaments and don’t need all the infrastructure that manages and supports competitive play?

For a comparison, let’s look to – of all places – ball golf. In their world, the Professional Golfers’ Association is an organization for the actual professional golfers and teaching pros. The USGA (U.S. Golf Association), on the other hand, is for everyone who plays and supports golf. In disc golf, the PDGA is a combination of the two.

Are you with me so far? Good.

Earlier on in my disc golf life, I needed to belong to a ‘PGA-like’ organization. I played in everything from little C-tier events to world championships and the USDGC, obsessed over my player rating once those were established, and used the PDGA site to find and register for events. But nowadays I simply want to belong to something like the USGA. Unfortunately, I don’t have that option.

When I contacted the PDGA’s membership manager Sara Nicholson a year ago suggesting the organization add a ‘supporting’ membership option at a much lower cost than the $75 for pro players and $50 for amateurs, she agreed and mentioned that she hears that request often. Yet nothing has changed.

My own personal preferences aside, I think the PDGA is missing a big opportunity on this issue, and I can use the old iceberg analogy to illustrate my point. As you know, only the tip of an iceberg is visible above the surface of the water, and similarly, only a small fraction of disc golf enthusiasts will ever even consider playing in sanctioned events. As a consequence of this – and the high cost of membership – only a tiny fraction of the people who love disc golf, play regularly, and want others to learn about it’s redeeming qualities are PDGA members.

If you don’t believe $50-$75 annually is too much to support a sport you love, consider the USGA. Their lowest level of membership costs only $10 per person, and it comes with quite an impressive list of benefits besides supporting the game:

U.S. Open golf hat
Latest edition of
The Rules of Golf
USGA Championship Preview
USGA Insider
Advance opportunity to purchase
U.S. Open 7-day ticket packages
USGA bag tag and Member ID
Various Member-only special offers and discounts
Behind-the-scenes volunteer opportunities
New PDGA members get a PDGA-stamped disc. The author’s is now a well-worn practice putter

I understand that the PDGA does not have the resources of the USGA, but feel strongly that it just makes sense to offer membership to those who don’t play sanctioned events and don’t need the related services. It should be at a low enough cost level that pretty everyone can afford it, and it should be marketed at a grassroots level everywhere the sport is played.

In more than 30 years, the amount of people that have joined the PDGA is still well under 100,000. If the PDGA were to immediately do as I suggest, I think it could easily pass the half-million mark by 2015. That’s gotta be worth something, right?

What do you think? Am I right? Wrong? A cheap so-and-so? Or do you agree that the PDGA should broaden it’s horizons and embrace the much larger group of purely recreational disc golfers? Let us know!

Please take our short survey