How Much do Professional Disc Golfers Make?

Disc Golf tournament check

Last updated on April 12th, 2024 at 12:05 pm

Last updated by Simon

In recent years, disc golf, along with the paychecks of those who play it for a living, has skyrocketed. Indicators like surging PDGA memberships, burgeoning tournament viewership, and soaring disc sales suggest that the disc golf fan and player base has more than doubled since the pre-Covid-19 days. This expanded fan base has fattened the wallets of top professional disc golfers significantly compared to the old days.

Historically, professional disc golfers were fueled by sheer love for the sport, often scraping by and living from one tournament paycheck to the next. Many were the quintessential couch surfers, relying on the disc golf community’s hospitality and sleeping on anything from couches to car seats. Back then, scraping together winnings from tournaments was the main financial game plan, with sponsors generally just chipping in free swag.

However, with the advent of modern social media and enhanced video coverage of tournaments, professional disc golfers have started to rake in a pretty penny. Nowadays, top pros often pocket more from sponsorships than from clinching titles at major tournaments. Thanks to the growth of the Disc Golf Pro Tour, some players bagged over $100,000 in tournament winnings alone in 2023. Yet, the plot twist remains: most pros still find their sponsorship deals more lucrative than their tournament victories. It seems that while you can certainly make a living playing disc golf these days, you might just make a killing off your YouTube Channel or Instagram feed!

Tournament Payout

In most disc golf tournaments, only the top 40% of competitors receive “payout.” While some sponsors cover the tournament entry fees for professional players, the majority of disc golfers risk financial loss if they don’t place in the top 40%, highlighting the financial challenge of participating in professional disc golf tournaments.

When compared to traditional ball golf, the prize money in disc golf is considerably more modest. For instance, in 2019, the average first prize for a Pro Tour event was $3,421.36. By 2023, this average prize increased significantly to $14,430.56, more than quadrupling the Pro Tour’s average payout within four years. Although the winnings have soared, they’re still peanuts compared to what golfers can pocket at traditional tournaments.

2023 Pro Tour and Major Payout

This chart shows the first prize and total payout for all disc golf events in 2023. While these payouts are up substantially from past years, they are still minimal compared to the substantial earnings from ball golf.

Tournament 1st Place Last Cash Total Purse
Average Rating for Missing Cash
Las Vegas $7,500.00 $353.00 $87,784.00 1019
Waco $7,500.00 $105.00 $80,360.00 1017
Open at Austin $7,500.00 $50.00 $76,380.00 1017
Music City Open $8,000.00 $100.00 $80,003.00 1014
Champions Cup $14,000.00 $839.00 $140,000.00 1016
Jonesboro Open $8,000.00 $108.00 $78,660.00 1016
DDO $8,500.00 $325.00 $85,089.00 1011
Des Moines Challenge $12,250.00 $249.00 $110,005.00 1014
The Preserve $8,000.00 $89.00 $80,707.00 1014
OTB Open $10,500.00 $350.00 $100,001.00 1017
Portland Open $12,500.00 $500.00 $115,000.00 1015
Ledgestone Open $12,500.00 $630.00 $140,000.00 1009
Idlewild $10,000.00 $236.00 $93,610.00 1018
Great Lakes Open $15,000.00 $510.00 $100,000.00 1023
Worlds $30,000.00 $250.00 $275,000.00 1018
MVP Open $18,000.00 $530.00 $120,000.00 1025
USDGC $30,000.00 $660.00 $125,000.00 1021
DGPT Championship $40,000.00 $322,000.00
Total Average $14,430.56 $346.12 $122,755.50 1017

How Easy is It To Make A Living Playing Disc Golf

Analyzing tournament winnings might suggest that disc golf is a lucrative weekend activity, but it’s important to remember that this is a full-time profession. Professional disc golfers typically participate in only 15-25 tournaments annually.

Winning every event equates to substantial earnings on tour. However, the average payout for the lowest cash-earning position in 2023 was $346, barely covering the tournament entry fee, let alone other living and travel expenses.

Rating Needed to Cash at Pro Tour Event – 1018

To qualify for the minimum cash prize in Pro Tour events, a player needs an average tournament rating of at least 1018 in the MPO field. At the Dynamic Discs Open, an average round rating of 1011 was insufficient to earn prize money. Similarly, at the Great Lakes Open, an average round rating of 1025 did not guarantee earnings. The average rating for the first non-cashing position on the Pro Tour was 1017.

