Thursday, October 19, 2017

We Answer The Age-Old Question: What Division Should I Play In?

So you’ve been bitten by the disc golf bug and can’t get the game out of your mind. After fitting in rounds during every spare moment of your day, you finally muster up the courage to sign up for your first tournament.

But wait a minute - how do you know what division to play in? It might be tempting to register in Advanced with all of your friends, but you’re not sure if you can keep up with them. How are you supposed to know what to do? We break down some of the considerations to think about when signing up for your first tournament and how you can pace yourself for success.

Before You Register

As you look through the registration page for your local event, you might notice an additional fee if you’re not a member of the PDGA. What’s that about?! More often than not, players choose to become a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association for a number of reasons.

Not only does it avoid you having to pay this $10 fee for every tournament you play in, but it also gives you a specific PDGA number and you are able to track the ratings of each of your rounds. This is a great way to see your progress over time and can also help when signing up for larger events that split up registration times and dates based on ratings.

Your First Event And Beyond

Unless you can throw a mile and consistently shoot far better than everyone else you play with during a casual round, it’s recommended that you sign up for Recreational or Intermediate for your first event. This allows you to get a handle on how to conduct yourself during tournament play and get a feel for what it’s like to play with a little skin in the game after having paid an entry fee.

If you completely crush it during every tournament you play, it’s probably smart to move up to Advanced in an effort to improve your skills. Many times this initial jump can be difficult, as a player might consistently place in the top 5 in Intermediate but soon find themselves toward the middle or bottom of the pack in Advanced.

Rather than going down a division, use this as an opportunity to better yourself and your game, as you’re now playing with higher caliber players.

Don’t Be A Sandbagger

Dating back to the 1970’s poker scene, the term sandbagger isn’t exactly something you should strive for. Essentially, as people move up in division and find themselves challenged more and more, some individuals have a tendency to go backward and drop down to the division they were once previously dominating.

This is bad for a number of reasons that relate to your game and to your reputation. Those who play in lower divisions than they should find that they aren’t as challenged during tournament play because they know they’ll take the win by a handful or more of strokes. There’s something about having added mental pressure to perform that makes disc golf both difficult and enjoyable.

Perhaps one of the larger reasons to avoid being a sandbagger comes from the reputation you’ll earn from your local disc golf community. Sandbaggers rob others from hard-earned wins, and they are seen in a pretty negative light. Locals might talk about how certain sandbaggers need to “move up,” referencing that they should compete in a higher division than they are currently in. It’s simple - don’t be a sandbagger.

The Challenge Of Playing Pro

Let’s say you’ve made your way through the ranks and you’re performing exceptionally well in the Advanced division. Now comes the time to make one of the biggest, and sometimes scariest jumps of all - moving up to play pro.

Playing in the Open division is another animal in itself, as you are now playing for cash instead of merchandise. The competition can be extreme, as you’re surrounding yourself with the upper echelon of disc golfers in the game. Not letting the pressure get to you is half of the challenge, let alone making sure you execute your shots perfectly.

There is one catch when playing in Open, however, and that has to do with what you do with your prize. The PDGA does stipulate that if an Open player chooses not to accept their cash prize, they could theoretically play in other lower divisions in the future. Once you take the money though, you’re stuck in Open whether you like it or not.

Where Do You Fall?

Let us know in the comments below what your experience has been when selecting the division you started in, and how moving up or down has affected your game!
  1. I disagree with your sandbagger comments, people should play the division that their PDGA rating calls for and do so proudly. No one should be harassed for playing in their true division, why else do we have ratings?

  2. I would expect only a sandbagger to have a grief with the sandbagging comment. Yes the PDGA ratings system allows for sandbagging, but those who truly wish to make the sport fair and equal know the ratings system is flawed - as there is no real way to measure a player's experience or skill. Example: I can play only leagues at home courses and have a rating of 910 at my home courses. I go to play "in my true division, Intermediate" at a different course and get absolutely crushed. It's no different if I'm winning every unsanctioned event in my area and knowingly sign up for Rec at the next sanctioned event to, "Steal the win". It's frowned upon, yes there is a ratings system but no you shouldn't abuse it for victories. I implore anyone over 875 rated to be playing Intermediate. I started the year with an 850 rating and finished 870. My last 3 tourneys I've shot as good as the Intermediate players with an average 900+ rounds and even scores that would win Intermediate. My next tourney is intermediate, despite my "true division" could remain Rec for the next 4-5 ratings updates (5-6 months) as my rounds fall off. This article is on point and needs to be on the PDGA website as if you read the rules it almost encourages sandbagging based on the numbers. If you're a regular tournament player though you know the system is abused and it's very difficult for a "true" recreational player to ever get a win.

  3. How do I know if I should be in intermediate or recreational?

  4. Basically, the separation between Rec & Int, and the higher divisions, are consistency. If you can 20 foot putts all day long, and are consistent with your drives, try Int. I'm currently rated about 867, and have played roughly 4 tourneys in Int. Use Rec. To get familiar with tourney rules, and the flow of an organized round. Move up accordingly. Everybody improves at a different pace, so it's hard to tell truly who should be in what division...

  5. 100% Correct. The term "sandbagging" should be considered disrespectful, to the PDGA, which works very hard to provide an organized platform for all of us to perform on. I see it all the time Rec rated players playing intermediate, and even advanced, only to be disheartened at the end of a tournament in which they were totally irrelevant even though they played well for themselves. Telling someone to "move up" is like wearing a sign that says, I've never won and you shouldn't either! Saying it while someone receives their award, is about the poorest etiquette you can possibly have.


  6. The only change that I believe should be considered is maybe changing the division title from "Recreational" to "Intermediate B". The rec division around here is full of skilled players. Players that have been playing for years, and have spent countless hours working on their craft, and in my opinion deserve a little better title than recreational. Furthermore, I believe there are Rec rated players, playing in intermediate for no other reason than they don't want to be called a rec player.

  7. Be very careful telling a player to "move up." Around me you will have your rating checked, and most likely be told to move down.

  8. This is something I've struggled with as someone who has played for quite a few years now. I played one tournament in MA2 and wound up with a 960 rating. I stepped back from disc golf for 4-5 years and had a couple of major knee surgeries during that time. When I decided to come back and start playing tournaments, I had to play my first few in MA1 and got my butt kicked! Needless to say my rating dropped down more than 90 points after my first year back. I was advised to play rec until I won a tournament then move back on up. I heeded that advice for a one round c-tier and won (only by a stroke). I was still seen by a few as a bagger even though I was advised by some to play my division rating. Now I've cashed in the last few events in Int and have some good competition there even though my rating still allows me to play rec.
    Here's where its interesting. I have to have another Knee surgery that will put me out for 5-6 months and my first opportunity to play back would be at GBO. Not being 100% fit, and off for quite a while, should I play rec or Int in a major tournament. I don't think I would have a shot at winning MA2 at all. I'm going to sign up for MA2 regardless just curious about thoughts on this.

  9. Wow, who wrote this? Do they know what they are talking about? "Once you take the money though, you’re stuck in Open whether you like it or not."

    2.4 Pros Playing Am
    Professionals may compete in Amateur divisions offered at PDGA A, B, and C Tier events, for which they qualify based on player rating, age, and sex as detailed in the PROS PLAYING AM section of the Divisions, Ratings, Points Factors table.

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