Opinion: Low voter turnout for PDGA election not good for game

Where are all the disc golfers?

That question, by itself, is probably pretty easy to answer. Head to your local course and find a few.

With disc golf being a fast-growing sport, I would think there would be a lot more disc golfers interested in the game as a whole, not just throwing discs around the course.

The reason I ask this is because of several things I’ve noticed lately. One is the statistics for hits from this website. We go up and down quite rapidly. Part of that, of course, is pinned on us going to basically three stories per week. But even before that, we saw a slight drop.

Is it content? Is it because it’s the summer and more people are outside?

Who knows.

That, to me, isn’t alarming. See, we do this because we love to do it and if people read and comment, that’s a bonus.

Then there’s the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).

The PDGA is the governing body of our sport. If you have played in sanctioned events, you know all about the PDGA. In fact, I’ll bet most of you who read this blog know what the PDGA is and what they do (for the most part).

The PDGA is ruled over by an elected board of directors. This board helps shape the sport as a whole. The board includes professionals and amateurs and people who have made disc golf their life.

The association held its annual elections for three board seats through the month of July. Members had that month to cast their ballots online. I first got notice in early June that the PDGA would be sending its ballots out July 2, so I knew it was coming.

On July 2, I received my ballot. At that point, I knew I would vote (I always do), so I put a reminder on my calendar for the final date. I wanted to see what would happen through the month.

On July 17 and July 26, I received friendly reminders from the PDGA. I voted soon after the second one came.

And that was that.

The results were announced Wednesday. Avery Jenkins, Rick Rothstein and Karolyn O’Cull were elected to the three available spots. Jenkins received the highest total with 1,976 votes (66.78 percent).

That number stood out to me when I first read the results. He was the highest vote-getter with 1,976 votes? That number has to be low, right? I realize it’s active PDGA members who vote, but my membership number is 46084. I know people who are in the mid 50000s. So there are a lot of members.

Sure, they aren’t all active… but many have to be, no? The PDGA released the election statistics and the numbers are quite alarming.

There were 15,561 ballots sent out to voters. That’s a heap of possible votes. Of those, 2,990 were returned.

That’s 19.21 percent.

In certain states, it was pretty bad, too. Utah and Arizona were, statistically, the worst states. In Utah, 12 of 91 ballots (13.19 percent) were returned, and in Arizona, it was 34 of 244 (13.93 percent).

Larger states, though having a slightly better percentage, are worse.

See California, a disc golf hotbed state, which had 1,187 ballots. Of those, 177 were returned (14.91 percent). Michigan, another solid disc golf state, had 857 ballots, with 138 returned (14.91 percent).

This isn’t good.

The reality is this — if we, as a disc golf community, want to see the game continue to grow and want to be involved with things the PDGA does, we need to vote.This is where you can tell the PDGA what you think.

I’ll admit this — not all of my votes won spots on the board this election cycle. One or two, yes. All? No. But I read each person’s bio. I voted for the people who I thought would be good on the board.

It took me, maybe, 15 minutes.

That amount of time is nothing in the big scheme of things, especially if you want to help promote the sport and see it continue to grow. No matter what you think of the PDGA, it’s an important piece for this game growing. And the best way to have your voice heard? Vote.

The board is the piece that we, as disc golfers, can control. We need to be more involved with the selection of these board members and understand their views, thoughts and everything else on the game of disc golf.

This sport will continue to grow. The PDGA, which has done a lot of good for the game, will be a part of disc golf for a long time. Realizing that, there’s one way we can all make sure we’re involved with the PDGA, outside of paying our member fees.


P.J. Harmer is the lead blogger for Rattling Chains. E-mail him at: pj [at] rattlingchains.com.