Consistent income on the Pro Tour is predominantly restricted to the most elite players. Unless you’re among the top contenders like Paul McBeth, Ricky Wysocki, or Calvin Heimburg, the chances of securing a first-place finish in a major disc golf tournament today remain relatively slim.

So, what is the earning potential for pro disc golfers? Can one realistically make a living playing disc golf?

MVP Open PDGA Tournament

Top Professional Disc Golf Sponsorship Contracts

There are about a few dozen professional disc golfers who earn six digit incomes. At least three these players make more than a million dollars a year.  Pro player sponsorship earnings are primarily based on the players worth to the brand they represent. Pros likeableness, personal brand, and social media following are often worth more to a company than simply winning tournaments. From our research, these are the top disc golf earners and their approximate sponsorship earnings:

Note: Most disc golf contracts are not made public and include performance-based bonuses for wins and product sales. The figures provided here are only estimates for informational purposes and, in some cases, may be significantly inaccurate.

Professional Disc Golfer Sponsored By Estimated Guranteed Income Estimated Disc Sales Royalties Estimated Bonuses 2023 Tournament Winnings Estimated Total Income
Simon Lizotte MVP Disc Sports $1,000,000.00 $500,000.00 $60,632.00 $1,560,632.00
Paul McBeth Discraft $1,000,000.00 $300,000.00 $33,444.00 $1,333,444.00
Ricky Wysocki Dynamic Discs $1,000,000.00 $0.00 $83,776.00 $1,083,776.00
Calvin Heimburg Innova $250,000.00 $250,000.00 $100,000.00 $107,025.00 $707,025.00
Kristen Tattar Latitude 64 $250,000.00 $250,000.00 $116,247.00 $616,247.00
Paige Pierce Discraft $500,000.00 $50,000.00 $16,451.00 $566,451.00
Eagle McMahan Discmania $250,000.00 $200,000.00 $78,079.00 $528,079.00
Brodie Smith Discraft $250,000.00 $250,000.00 $10,637.00 $510,637.00
Kyle Klein Discmania $100,000.00 $100,000.00 $93,766.00 $293,766.00
Isaac Robinson Prodigy $100,000.00 $25,000.00 $50,000.00 $108,553.00 $283,553.00
Ohn Scroggins Innova $25,000.00 $50,000.00 $100,000.00 $84,443.00 $259,443.00
Kona Panis Dynamic Discs $250,000.00 $0.00 $2,195.00 $252,195.00
Gannon Buhr Prodigy $100,000.00 $25,000.00 $30,000.00 $87,911.00 $242,911.00
Hailey King Innova $100,000.00 $25,000.00 $50,000.00 $49,822.00 $224,822.00
Matt Orum Westside Discs $125,000.00 $0.00 $66,755.00 $191,755.00
Kevin Jones Prodigy $100,000.00 $50,000.00 $10,000.00 $26,611.00 $186,611.00
Niklas Anttila Discmania $100,000.00 $50,000.00 $35,419.00 $185,419.00
Anthony Barela Discraft $50,000.00 $50,000.00 $25,000.00 $58,772.00 $183,772.00
Drew Gibson Infinite Discs/EV 7/Finish Line $60,000.00 $100,000.00 $9,856.00 $169,856.00
Nate Sexton Innova $60,000.00 $100,000.00 $5,073.00 $165,073.00
Cole Redalen DGA $25,000.00 $25,000.00 $25,000.00 $76,577.00 $151,577.00
Adam Hammes Discraft $50,000.00 $25,000.00 $25,000.00 $43,488.00 $143,488.00
James Conrad MVP Disc Sports $50,000.00 $50,000.00 $22,963.00 $122,963.00
Chris Dickerson Discraft $50,000.00 $20,000 $32,955.00 $119,512.00
Eric Oakley Infinite Discs $50,000.00 $50,000.00 $18,162.00 $118,162.00
Paul Ulibarri Discraft $50,000.00 $50,000.00 $17,517.00 $117,517.00
Catrina Allen DGA $50,000.00 $10,000.00 $20,000.00 $33,244.00 $113,244.00

It’s interesting to note that the top earners in disc golf aren’t necessarily the best players on the course. Instead, their value to sponsors often depends more on their fan following, which enhances their marketability regardless of tournament outcomes. Players who have substantial social media presences and active YouTube channels tend to earn significantly more than their peers who may only excel in the sport itself. This dynamic underscores the importance of personal branding and audience engagement in professional disc golf.

