Cost of Playing Ultimate vs. Cost of Playing Disc Golf

Cash Money

In terms of financial costs, both ultimate and disc golf are relatively accessible. They both require little equipment to get started, and although there are costs associated with leagues and tournaments, it’s possible to play both sports for cheap if money is tight. However, as you improve the sports do require some financial investment.

In this post, we’ll offer a deep dive into comparing the cost of playing ultimate vs. the cost of playing disc golf. Specifically, we’ll be analyzing the equipment costs and tournament costs of both sports.

Equipment Cost of Disc Golf vs. Ultimate

Unlike hockey, or ball golf, equipment can be very cheap in disc golf and in ultimate. However, some people like to spend more than others so we’ll be comparing equipment costs across three types of spenders: your frugal Freddies, your average Joes, and your pro-shop Pams.

Frugal Freddie’s Equipment Cost

Basically, this is the bare minimum of equipment needed to play.

For ultimate, I will argue that cleats are a necessity, but a pair of cheap cleats from Marshall’s will cost Freddie $30 and he’ll happily wear them for the season using tape (cost not calculated) to fix them up as they start to rip after just a few days of playing. Besides cleats, all Freddie needs is a frisbee, and being the frugal man he is, he “borrows” one from his team’s disc bag at the beginning of the season. Look at that! Freddie is playing ultimate on just $30 in equipment costs for the season.

The low-cost equipment solution: taped up cleats
If you’re looking for some cleat taping instructions here’s a good guide!

For Disc Golf, all Freddie needs are some discs. He opts for the Innova Starter Pack [Amazon] which runs him about $20 and now Freddie is ready (Ready Freddie!) to go out their and smash some discs into trees.

For Frugal Freddie, disc golf is 33% cheaper than ultimate. This is all he needs to hear to return his cleats and become fully devoted to disc golf. He even goes ahead and purchases another disc for $10 because he falls in love with the sport!

Average Joe’s Equipment Cost

For cleats, Joe opts for a nicer pair which run him $80. He also decides to order a few frisbees to scatter around the house and in his car so that he always has one to toss around. Three discs run him another $30. With multiple discs, and nicer cleats, Joe decides he needs a small bag to hold his equipment, so he purchases one and it runs him another $40. All together, Joe has spent $150 on ultimate.

For disc golf, Joe purchases a starter pack, but also supplements it with a few other discs [Infinite] which run him about $60 in total. He realizes that he also needs a bag to hold all those discs [Infinite] so he buys one for $40. Joe is now able to play disc golf happily and it only costs him $100. [Amazon]

Again, 33% cheaper than ultimate, but Joe has no problem with the costs and knows he made good investments in both sports!

Pro-Shop Pam’s Equipment Cost

Now Pam doesn’t skimp when it comes to equipment. It’s either have it all, or don’t play at all.

For ultimate, Pam buys the best cleats on the market for $120, she also buys five frisbees, a Greatest Bag [Amazon], Kikko Socks, a foam roller, an agility ladder, warm-up bands, etc. This all comes out to like, I don’t know, let’s say $400 for equipment.

For Disc golf, Pam wants it all. She starts by buying a pair of trail running shoes she heard were great for disc golf at around $100. She buys only individual premium plastic discs which run her around $200 (she buys like 15 of them). To store all her discs she buys a premium bag [Infinite] for $100 and a bunch of other small equipment to fill the bag like a chalk bag, multiple mini markers, a special towel, and whatever else catches her eye. Lastly, since she wants to become wicked good, she also buys a ~$150 disc golf basket [Infinite] for her backyard.

Disc Golf Bag that Costs A Lot
An example of what Pam’s Disc Golf Bag Might Look Like

So she’s spending like $600+ on everything. All of a sudden disc golf has become more expensive than ultimate. But for someone like Pro-shop Pam who loves spending money on sports equipment, this is great! Where ultimate gave her a ceiling on her spending, disc golf has no bounds! She can keep buying discs, upgrading her bag, getting accessories, and when that all gets old she can become a disc golf disc collector (yes this exists and its actually a huge market!).

Equipment Cost Recap

Cost of Equipment Per SeasonUltimateDisc Golf
Freddie$30$20
Joe$150$100
Pam$400$600+

When it comes to equipment costs, disc golf has it all. It can be a sport that only requires $20 to play, or people can spend thousands as they continue to buy new discs and become collectors. Ultimate on the other hand will generally cost a bit more than disc golf for the frugal-minded folks, but also has a ceiling to spending for the high-rollers.

Tournament Cost of Disc Golf vs. Ultimate

Having run a club ultimate team that traveled regionally and also personally playing on a college ultimate TEAM that traveled nationally, I have a decent grasp of tournament costs. Of course some tournaments cost more than others, and some teams have parts of those costs covered through sponsorships or in the case of college the school helps cover it. Either way, for the sake of this discussion we will be making some assumptions.

