Originally published at: https://discgolf.ultiworld.com/2024/01/09/2023-fandom-survey-what-are-fans-favorite-tour-courses/
This article is part of a series which will be released throughout the offseason based on the 2023 Ultiworld Disc Golf / StatMando Fandom Survey. If you wish to learn more about the survey and the demographics of the survey respondents, please read this accompanying article.
One of the key elements of disc golf is the course, of course. The DGPT (and PDGA for Majors) aim to provide players and fans courses with variety, adequate difficulty, beauty, geographic diversity, convenient locations, fan gallery space, nearby hotel infrastructure, parking, and cell phone reception for the broadcast. To get a better understanding of how fans perceive the current courses on tour, we added a new question to the survey: “Which DGPT and Major courses are your favorites to watch? (Select up to three).”
In total, 2080 respondents chose 1-3 courses, with 5657 total votes cast1.
Over the 2023 season, we saw 27 unique courses at DGPT Elite events and MPO/FPO Majors. For comparison, these courses have been sorted into three categories:
- Wooded: These courses are at least moderately wooded, having eight or more wooded holes (10 on tour in 2023).
- Open: These are courses that have less than eight wooded holes and are not active golf courses (8 on tour in 2023).
- Golf Courses: These are active ball golf courses, with lots of open holes (9 on tour in 2023).
- Maple Hill was the clear #1 – 65% of respondents chose it as one of their three favorite courses.
- UDisc has chosen Maple Hill as the best disc golf course in the world for three years running. You can view the UDisc ranking and rating for each course (as of February 2023) by placing your curser over the bars on the chart above (or touch on a phone/tablet). Some courses on tour are temporary and therefore did not qualify to be ranked or rated by UDisc.
- The next two most popular courses were WR Jackson and Northwood Black. Both were chosen by roughly 24% of respondents. These courses have been on tour for many years and have a reputation for challenging players to hit their lines and scramble from the rough.
- Notably, five of the top six favorite courses are at least moderately wooded.
- 20% of respondents said Winthrop is one of their top three favorite courses. This makes it the highest-ranked Open course in the survey. Despite the grumblings you see on social media about the USDGC having weird rules, obstacles, and too much OB, the course is still the fifth most popular among respondents.
- While most of the wooded courses are in the top 50% in the ranking, Nevin Park and Cedar Rock Park were both near the bottom. This isn’t especially surprising as Nevin is a recent addition to the tour and nearly all of the survey responses were submitted before the DGPT Championship. Similarly, more than 80% of responses were submitted before the USWDGC at Cedar Rock Park.
- Among Open Courses, Mill Ridge (Music City Open) lacks a fan following. Only seven respondents voted Mill Ridge as one of their three favorite courses. It has been a tour stop on the National Tour, Silver Series, and Elite Series but has been unable to win fans over.
- One of the clearest trends among fans is that they dislike the golf courses on tour. Every active golf course on tour was in the bottom 50% of favorite courses. Of the 2080 voters, only 217 (10%) chose at least one golf course in their top three. When you look at the total votes cast for golf courses the picture gets even worse; only 330 votes (6% of all 5657 votes) were submitted for all golf courses combined. Golf courses make up 33% of the tour, but only make up 6% of votes for fan favorites.
- This is not to say that all the golf courses on tour are universally disliked. For example, Emporia Country Club has a clear following of fans with 71 votes (3.4% of respondents). The other two top golf courses were the Glendoveer pair. Every vote for the Glendoveer courses was from a unique fan: no fans had both Glendoveer courses in their top three. They are very similar courses and can be difficult to differentiate since they are newer to the tour and have experienced redesigns. Because of this, fans of the Glendoveer venue likely chose just one course rather than both. If we work under this assumption and combine the votes for the two courses, we get 165 votes (8% of voters) for Glendoveer. This is higher than tour staples like Eureka Lake (4.5%), Brazos Park East (6%), and Disc Side of Heaven (7.1%).
