How One Person Made Disc Golf a Little Bit Better

In my last blog post I talked about the survey results regarding our opinions about tournaments. In this post I want to talk about how a desire to attend tournaments drove one disc golfer to take action to ensure he could compete, and ended up making local disc golf a little better.

Disc golf tournaments are fun and popular. But, as we discovered in the survey results, some of us have issues with certain aspects of tournaments, such as cost and how long they last. One of my friends, Steve, had some of those same issues with tournaments. He has several kids and runs his own business, and although he would love to attend lots of tournaments, time is big issue for him right now. So what did he do?

He did what everyone should do who isn’t happy with the status quo — he got to work and made the changes himself. He started the Pure Line Series, a tournament series with a simple theme: “One-day, one-round, inexpensive tournaments with 100 % payouts.” He arranged for different disc manufacturers to sponsor the tournaments, so at his tournaments the amateur division gets a different brand disc as a player’s pack. The series is held once a month at a different course each month. It caught on immediately when it started last year, and continues this year. They have been well attended. Not only can participants win cash (for the pro division) or Infinite Bucks (credit at Infinite Discs), they also get points toward the series championship that offers more prizes.

Steve is working with Infinite Discs to develop a program which models the Pure Line Series, to assist anyone interested in starting a similar series. The program will include online registration, tracking the series points, automatic amateur payout, and more. Details will be announced when the program is available for use in 2017.

The biggest lesson that we can learn from Steve is that one person can make a difference. How many times have we seen that in disc golf? One person decides to hold a tournament, or start a club, or teach some kids how to play, and the idea grows into something wonderful for our sport. Want to get a new course in your area? Get busy and make it happen. It doesn’t have to be a big idea. Organize a cleanup day for your local course. Make and hang up some signs or posters promoting disc golf. Keep some extra discs on hand to give to newbies who show up to the course with Frisbees or Ultimate discs.

One thing I’ve seen over and over in disc golf and life is that there are a lot of people willing to help out and support a good idea. They just need someone to take the lead and get the ball rolling. Be that person. Once you know there are people to back you up, it makes things a little easier for you. So, get out of your comfort zone, make your ideas a reality, and help grow the sport!

If you’re near the Utah Area on October 1st, check out the temporary venue for the Pure Line Championship… There are still spots available.

How Do You Feel About Disc Golf Tournaments?

Several years ago I was online looking for some information about the county I live in and stumbled upon an announcement of a disc golf tournament scheduled at a local course. At that point I learned two things: first, there was a disc golf course in my county. And second, disc golfers had tournaments! Until then I had only played disc golf a few times a year, and had no idea there were competitions. I ended up playing in that tournament, and met people that I’m still friends with today. When a local club was formed a bit later, I gladly joined.

Since then, I’ve become addicted to disc golf and a big part of the attraction is the tournaments. I love the atmosphere, the competition, the camaraderie, and often times the travel. Judging by the survey results for the Infinite Discs’ poll, there are a lot of other people that love tournaments, too. And some that never play tournaments. In this blog post we will look at the survey results surrounding tournaments and some of the reasons we do or do not play them.

 

To play, or not to play a sanctioned tournament

 

Let’s start by talking about sanctioned tournaments. A tournament sanctioned by the PDGA is different than other tournaments. The rules are stricter, participants are required to be PDGA members or buy a temporary membership, they are usually longer (more holes and/or held for more days), and typically cost a bit more. Many of us like the added rules, making the atmosphere at a sanctioned tournament a bit more serious. The payouts are also usually better than at non-sanctioned events. As PDGA members, we also get the benefit (or sometimes the detriment) of getting a rating from sanctioned tournaments so that we can compare our skill level to other disc golfers.

