1999 pdga world championship disc

How Much Has Pro Disc Golf Changed In 20 Years?

We’re back to being able to watch weekly tournaments on YouTube thanks to the DGPT starting back up and the amazing coverage from Jomez, CCDG, Gatekeeper, DGPT, and many others. But what did we have for those long months with no disc? I personally got back into watching some of the older videos that have been recently uploaded. If you’re new to the sport you’ll be getting a cool look at the past, and if you’re OG you’ll appreciate seeing some of the pros from the past play in their prime.

Let’s take a look at how disc golf has changed in the last 20 years. I’ve only been playing since May 2010 so some of this stuff is before my time on the game and I get a kick out of watching old tournaments. One thing I noticed as I was going through YouTube was the number of views on videos, the most recent World Championships have 3.4 million views. Older videos such as the 1999 Worlds have 80k views.

1999 - It’s been so long since 1999 here’s a little refresher of what happened that year. Eveliina Salonen won’t be born until after the World Championships, the first episode of Spongebob Squarepants comes on television, and Toy Story 2 was released. Ken Climo has been the dominant force for MPO in the last decade, winning the World Championships from 1990-1998, as well as the first 2 USDGC’s. As you watch the 1999 Tournament coverage, keep in mind that Star Plastic won’t be invented until November 2005. These players are using CE Plastic, or Pro, and DX if they’re on Team Innova. Players didn’t just play 5 rounds (including the finals) like they do today, no they were playing 8 rounds then the semis, then the finals! It’s going to take the winner 432 strokes to collect $4,000 which brakes down to $9.26 per stroke. I won’t spoil who wins so you can watch and enjoy, but pay attention to the awesome commercials and how different the graphics are now. And I love the style of fashion in the 90’s, you’ll certainly be hit with a wave of nostalgia if you were alive then. While they do have the 1990 FPO World Champ, Amy Bekken, doing commentary, I unfortunately couldn’t find the Women's Tournament on YouTube. They do however show the highlights of all the divisions at the end of the video. If you don’t mind a spoiler of seeing who won that year, here are the PDGA Stats from the 1999 World Championships.

2005 - Quick recap from 15 years ago; Lance Armstrong won his 7th Tour de France and we believed him, the White Sox won their first World Series since 1917, and the FPO World Title has fallen out of American hands to Sweden’s Birgitta Lagerholm. Oh, and Sabattus Disc Golf is one year from being established. The professional game of disc golf has changed a little. Climo, while still king, has only won a couple more World Titles, and his teammate, Barry Schulz, has also won. The MPO fields are starting to get smaller, down from 238 competitors to around 150; however, the competition is just as fierce. You’ll also start seeing more than just Scott Stokely using a forehand shot, and the women’s side is starting to show a changing of the guard. Gone are the days of Elaine King and Juliana Korver winning by double digits. It’s future Hall of Famer Des Reading’s time to shine. Zuca carts were founded in 2004, so you’re starting to see different items that the players are carrying. You can see these changes in the YouTube video of the 2005 World Championships and how the competition stacked up in these PDGA stats.

2010 - The biggest thing you’ll notice here is that the style of putting has changed dramatically. The fluttery putts of the 90’s are gone and players are snapping their wrists much more; the baskets have improved as well so they can catch faster putts. The plastic has also improved greatly. Almost no pro is teeing off with a DX driver anymore, with the exception of rollers. We still have a Final 9 for MPO and FPO (which I love). You might see some names you recognize today in the PDGA stats that year, such as a young woman named Paige Pierce, who finished 5th, and a young man named Paul McBeth will finish 12th in their open divisions at the 2010 PDGA World Championship that year. This is the start of the modern era of disc golf. Baskets are better, discs are faster, the game is more recognizable, and players are starting to throw much further than before. In a 2000 USDGC video the commentators talk about a 373 foot hole being reachable for the top Pros in the game. Now a 373 foot hole is reachable for many amateur players. New companies are forming but the old companies like Discraft (1979), Innova (1983), and Discmania (1994) are ever popular with players and are sponsoring more and more of them. In fact this will be the first time you’re seeing GRIP EQ bags. Remember when buying a bag, you had to buy shoulder straps separately? Backpacks are going to start taking over.

