By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff
It is my firm belief that the sport of disc golf — which already has enjoyed strong, steady growth for more than two decades — will experience an explosion in popularity when two things happen:
- The general public is properly educated about the true nature and accessibility of disc golf, and all the nuances that make it so much more like traditional golf than most people assume to be the case (the variety of discs and throws, the effects of wind and terrain, etc.).
- Disc golf reaches a ‘tipping point’ in terms of popular opinion, triggered by either a critical mass of popular culture/media recognition or a handful of random watershed moments. For instance, if a super-famous person suddenly lists disc golf as their favorite activity, or a TV show, website, or publication with millions of fans features it prominently.
Now, it is altogether possible that a famous person will stumble across disc golf at any time, fall in love with the sport, and by sharing his or her passion for the sport do more to promote it in one day than all other players combined have done up to that point. But unless there is some exhaustive source of correct, detailed, and compelling information available that explains the many different reasons why people that have played it love it so much, chances of that watershed moment resulting in anything but a temporary fad are minimal.
Those seeking the truth about the sport will find nothing substantial — or worse, the misinformation and oversimplifications that currently exist. My goal is to fill that void and have answers to the inevitable questions ready and waiting in a book, for the day the dam breaks.
I’m writing a book that aims to make the two events numbered above much likelier to occur, as well as making the inevitable explosion of disc golf a mere launching point for something with staying power. The book will include chapters that discuss the history, finer points, unique grassroots growth, and formats of the sport, among others. But the unifying theme is a very specific sales pitch for disc golf, and it’s established in the first chapter and repeated throughout:
- Golf is a great game — perhaps the best game ever invented — and here is why;
- But golf has a number of barriers that prevent most people from ever getting to experience its greatness;
- Disc golf, by retaining the essence of traditional golf while eliminating ALL the barriers, enables everyone to experience the greatness of golf;
- In many ways, disc golf even improves on many of golf’s strongest points.
Beginning here, I’m going to post excerpts of the current draft of the first chapter, in hopes of soliciting your feedback. Let me know what you think. Challenge my ideas and facts. Suggest points I may have missed. If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good we share a common goal: Letting the rest of the world in on a secret we’re all too happy to share.
Arnold Palmer said “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated, it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening — and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind have ever invented.”
Palmer — one of the most famous players and promoters in the history of the game — was right, to a point. Golf is a great game — and would be the greatest game ever invented ‘without a doubt,’ as he said . . . except for the issue of accessibility.
It can be played with others or in solitude. Played for the sake of competition, or camaraderie, or both. When playing golf in a tournament or even a friendly match, intelligent players realize they are actually competing against the course, the elements, and their own psyche. Another great quote comes from golf legend Bobby Jones, an early 20th century player who possessed incredible skills but didn’t realize his full potential until finding a way to master his emotions. He famously said that “competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.” Anyone who has played competitive golf knows that to be — figuratively, at least — all too true.
Golf has a rulebook thicker than a Porterhouse steak, yet requires no referee, umpire or judge. Players are expected to officiate their own game. Unlike baseball, about which many players have said “If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’,” golf is linked to a sense of personal honesty and integrity. In the business world it’s often said “If you want to get to know what someone is really like, take ’em golfing.” The implication being, of course, that if a person observes the rules and maintains his composure while playing as difficult and often maddening a sport as golf, he’ll do likewise elsewhere.
In the literal sense, golf is played on an expansive course that traverses miles of terrain — another factor that makes it a special and unique sport. Consider the fact that, alone among the major popular spectator sports, a golf competition can’t be viewed in it’s entirety by sitting or standing in one place. This is important because, also unlike other major sports, it’s growth and eventual place among the world’s most recognized sports is due more to its popularity as a sport to be played rather than a sport to be watched. Golf became a spectator sport because of the number of people who played the game, whereas with most other sports it is the other way around.
But golf has some serious drawbacks and limitations.
Traditional golf is in a steady, slow decline, as even it’s most ardent supporters acknowledge. In a story that ran in the Palm Beach Post on May 15, 2012, Jack Nicklaus, a contemporary of Palmer’s and winner of the most major championships in history, put it bluntly: “What are the three main things we’re dealing with? The game takes too long, the game is too hard, and it’s too expensive.” In an effort to stem the tide, Nicklaus has advocated and even experimented with events that have fewer holes, strict time limits, and even holes twice as large as normal.
An examination of the facts make it obvious why so many are concerned for the future of the game, but perhaps the solution is a version of golf that retains all that is great about the game while addressing it’s shortcomings in a drastic way.
That’s just a little taste. The next posted excerpt will appear soon, and it’ll begin to discuss the drawbacks/barriers of traditional golf and counter them with corresponding strengths of disc golf.
If you’re interested in helping to promote the book when it comes out, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. To those around the world that have already contacted me, thanks! I’m trying to come up with some novel ideas for getting it noticed by the non-disc golfing public, and any suggestions are very welcome.