Over half of the survey respondents played at least one sanctioned tournament last year (53%). Of the 1,850 who played in at least one, the largest group, 472 people, only played in one sanctioned tournament. The next largest group (347) played between 6-10, and the third largest played two sanctioned tournaments. A significant number of us (110) played in 16 or more tournaments. It would be interesting to know who in the survey played in the most sanctioned tournaments, and how many!

sanctioned

An unsanctioned tournament is more like a club tournament. Although most of the basic PDGA rules are followed, it is up to the tournament director (TD) to decide which rules will be enforced and which will be relaxed, such as marking a lie close to the basket. These tournaments usually have fewer rounds and are mostly single-day events. TD’s don’t have the same requirements as a sanctioned tournament, such as fees and added cash to the purse. Therefore, the unsanctioned tournaments usually don’t cost as much nor pay out as much.

Lower entry fees and no PDGA membership requirements may have contributed to a slightly higher number of people who played in unsanctioned vs. sanctioned tournaments. The survey results indicated that 2,083 people, or 60%, played in at least one unsanctioned tournament. Over half of that group played between 1-3 unsanctioned tournaments.

unsactionedtournaments

 

Get Some Sweet Swag

 

A fun and popular type of tournament is the specialty tournament, or sponsored tournament. I call them themed, because many of these tournaments have specific, unusual types of play. Disc golf manufacturers sponsor these tournaments and use them as a vehicle to let disc golfers try their product. Popular tournaments of this type include the Birdie Bash, Trilogy Challenge, and the Ace Race.  Participants of sponsored tournaments get two or three new discs, plus a bunch of swag from the tournament sponsor, and only those discs may be used in the tournament. The format of the tournament varies, depending on the manufacturer. Some examples include:

Ace Race, where the holes are typically shorter than usual, which is good because you only get one throw to make it in the basket! You get to record metal hits, which is when you hit the basket but it doesn’t go in, and aces. The person with the most aces wins, with metal hits used as a tie-breaker The Ace Race is sponsored by Discraft, and the disc mold is a new one that will be released later in the year.

Vibram Birdie Bash, where a similar approach is found, but instead of one throw, you get two tries (on a par 3 hole) to make it in the basket. An ace (eagle) counts as five points, birdies counts as two, and a metal hit counts as one point. The person with the most points wins.

Trilogy Challenge participants get a disc from all three Trilogy manufacturers, Westside, Dynamic Discs, and Latitude 64, and must only use those three discs. The discs consist of a driver, midrange, and putter. A regular tournament is held and the lowest score wins.

Sponsored tournaments are a great opportunity to try out new discs, get some swag, and play a tournament, all for about the cost of the discs. Winners get discs, bags, etc.  Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents played in a sponsored tournament last year. The most popular was the Discraft Ace Race, followed by the Trilogy Challenge.

specialtytournaments

 

What’s Your Excuse?

 

When I looked at survey results of all of the tournaments mentioned above (sanctioned, unsanctioned, and sponsored) I found that 29% of respondents (1,006) didn’t attend any tournaments last year. In my experience, the reasons people have for not attending tournaments usually fall into two camps: tournaments cost too much, or they take up too much time. The survey asked those two questions, and asked about tournament preferences, to see if we could find out what might be standing between us and signing up for a tournament. Let’s start with the aspects of a tournament that might prevent us from signing up.

In the survey we asked everyone to rate their level of agreement to the statement that tournaments are too expensive. We can assume that if respondents remained neutral, they didn’t agree with the statement and don’t consider expense to be an issue. Therefore, let’s look at those who agree or strongly agree with the idea that tournaments are too expensive.