2015 - The MPO field has been crushed under the force that is Paul Mcbeth of Team Innova. He’s won 4 World Titles in a row and nothing seems to be stopping him. Paige Pierce has won her second title in 3 years and they’re both starting to distance themselves from the rest of the field. The number of people competing in PDGA events has exploded from 5 years ago, doubling to over 30,000 members. This will be the last year you will watch the World Championships before Jomez coverage becomes available. It’s covered by Prodigy Disc and Central Coast Disc Golf splitting duties. Almost every player has a forehand as well as a backhand now; it’s just part of the game. One other change is the number of camera crews filming. I actually got to choose the final round from the 2015 PDGA Pro World’s Tournament to put as a link since there’s more than just one round from the event published at that time. That was the case in the early 90’s and early 00’s, where I’d find something from one year and not another.

2019 - The dollars per stroke to win the MPO World Championships has changed to $36.76 per throw. Instead of the grueling 8 rounds, only 5 total rounds were played and 272 strokes taken as Paul won his 5th title. He hadn’t won since 2015 but had come in second in ‘16,’17, and ‘18. Paul and Ricky battles have become the norm for MPO. Many other players have stepped up and won a tournament or two but these two seem to battle week in and week out. The women’s side has seen only 1 repeat winner, Paige Pierce, who has won every odd year (‘11,’13,’15,’17,’19) and won’t get the chance to try and repeat in 2020 as the World Championships have been unexpectedly cancelled by Covid-19. The women’s game is expanding significantly and European players are starting to challenge themselves to show that they can win a World Title again in both men and women’s divisions. As of Dec 31st 2019, the latest PDGA # is 130,077 and the percentage of PDGA members is still increasing by double digits each year! Brodie Smith gets a mention here as well, he’s a former ultimate frisbee player who transitioned to disc golf and brought a large following with him. 2016 marked the last World’s to have a Final 9, something I wish they’d bring back, you know for extra drama. Here’s a Final 9 for the ages at the 2014 World’s and why I think they need to bring it back.

Commentary has changed for the better as well. It’s 2020 and we have a bunch of commentary teams. Live commentary from the DGPT can last for hours and be affected by weather. It’s often done by Val Jenkins (4x) and her husband Nate Doss (3x). They have Terry Miller “the disc golf guy” providing on the course access while they’re in the booth. One other cool thing is that spectators get to have a voice as well now as thousands of people tune in to watch live and chat with other disc golfers around the world. It’s a secondary commentary which I like to chime into from time to time, usually to express feelings of sympathy when a player misses a putt. But there’s not just live disc golf video, we still have post round production with commentary. Folks have gotten used to the sweet sound of Ian Anderson’s voice on CCDG over the years. Jomez has had many duos over the years but the most infamous is “BigSexy”, the pairing of Jeremy Kohling and Nate Sexton. They’ve all got their own style and with an event almost every weekend we get to hear plenty of interesting stories and see things that 10 years ago would have gone unheard and unseen.

Here at Sabattus Disc Golf we’ve been fortunate to be a tiny part of some amazing things that have come from the growth of disc golf. In 2016 we got to host the USWDGC which was an amazing event to witness. We’ve had some Sexton Shootouts here, which is one of the coolest things to happen in any sport. We also got to host Champs vs. Chumps v10 with Paige Pierce and Simon Lizotte, commentated by Nate Sexton.

2019 champs vs chumps spectators at sabattus disc golf
What more could be in store for disc golf in the coming years? What new throws, plastics, or players are going to emerge as the dominant force? Will overmold technology be what everyone is throwing? Will UDisc be the only disc golf app on everyone’s phone? Is it going to be all elevated baskets and 8,000 feet or longer courses? Will we have another 5-10 years of Paige and Paul winning? Whew, take a breath Streeter, you’re getting yourself all worked up again.

So let me hear your ideas for what disc golf will look like in 2025 and beyond! I want to hear the silly ones, the ones that make sense, and any in between.

May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397



Hey thanks Everett!
I didn’t start playing until 2010 so I had to go by what I could find on the internet. Also good catch on the “breaks down”. Hope you’re still out there chucking plastic.

Andrew Streeter

Nice read, with a couple of minor corrections: CE wasn’t until mid-2000, and “Pro” was even later (unless you are specifically referring to KC Pro). In 1999 we were pretty much throwing DX only for Innova. Discraft had the good plastic back then. :) Also, “brakes down” should be “breaks down”. Again, good read! Everett, #7452