Starting a Disc Golf Club

Any club is only as good as the ability of its members to work together toward common goals. No two clubs are exactly the same “ different goals and the dynamics of the individuals involved promote this diversity. This is an outline to help you get started. In the end the club will only be as good as you, the members and leaders make it. Experiment and modify this guide to make it work for you.

Getting Started

Step 1: Keep it Simple

Set-up an interim leadership group with up to three key people. Keep it simple. The focus of this group will likely be to 1) promote disc golf, 2) develop a membership list of interested people for a club, 3) develop an organizational program, 4) get a course in the ground, 5) start running simple events, 6) form a club with a formal meeting and election. If you can't get a course in the ground keep trying and building interest. It's always more difficult to start in an area with no exposure to the sport. The more people you can get involved and interested the better your chances of success.

Step 2: Promote the Sport

Focus on promotion. Develop hand-outs that explain what disc golf is (there is literature available from the PDGA) and details its benefits to your specific community or property owner. Contact community groups with a stake and give them a presentation on the sport. Ask "hotheads to stay away from community meetings “ your role as polite advocates for the sport cannot be overemphasized. Anticipate objections and develop talking points to handle issues. Hold instructional clinics for parks, schools, scouts, church groups, or others that disc golf would benefit. Reach out to recreational professionals in schools and local recreation departments.

Step 3: Location Scouting

Identify a park or property that would make a good course and develop a proposal.

Course Development

Step 1: Securing the Land

  1. Go investigate all the resources available at PDGA.com's Course Development section.
  2. John Duesler's article entitled Weave Your Way on the Web on that page has great info including guides on making a proposal for a new course.
  3. Find a park or facility that would be suitable for a disc golf course.
  4. Prepare a preliminary proposal with general info about disc golf (see the Proposing section of Duesler's article - it has links to proposal templates “ easy to edit!).
  5. Contact the park department or land owner.
  6. Develop your proposal with an eye to appealing to the various interests involved. (Rural areas may want to emphasize financial benefits “ urban areas may want to stress cleaning up a park by occupying it with legitimate recreation.)
  7. Make a presentation to the park department or owner. (Show enthusiasm - a bullet point presentation that highlights the benefits of a disc golf course can help.)
  8. Obtain approval or repeat step 3 -7. This may take time, be patient.

Step 2: Design the Course

  • Contact the PDGA and get in touch with the DGCD, Disc Golf Course Designers group. See if there is someone in your area that can assist you.
  • Download the PDGA disc golf course design guidelines and develop your course layout. Download and read all of John Houck's course design articles from http://www.circularproductions.com/ (Articles by John). Set it up with stakes or temp baskets, play it, and gather opinions. Get input and approval from the park, owner and interested community groups.

Step 3: Financing the Course

Here are some options for financing a disc golf course:

  • Ideally the park or owner will pay for and construct the course.
  • You could make a donation for the full amount.
  • There are often grants available through different public sources.
  • You could find private sponsors to donate money.
  • You could run fund raisers.
  • DGA matching basket program for schools.
  • World's Greatest Disc Golf Weekend winner

(If it is too much to do all at once, you could scale back - start with a 9-hole course with grass tees and raise the remaining money over time.)

Step 4: Constructing the Course

  • Ideally the park or owner will clear the land (if necessary) and to build the course. If not¦
  • Put together your team, roll up you sleeves and start working. Hopefully you have people in your initial group with construction experience. You will soon find out who the leaders and doers are.

(Again, you do not have to do it all right away. Phase it so people can start playing quickly. This will help keep them motivated to finish.)

Step 5: Post Construction

  • When you are substantially done (playable), list the course up at the Course Directory at PDGA.com.
  • Once the course is completed, schedule a Grand Opening ceremony. Invite the appropriate government officials, owners, the press, and all of the local disc golfers that will come. Have a ceremony and hold a tournament. Promote, Promote , Promote.

Club Formation

Step 1: Develop an organizational program.

This can be as simple as an outline or a full fledged charter. The following is a list of some of the things you will want to include:

  • List of officers and their duties.
  • A typical list of officers would include a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Course Maintenance Person. Or you can set it up more like a corporation with a board of directors led by a chairman, and a series of directors who oversee committees. This might be more appropriate for a larger club.
  • Duties to be delegated would likely include presiding over meetings, organizing club functions and events, setting goals, delegating and organizing work, controlling club funds, promoting membership, promoting your course and disc golf, working with the park/owner on maintenance, improvements and expansion, establishing and running events, developing a schedule of events, communicating with your members, the PDGA, and other neighboring clubs, and all the other work that will need to be done.
  • (As you start out, you will find this will probably fall on one or two people. The sooner you can involve others into leadership positions, the more others will feel part of the club and look to contribute. Teamwork, cooperation, and mutual respect are what is needed for a club to grow and be successful. Expect things to change.)
  • (One major pitfall you can get into is to control everything yourself. Others will be glad to let you do all of the work or will be afraid to offend you by offering their opinions. Another pitfall comes when someone in a leadership position wants to control everything. In either case, the club will suffer by not getting the most from its membership. Eventually the leadership will burn out and the club will stagnate, decline, and may eventually die.)