When asked to agree or disagree with the statement that tournaments are too expensive, about 86.2% of us either remained neutral or disagreed with the statement. That is an interesting statistic, since the cost to enter tournaments varies significantly. Locally, I’ve seen tournaments range from $5 (for club events) to well over $100 to enter. The more costly the tournament, the better the players pack for amateurs and the better the payout for pros. I’ll talk more about payouts and costs later. With over 86% of us satisfied with the price of tournaments, that only leaves about 13.8% of us who agree that tournaments are too expensive.

tournamentstooexpensive

Since most tournaments consist of several rounds of disc golf, with some over several days, we wanted to find out how many of us agree with the statement that tournaments take up too much time. Again, counting those who remained neutral as not having a problem with the amount of time, the results were similar to the previous question. Only about 14% of us agree that tournaments take up too much of our weekend.

tournamentstoomuchtime

 

How Long Will It Go On

 

Since 29% of respondents didn’t attend any tournaments last year, I would expect the number of people who either find tournaments too expensive or feel they take up too much time, to be closer in number to 29%. And that it pretty much what happened.  Only about 3.1% of us felt that tournament were both too expensive AND took too much time, which leaves about 24% of us who have one or the other issue with tournaments. Which accounts for most of the 29% of us who didn’t attend any tournaments. HOWEVER, that is only adding up the numbers without looking at the sources of the numbers. When I looked at how many people thought tournaments are too expensive or take too much time, but still attended at least one tournament, I found that 12.4% of us fall into that category. We could make a couple of conclusions from that data. Either those respondents don’t like the cost or time commitment, but played anyway. Or, they played in tournaments that didn’t have expensive fees or last as long as bigger ones.

The survey also asked if we prefer single- or multi-day tournaments. Again, counting those who either responded neutrally or didn’t answer the question as not having a problem with how many days a tournament takes, the results are as follows. There were 16.4% of us that didn’t like single-day tournaments, and 21.7% of us who didn’t like multi-day tournaments. The largest number of respondents were those who remained neutral or didn’t answer the question. However, 31% of us do prefer single-day tournaments and 16% of us favor multi-day tournaments.

singleormultidayOut of all of the above survey results that surprised me the most was the one asking if tournaments are too expensive. I hear a lot of grumbling about the cost of playing in some tournaments, so I thought more people would agree with the statement. I would agree with the grumblers were it not for two important facts: I attend lots of tournaments, and so do many other people, because so many tournaments fill up year after year. Apparently, the market has spoken.

Taking Home Some Loot

 

Personally, it wouldn’t bother me if the amateur divisions (which is where I play) were a bit cheaper and didn’t have player’s packs. However, based on some of the survey results, I’m in the minority. Player’s packs typically consist of a tournament stamp disc, shirt, or other disc golf swag. Every amateur player gets a pack. And despite my feelings about them, player’s packs aren’t going away any time soon for a couple reasons. First, when tournament directors get disc manufacturers and other companies to sponsor a tournament, they can get products at a cheaper price. That allows TD’s to give out packs that are close to the dollar amount of the entry fee, while only spending a small amount of money on them. They can then take the difference in price and add it to the pro payouts. It’s a win-win because the amateurs get some swag, and the pros get a better payout.

The second reasons player’s packs are here to stay is because it’s fun to get one! Some tournaments are famous for their sweet player’s packs. There is something satisfying about taking home a bunch of stuff, regardless of how we performed. Did you win your division? Did you finish in the middle of the pack? Did you take last place? You get a player’s pack. Not only is there the psychological satisfaction of getting something for your money, there is the fun of throwing a tournament disc or wearing a tournament shirt for years to let people know that you were there. It’s also fun to see other people sporting swag from a tournament that you attended and bond with them.

tourneyplayerspacks

Happiness Is…

One of the survey results I was most happy to see was how many people played in at least one tournament. As someone who enjoys getting together with folks who like disc golf as much as I do, it was nice to see that 71% of us played in at least one tournament.  To me, that means most of us appreciate the sport enough to dedicate a little time and money for some competition. Often times we enter just to challenge ourselves. Hopefully we leave the event with a desire to continue to play and improve ourselves so the next time we compete, we see a little progress. And maybe pick up a win. Or at least have some fun and make good memories with our fellow disc golfers.

