By Bob Carver
The sport of disc golf is growing exponentially in America, according to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). The 2017 statistics show a membership of over 41,000 players in the U.S., with more than 6,000 courses. In 2018, the PDGA Worlds Amateur Championship was held in North Carolina, spotlighting the U.S.’s best in amateur disc golf. The Worlds Professional Championship was held in Vermont with all the pros in tight competition. Each year, thousands of tournaments and events are held on local disc-golf courses. Most courses regularly have a large number of individual players along with leagues and group events.
The need is great for new courses to be built, but often there is a lack of funding. The cost of a good disc-golf course can be less than $15,000—much less than a small playground unit. This article provides real-life case studies and the options used to fund the courses. Some courses are stand-alone, while others can be combined for maximum impact.
Funding From General Operating Expenses
New Whiteland, Ind., has a population of more than 6,000 people, while a neighboring city—Whiteland—has a population of more than 4,000 for a combined total that exceeds 10,000. These smaller communities had a need for a disc-golf course, so the decision was made to combine two small parks and spread the course over both. East Park contains holes 1 through 9, while West Park has holes 10 through 17, with the final hole in East Park. The decision was made to fund the course through the normal operating funds of each city and parks department. In this case, the bulk of the labor was performed by parks and city staff.
Funding From A Park Foundation
In May 2016, The PATH Foundation (formerly the Fauquier Health Foundation) announced it had awarded a Make It Happen! grant to the Culpeper County Parks and Recreation Department to create an 18-hole disc-golf course at Spilman Park in Warrenton, Va.
The parks and recreation department partnered with the Mountain Run Disc Golf Club (MRDGC) to provide residents an opportunity to play disc golf—a non-contact, low-impact, healthy lifetime sport for all ages. The course was constructed with assistance from MRDGC members and maintained by both MRDGC and the parks department.
“We are delighted to be able to provide some of the funding for this worthwhile project that provides area residents an opportunity for additional outdoor activity and exercise,” states Christy Connolly, president and CEO of the PATH Foundation. “The benefits provided by disc golf meet the PATH Foundation’s criteria for improving the health and wellness of residents in the communities we serve.”
John Barrett, Director of Culpeper County Parks and Recreation, adds, “Spilman Park is an ideal facility to install an activity such as disc golf. The lay of the land provides passive and active opportunities that will challenge the beginner to experienced player, individual, family, or groups. Receiving the PATH Foundation Make it Happen! grant offers residents a quality-of-life opportunity to keep healthy while enjoying the outdoors.”
Funding From A Business Grant
Grants of this type are available for varying amounts in many communities around the country. The business has to be approached in a three-step process:
1. Whether grant funds are available from an organization
2. The process and paperwork required and the amounts available
3. The application and receipt of funds.
In Franklin, Ind., for example, the parks department received a grant of $7,900 from a local utility company, which became the main sponsor of the course with the company name and logo listed on the main course sign, along with the name and logo on each tee sign.
Funding From Hole Sponsorships
In this case, disc-golf course developers and parks departments seek out area businesses willing to sponsor one or more holes on the course. Amounts per hole vary between $300 and $500. The business provides the funds, along with the copy/logo it wants to appear on the tee sign for the sponsored hole. Hole sponsorships are generally sold for holes most visible to the public, although smaller sponsorships can be sold for holes where tee signs are less visible. Often, courses use this type of funding that is combined with other sources. For example, the course in Franklin used the main course sponsor along with hole sponsorships. Both were shown on appropriate tee signs.
Funding From Local Clubs
The Johnson County Disc Golf Club in Indiana has more than 150 members with about 50 being active in events and work projects. Justin Maxey is a volunteer who coordinates most of the club’s events.
“As far as raising money, we always do it the same way when it is for the course,” he says. “The members bring and donate [closest to pin] prizes during doubles. Depending on the quality and quantity, I charge extra on top of the regular buy-in. All of this money is what we call the club fund. It is how we were able to buy the concrete, collars, and the things we use to maintain the course.”
“As far as suggestions for other clubs,” he adds, “it’s simple—be different. We in [Johnson County] do not follow the norms for clubs. We don’t charge fees, we don’t have meetings, and we don’t have officials. We operate on an interest and participation basis. When we need to decide on a hole placement or what to do for [doubles] during the winter, those who come to the league night or cleanup day discuss the changes. It’s a real easy way to narrow the 150 people on the page into those whose voices should matter—those who are actively involved in the sport and betterment of the course.”
When club members gather at the course on a Saturday for a work day, Maxey almost always provides a grilled hot dog and hamburger lunch.
It’s Worth The Effort
Whether funding a disc-golf course through general operating expenses or from a foundation, a grant, tee sign sponsors, or from a local club, funds are available to complete your project. In fact, all five methods can be used for a single project. However, it is recommended that a disc-golf club fund and maintain the course after it is built. Those who do not have a club nearby should consider gathering disc golfers and creating one. You will be glad you did.
Among the benefits of a course:
It is a good family sport.
It is great exercise
It is useful for community involvement.
Don’t let the absence of funding deter you from creating an experience in a community for years to come.
Bob Carver is a disc-golf course designer living in Franklin, Ind. He is a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association (member #25511), is a certified disc-golf official, and has played on over 130 disc-golf courses in 18 states. He also has served as tournament director for 25 disc-golf tournaments over the past 12 years. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.