Nov 10 2009, 12:34 PM
Are private courses profitable? Are there people out there making a living off of running a proshop, leagues, tournaments, etc on a private course?
What types of locations are they in?
Are there other courses in the same town?
How big of a town?


Nov 10 2009, 02:12 PM

"Profitable" depends on your definitions. Hard to imagine any course is paying for itself, including land costs, property taxes, & maintenance. On the other hand, if the land costs and property taxes are being covered in other ways, all you'd have to cover is maintenance expenses to make at least a little profit. We're making a tiny profit, if we consider equipment repairs to be a property expense, not a course expense.

"Make a living" would require a high enough profit. It would require a lot of players, meaning it would be in a high-population area, meaning the land costs would be quite high.

Nov 10 2009, 02:22 PM
Are private courses profitable? Are there people out there making a living off of running a proshop, leagues, tournaments, etc on a private course?
What types of locations are they in?
Are there other courses in the same town?
How big of a town?


mine sure isn't!

the guy who runs the pro shop at morley field in san diego makes a good living according to folks who know him. (i know- not really a private course)

private courses in maine seem to do ok (no public courses nearby)

the grange in spotsylvania is attempting to make a go of a private course business model but they're not far enough in yet to see how it works out.

Nov 10 2009, 03:02 PM
Sandy Point [WI] is beautiful. I think Mike makes his living on the resort not the course.

Nov 11 2009, 09:35 AM
Sandy Point [WI] is beautiful. I think Mike makes his living on the resort not the course.

No doubt.

Where a private course is on property with other commercial uses---say, a golf course or ski slope or resort---the additional cost of the disc golf may be fairly low, and a profit is possible. The other uses are paying for the land and the taxes and the maintenance equipment and perhaps most of the fairways are in areas that would be maintained, whether or not disc golf is there. $6,000 - $10,000 in initial costs, eventually they'd recover from greens fees, disc sales, or both at tournaments. Then, eventually, a little profit.

Similarly on a course on private property, where the owner would be paying the land costs and taxes anyway. Except these are more likely to include maintenance in places that would not otherwise be maintained (labor, fuel, equipment purchases & repairs).

Nov 19 2009, 09:02 PM
Bummer. Thanks for the replies. What about the courses at Marshell street? Anybody know about them. I'm guessing that with the online proshops they have to make some money.

Nov 19 2009, 09:29 PM
If you already own the land and have the equipment to install the course and time to maintain it, you might be able to justify giving it a try. But it's hard to cover those real costs if you have to start from scratch - buy the land and equipment plus pay someone to maintain it.

Nov 20 2009, 08:07 AM
Leasing the land may be a better option in some cases.

Nov 20 2009, 10:25 AM
The year after year maintenance gets very old, and no profit in sight, even with a pro shop in a small market area I doubt that I've even broken even for the targets, equipment and installation after nearly 10 years. There is the a riding lawnmower at least, small tools (weed eaters, loppers, chainsaw....) all that need repair or replacement. Insurance costs are part of the overhead too. And of course that does not include the land. If you put a value on your time at all it becomes a labor of love or something other than a profitable business. In many weeks of the growing season I spend more hours mowing and working on the course than playing.

Nov 20 2009, 02:57 PM
Trophy Lakes makes enough money to offset some taxes for their property, but I think the high disc sales help them a lot. I think you need to have a pro shop, at least 2-4 PDGA events per year and a good course to break even. I think we help them stay afloat in the Winter when there are few ski schools and ski tournaments in sesion due to the cold water temps.

They tried to lease the course to our club for a silly price each year. We had to turn it down because we all have jobs and didn't want the risk.

Too many slackers not paying green fees. They need a CCTV system and a speaker to call the cheaters back to the club house or tell them to leave.

Nov 20 2009, 04:39 PM
Trophy Lakes has an enviable setup. Limited choice of courses in area, lots of dedicated disc golfers, a pro shop that is part of a larger business (thus presumaby doesn't pay for staffing), and the lucrative disc recovery business (lots of water + scuba divers + finder fees = extra income). Not to mention being a terrific course.

If anyone's playing without paying, they should be shot.

Nov 21 2009, 12:06 AM
Fly 18 has been doing this from 2000 20 courses and counting.Pay for play is the way.

Nov 21 2009, 04:09 PM
Thanks to the course owners that have contributed their thoughts. I know a little about HH and SH, where you from Fossil?

With the number of private/ptp courses listed on the directory (over 100), it'd be nice to hear from more folks that own courses.

What are the top ten most successful courses out there (private or other) in terms of generating revenue? What are the secrets to their success?

So far, on the doing good list, we've got:

Trophy Lakes - additional recreation amenities, proshop
Sandy Pointe- resort facilities

I've heard about the course in san diego doing well, is that accurate?

Nov 21 2009, 05:17 PM
Vallarata-Ast DGC in token creek county park outside of Madison is a pay to play facility and is on county property. From all of the accounts i have heard they are making some money. I believe most of Token creeks park costs are paid for by the disc golf course. This includeds mowing and personel costs. I believe they bring in over $50,000 a year in green fees. Cost to play is $5 a day and either 40 or 50 for a season pass. THe course is only in the ground from May 1 to Nov 1. You could probably contact Dane county parks department and get better or more information. Nice manicured course but IMO kind of boring but still a very nice disc golf course.