 

The Cascading Effect of a PDGA Suspension

When the PDGA pronounced an 18-month suspension of professional player, Bradley Williams, because of a shoulder-check leaving the tee at the 2016 Ledgestone Insurance Open, it began a cascading effect that may have reached its apex with the Pro-Tour decision to separate the finale from the PDGA by making it a non-sanctioned event. It didn’t take much for the wave to swell. One of the biggest names in disc golf, Paul McBeth, quickly posted on social media that he desired more transparency from the PDGA about the decision, and soon thereafter announced that he would not play non major PDGA events in protest. Pro Tour organizer, Steve Dodge, then made the announcement that he’d decided to separate the Pro Tour from the PDGA, making the finale an “unsanctioned tournament”.

There are many more details and undercurrents that can be researched about those cascading events, but the intention here is not to outline what happened, but simply to follow that chain of events down the rabbit hole. Let us project the attitude of separation further and ask some relevant questions that arise when a major tournament featuring top-tier pros suddenly declares that it does not need the existing governing body. For example, does separation from the PDGA really mean anything if the tournament still happens with the same players, the same payouts, and the same media attention?

The Value of The PDGA

What does the PDGA offer in terms of value?

According to the 2016 State of Disc Golf Survey, the most important aspect of PDGA membership is player ratings. 86% of respondents said that their PDGA# and Rating was “Important” or “Very Important”.

pdgaratingimportant

Survey respondents also value being able to see lifetime statistics of their competitive performance that appear on the PDGA website for current paying members.

lifetimestatspdga

A good number of those surveyed also value PDGA membership so that they don’t have to pay the $10 non PDGA registration fee for the tournaments they play.

nonpdgafee

If the PDGA is a governing body (the organization that sets the rules), how did they become such, and are they necessary if the independent tournament sets their own rules– rules which are accepted by the participating players? The list of questions and “what if’s” could go on and on.

The real question is, if the big names in disc golf start shunning the de facto governing body, then how long before that governing body no longer has any sway at all? It would carry into all aspects of the game, because the PDGA only has whatever power the players concede to give it through united acceptance. Take away that acceptance, even piece by piece, and the power lessens. If the Pro Tour says “we don’t need you” and it doesn’t change the material outcome of their events, then how long before smaller tournaments decide that PDGA sanctioning is no longer a necessity for their events either?

For example, the Cache Valley Classic is a PDGA sanctioned event that takes place in Logan, Utah, where Infinite Discs is located. It doesn’t draw big-name pros, but it fills a full roster of intermediate, advanced, and open players. By sanctioning the event, the PDGA established guidelines that had to be followed to the smallest detail, and also meant that a check for a few hundred dollars had to be written out to the PDGA.

What was the payback in terms of the event’s outcome? Would fewer players have come without sanctioning? Would it have been any less or more of a success, had those hundreds of dollars been withheld? It’s hard to say. It is possible that fewer of those open players who have sponsorship deals would have come. In their absence, more advanced, intermediate and even recreational players might have paid to participate, quickly filling any vacancy. What would have ultimately been missing? A stamp of approval? A formulaic ranking for the event, the course, and the players?

Let’s assume that PDGA rules are removed from previously sanctioned events? Who then becomes the governing body? Who enforces a standard? Is it too much of a stretch to assume that the tournament directors could step in and say, “these are the rules associated with this particular tournament”. What might happen then? There are a couple of possibilities. If the players all understand and approve of the rules and still love the way the tournament is set up, then certainly that is enough. If the players don’t like the rules, don’t show up to play, and don’t have a good experience with the tournament, then the event fails, probably loses money, and likely won’t be repeated.

The tournaments that set welcome and appropriate standards for participation would succeed. The ones who muck it up would fail. Is that a bad formula for the growth of disc golf as a competitive sport? Or is it too much like anarchy if there were no central authority figure, like the PDGA, to keep rules consistent and put their stamp of approval on events?

Technical Standards

The PDGA is not only involved with events, but is also responsible for the technical standards of the game. They set the guidelines for approved targets in tournament play, which all of us who have played temporary courses with home made bicycle wheel baskets are grateful for.

