Saying I am a disc golf supporter and even an ardent promoter would be an understatement. Kind of like stating Labrador retrievers like to chase things and bring them back.
I write 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 also 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.
Don’t misunderstand me. Being able to compete in sanctioned events wasn’t the only reason I joined the PDGA.
I somewhat enjoyed the magazine that comes with membership — both versions (Disc Golf World News and Disc Golfer), 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 Rattling Chains, I’d like to receive the magazine once again. But here’s the rub: I play in the “professional” Masters division, which means 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 cost (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 — those 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 that world, the Professional Golfers’ Association is an organization for actual professional golfers and teaching pros. The USGA (United States 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 in my disc golf life, I needed to belong to an organization like the PGA. 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.
Nowadays I simply want to belong to something like the USGA. Unfortunately I don’t have that option.
A year ago, I contacted Sara Nicholson, who is the PDGA’s membership manager, and suggested 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.Nothing has changed.
Personal preferences aside, I think the PDGA is missing a big opportunity. To illustrate my point, I’ll use the old iceberg analogy.
As you may 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 $10 per person, and it comes with quite an impressive list of benefits, besides supporting the game:
- Member-only U.S. Open golf hat
- Latest edition of The Rules of Golf
- USGA Championship Preview
- USGA Insider e-newsletter
- 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
I understand the PDGA does not have the same resources USGA has, but I feel strongly that it 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 so 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 below 100,000. If the PDGA were to add this new level, I think it could easily pass the half-million mark by 2015. That has to be worth something, right?
What do you think? Am I right? Wrong? A cheap so-and-so? Or do you agree the PDGA should broaden it’s horizons and embrace the much larger group of purely recreational disc golfers?
Let us know and maybe the voices of many will help shape the future of the PDGA.
Jack Trageser is the founder of School of Disc Golf and the instructional writer at RattlingChains.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.