Why Isn't Disc Golf in the Olympics?

Why Isn't Disc Golf in the Olympics?

Let’s talk about the Olympics. I know it’s 7 months away, but I want to talk about it now. So we can talk about planning. If you want a little boost today watch this video to remind you of how awesome Olympic competition is. Fair warning you may cry at one point.

I hope everyone is as excited as I am to watch the highest skilled athletes in the world come out and compete for their country. I literally don’t care what sport it is, if you put it on television I’ll watch the Olympics. It’s a month-long celebration where we can watch amazing outcomes and upsets in the theatre of sport. People will be competing in all sorts of events; Badminton, Canoeing, Fencing, Skateboarding, and even Skeet Shooting. So where is disc golf? It’s been on CBS and ESPN2 this year. We all watch it on YouTube every weekend. Why isn’t it in the Olympic games?

Inevitably every Olympics comes and goes and people who are passionate about a sport feel bummed that their sport isn’t represented. But here’s the truth.

Disc golf isn’t ready right now. The Olympics are about world games, sports that take place around the globe. While we look around and see that there’s disc golf courses popping up everywhere in the US, it’s not the same in the rest of the world. Our worldview is a bit distorted, since we see disc golf all the time we assume others do too.

Right now the PDGA has listed about 9200 courses worldwide. North America has 6940 courses, or about 80% of the total courses. The game is growing in Europe and that’s about it. The most populous countries don’t have disc golf. China has 2 courses! India doesn’t have a course, Brazil doesn’t have a course*, there aren’t any in Egypt either! Russia, the giant land mass on a map in Asia, only has 6 courses. This information is all available on the PDGA website under their course locator section.

*Brazil may have a course in Piracicaba where the Marco Polo program helped establish a course. But it isn’t listed.

Also, my apologies to Australia who has almost 100 courses and was cut off in this photo. You Aussies are representing the sport well.

Well, do we have enough interest here to justify a sport in the IOC? “The Olympic Charter indicates that in order to be accepted, a sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on three continents.” It’s looking like we’re not meeting that 75 countries minimum at the moment. I’d say disc golf is practiced by North America, Europe, and maybe Australia.

To get disc golf into the Olympics we’ll need to see growth in Central Asia, Africa, and South America. That’s about half the planet (area wise) without disc golf. The top players in the world basically come from one country as well, and great players from other countries tour in the United States. Yes I know about Simon, Tamm, Thomas Gilbert, Evelina, Tattar, Nybo, Koivu, Paju, and Blomross. But do you know how many Open World Championships have been won by non US players? One, Birgitta Lagerholm of Sweden in 2004. That’s 76/77 World Championships to the US. It’s tough to call it a world game when only one country is competing in it.

There’s a reason “American Football” isn’t in the Olympics.

The current Olympics are referred to as the “modern games.” If a sport suddenly became popular and everyone started playing it there’s a chance it would be included. If 80% of the world started playing a sport, it would end up in the Olympics. There’s one other way to get a sport into the Olympics is to have it be a part of the host countries culture. If a sport is big in that country when they host they can get a special game in. Japan is adding 5 additional sports to the 2021 games. These games represent sports that Japanese people are passionate about and would likely be fun for spectators to watch. I’m going to watch the surfing competition for sure.

In 2028 the USA will be hosting the summer games in Los Angeles, California. This would be a perfect opportunity to introduce the world to disc golf, in the birthplace of modern disc golf. Oak Grove (first disc golf course ever and designed by Ed Headrick) hosts the wintertime open, I can’t think of a better place to introduce disc golf to the world. Mostly because I don’t know anything about the California disc golf scene and how far away the games are allowed to be played.

Unfortunately right now disc golf isn’t listed in the program. But the WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation) is working on it. I emailed the PDGA asking about what they were planning on doing to get disc golf into the Olympics and they assured me that they were working on it long before my email.

The World Flying Disc Federation is recognized by the IOC, that happened way back in 2013. That means that the IOC sees it’s a sport with potential for the Olympic games. This includes other flying disc sports such as Ultimate Frisbee.

So to truly get disc golf into the Olympics I guess we need to keep doing what we’ve been hashtagging for years. #GrowTheSport. And don’t pester, but if you see someone asking about disc golf give them resources to learn more.

If you’ve got any questions I would send them to the PDGA to see how you might be able to help get disc golf into the Olympics. I’d love to see disc golf in the Olympics, no matter if it happens in 8 years or 48 years. Maybe even as a winter sport!

Let me know what you think. Would you like to see disc golf stay away from the Olympics?

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



Excuse for that I interfere … But this theme is very close to me. I can help with the answer.


Thanks for the comment Stephen, I wholeheartedly agree with your points.
We don’t have enough members worldwide, it’s not organized enough, and it’s definitely going to need some strong lobbying to get in. I think it has a very small chance of getting into the Olympics in 7 years.

Andrew Streeter

Andrew Streeter

I used to play ultimate with the son of Dick Pound, past VP Olympic Committee & current WADA President. The topic used to come up all the time, not only does the sport need to be played in 75 countries but the Olympics wants to see the sport is organized. Usually that means they want to see organizing bodies in most of those 75 countries. Presently there is the PDGA (USA) and a couple of European countries have loose organizations but there is nothing for a country’s IOC rep to work with.

We are a very long way away from the Olympics. Pickleball has a better chance right now.

Stephen Seabrook