0 thoughts on “Opinion: Low voter turnout for PDGA election not good for game

  1. Boycotted the PDGA this year for several reasons. I feel that the PDGA has gone downhill since it became a for profit business. When it was non profit, people held these positions because they Loved what they did. Just like everything else in this world. Money has spoiled it all. Nobody wants to answer my questions when directed to the PDGA. Non response after many attemps is not my idea of a governing body that cares about it’s members. It seems to me that there are a couple PDGA poster children who cause al kinds of trouble, and the PDGA bends only for these people. I have seen REAL promoters of this sport be sidelined and even punished for what I consider very minor infractions. Just my humble opinion. But it is Mine.


  2. I agree PJ, we all need to take a role in making this great game better. It’s people like you who are making a difference. Keep on keeping on.


  3. You are to be complimented for your enthusiasm for disc golf, P.J., but from the bleachers, I would caution you and other enthusiasts to treat disc golf much like religion — and what I mean by that is that people will go to it as they need it or want it.

    During the summer months, there are many activities as we know, and many of us who are sports-minded have a variety of activities we enjoy — forgive please — other than disc golf. I, for one, am also an avid table tennis player. When the Texas heat is in the triple digits and the mosquitoes are out carrying the deadly West Nile Virus, my twilight disc golf is taking a temporary detour.

    Your column is well-intended to keep the disc golf interest alive, but as with religion, we might push someone to participate, but we can’t always get that person to share our enthusiasm. As with anything else, certain people will be drawn to it, over time, but your enthusiasm for the game is on the extrovert side and, perhaps, expecting too much from participants by trying to “rush” your enthusiasm onto them.

    Writing, as you know, takes time, and people are short on time these days, as they are in many cases, on money. Speaking as if in your shoes, I would continue to be enthusiastic for the game, but adopt a more “laid back” attitude. For most us, disc golf is not a profession, but a recreational outlet which provides physical and emotional benefits, which is why we play in the first place. The monetary benefits of participation really come after the realization of these other benefits.

    In the beginning, I invested a lot of dollars to find the right discs for me to throw, as I’m sure many players do. Well known, buying discs can create an appetite which becomes insatiable, much like an eating disorder — and it seems “the distance or accuracy is always greener” with another disc. After awhile, a person realizes they can learn to throw a multitude of discs well and that all the time they were concerned about a disc, they should have been more interested about perfecting technique.

    I now realize, at my age, I’m not going to throw the 400 to 600 foot shots I see my peers throw. I can admire them, but it just isn’t going to happen. Let’s face it, in most sports, “water seeks its own level” — meaning that we establish our preferred cliques with those we either enjoy to be with, or those who motivate us in some way to play with them. Many of these cliques are formed for various reasons and my experience tells me that most people stay within these cliques. How often do football or basketball players play with others a lot smaller than they are? We all have to adapt.

    One difficulty with disc golf, as expressed by your contributors, is that viewing and participating in the sport to our preferred level can require repetitive travel distance, which can get costly and time consuming. As for me, P.J., I enjoy my disc golf very much, but finding other players is often difficult with their family responsibilities and work schedules, especially in these days of inconsistency.

    But as I say, just like religion, interest will come and go, then return. I would just accept the fact that there will always be these surges and resurges of interest. Discs have been around a long time, and they’re still flying even after the early days in Greece, so I would just get myself a “cold one”, cool down, and enjoy the ride, but I wouldn’t overload my expectations to the point of disappointment or bank on people being more consistent than they are human. Keep the spirit, P.J., and relax knowing you found something you’ll probably always enjoy, and there are those of us who appreciate the same, while sharing your hopes for the future of the game.


  4. I happen to live in MI., where i see lots of disc golfers every day. So few members (PDGA) in the state was a surprise and the low voter turnout shocking. i volunteer and play in events and enjoy them. but it is all but impossible to get help to run tournaments or have a work day on a course in this state. so lack of voter turnout doesn’t surprise me.
    Politics and BS are rampant and dealing with these people every year really sucks to put it mildly. I love disc golf and only wish i had discovered it sooner.
    The PDGA does not really do anything for the sport except keep taking more of our money every year. higher fees both for members and non members, charging officials to take the test! lessening the benefits of the affliate program, you call and you might or might not get a call back. Rules are so vague as to be unclear and if you ask what is meant you are subjected to the same vague answers. no i don’t want to read a book but the rules do need to be clear somehow.
    i would like to know what is the breakdown of active membership in the PDGA is? More PRO’s or AM’s? i would have to guess PRO’s as it is the P(rofessional)DGA. AM’s are poorly represented. I think i will play in sanctioned events and not worry about running them less work that way.