The PDGA makes the ultimate decision to approve or not approve the discs that can be thrown in the game of disc golf. Of course, that technically means the discs that can or can’t be thrown in PDGA events, but the power of that “stamp of approval” has shaped the disc market. An approved disc is much more likely to sell successfully and has a shot at becoming a staple in the game. An unapproved disc is quickly dropped from production and banished into the dark corners of forgotten products. How many players own a Gateway Ninja disc? Not many. It is unapproved. How many players pull out the outlandish looking Turbo Putter? Not many, because it is unapproved and thus is nothing more than a collectible novelty. But if tournament promoters were to separate from the PDGA who set the disc guidelines, then it is logical to say that players could pull out whatever disc the tournament director allows. Suddenly, that unmentionable 180g Destroyer comes into play. Suddenly somebody brandishes a sharp-edged Ninja disc, or an Aerobie that they can throw 800 feet.

If the tournament director says, “follow PDGA guidelines” then that certainly sets the rules. This is what the Utah Open, an “unsanctioned” tournament that will be on the Pro Tour next year has done. Would, or should, an unsanctioned tournament need to pay the PDGA for declaring an enforcement of the rules and standards that were set by the PDGA?

Can Tournaments Effectively Govern Themselves?

Let’s go back to the small action that started this chain of cascading events. Let’s assume that a tournament is non PDGA sanctioned, and one player walks past another player who is approaching the tee and gives them a shoulder-check, either intentional or non-intentional. Does the offended player have recourse if they can’t call up the PDGA and complain? Of course they would. They’d simply tell the tournament director, “this guy behaved in an unsportsmanlike manner toward me, and it effected my game.” The tournament director, who is then the immediate governing body, then could decide the appropriate response. Maybe the result would be to add penalty strokes, or maybe to kick that one player out of the tournament, or even take the extreme of saying, “you’re not welcome here anymore…ever.” That’s their call. The tournament would then either benefit or lose credibility based on that decision, and that is where it ends. It doesn’t go beyond that. It doesn’t bleed into other tournaments, other opportunities, and a player’s ability to seek a livelihood with winnings.

In a world where there is no longer a generally accepted governing body, is disc golf better off? Would it continue to grow? Of course. The game is addictive, fun, challenging, beautiful, and would continue to be so, even without an entity setting rules which really aren’t changing much. But would it be perceived as less professional without that entity watching over the competitive side of the sport? Probably. Do we need an NFL, a PGA, an NBA, an NHL? Or do we take disc golf in a different direction that feels more open, more free, more organic, and less ruled by red tape?

Ratings

Another argument for the role of the PDGA remaining solidly implanted within the competitive disc golf world is that they have created a system of rating players, tournaments, courses, and events. Those ratings can consistently rank players in order, determined by performance. It is a mathematical formula, and the variables within that formula have been established and fed with data which helps division assignment. Thus, the ratings and rankings seem to make sense and treat all players, across the board, fairly. That matters, assuming you’ve paid the dues to become a member of the PDGA and you care about playing in a manner that produces accurate ratings. If the PDGA were to vanish, taking away those rankings, would chaos ensue? Would players suddenly feel like they have no measuring stick by which to evaluate their game play?

Many have argued that the disc golf rating system should be replaced with something more similar to ball golf.

While the PDGA does have a rating system that in most opinions is pretty good, it’s definitely not something that can’t be replicated or replaced. While our intention is not to create an official rating, Infinite Discs has created the Infinite Rating that uses and creates ratings very near those created by the PDGA. These ratings have been very valuable for creating divisions for our local disc golf events, especially for those players who are not PDGA members.

Compare the PDGA rating and the Infinite Rating from our recent tournament:

infiniteratingvspdga

The main difference between the results is that the Infinite formula creates round ratings based on past results.The first round of the Infinite formula is based off of scores submitted before the tournament, while the second round is based off of scores submitted during the first round. The PDGA formula compares scores and determines a rating solely from within that round.

