Disc golf creating a chain reaction in Vail
VAIL — Organizers leaned on Steve Dodge to work more people into the Disc Golf Challenge at the GoPro Mountain Games this year.
“Last year, we had close to 120 competitors,” he said. “This year they asked me if we could get more people. I said we could maybe get 150, and we got to 180.”
It was the first event to sell out at the games.
Dodge has been a part of the sport for three decades. He’s currently the head of Vibram’s disc golf department, and said the sport has been seeing 10 to 20 percent annual growth for nearly 40 years.
“In the last four to five years, we’ve finally hit a critical mass where, you have a million players playing, and you grow by 10 to 20 percent, and people take notice,” Dodge said. “We’re over 2 million now, and we’re growing by 200,000 to 400,000 people per year.”
Local competitor Ross Ketchum said the atmosphere surrounding the disc golf events at the Mountain Games was electric on Friday.
“I hung out at the disc golf booths at Golden Peak from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and there were people constantly coming up all day, intrigued,” he said. “They put a six-hole course at Golden Peak which people were lured to non-stop. People were buying the colorful discs as art pieces.”
Dodge said the fact that brands are finding profits as a result of their involvement in disc golf is helping contribute to the growth.
“Trying to get outside sponsorship has actually been easier than I expected,” Dodge said. “Most companies have somebody internal to the company who loves the sport, and disc golfers are loyal. If they see a company support them, they’re going to support that company.”
BETTER PLAYERS, COURSES
The model used at the GoPro Mountain Games could be replicated in other venues across the country, Dodge said, as temporary courses can be set up in locations such as Vail with relative ease.
The fact that players are getting better also helps the cause, Dodge said, as wayward discs are less of an issue with more skilled players.
Ketchum said he was amazed by the skill of the players he saw on Friday. In practice, disc golfer Ross Brandt scored a hole-in-one, and followed that up with an ace on Hole 8, a first-ever one on a GoPro Mountain Games Disc Golf scorecard.
“The skill level of the players, the quality of the courses, it’s a night and day difference from what I saw five, 10 years ago.”
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