  5. I was traveling and i frogot because i did not have the internet during the trip. i think june,july and august is not a good time to be voteing. i must of missed the ballot.


  6. Be careful about putting the cart before the horse. I see many people out on the course, but very few of them are PDGA members (maybe 3-4% only), and only a small fraction of those are capable of casting an informed vote about PDGA matters. They simply don’t follow the PDGA closely enough, and I think many of them purposely abstain from voting for that reason. Folks are busy with other things in their lives, and they don’t feel comfortable making important decisions when they have no clue what they’re doing. Many of the members also don’t feel compelled to take ownership and care about PDGA at the requisite level.

    The best way to increase voter turnout in PDGA elections is to get more people paying attention, and get them interested and involved in the process. This would also give rise to more passionate people running for board of directors positions, etc., and improve the sport at both the local and international level.


  7. Playing in Europe means the PDGA is far far away. You very seldom meet anybody from that organisation and the only contacts are because oft the rating, the rules or in a few cases for organizing tournaments. Still I think the organisation does a pretty good job, leaving us europeans (in my case germans) enough freedom to handle the things the way we think we have to handle them and still supporting the growth.

    Playing the WM I heard a lot of criticism about the work the PDGA is doing and I must admit, that a lot of things around the WM didn´t look to professional.

    Still for us in Europe the PDGA is the only Organisation that we can rely on to develop our sport and give us a common roof under which we all play.

    Elections, and especially elections on a board of people that nobody over here knows personally are a nothing people care to much about. I think, that might be the same for the players in the US. The results show that effect.

    Avery is the name on the list most of the players have heard about. So the chose him (nothing against Avery but I think the other candidates where excellent too).

    So I think, that at the moment this elections are not the best way to find the members of a board. The PDGA is just not enough present in the daily life of the players.

    They should think about a different system. One possible improvement could be to let the regional coordinators elect the board. They are closer to the players and can start a serious discussion about the candidates.


  8. People are lazy. That is the number one thing i see from our disc golf scene here in the U.P. too lazy to help with the course to lazy to try and improve their game too lazy to play in a tournament too lazy to do anything that would help the sport. we also have zero tournaments in the U.P. so why would anyone be a PDGA member……well a handful of us are. I play one event a year and as of right now i am payed up through 2014(pdga membership) I voted, because i was sent an email saying it was time and I am not too lazy to fill out a 1 minute ballot. I vote for people who i believe are trying to drive the sport forward except for my state as i know who was going to win and i wrote in my friends name. I believe that most low level pdga ams are not going to vote unless you give them plastic….as they wont do much with out an incentive. This laziness is ingrained in our culture as seen in any political elections. So don’t fret with low pdga voter turnout.


  9. I voted. Also, the “lazy” excuse isn’t holding water, since it was all done via email and the web. Hopefully our community at large becomes more actively involved in this process.


  10. Did not join this year, therfore I did not Vote. I have voted every election since I became a member until this year. I feel that the PDGA should be desolved (or not be the only organization)and several governing body be put into place, by region, country, or other. I also feel that you should not have to be a member of an organization to play Disc Golf competetivley. This would open up the game to a whole new world of players. Too much money and politics involved. I know so many older players that have dropped out from the PDGA. They will never get them back. A good business (and that is what the PDGA is) will always have continuing customers if they treat thier customers right. Not unlike the current political system in the USA. Disc Golfers should have more than 1 choice of organized play. Respectfully Submitted.


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