Nov 22 2009, 12:42 AM
Pretty amazing that there are 100+ private courses around. There are a few in Indiana that I know of. Honeybear, Little Bighorn. Anyone know Pieradise? Al Piers place in Peru, IN. Pro shop, 18/27 hole course, Makes the Spider Baskets. It seems to be doing well, but I don't know for sure. He gets some volunteer help too. Not sure how much though.

What styles of courses seem to work best? Championship courses? Beginner friendly?
How much do you charge? Do you have carts? Other ammenties? Leagues?

Nov 23 2009, 10:50 AM
Someone with more info might want to chime in on:

Morley Field in San Diego, which I'm led to believe is a very succesful pay-to-play. I think it's a public park with a concessionaire running the course, and was for a long time the only course in the area.

(Extinct) Gran Canyon in Brooksville, Florida. A course on private property. They had a number of events a year with pretty good attendance. The one I regularly played (the amateur event in January or February) would have 100+ players and charge a $15 greens fee ($5 per day, including Friday). So that's $1500 or so to the owner from that one event.


There are lots of different types of private & pay-to-play courses. What comes to mind is a private landowner, a disc golfer or friend of disc golfer, installing and maintaining a course. But there are also courses that have been installed on golf courses (Fly 18, etc.), ski slopes, and other commercial ventures, where the income is supplemental. And courses in State Parks, where an entry fee or even separate disc golf fee goes into the coffers and offsets the minimal costs of the course.

As for type of course (Championship, Beginner-friendly, etc.), I'd expect the most profitable to be championship-style, or at least advanced. Otherwise, in most places, players have free alternatives nearby.

How's Brackett's Bluff in Charlotte doing? Apparently an excellent course, on private property, in town where disc golf is pretty big. They've gone to membership-only. Anyone know?

Nov 23 2009, 11:23 AM
Short, mostly par 3 courses have been shown to have higher traffic than Championship or Advanced courses and are likely to have cheaper operating costs since there is less property to maintain. From what I understand, Blendon Woods, a pitch and putt in Columbus, OH has been around forever and is minting money. Highbridge, WI and Lemon Lake, IN with at least four courses on each site have many more rounds played on their shorter courses than their longer ones. If you have a daily fee where customers can play as many rounds as they want, I suspect they feel they get their money's worth playing more rounds on shorter courses.

Nov 23 2009, 12:13 PM
Interesting. Are these in areas where there are free-to-play, short courses nearby? If so, what do they offer to entice players to pay?

Nov 23 2009, 03:23 PM
I think wherever you have a level playing field where you're comparing pay-to-play courses or comparing free courses, there's more traffic on shorter, less challenging courses. Considering there are several longer free courses in the Columbus area, even Blendon which is pay to play apparently has more traffic. In the Twin Cities, our oldest free course at barely over 5000 feet still outdraws most of the 5800-6500 ft courses around the metro. People have to really drive to Highbridge and Lemon Lake is a good 45 minutes from the Chicago population centers and yet their shorter courses still have more traffic even with people paying. Another example I've heard is near Omaha where the short city course outdraws the longer, more challenging Treasure Cove which is right on a college campus.

Nov 24 2009, 08:43 AM
It's not surprising that among free courses, shorter courses will often get more traffic. More beginners and casual players, and even for more advanced players, it's sometimes simpler to play a quick round on a fairly short course.

I'm surprised that a short, pay-to-play course would do well if there are short, free courses around. And short, free courses are pretty widespread. Seems it would have to offer something special to lure players in significant numbers.

Nov 25 2009, 07:37 PM
Hard to make a business model when your competition gives away the service for no direct charge to the consumers and gets their operating costs covered by indirect means such as taxes and volunteers. Either your product will have to be of a much higher quality (less traffic, better maintained, and so on) or it will have to operate in an area where the 'free' options are limited.

As for people with courses on private property (not charging fees, not open to the general consumer), the profit is in currencies other than money. Having fun with friends, introducing scout and other youth groups to the sport through outings, being able to walk a fairway and marvel at how far it has come and so on. But it is a lot of work and the equipment needed isn't cheap to purchase or maintain.

Patrick P
Dec 04 2009, 02:14 PM
The Morley Field course in San Diego, CA is leased from the city and is very profitable to the lessee. Course fees include $2.50 weekday, $3.00 weekends. A concession pro shop is available selling snacks, drinks, discs and limited golf apparel and disc rental is available.

Why is this course profitable?

1) leased from the city (this used to be a landfill, now a 19 hole well established course)
2) location - not too many courses in San Diego, this one is centrally located
3) players - so many people play here, the lines are ridiculous. We have everyone from top pro players, to first timers playing along with their families. We even see corporate functions once in a while sponsor their employees to come out and play.

I have played at this course for two years and have seen a significant growth in popularity. You see more families and more college students playing and the lines can get 3-5 groups deep on several holes. Weekends are the worst, for $3.00 in 60-70 degree weather in December, how can you not beat that?

We should expect to have double the amount of courses in the San Diego area in 2010, so you may see a slight drop at this course in the mid-year. But with the growing popularity of the sport in the last couple years, this continual growth may offset some of the regulars traveling to other available courses.

There is a potential of a new private course going in that will offer night golf, a full pro shop, with alcohol available. Running proforma numbers, this course could potentially breakeven after one year, and start seeing profit in the years to come.

Dec 23 2009, 01:19 AM
There are probably 50-100 private course's that are not listed, because they want to stay private. I know of at least 4 within 100 miles.