Formulas like these take the X’s and the Y’s into account when players upload scores from different courses, and then calculate a course rating, subsequent player ratings, and even individual round ratings based on averages within the existing data set. In the case of Infinite Courses, there are still very few courses and players that have a rating. Players need to upload scores under a variety of circumstances and in different locations for the X’s and Y’s to be replaced by actual, meaningful data. All it takes is enough people uploading scores in enough places, and suddenly there is a full-fledged rating system that can do essentially the same thing the PDGA system does, but without membership fees, and without the pretense of a governing body. Infinite Courses is free to access, free to use, and easy to pull up a variety of stats and comparisons, if that’s what you want out of your game. There will still be those in the silent majority who will never care about rantings, averages, and comparisons. They just want to play disc golf.

Ultimately, we can’t currently answer the questions posed by a world without the PDGA. Undoubtedly there would be less standardization in tournaments. With some of the current events, it sure teases us all with a glimpse of what that world might look like. We can imagine it. We could long for it, or we could fear it. But we probably shouldn’t worry about it, because with or without the PDGA, disc golf will continue to spread like wildfire. There is something magical in the disc golf experience which can’t be suppressed.

We want your opinion. If you are a PDGA member, what aspects of the PDGA enhance your disc golf experience? If you aren’t a member, are you more or less inclined to play a tournament if it is sanctioned by the PDGA? Is there something we’re missing that makes the PDGA more essential than we can comprehend?

Watch LIVE Coverage of the Ledgestone Insurance Open!

The Ledgestone Insurance Open, the tournament with the biggest payout in disc golf history, is finally here.

Smashboxx TV will broadcast four rounds of this tournament every day at approximately 2:30 Central Time. As the official vendor of the Ledgestone Insurance Open, Infinite Discs will be giving away $250 worth of gift cards, promo codes, and a Zuca Cart. Be sure to watch the live coverage to find out how you can win.

Watch Live Coverage right here:

2016 Disc Golf Pro Tour Products

DGPT STUFF

The first ever Disc Golf Pro Tour is rolling! And we here at Infinite Discs are happy to be a part of it. Steve Dodge and his team are working hard to make this tour something special that will help grow this sport that we all love.

Just last week we added some exclusive Disc Golf Pro Tour Products to our store inventory. These products include discs, apparel, and some really cool cups!

DGPT Silipint Cups

Cups may seem like a silly promotional gag product for an event like the DGPT, but these cups are actually pretty nice. These super durable and rubbery cups are made by Silipint. They are microwave and dishwasher safe, and can even be used on cooking grills.

DGPT FlexFit Hats

DGPT Hat

We only got a handful of these classy DGPT FlexFit Hats, so if you want one, grab it now. These are available in a few sizes and only in black or gray.

DGPT Sport T-Shirts

DGPT Shirt

100% Polyester and 100% awesome shirt for playing disc golf in. These shirts are lightweight and very soft. Again, we only got a handful in so grab one right away if you want one!

DGPT Discs

Vibram–No surprises here. Steve Dodge and Vibram have thrown together these classy runs of the Lace, O-Lace, and Un-Lace for the DGPT!
 DGPT Lace
Prodigy–Already a hot new product, the A3 in Prodigy Glow plastic with a two color stamp is especially exciting!
 DGPT A3
Discraft–A Super Color Buzzz from Discraft seems more than fitting for this “super” awesome series of disc golf events!
 DGPT Buzzz
Legacy–We got quite a few molds in Legacy’s Legend plastic for the DGPT, but only about 1 or 2 of each! The molds include the Cannon, Hunter, Nemesis, Outlaw, and Prowler.
 DGPT Nemesis
DareDevil Discs– Still one of the smaller companies in disc golf, this awesome Canadian manufacturer has hooked it up with this special edition of the Great Horned Owl.
 DGPT Great Horned Owl
DGA–The DGA Sail has been the hottest new release from DGA that we have seen in a while, so we were exdited to see special SP Line Sails for the DGPT!
 DGPT Sail