- While Glendoveer and Emporia received some votes, other golf courses fared far worse. The clear least-liked venue was LVC (the survey received greater than 99% of its votes before LVC was announced as off the tour for the 2024 season). Less than 1.5% of respondents voted for at least one of the LVC courses. The Innova course was the clear favorite at LVC with 27 votes (1.3% of fans), but it still lacks the fanbase that would be expected for an event that kicked off the tour schedule for more than five years.
We were also interested in seeing how the location of where respondents live may have influenced their choice of favorite courses.
- Maple Hill was the favorite course of respondents living in 34 states and tied for the favorite in another five! While a few courses tied for the favorite course in two states, the only course to outright win two states other than Maple Hill was Idlewild.
- Maple Hill is so popular that it was the favorite tour course of respondents in nine states that had other tour stops in them: Arkansas, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas all had more votes for Maple Hill than for courses that host Elite or Major events in their state! In addition, both Iowa and Michigan had a tie between Maple Hill and their local tour courses.
- Excluding Maple Hill from the results, Winthrop was the favorite course of respondents in 12 states, while Northwood Black and WR Jackson each led in 11 states (including ties).
- The Nokia Disc Golf course stands out among the group, having more fans in Europe than the US; it was a top three favorite course of more than 50% of European respondents compared to 17% of American respondents.
When fans started following professional disc golf seemed to influence their course preferences. We separated our respondents into three different groups based on when they began following the sport: Covid-Boom fans (2020-Present, 954 respondents), Early-DGPT fans (2015-2019, 696 respondents), and Legacy fans (pre-2015, 353 respondents). Across these three groups, we saw some differences, particularly for five courses:
- Maple Hill is a favorite of 9% more Covid-Boom fans than Legacy fans and Øverås is the favorite course of almost twice the percentage of Covid-Boom fans (9.85%) as Legacy fans (5.10%).
- While Covid-Boom fans really love Maple Hill and Øverås, they don’t seem to enjoy the courses at Smugglers Notch nearly as much as Early-DGPT and Legacy fans. Both Fox Run Meadows and Brewster Ridge are favorites of around 14% of Early-DGPT and Legacy fans, but only slightly more than 9% of Covid-Boom fans. This is likely because Covid-Boom fans did not witness the 2018 Pro World Championships, which anecdotally were considered as raising the bar for what PDGA Majors could achieve.
- The course that Legacy fans hold in much higher regard than newer fans is Winthrop Gold; 8% more Legacy fans view Winthrop as a favorite than Covid-Boom and Early-DGPT fans. Perhaps this is because they have seen many more US Champions crowned and remember when the USDGC was seen as the gold standard for professionalism. Newer fans have seen the DGPT raise the bar and sit next to the USDGC in professionalism and build a similar, albeit shorter, legacy of excellence. Notably, USDGC has also been less accessible in recent years, with paywalls shielding round coverage from wide public consumption during and for 30 days following the event.
This was the first year we asked about favorite courses and we are excited to see how courses change in popularity over time. Some new courses have been announced for the tour next year (Olympus, New London Tech, more European courses, etc.) along with a few courses leaving the tour (the three courses at Wildhorse, WR Jackson, etc.). Hopefully, through this survey, we can learn more about what fans love to see so that courses can improve and create a better, more enjoyable tour experience.
Thank you for reading this lengthy piece. My thanks to Karl Lamothe, Jesse Weisz, and Josiah Zoodsma for their assistance in editing this piece as well as the rest of the StatMando team with data analysis and preparation. Once again, if you wish to be notified when next year’s survey is ready or want to be emailed when survey results are released, please enter your email address here. If you are interested in being involved in the survey and have experience in polling or a profession related to studying surveys, please get in touch with us at [email protected].
Please see the full series of 2023 articles by following these links:
- The Survey Itself & Who Took It
- Which Pros Do We Root For and Against
- How Fans Feel about Disc Manufacturers
- Fan Relation to Discs
- How Fans Feel about Media and Commentators
- How Fans Feel about Courses
- More Findings From The Fandom Survey: Coming This Offseason
Links for the 2022 Fandom Series articles can be found here.
a few respondents couldn’t contain their excitement and chose more, which were removed from the sample ↩