The consumer online disc golf retail market has already reached its economic peak after two years of exponential growth. But will it ever recover again?
- Disc Golf’s Demand & Economic Trends
- Covid-Era Disc Golf Rush
- The Disc Golf Disc Online MarketPlace
- The Disc Golf Market Players
- The Online Disc Golf Market’s Rise and Fall
- So What Happens Next?
- Links to Google Trend Graphs
Disc Golf’s Demand & Economic Trends
Using metrics from Google Trends*, Disc Golf reached its peak online popularity in late July of 2021 with a score of 100 (0 being the lowest level of interest). This was a massive leap from the peak popularity score of 54 two years prior. In a large scope view of disc golf over the last five years, the market has had many trends, with interest waning in the colder months and increasing when the temperatures rise.
While Disc Golf as a whole has already reached its peak popularity, that’s not to say it’s no longer popular. In fact, based on Google Trends, Disc Golf is on track with 2022, matching last April’s 72 with a 73 in 2023. This article’s main focus is on online retail sales of disc golf discs and Google Trends has shown a decrease year over year. Looking back, March of 2021 boasted its highest trend score at 89 for Disc Golf Discs, while March of 2022’s highest was 60 and 2023’s was 54.
Covid-Era Disc Golf Rush
According to Google Trends on the topic Disc Golf, public consumption skyrocketed from a lowly 22 popularity score in early December of 2019 to a peak in late July, 2020 at 85. That’s a 63 point jump within a matter of seven months. In that same time period, Disc Golf Discs reached a popularity of 93 (up from 11 in January of 2020.) The reasoning for these increases are obvious – people needed to get outside, the parks were open and the pricing of discs was inclusively low. In a sense, disc golf was a beacon for so many affected by the pandemic.
The popularity of disc golf didn’t end there – the disc golf market had found a new equilibrium and the sports popularity rose year over year. Compared to 2020, according to Google Trends, the lowest popularity score for disc golf in 2021 was a 44. For better context about how wildly high this new equilibrium was, look at 2019’s peak of 54 in Late May and its lowest point of 14 in February. The disc golf market was not only more popular within a year, but it was more stable, experiencing less corrosive quarterly trends.
The Disc Golf Disc Online Marketplace
The disc golf marketplace can be broken into five major parties, all with their own sales goals, overhead costs, competition and market pitfalls. These markets range from the largest scale retailers like OTB and Infinite, Manufacturer stores like Innova, up and coming disc dye retailers like Pastry Dyes, all the way to your local tournament TD’s table of discs for sale.
The Disc Golf Market Players
Large Scale Retailers (OTB or Infinite) – This is probably who most average consumers are familiar with and who they will go to when they need a new disc. These stores carry almost every brand and model of disc available and the largest of these retailers carry custom molds or a vast quantity of custom stamps. Brand recognition is usually found through professional tournament advertising or sponsorship, player sponsorship or other forms of advertising like digital marketing.
Manufacturer Factory Stores (Discraft or Innova) – Another popular market for consumers is the actual retail website’s for manufacturers. These retailers provide exclusive discs, limited release runs of disc golf discs before the general markets and large scale stock runs for low cost (but often high shipping fees unless the consumer purchases in bulk.)
Disc Dyers – When disc golf disc purchases saw a massive spike in the first week of May and July 2021 (Google Trends* for Disc Golf Discs shows peak search volume on May 2nd and July 1st) retailers couldn’t hold onto their stock. Even large scale manufacturers like MVP struggled to match consumer demand. So what happened? Small scale retailers took the opportunity to differentiate themselves and built their own lane in the market with creative disc dyes. From online marketplaces, commissions from instagram retailers to local retailers, disc dying became a viable opportunity for many retailers to sell discs and the fact that it was done by hand made it something the big retailers couldn’t do (at least well.)
Auction/Resale Sites – During the Covid-era disc golf boom, Auction sites became a point of contention as well as a battle ground for disc golf enthusiasts to show their true passion for plastic circles. The auction/resale sites can be split into a number of outlets. These outlets range from Ebay, Reddit and online forums (DGCourseReview) and many of the Facebook auction/BIN (buy it now) pages like Dollar Disc Golf Auctions. This party profits the most off of limited quantity and difficult releases, similar to sneaker or clothing drops (Supreme or Nike SB.) The more exclusive the release, the more limited the quantity and the better condition the disc golf disc is in, the higher the price will go. Are Paul Mcbeth or Eagle McMahon bagging this particular model? Tack on a 0 to the end of the price.
Small Scale Retailers – These are the retailers many tournament goers or players are familiar with. The small scale retailer is one who shows up to local putting league or the tournament to showcase their stock and answer any questions the consumer has. This party usually banks off having stock on hand, where a majority of online retailers force the consumer to wait three to five days before even holding the disc in their hands.
*In this article, we’ll be looking at the first two players (Large Scale Retail and Manufacturers.)
