2022 Fandom Survey: How Fans See Disc Golf, Pt. II

Competitiveness, sister sports, and more.

Catrina Allen and cardmate Colleen Thompson enjoy some hacky sack to stay loose during a backup. Photo: DGPT

This article is part of a series intended to provide insights into disc golf fandom. These insights will come through analyzing a rich data set produced by the first-ever Ultiworld/StatMando fandom survey. If you wish to learn more about the survey and the demographics of the survey respondents, please read this accompanying article. To see which pros we root for and against, please read this article.

This article will continue from where we left off in our previous article, analyzing data related to our respondents’ relationship with disc golf and how they see the sport.

We were curious to find out how often the respondents play disc golf.

  • More than half (53%) of the respondents play disc golf more than once per week! If you were to survey 1503 ardent fans of the professional league of any sport, how many of those sports will have a majority of fans play that sport more than once per week?
  • 84% of the respondents play disc golf at least once per week!
  • Most of my weekends are spent playing ultimate or recovering from an ultimate injury, so I don’t play disc golf often. I find myself in the tiny minority (2%) of respondents that play only a few times a year.
  • We cross-referenced this data with player fandom scores and found no significant pattern based on how often a respondent plays.
  • There were differences in how often respondents played based on birth year. The respondents that play a few times a year had an average birth year of 1983. The average birth year goes up for each measure of playing frequency, with an average of 1987.4 for respondents who play more than once per week. The older our respondents were, the less they played.
  • Addtionally, the more a respondent played, the more competitive they considered themself. This leads to the following graph.

We asked respondents: “How important is being competitive in your disc golf game?”

We then cross-referenced the competitiveness data with the data produced from other questions and found a correlation with the political alignment of the respondents, graphed below.

  • The graph has an interactive legend at the top to help visualize the distributions of competitiveness across political associations.
  • The graph shows that right-wing respondents are more likely to be very competitive than left-wing respondents, with centrist respondents in between.
  • This made me wonder, outside of disc golf, are people who align with right-wing politics more competitive than people who align with left-wing politics? I did some googling and did not find anything.

When we wrote the survey questions, we decided to throw some curveballs at our respondents. One of the more off-beat questions we asked was: “What sport has the most similar spirit to disc golf?”

  • Not surprisingly, ‘Ball Golf’ was selected most by the survey respondents (~40%).
  • We cross-referenced this question with player fandom scores. Respondents who considered ball golf to have the most similar spirit to disc golf gave Brodie Smith, Paul McBeth, and Drew Gibson a higher overall fandom score than individuals who considered an alternative ‘spirit sport’. Smith played ball golf and McBeth has the demeanor of a ball golfer, so this seems to make sense.
  • Other interesting trends:
    • Sarah Hokom scored higher with individuals who associated disc golf with Freestyle.
    • Kevin Jones scored higher with individuals who associated disc golf with Hiking.
    • Gregg Barsby scored higher with individuals who associated disc golf with Skateboarding.
    • Isaac Robinson scored higher with individuals who associated disc golf with Ultimate.
  • Do any of those make any sense besides Barsby with skateboarding?

There were some trends across responses to the “spirit sports” question and respondent’s political alignment, as demonstrated by the next graph:

  • Ball golf is arguably the most straightforward answer to this question and was chosen by a plurality of all segments of respondents regardless of political affiliation.
  • 53% of respondents who indicated that their politics were right-wing think disc golf is most similar in spirit to ball golf. Left-wing respondents chose ball golf 35% of the time and Centrists were in between at 48% choosing ball golf. Apolitical came in at 35%.
  • Perhaps right-aligned respondents are inherently more likely to choose the more straightforward response. For example, this study concludes that conservatives prefer simple representational art over abstract art.
  • This may also be tied to the conservative respondents being more competitive. Ball golf seems to be the most inherently competitive sport out of the “spirit sports” we chose for the survey.
  • It feels appropriate that respondents with an apolitical alignment have the highest percentage of fans that feel skateboarding is disc golf’s “spirit sport.”

Another off-beat question on the survey was: “Has disc golf lost its soul?” We gave respondents four preselected responses to choose from. Most respondents either chose the “What The Heck Are You Talking About” or the flat-out “No.” Those answers probably mean they are not concerned with where disc golf is headed.

  • 188 respondents replied: “Not Yet, but we are getting there” and 22 responded, “Yes, absolutely.” For these people, the question struck a chord and they probably are not 100% satisfied with the direction disc golf is headed.
  • The two segments that showed concern for the soul of disc golf were older than the unconcerned segment by several years. Furthermore, they really don’t like Brodie Smith, giving him an average fandom score ~2 points below fans that are unconcerned with where the sport is headed.
  • We received 92 custom responses which ranged from angry rants often directed toward transgender women in the sport, to thoughtful custom responses such as this one: “I think it depends on where you think the soul of disc golf really comes from. To me, the soul of disc golf is something that is outside, is free to play, and is available to everyone. The culture may change and evolve with time but for me as long as courses are free and accessible, the soul will be just fine. The soul may be leaving the professional side with big money sponsors coming in the future but it is important to remember that the pro side is just one part of disc golf, not the sum total.”

My thanks to Karl Lamothe and Steve Andrews for their assistance in editing this piece as well as the rest of the StatMando team with data analysis and preparation. Please send your feedback and suggestions to [email protected]. Keep an eye out for the next article in the series where we will focus on analyzing fandom through gender.

  1. Jesse Weisz
    Jesse Weisz

    Jesse Weisz is a freelance disc golf writer and conductor of the Fandom Survey. His hobbies include sustaining injuries through ultimate and disc golf. He also runs a non-profit that helps teachers travel at geeo.org. You can reach him at [email protected].


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