The beginning of my business was officially July of 2012 when I submitted the paperwork to the State of Wisconsin and other important agencies like the IRS. I was fortunate that I could start a business while remaining Self Employed at Beautiful Blooms Landscape & Design (owned with my wife). The first few months I brainstormed what I wanted to do and how I would pull it off. I never really wrote a business plan (maybe a bad decision) since I was not in need of a loan to start the business but I had formulated a plan to diversify the league and tournament offerings in the Milwaukee Area to start but the long term vision I had was to be involved in course design.
The first unique league idea that came to mind was to offer a GLOW IN THE DARK league which I called Discin’ In The Dark. It began in the Fall of 2012. We traveled to many of the different courses in Milwaukee and Waukesha County each week, I gave puck lights to each group to use for putting or if I had time I would place the lights on all of the baskets before the league round began. I also began selling the LED Wafer Lights that have become very popular. I believe I introduced hundreds of people to this item (including other disc golf businesses) before any manufacturer ever started carrying them. Here is a funny meme I made up
My first two Disc products were from Gateway and DGA, I bought around 50 glow putters (Wizards, Magics, Voodoos and Warlocks) and some miscellaneous apparel and some accessories from DGA. Eventually I setup accounts with Innova and Discraft to order more discs but I had no idea how far this plan would take me at this time so I kept my orders small. At the time I was still toting all my products to league in my BBLD work truck which only had enough space for a few boxes of stuff.
My second league offering was Sunday Snow Throwers . . . which started because there were no other weekly leagues during the winter. It was a natural fit for a guy like me who wanted to play every day of the year if possible. This league was at Milwaukee’s winter only course (Dretzka Park) which setup a course using part of the golf course each winter to allow the “summer” course to heal and to keep traffic from making that course worse during the freeze/thaw cycles in the late fall and early spring in Wisconsin. It was 24 holes at the time (now 27) and it has become a local favorite for the die-hards who play all year round but those rounds sometimes take up to 4 hours to complete during the worst weather we see.
The winter of 2012-13 was also the winter I began marketing disc golf to golf courses. I reached out to the Executive Director of a golf industry association looking for some advice. I told him I was a past Golf Course Superintendent looking to partner with some golf courses who may be willing to try something new. He directed me to a handful of golf courses that might consider something new and the potential new revenue stream of disc golf. The first course I called was The Golf Club at Camelot in Lomira, WI. I met with the General Manager, and the Golf Professional and aftersome discussions we came to an agreement for them to host my first temporary course setup in November of 2013. I was pumped . . . even though I really was hoping they might consider putting disc golf in permanently. I decided to call the tournament Over-Throwing Camelot which grew each year initially and is now in its 7th year and we have 2 different days of events each year with between 135-155 players each year. This is my favorite event to run each year! Little did I know that this step eventually would lead to having events on 3 golf courses in 2019, but I am so appreciative of their willingness to try this out and I keep hoping to find that golf course that would take a chance on installing a course permanently. I’m hoping for that to happen in 2020!
The only drawback to all this extra business activity was a decrease in my time and desire to play disc golf. I still loved road-tripping whenever possible but I also was trying to make disc golf a full-time business so I needed to make my business profitable. I would often sit at a local park selling discs for 4-6 hours on a weekend. Depending on how the sales were going and how busy the course was I may or may not play a round, where in the past I would have probably played multiple rounds. I also noticed on league nights I would stay in my car to check people in, then at the start of league I would exit my vehicle, make any announcements I needed to make, and go immediately to throwing. No warmups, no practice putting, just get up and throw. This certainly had an impact on my game and I seemed to simply plateau. I’ve never been much for practicing anything . . . I always feel like playing is as good as practice . . . but in this instance I probably should have picked up a practice and warmup routine. My PDGA rating peaked at 915 in December of 2010. While I did return to that rating many years later I never got higher than 915.
My highest rated round (in really windy rough conditions) was 980 during Bringing Sussex Back in 2010. Here is an image of the PDGA scores
Here is a link to Terry Miller “The Disc Golf Guy’s” Coverage of my 7 hole playoff in that event . . . unfortunately I lost on the 7th hole.
Now I was never discouraged by my ability. I was happy to just get out and play but when I started in 2009 I certainly didn’t think I would peak in late 2010 (and again in 2013). I know PDGA rating isn’t everything but it is nice to see steady improvement, which simply seemed to stop around the same time I got super busy with my business. It was at this time I really accepted my situation, worked extremely hard on growing my business and simply getting out to enjoy my course travels whenever I could. My annual road-trip to play disc golf was extremely motivational for me, it was like the reward for all my hard work during the season.
Next Up . . . my desire to be involved in course design!