The Disc Golf Market’s Rise and Fall
Let’s look at the disc golf market from a more microscopic perspective. We took six online brands and looked at their organic search traffic from before COVID all the way to the present. What do we mean by organic traffic? Organic traffic is any online traffic from a search engine – It’s not traffic from advertising clicks, but simply any user who has typed in a search into Google (or Bing or Yahoo) and clicked on the page that interested them. Many factors can influence organic traffic visitors, from how the website is optimized to the general demand for the manufacturer’s product.
Another factor to consider when viewing this data is that it comes directly from the manufacturer’s website and no other retail avenues. These numbers in no way represent 100% of the big picture, they just give us a view into one particular aspect of online market demand.
Discmania – As many would expect with the loss of their star, Simon Lizotte, Discmania saw a severe drop off in traffic after peaking in the middle of last year and has struggled to recover. Like most brands, the company saw incredible and rapid growth from 2020 on. Dismania peaked in June of 2022 with over 106K organic visitors but currently the Swedish Disc Golf manufacturer sits at roughly 65K organic monthly visitors.
Innova – Innova, unlike many brands, has had a steady organic traffic for many years. Where Discmania’s traffic volume was negligible in 2016/2017, Innova was posting close to 70K organic visitors every month. So it’s no surprise that their estimated peak numbers in 2021 (283K visitors per month) were almost three times as high as Discmania’s peak and nearly double Dynamic Discs. But their drop off was severe after the peak in 2021 and hasn’t recovered. Currently, Innova sits at 140K estimated visitors per month, a drop off of over half in 2021.
Dynamic Discs – Dynamic reached its peak in 2022 with an estimated 112K organic visitors, probably due in part to their excellent marketing choices when signing Ricky Wysocki and Kona Panis. This was proceeded by steady traffic growth, with the start of 2020 seeing only an estimated 56K in traffic. They have for the most part been able to avoid any severe organic drop offs due to their marketing but have not gone unscathed. From their peak in 2022 the company is now seeing only an estimated 90K in organic traffic.
Discraft – Discraft has seen the most surprising organic drop off out of the five online outlets listed. Peaking towards the beginning/middle of 2022, Discraft saw an estimated 152K organic visitors. Compared to today’s estimated numbers in the 40K range, Discraft has suffered dramatically. This metric of organic traffic is not to say that the company is suffering, this may be the opposite if Discraft is pursuing other avenues of sales i.e. distribution and are excelling there. One item to note is Discrafts’s push of “pre-orders” for special edition discs. While this is a viable option for cementing purchases and finding an optimal amount of products to produce, Discraft isn’t relying solely on general market demand to sell their goods. In a sense they’re doing their best to create demand and produce the necessary supply, producing as close to exactly what the market will buy.
Infinite Discs – For a number of years, Infinite Discs has been one of the number one online retailers of disc golf discs and disc golf equipment and accessories. Their only real competition, by scale, would be OTB Discs. Infinite peaked in early 2022, with an estimated 250K organic visitors and have since fallen to close to 130K in month visitors today, in March of 2023. Infinite is an interesting brand to look at, as they not only hold every brand available but produce their own line of discs (Innova manufactured) and sponsor a team of players like Drew Gibson and Maria Oliva.
OTB Discs – OTB is one of the most well known disc golf retailers. In recent years, they’ve generated a ton of brand awareness using pro player sponsorships (Ezra Aderhold, Paige Pierce, and James Conrad), tournament sponsorships (OTB Open) and much more. This market demand generation has led to some pretty solid organic traffic statistics from only 4K at the end of 2019 and 29K monthly visitors in their 2020 high point. Peaking in June 2021, OTB received nearly 50K organic visitors a month and now sits a 43K a month in April of 2023. OTB has managed to come away generally unscathed from current decrease in market demand.
So What Happens Next?
If brands like Innova and Discraft aren’t capturing the public’s attention anymore, how can we expect your local disc reseller or dyer to capture and dominate their market? Markets are bound to face the ebbs and flows of the rest of the economy, but the disc golf market is interesting as it saw such an exponential growth in less than two years time.
Right now, almost all retailers are doing their best to push their products to a reluctant market. With Discmania producing mostly limited edition discs in 2022, Discraft promoting “stock run” models as the pro’s favorite and disc dying companies sponsoring pros, the retailers want the market’s attention. But the truth is, the rapid inflation of market value we saw in the past two years is over. There will be a new equilibrium for disc golf and it will be steady but not immune to market trends. More people are interested in disc golf and that’s great but the market can not expect consumer demand to match the inflated prices of a year ago – that’s a fact. At least not right now.
*Disclaimer: The research tools used in this article show only estimated numbers. They should not be taken as fact and were used only to show estimates of the current market and its companies.
- Google Trends was used to estimate approximate online interest in disc golf related topics.
- SEMRush was used to estimate organic search volume – This is not a conclusive answer on particular brand’s popularity, rather it gives us insight into consumer demand as it relates to these brands.
Google Trend Graphs
Due to the Pandemic and a severe increase in demand, disc golf manufacturer’s experienced high demand and short supply. A perfect example is MVP, after James Conrad won the World Title in 2021.
A major reason for discs costing so much is do to market demand, the cost of keeping up with supply and economic inflation.