How Less Popular Pros Make Money from Disc Golf

For professionals outside the top 30 rankings in disc golf, making a living playing disc golf can be challenging. Typically, sponsorships for these players cover only basic expenses, such as tournament entry fees, and might include bonuses for high placements or victories in major tournaments. This is the standard model used by companies like Innova and Discraft to support their extensive teams. Less well-known players receive support for their tour-related expenses and have the potential to earn substantial income, but their earnings heavily depend on their performance throughout the tour.

The earnings of professional disc golfers mainly come from several sources:

  1. Tournament Winnings: This includes prize money from placing in tournaments, which can vary greatly based on the player’s performance and the level of the tournament.
  2. Sponsorship Deals: Sponsorships from disc golf-related companies or other businesses provide financial support, often covering travel, equipment, and entry fees, and sometimes include salaries or stipends.
  3. Signature Products and Merchandise Sales: Many top players have signature discs or branded merchandise. A portion of the sales from these products typically goes to the player.
  4. Clinics and Personal Appearances: Professionals may earn money by hosting disc golf clinics, private lessons, or making appearances at events.
  5. Social Media and Online Content: A significant online presence through platforms like YouTube or Instagram can generate income through advertising revenue, sponsorships, and brand partnerships.
  6. Disc Golf Commentary and Media Work: For some professionals, participating in disc golf commentary and other media-related work can be a lucrative source of income.

The exact mix of these income sources can vary greatly from player to player, depending on their rank, popularity, and business acumen. These are the three primary ways sponsored players receive compensation:

1. Signature Disc Sales

Pro earnings come from a variety of tournament payouts and sponsorship deals. For many pro players, the bulk of their income comes from the sale of fundraiser and signature discs. Professional disc golfers generally receive $1-$5 for each signature disc sold. You can support these players by purchasing their fundraiser tour series discs.

2. Sponsor Bonuses for Winning Major Tournaments

Companies such as Innova and Discraft place a strong emphasis on performance-based bonuses for their sponsored athletes. They incentivize players with substantial bonuses for winning tournaments while representing their brand, with the bonus amount increasing for larger events. For instance, a sponsored professional might earn an additional $500 as a bonus for winning a PDGA sanctioned B Tier event, $2,000 for an A Tier event, and up to $10,000 for winning a National Tour event. The allure of being sponsored by brands such as Innova lies in the enticing extra cash that players who consistently clinch victories at smaller competitions can rack up, substantially padding their total income.

3. Salaries

Sponsors such as Latitude 64, Dynamic Discs, and Prodigy provide salaries to their team members, with the amount depending on the player’s skill level and value to the company. For lower-tier sponsored players, those not among the top-ranked, monthly salaries can range between $1,000 to $5,000. Additionally, some sponsored professionals receive more modest sponsorship benefits, such as having their tournament registration fees covered or receiving reimbursements for travel expenses like gas. This varied approach to sponsorship reflects the different levels of support provided based on a player’s prominence and contribution to the sponsor’s brand.

metal prize

Can you make money playing disc golf?

With the increase in media coverage and the growth of disc golf sales and sponsorship there is actually more money to be made through professional disc golf than ever before. Of course, not everyone is going to be sign a lucrative business contract like Paul McBeth and Ricky Wysocki, but if you can compete at a high level, you’ll be able to bring home some extra cash on any given weekend. If you have the disc golf skills and the social media following, disc golf companies may even be able to offer you a sponsorship spot.

Unless you can be among the top 30 players in the world, the best way to make money in disc golf is by playing – and dominating local events

Photo Credit: DGPT

 

Conclusion on Earnings of Professional Disc Golfers

Does a top tier professional disc golfer make a decent living? Absolutely. However, their earnings are not as substantial as those in other professional sports. As disc golf continues to grow in popularity, an increasing number of companies are likely to invest in sponsorship deals and tournament prizes, which will enhance the financial prospects for professional disc golfers.