This is the first of a two-part series about DGCourseReview.com. Check back next Friday for the second installment.
By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff
When many players discover the game of disc golf, it is only a matter of time before they want to branch out from their home course and discover other venues to play.
Luckily for them, searching Google for “disc golf course” or “Frisbee golf courses,” much to the chagrin of those who despise that term, yields many results, none more useful than DGCourseReview.com
Boasting a directory of more than 4,500 courses, Disc Golf Course Review (DGCR) allows players to find courses, track scores, map out road trips, and so much more.
Genesis of the site
New players of the past were not always as fortunate as those today.
Take Tim Gostovic, the brainchild of DGCR. The Rochester, New York native started playing disc golf 10 years ago and was immediately hooked on the sport. As his interest grew, he and his friends took their love of the sport beyond their local surroundings.
“After I had been playing for two years or so, my friends and I started traveling outside our area to play new courses,” Gostovic said. “That escalated to full-on road trips after exhausting the nearby options. We would visit the PDGA site to see which courses were around and try to plan our trip.”
But with the PDGA website listing only locations and directions — and with other sources of information being scarce — Gostovic found the planning process to be restrictive.
“The problem was that it was very difficult to decide which courses were worth stopping at,” he said. “There weren’t really reviews at the time, and maps and photos were tough to come by and required going to a club’s site and hoping you could find something there. It was quite the ordeal and didn’t really guarantee the course you were traveling hundreds of miles to play would be a good one.”
It was from these dilemmas that DGCR was born.
“After planning two road trips using the ‘check the entire Internet’ method, the frustration of the planning process led me to the idea of a central repository of maps, photos, information, and reviews to make my life and the lives of traveling disc golfers like myself easier,” Gostovic said. “So I sat down, sketched out some basic page layouts and functionality, and got to work.”
After a little more than a month of development, DGCR was launched in May 2007. In addition to the number of courses available to locate, there are currently more than 44,000 reviews and 84,000 photos to accompany them.
More than just courses
What users of DGCR find out quickly is that, besides hosting a wealth of course information, the site features a multitude of other useful tools.
Such was the case for Dave Allen of Climax, North Carolina.
“DGCR’s ability to locate courses was the flame that originally attracted this moth,” Allen said. “As my interest in disc golf grew, DGCR logically seemed like one-stop shopping, thanks to the forum and its wealth of information on technique, equipment, and similar knowledge of all things disc golf.”
Indeed, the discussion forums that make up DGCR’s other half can be just as helpful to users as the course directory. Whether someone is looking for information on a new disc (equipment), an upcoming event (tournaments), or just wanting to shoot the breeze about the world outside of disc golf (The Water Cooler), there is a sub-forum to meet each user’s needs.
One of the site’s most popular sections, though, is The Marketplace, where members can pay a $5 yearly fee to post threads in which they can buy, sell, and trade discs with other players. Thriving on a system of feedback that tracks transactions between users, it is a place many golfers can find used discs from trustworthy sources.
“I have bought, sold, and traded more than 200 times on DGCR. I love it,” said Clinton, Maryland resident William Safford. “The discs are always in better condition than those I get on eBay, and at a cheaper price. Also, people here often know each other’s likes and can do trades to acquire discs that they normally could not afford.”
Allen agreed with Safford’s sentiment about finding value through the site.
“The Marketplace is a godsend for discers on a budget or for finding discs that your local economy simply can’t provide otherwise,” he said.
For members of the site who are willing to pony up more than five bucks to help the site keep running, a premium membership unlocks a great deal of other features.
For $25, members are treated to a multitude of additional services the average site user cannot access, including charts and graphs of personal score statistics that include hole-by-hole analysis. Traveling golfers like Gostovic can also take advantage of DGCR’s Route Map, which gives users the ability to plug in their starting and ending points and show the courses that are along the way.
“The route map is one of my favorite things on this site,” said John Stengele, a Mukilteo, Washington disc golfer who also moderates DGCR’s Marketplace. “I use this feature every time I travel. Even if I am flying in to one city like on the island of Oahu, I then use the route map to get me from course to course and back to my hotel. It is ideal for any serious course bagger like myself.”
Gostovic agreed that the Route Map is a powerful tool.
“Finding out which courses are near the roads you’ll probably be taking on your trip is great,” he said. “I’ve used it a number of times myself. I’m hoping to improve that feature and expand on its capabilities in the future.”
Even if a golfer doesn’t want to spring for a membership, there are other ways to support the site, including purchasing DGCR travel tags to exchange with other members, or buying custom-stamped discs.
As the site’s founder, Gostovic said he is appreciative of those members and advertisers who are willing to pitch in.
“For the first few years the site was funded directly out of my wallet,” he said. “Thankfully, advertising and subscriptions have grown to the point where they cover the costs associated with running the site.”
And while the site may have many bells and whistles to satisfy users, there is a simplicity to it that members said they enjoy.
“The ease of navigation is my favorite part of DGCR,” Safford said. “I have visited several different forums, and DGCR is the easiest to learn and has the most features in the social section, as well as the main site.”
Commitment and Community
With the breadth of content available at DGCR, one might think that Gostovic is able to commit all of his time to keeping the site afloat. The reality is, though, that he has a full-time job as a web developer, yet still spends two-to-three hours working on his baby per day. With moderators tending to the forum side of the site, Gostovic still checks course updates for spelling and grammar and optimizes uploaded photo sizes so they load properly.
It is part of the responsibility he said he feels to the greater disc golf community.
“I do all this because I feel that it makes the site feel more professional,” Gostovic said, “which is important when it comes to the image of the sport, in addition to when decision makers do research into disc golf while they’re deciding if they want it in their communities.”
Matt Walter, a site moderator from Chicago, had nothing but praise for Gostovic’s dedication to making DGCR what it is today.
“Tim puts an enormous amount of time and energy into the site,” Walter said. “He built a site that became the premier destination on the Internet for disc golf, and is constantly improving and updating. I’m constantly amazed at how much he puts into DGCR for as little compensation as he gets, with the vast majority of the site’s features provided for free.”
Stengele also spoke to the impact Gostovic has had on the disc golf world.
“Tim is a pioneer when it comes to disc golf and technology,” Stengele said. “He has made disc golfing much more accessible for travelers with the use of reviews, links, maps, forums, and even contacts for course guides. He has helped to bridge the gap from coast to coast in the short amount of time he has had this site going. He has done more for the disc golf community than any other site. Period.”
Gostovic, though, gives much of the credit for the site’s value to the disc golfers who have embraced his creation with open arms.
“The site initially grew because it was a novel idea in the disc golf world,” he said. “These days, I attribute growth to the site’s community. The members are what makes the site, and they have turned it into an amazing resource for finding information on just about every course in the world.
“It’s really an awesome, vibrant community that I’m really proud to be a part of.”
Steve Hill is the associate editor for Rattling Chains. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.