After spending countless hours researching disc golf tournament cash prizes from all different types of tournaments and different locations around the world, I’m excited to share with you some very interesting numbers. To write this article, I analyzed over 250 different tournament prize purses from PDGA sanctioned events spanning multiple years to see how that prize money was distributed to the players.
I don’t claim that what I’ve put together here is perfect, but if you’re a a disc golf nerd and want to know how much money you could potentially make playing in a tournament, then I hope this helps. Even if you’re just curious to see how much the professional players make, this will be a fun read for you.
As a quick note, we’ll be looking at data provided to the public by the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association), specifically for the Men’s Professional Open Division. There are 5 tiers of PDGA sanctioned events that we’ll review, so you can see exactly which level of tournament you may want to participate in or watch.
Let’s Start With the Results of the Analysis
Result #1: Playing disc golf for a living does NOT make financial sense unless you are within the top 0.01% players in the world. This becomes painfully obvious when looking at how much money is even available to distribute.
Result #2: The best use of your time is to play in B-Tier tournaments. If you’re not a top 0.001% player, but you still want to make some side cash from disc golf, you’re going to be best served by sticking to B-Tier tournaments in your area. Interestingly, there is no significant difference in the the competition from a B-Tier and a C-Tier tournament. However, the cash prize available in the B-Tier events is significantly more than C-Tier events.
Result #3: About 65% of all players that participant in a tournament earn $0.00. NOTHING. If you’re playing in a tournament because you love the game and you’re not concerned with making money, then that’s fantastic. If you’re intent is to earn a prize, you need to think long and hard about your pursuits.
Result #4: Average cash prize increases more with each tier than does the increase of the associated competition. One would assume that an increase of cash prize would be equally matched by an increase in player competition. While competition level does increase with each tournament tier, it does so at a lesser rate.
Result #5: The real money from disc golf comes from sponsorship and not tournament winnings. Yep, its true. When reviewing the yearly cash prize winnings of the top professional disc golfers as published by the PDGA, there are only a few making a living wage from prize earnings.
Tournament Tiers Defined
Each tournament event tier has its own requirements set by the PDGA. The prize requirements are of special interest in this case study:
- PDGA Major – Requires membership with the PDGA. Must payout at least 125% of the entry fees
- National Tour – Requires membership with the PDGA. Total purse must be a prize of at least $7,500.
- A-Tier – Requires membership with the PDGA. Must payout at least 100% of the entry fees and at least $3,000 must be added to the purse.
- B-Tier – Does not require membership with the PDGA. Must payout at least 100% of the entry fees and at least $750 must be added to the purse.
- C-Tier – Does not require membership with the PDGA. Must payout at least 85% of the entry fees.
Tournament Tiers Analyzed for Average Prize
In the below table, it shows the the average pro cash prize purse and average total players that participated in the events. The tournament purse is the money that is available to distribute to the players.
The amounts paid out at each event are never the same, since it is based on a number of factors. However, there are trends and averages that can been seen from previous tournaments. Let’s get into the what the average data shows us
This data was collected from over 250 tournaments across each tier from 2015 to 2019:
|Tier||Average of Pro Purse||Average of Total Players|
There are significant jumps of average prize money and average total players between each tier, with some exceptions.
From a C-Tier to a B-Tier event, there is a jump of $3,489 in the purse, which is a 218% increase. However, the average total players remains relatively consistent, which is surprising. One would expect the increased cash prize would attracted more players. If you were choosing between a C-Tier and B-Tier, you would be better off sticking with a B-Tier event because the average competition is about the same.
From a B-Tier to an A-Tier, we see a 346% increase in available prize money to be won. This comes at twice the competition with the average player size increasing 110%.
From an A-Tier to a National Tour event, the percentage increases are not as large, but there is much more money to be won to be sure. Prize money increases by 77%, with only 25% more competition.
Rising up from a National Tour event to a Major, there is a $62% increase in prize money available with competition increasing by 48%.
It is clear that as the tier increases, so does the total cash available to be won by the players.
|Tier Change||Purse Change $||Purse Change %|
|National Tour to Major||$24,770||62%|
|A-Tier to National Tour||$17,451||77%|
|B-Tier to A-Tier||$17,621||346%|
|C-Tier to B-Tier||$3,489||218%|
Keep in mind that with each tier level, the quality of competition also increases. It isn’t just the amount of players attracted, although the amount of players participating does intrinsically indicate more quality competition.
Average player count does increase tremendously at 64 more players from a B-Tier to an A-Tier, but the purse size increase of $17,621 is not to be overlooked.
|Tier Change||Average Player Change||Average Player Change %|
|National Tour to Major||73||48%|
|A-Tier to National Tour||30||25%|
|B-Tier to A-Tier||64||110%|
|C-Tier to B-Tier||-3||-5%|
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the competition is at the top with the Major tournaments. These events attract on average 73 more players than the National Tour events.
Average Prize by Placement
We’ve taken a look at how much money is available on average for each event tier. However, how much can you expect to earn based on how well you perform in a tournament?
Let’s take a look at each tier and the average cash prize earned by the top 5 places:
|Tier||1st Place||2nd Place||3rd Place||4th Place||5th Place|
There are a few observations to learn from this data:
- On average 1st place receives 36% more than 2nd place
- On average 2nd place receives 25% more than 3rd place
- On average 3rd place receives 19% more than 4th place
- On average 4th place receives 19% more than 5th place
Looking at the entire population of players that receive a pay out from a tournament, on average only the top 35% of players that participate receive any money.
Even if you place under the top 10 at a Major, you’d be lucky to pay for your plane ticket home. If you place in under the top 10 at a C-Tier, you’d be lucky to pay for your dinner that night with the money.
Average Prize by Player Rating
To give context on competing in tournaments and actually receiving any sum of money, it is useful to compare each tier to average player ratings.
Specifically, looking at the average player rating of just the individuals that receiving any sum of money in a tournament.
|Tier||Average Player Rating|
If you hope to see any share of the tournament purse at a Major, you should strive toward achieving a rating of around 1019. Even that could only get you a few hundred bucks.
As mentioned before, player participation in B-Tier and C-Tier events is relatively similar. In addition, it can be seen that average player rating is also relatively similar. The real difference is in the average prize, with B-Tiers distributing about $3,500 more per event.
Disc Golf Tournament Average Prize Trends
Since the the sport began, there has been an increasing trend from year to year for how much tournaments payout to players. For example, below is a table of the prize money paid out to the MPO (Men’s Professional Open) division each year for a 10 year time frame at the PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships..
Over the course of 10 years, the total purse has almost increased 3 fold from $33,782 to $93,989. That is a great trend for those wanting to get into the sport in the future.
|2010 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$33,782|
|2011 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$44,840|
|2012 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$36,225|
|2013 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$32,775|
|2014 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$36,520|
|2015 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$42,034|
|2016 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$57,079|
|2017 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$63,247|
|2018 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$87,017|
|2019 PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships||$93,989|
If the sport of disc golf continues to grow at the same rate over the next 10 years, there will be at least another 300% increase in the average cash prize for tournaments. In the case of the disc golf world championship purse, that would be $300,000.
Another scenario is that disc golf will grow more exponentially rather than linearly over the next 10 years. So instead of a 300% linear growth in average cash prize for tournaments, it could be around to 600% or $600,000 for Worlds.
If you enjoyed this article, you’d probably also enjoy a post I made about how much pro disc golf players make. I learned some very surprising and interesting facts about which players have dominated the sport over the years and exactly how much they made doing it.