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Is it time for resorts to poop or get of the pot with disc golf?

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I am now almost 18 months into this fun adventure into the world disc golf. I’ve played a dozen sports and I didn’t think there were any left I wanted to try, but I have completely fallen in love with this simple, fun sport and it’s growing community.

I’ve now played 30+ courses across nearly a dozen states. Many of which – Snowbasin, Nordic Valley, Hard’ack, Brewster Ridge, Solitude to name a few – were resort courses.

As I blend all what I’ve learned about the sport, the courses, the community, the style of play, course designs, resorts, marketing, products, and more…the line that comes to mind is one I’ll keep G-rated because this is a family blog: it’s time for resorts to poop or get off the pot when it comes to disc golf.

The Usual
Here’s how it usually goes:

  • Hearing about the growth of this sport, a resort sets up a disc golf course
  • A bunch of people come try it when it first opens
  • It gets a 3.5 rating on Udisc
  • After a while only a few people play each week
  • So, one summer, the resort pulls the plug citing “it’s not worth it”

Here’s the thing. I’ve never seen such a distinct example of the 80/20 principle as exists in disc golf. A good course (say, 3.0-3.5 rated on Udisc) can see a couple random groups on a Saturday, but great courses (rated closer to 4.5) are packed with non-stop groups from sun up to sun down.

Resort courses? Well, they tend to be good courses but rarely great courses. And the difference comes down to four things.

#1) “Meh” Design
Resort terrain – elevation changes, trees, ridges, water – have all the ingredients for a great course. But if you don’t have holes that make players guess about whether they should throw a forehand or backhand turnover? Or holes that let big arms open up with their favorite 12 speed? Or holes that require a hyzer flip to glide through a narrow, downhill tunnel? You’re in trouble. If nobody on your staff knows what any of that means? You’re in even bigger trouble.

#2) “Meh” Upkeep
So many courses think that putting up the baskets is the end of their job, but the number one reason I (and many other golfers) don’t go back to play some resort courses is because the resort doesn’t mow the holes. Trying to play disc golf in 4′ tall grass is like trying to play basketball on gravel. Doable, but more frustrating than fun. And guess what your slopes look like in August if you haven’t mowed them? Discs are much easier to lose than you’d think. It doesn’t take much, but it does take something.

#3) “Meh” Pads
Even more, they spend a few hundred bucks on each basket and make sure they get the top of the line stuff, but then install hastily designed and assembled tee-pads. These pads are usually too short or too narrow and uneven because someone did the math and they didn’t feel it was worth it. It’s like trying to shoot 3-pointers standing on marbles. So even if they have a well-designed hole that’s mowed from time to time, golfers simply can’t throw a good shot from a tee-pad that was designed for cost savings instead of what it was intended for.

#4) “Meh” Marketing
Perhaps most of all, many of these courses are never connected with the local disc golf community. A local pro would have designed it for free, the local league would love a new place to play their Thursday evening series, one of the dozens of disc golf YouTubers would have killed for an exclusive sneak peek to show their followers, but this almost never happens with resorts. Resorts build the course and…well…hope people come.

Do, or Do Not
If any of these things describe your resort’s disc golf course, and you don’t have any plans to change any of that? Then, yeah, disc golf isn’t gonna do much for you…if anything. And it honestly may not be worth putting your baskets out each summer.

But if you want to tap the potential that put disc golf on your radar in the first place? Start with where you’re at and go the last 20%:

  • Bring in some local pros to help improve the design
  • Install some new tee-pads
  • Come up with a plan to mow the course on regular basis
  • Work with local disc golfers to hold an event or two

It doesn’t take as much as you’d think to take a resort course from a “meh” course to a “must play” course in the disc golf community, but, again, it does take something. And if you think there’s no money in it, pay a visit to Brewster Ridge at Smugglers Notch on a Saturday this summer and watch the endless stream of disc golfers paying $10/round.

Most resorts won’t commit, but for those that do? Man, there’s a ton of potential.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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