Ultimate Tournament Cost

Tournament + Membership

First, let’s consider tournament fees. On average, I would say a tournament fee is $500. If each member of the team splits that cost evenly and there are 25 members on the team, then it will cost each individual $20.

On top of the $20 for the tournament fee, each player playing in a USAU sanctioned tournament must have a USAU membership. A 1-year membership costs $75, and assuming an average player plays in five tournaments per year that comes out to $15 per tournament.

Travel + Accomodation

We’re now at $35 total for a tournament before adding in travel and accomodations. To simplify this calculation, we’ll assume that the tournament is regional and so it doesn’t require flying. However, we will assume the tournament requires a 250-mile round trip and a 1-night stay in a cheap hotel. We’ll assume one tank of gas is enough to cover all the driving and will cost $40. We’ll also assume a hotel room is $100 for a night. If four people share the car and the hotel room that adds another $35 per person bringing our total cost per person to $70.

Food

The last major cost for ultimate tournaments is food. This is tough to estimate because even if you weren’t at an ultimate tournament you’d still require food (duh.). For most ultimate players though, a tournament does require more spending on food than normal. So I’ll throw out $100 for the weekend to cover two breakfasts + coffees, some snacks or lunch, and two dinners. However, I’ll reduce that by 40% to $60 since I would normally spend $40 on those same meals if I wasn’t at a tournament.  

In San Francisco Right Before COVID19 Shut Downs
Me exploring/speding money in San Francisco the day before Stanford Invite 2020.
Right before COVID-19 cancelled the world and the rest of our ultimate season.

Summary

We’ve arrived at the final number of $130 for the individual cost of your average ultimate tournament. Obviously, these numbers will vary depending on where you are in the country, and your individual preferences, but in our experience as cheap college kids and young professionals this is a pretty accurate estimate.

Disc Golf Tournament Cost

Tournament + Membership

Let’s again start with the cost of competing in a tournament. For an amateur the cost of a tournament can range anywhere between $10-100 depending on the tournament. The cost for a pro will usually be a bit more than for an amateur. So for simplicity sake we will use $50 as the average cost of participating in a disc golf tournament.

Just like ultimate, you can purchase a membership in disc golf. However, a PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) membership is not required to play in a tournament. If you play without it though, the tournament cost will be an additional $10. So, we’ll assume you have a PDGA membership, which costs $50 per year. Since you invested in a membership, we’ll assume you play in at least five tournaments to make it “worth it” (in quotes because there are other perks to having a PDGA membership like ratings, discounts, and a welcome gift that helps justify the cost).

We now have that a single tournament with a membership fee will cost you ~$60. This is considerably more than the cost of a tournament and membership in ultimate.

Travel + Food

Although ultimate wins on individual tournament/membership costs, disc golf demolishes ultimate in travel and food costs. Unless you’re a touring pro (you’re probably not, but if you are reach out and say hello!) then you will most likely be playing in one day tournaments within 100 miles of where you live. For this estimate we’ll assume you drive 100 miles round trip without carpooling, don’t stay overnight, and eat breakfast and dinner at home. We’ll also say that the tournament does not provide lunch, even though some tournaments do as part of the playing fee.

With the above assumptions in place, we can say that gas will cost you $16 (scaled based on miles from the ultimate gas price assumption), and that lunch will be another $14 (after our 40% reduction like we did for ultimate). So that brings our total individual cost for playing a disc golf tournament with all travel, food, and tournament/membership fees to about $90.

Warming Up for Disc Golf Tournament
Nald and I stretching before our first ever disc golf tournament

Tournament Cost Recap

Individual Player Cost of One TournamentUltimateDisc Golf
Tournament Fees$20$50
Membership Fees$15$10
Travel$10$16
Accomodations$25$0
Food$60$14
Total$130$90

Based on the above estimates, a disc golf tournament is about 30% cheaper to play than an ultimate tournament. If we say that an average person will play five tournaments a year regardless of sport, disc golf will save you about $200 per season. Whether this financial cost makes a difference, that’s up to you!

Final Summary

Both ultimate and disc golf are relatively cheap sports to play. As a result, we highly encourage you to try out both if you haven’t! It won’t break the bank, and will certainly be worth any financial investment you put into it. Both sports also have great communities that can’t be measured in dollars and centsa and paying both sports will give you a reason to get up and get active! If you want to start playing disc golf make sure you check out our Ultimate Player’s Guide to Picking up Disc Golf!

Let us know what you think in the comment section below! As always thanks for reading and Have a Nice Day!

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