Gauging the true cost of disc golf

By Tim Engstrom — Special to Rattling Chains

All players of disc golf are somewhat ambassadors for the sport, me included.

We are quick to say how inexpensive the sport is when we list the reasons it is a wonderful game. And it’s true — it is an inexpensive sport. But let’s face it, costs can add up.

It starts off at a cheap price. You buy a $9 low-grade disc and go throw it at a park with no pay-to-play fee. Soon, you realize you want more discs. So, you buy a putter, a driver and a mid-range.

Fourth-graders at St. Theodore Catholic School (Minn.) hold up putters in March 2012 when local disc golfers taught disc golf to a physical education class. When starting out, people likely only need one disc, which helps with the inexpensiveness of the game. (photo by Dave Sime)

Fourth-graders at St. Theodore Catholic School (Minn.) hold up putters in March 2012 when local disc golfers taught disc golf to a physical education class. When starting out, people likely only need one disc, which helps with the inexpensiveness of the game. (photo by Dave Sime)

Then, as you get better, you realize you need more discs for various shots. You buy an understable disc to throw anhyzers, and an overstable mid-range to bend around corners. Perhaps you try a different putter or maybe you want to get that more expensive plastic like your buddy now has.

Oh, and you just have to replace that disc you lost. Soon, you’ll need a shoulder bag to tote all these discs.

Despite the investment, it’s still a cheap sport. The course is free. The collective investment in plastic saucers cost less than equipment for most sports, short of soccer and basketball.

Eventually, you get kind of good. You go play in local leagues because you want to learn how to throw even better from those guys and gals. What used to be your overstable plastic is no longer overstable because you learn to throw farther, harder, more accurately and smoothly. Now you need some new drivers.

Heck, half of the discs you used to throw now just sit idle in your house.

In addition, every week people have this conversation — “Hey, check out this disc.”

Whether it’s a limited run or a new model or even a new plastic, suddenly, you have disc envy. You want to try that disc, too. You buy it. Soon, it is sitting in your house with the other useless discs. Five months later, you pick it up again, because you need to throw something over water and figure it can be lost, but then it becomes a favorite disc and you never want to lose it.

By this time, your sweetheart saw you needed a bigger bag and bought you one for Christmas. And you use birthday money to buy disc golf shoes, a hat and maybe even a cool shirt.

Don’t forget travel.

Ball golfers are notorious for swinging clubs at the same old course day in and day out. Disc golfers, on the other hand, have this innate desire to travel to other courses. That incurs expenses of gas, food, refreshments and, at times, pay-to-play fees.

And with the travel and playing all these courses, it convinces you to compete in tournaments. Now you are paying entry fees, too. Then you want to play in the winter, so you need snow pants.

So, let’s review — discs, discs and more discs. Bags, footwear, outerwear, travel and fees. Phew!

Suddenly to realize something — paying entry fees actually becomes a bargain. You don’t win all the time, but when you do, the cash or vendor credit you earn becomes  the means by which you purchase new discs and supplies.

You can easily budget for the expense, go enjoy the competition and anything you win becomes the way you get new stuff.

Suddenly, it could also matter for you to attend tournaments where payouts go several places, giving you the chance to reap a reward.  Sometimes, tournaments take your money and give it to touring pros. In the push-and-pull of tournament directors attempting to attract top talent versus holding a fun time for all, some TDs favor the talent when they should consider what makes the sport successful.

In the end, spreading the winnings around is good for keeping the nature of disc golf inexpensive.

Tim Engstrom is an amateur disc golfer based in Albert Lea, Minn. He is part-owner of NorthStar Disc Golf.

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0 thoughts on “Gauging the true cost of disc golf

  1. You forgot to mention the basket you buy so you can practice at home, or so you can play an impromptu game in your yard by throwing at the same basket from different angles and then moving it to another spot.

    Aside from the quest for the right putter, there is also the quest for other specialized discs. I’ve been on a quest for the perfect floating disc for more than a year now, and I still haven’t found it. I prefer my long range drivers to weigh 167-168g, but Innova’s Wahoo is hard to find in that weight, the Innova Dragon is too light, Innova’s Blizzard discs only float at weights less than 140g, and I haven’t been able to find anyone who sells floating Lightning discs in my desired weight.

    According to Innova’s website, the Wahoo is available in weights as low as 168g, but nobody seems to stock them in that weight. The same goes for Lightning’s floating discs; everyone seems to stock them in heavy weights. Maybe I’ll contact an online seller about special ordering me a 168g Wahoo.

    …but I digress. My point is I now own five discs I bought looking for the right floater (two Wahoos, two Dragons, and one Blizzard Wraith), and I don’t like any of them well enough to carry in my bag.

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  2. Good points! I just upgraded my home basket from a beat-up M-14 to a portable Discraft Chainstar, but it cost dough. And I have discs that never really could break in just right. They were too tight or too dome-ish.

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  3. So true. Eventually when you have your set of 20 discs, and many of them in premium plastic – costing an average of $13/disc, you’re looking at $260 bucks!

    Compare that to a set of clubs though, and then add in the quality of play factor… disc golf, hands down!!

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  4. Innova Tournament Bag with Pheonix Straps $110
    Buying enough discs to fill out that empty space $100
    Tournament and League Entry Fees when you get no pay out $250
    Hitting an Ace during a Tournament Priceless (+$213)

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  5. Why don’t more players or TD’s have disc swap meets as part of an event? This would allow beginners to pick up used better plastic and those of us with too many discs an opportunity to shed some excess. You would be hard pressed to put a price on seeing a disc you no long throw become the perfect flyer for someone else. Or that OOP disc that someone has wanted FOREVER become a reality.

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