Step 2: Hold a club formation meeting

  • Formally sign up members, collect dues, and ask for nominations.
  • Discuss, adjust, and vote to approve the organizational program.
  • Hold formal elections, elect officers, and swear them into office.
  • Open a bank account (optional) and start accounting for all funds.
  • Discuss ideas, goals, and direction for the club - specific and broad ranged.

Step 3: Schedule and hold the first club meeting

  • Have an agenda and a preliminary schedule.
  • Focus on club direction with long range goals, short range goals and immediate programs and activities. (Keep it simple and manageable.)
  • Focus on growing membership and exposure for the course and disc golf.
  • Take minutes to distribute to members and post at the course.
  • Set specific obtainable goals to be reported on at the next meeting.
  • Schedule time and place for next meeting.

Step 4: Have regularly scheduled club meetings (but don't overdo it)

  • Have an agenda each meeting.
  • Discuss old business including schedules, past events, status of club funds.
  • Discuss new business. (Always have something new to discuss.)
  • Take minutes to distribute to members and post at the course.
  • Set specific obtainable goals to be reported on at the next meeting.
  • Schedule time and place for next meeting.
  • (Listen and respect everyone's input.)
  • (Remind people that if they aren't in this to have fun, they should try ball golf.)
  • (Be sure to thank and praise everyone who contributes.)

Event Ideas

Tournaments:

  • PDGA sanctioned events, NT, A, B, C, or X tier
  • Charity events: Ice Bowls, charity tournaments, special fund raisers w/ matching funds
  • Local Club events: Try to establish as annual events
  • Have a mix of singles, doubles and / or match play
  • Try to correspond with other local events or holidays
  • Avoid conflicts with other PDGA events in the area

Programs:

  • Weekly leagues, scrambles, etc. (Any format used by ball golfers)
  • Special games: The Works, DG Boche, Wolfpack, etc.
  • Bag Tag programs (Bag Tags can be sold as a club fund raiser too)
  • Annual club picnic / event

Fundraisers:

  • Special 50/50 tournaments
  • 50/50 side events at tournaments
  • Direct Sponsorship
  • Club fee ($1 or $2) from each player at weekly programs
  • Hole Sponsorship programs
  • Disc-a-Thons
  • Sale of club paraphernalia

Clinics:

  • World's Greatest Disc Golf Weekend
  • Instructional clinic for boy and girl scouts, schools, churches , parks, etc.

Keep it Going

Every club is unique based on the people and the specific situation. Each club should do what works. The following are some thoughts and suggestions:

  • Try to run at least one PDGA sanctioned event each year so local players can meet and compete with a larger pool of players.
  • Set up at least one program that people can play on a weekly basis.
  • Always promote disc golf and the club to new people. Make all club events and programs open to the public.
  • Coordinate your events and programs with other clubs in the area to avoid conflicts and improve cooperation.
  • Do not be afraid to ask other clubs for help and suggestions.
  • Be creative with your programs. This sport has grown mainly from the grass roots level. New ideas and innovation are always welcome.
  • Keep your club dues reasonable and offer something tangible in return for membership: a t-shirt or disc, discounts to club events, newsletters, email updates, etc.
  • Consider club paraphernalia with your club logo so members feel part of a team and can show solidarity.
  • Consider a bag tag program to encourage intra-club play and competition.
  • Consider offering multiple membership options: Lifetime memberships, charter (founder) memberships, standard memberships, special group memberships for the other groups that play but do not want to be part of a club.

Your club may want to affiliate with the PDGA. There are neat benefits to your members for affiliating. It gives you club an opportunity to belong to a larger disc golf community “ and your club will get a dedicated forum on the front page of the DISCussion Board.

Clubs are often made-up of 5% leaders, 5% doers, and 90% baggers. Set your expectations accordingly. Not everyone will have the same motivation or commitment to club projects and programs. Expect frustrations and be sure to give thanks and praise to those who do help, because that will probably be their only compensation.

Clubs go through different phases as they grow.

  • Phase 1 - Course Development and Construction
  • Phase 2 - Club Start-up / Honeymoon
  • Phase 3 - Growth / Burnout / Regroup (Repeat)
  • Phase 4 - Expansion (Additional courses / Repeat Phases 1 & 3) or

Clubs are made of people with personalities, egos, and agendas. As you grow, you will go through periods of conflicts with leadership, personality conflicts, and fragmentation into cliques. The success of your club can depend upon how you deal with these issues. You don't all have to be friends; you just have to find a common ground for consensus. Just remember, this is about a game and having fun.