I’ve often wondered if pro disc golf players make any money for playing the game professionally. Can you make a living playing disc golf and how much can you make?
So, do pro disc golfers make money? Yes, professional disc golfers do make money from tournament winnings, sponsorships, and incentives on disc sales. The average yearly income for disc golfers at the pro level is approximately $116,000, but those with sponsorships tend to make considerably more than that.
How much money does Paul McBeth make?
Paul McBeth, probably the most recognized name in professional disc golf, took home $90,403 in prize money across 25 tournaments and has a career earnings total of just over $616k at the end of the 2021 season. On top of that, Paul recently earned a Discraft sponsorship that will pay him north of $1,000,000 spread across four years with sales incentives on signature discs.
It’s said that his contract was even renegotiated to a higher sum recently due to the popularity of his disc sales with Discraft.
Speculating a bit here, but if we do a little back of the napkin math, that means that Paul McBeth’s annual income is guessed to be at least $340,000 plus his cut of disc sales from his sponsorship with Discraft which could easily double or even triple that amount. Not bad for somebody who plays a game for a living, huh?
How much do other players make?
Now that certainly seems like a ton of money, but huge money just isn’t typical for most professional disc golfers. We need to keep in mind that Paul McBeth is one of, if not, the best disc golf player in the world, and securing a sponsorship of over a million dollars is most definitely not the norm for disc golf players.
** Note however that Ricky Wysocki, and some other top pro’s are doing fantastic these days with sponsorships of their own!
Let’s consider the earnings of the top 10 professional disc golfers on the United States Tour as of the end of 2021:
|Eagle Wynne McMahon
(Statistics from the official PDGA website)
Most players are certainly not at the level of Paul McBeth, and we should consider that not all of these players have lucrative sponsorships. The money from solely winning disc golf tournaments could cause some players to reconsider going pro.
The earnings drop off considerably further down the list. Let’s look at the 50th ranked male player in the United States as of 2021.
The money just isn’t there unless you score a sponsorship, which may only happen if you’re one of the best players in the world.
In 2020, the purse total was about $3.25 million; one year later, it almost doubled to $6.4 million. Compared to 2018, the Disc Golf Pro Tour payouts were 58% higher in 2021, with National Tour payouts up 61%. This is a huge increase in a short amount of time, considering the organized sport of disc golf hasn’t been around for long.
It should be said as well that high paying sponsorships are becoming more and more commonplace at the profession level for disc golfers which is making the sport more and more appealing as a career move.
Disc Golf Compared to Other Sports
I think we can all agree that Paul McBeth is doing great right now, but let’s take a step back for a second and consider that Paul is the number 1 rated professional disc golf player and has been for years.
Now ask yourself, what does the number 1 player of another sport make? How much does Lebron James make annually between salary and sponsorships? How about Tiger Woods? Tom Brady?
We’re talking millions, and in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars per year in salary and sponsorship earnings. Not to mention percentages of merchandise sales and other personal products.
The difference in the annual salary of professional players of extremely popular sports like basketball and football compared to that of disc golf is enormous.
Why is that?
Why such a big difference?
Disc golf is relatively new. The PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association), which is the disc golf equivalent of the NBA or the NFL was founded in 1976. Compared to other sports like basketball, which was founded in 1891, and football, which was founded in 1869, disc golf is a new sport.
Currently, there are only a few ways for pro disc golf players to make money.
The first would be tournament winnings. Though the prize money is really quite small, usually between $1,000-$3,000 for first place. However, at the 2021 Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship, the purse was $250,000, the largest ever in disc golf history.
Keep in mind that there are costs involved in playing these tournaments, like entry fees and the cost of food and lodging. So, if you find yourself finishing out of the top three or four spots, your prize winnings quickly go down to the break-even point.
Sponsorships are where the real money is. Some sponsors match tournament winnings, while some give the pro player incentives on sales of specialized disks.
But as I mentioned above, most disc golf pros aren’t likely to earn a sponsorship unless you’re one of the top players in the world. And even at that level, you’re not likely to earn a sponsorship worth huge money like Paul McBeth (unless you boot him from the number 1 spot).
Some players are active on social media. Eagle Wynne McMahon, for example, has a successful YouTube channel, which probably helps to supplement his professional income.
With all that said, interest in disc golf is rising rapidly. The number of disc golf courses had almost tripled from 2000 to 2008 alone and has only grown since.
Now, there are over 9,000 disc golf courses in the United States, with casual players numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
Access to the game is also becoming much more mainstream. Disc golf starter packs, popular from companies like Innova and Discraft, are readily available at your local sporting goods store or easily found on Amazon.com.
Professional Disc Golf is Changing
Times are certainly changing as disc golf continues to rise in popularity. We’re starting to see more interest in tournaments, and though the tournaments may not be broadcasted regularly on ESPN, there is more professionally edited tournament coverage on YouTube with professional announcers.
This may seem like a small detail, but it’s vitally important for the sport to gain interest. Disc golf needs to seem like a professional sport, and thus needs professional-looking coverage. This will allow us to connect to the sport in a more mainstream way, which could grow the sport even further.
Players like Paul McBeth are pushing for the sport to become more mainstream; he’s said he feels companies like Innova can do more to promote the sport with commercials and other promotional material.
It’s not just about the money here. Paul has said recently said in an interview (found here) that he thinks Discraft has positioned itself to make a big push for the sport and that they have a similar vision for the future and growth of disc golf.
Personally, I’m pumped about this push. Of course, I feel that disc golf is a wonderful sport for pros and casual players alike, and spreading the game to more people can only be a good thing.
What’s this mean for the pros and their salaries?
Well, we can only speculate from this point on, but it stands to reason that the bigger disc golf grows as a sport, the higher pro disc golfer salaries will be.
In that same line of thinking, sponsorships will most likely grow in size along with growing salaries. We may see a time when a million-dollar sponsorship for a professional disc golfer is commonplace or even a small amount as it would be in other sports.
This will all be positive for the sport in the long run. Anyone reading this article may well recognize the name Paul McBeth, but are you able to name another 10 professional disc golfers?
When the average person on the street can name their favorite disc golf player, that will be a good time for disc golf as a sport. The interest will be there, and so will the money.
When the money for promotion is ready and available, we may see courses that are better maintained, more interesting, and more accessible.
What lies ahead for the sport of disc golf will undoubtedly be exciting and ever-evolving!