Monday, February 5, 2018

Sandbagging - The Hot Button Topic You Can't Not Talk About

For some of you, just seeing that word “sandbagger” makes your blood boil. It’s a term thrown around disc golf communities across the country, and while some use it lovingly to harass their friends, others flat out slur it at players and use it to tear down the camaraderie and structure the sport entails.

Instead of using the “s-word” let’s focus on what it means to play in a division that’s not right for you and how the PDGA guidelines can often confuse players when they view their actual performance. If you’re not sure what division to play in, we devoted an entire blog to it a while back. Today, we’re going to look at the effects of what happens when things go wrong.

The PDGA Guidelines

Let’s have a quick refresher about some of the criteria when it comes to playing in tournaments. We’re not focusing on age limits or gender here, just ratings and experience levels:

  • Advanced: Ratings equal to or above 935. “Tournament experienced players who have played disc golf for several years, and developed consistency. Throw 300-450 feet, make 5-7/10 putts from 25-30 feet, have different shots in their arsenal.”
  • Intermediate: Ratings below 935. “Developing players who have played 2-3 years with improved consistency and accuracy. Throw 250-350 feet, make 5-7/10 putts from 20 feet.”
  • Recreational: Ratings below 900. “For players who have played 1-2 years and are gaining consistency and experience. Throw 200-300 feet, make 4-6/10 putts from 20 feet, learning different shots.”
  • Novice: Ratings below 850. “For beginning and casual players who are learning basic Frisbee® and disc golf skills. Throw 175-250 feet, make 3-5/10 putts from 20 feet, can throw backhand with some accuracy.”
Here lies the issue when we talk about sandbagging (sorry, we said it): if you’re a new player who rightfully belongs in the novice division and someone who is rated 840 also plays on your card, there’s going to be a problem. It’s not playing favorites or being rigid, it’s flat-out logic.

Why A Bad Rap?

Let’s examine this situation a little further. The 840 rated player is technically signed up in the correct division. However, you don’t get to be rated that high if you can only throw 175 feet and aren’t very good at 20-foot putts. In this instance, some players might take one look at your rating, call you a sandbagger, and talk crap about you behind your back when you smoke the rest of the novice competition.

Not only does this 840 rated player receive a lot of grief, but they also have the potential to hurt themselves and their competitors. If you’re a true novice player and you see this guy show up in your division, your heart might sink and you’ll kiss the thought of a win goodbye long before you throw your first shot.

We hear time and time again that playing with those who are better than you can help improve your game. You learn by watching, but there’s also something funny about disc golf where you tend to learn through osmosis too. The 840 rated player would probably stand a better chance to be challenged during tournament play if he competed in the intermediate division, but the PDGA guidelines tell a different story.

This confusion is what leads to sandbagging even being a concern in the sport, as those who take a hard stance on the PDGA descriptions will shun those who seem to be playing in a lower division than they should.

We’re sure that we’ve sparked a healthy debate on our hands, so let us know in the comments below - is sandbagging a concern for you and your friends? How do you feel about people who play in what seems like the wrong division, and is it wrong according to the PDGA, the TD, or you?
  1. I played in my first tournament ever in the AM 3 division. Going into it I didn't really know what to expect as I only ever really played in my small circle of friends + some people I would occasionally meet and jump in with whilst playing by myself. I ended up winning it pretty easily and I could feel the eyes and murmurs of the s word. I felt really bad, but at the same time it was my first tournament. Looking back, I probably should have played AM 2, as I am decently athletic, having played baseball as a pitcher in college. I learned about disc golf post college, so I had almost 2 years of experience going into the tournament. What do you think? Was it wrong of me to have played AM 3 in that tournament?

    1. You can't control what division other people sign up for. You can only play your best against the course. People who cry about baggers are just sad and jealous.

  2. I have been playing for 13 months and competing since the trilogy challenge. I play as a rec player and have competed in 4 events, and placed in two. Not exactly sure about the ratings yet, but I do want to say this: I am a much better disc golfer on my home courses. It is precisely there that I really learn to shape my shots and learn the flights of different discs. With that being said however, I do believe in order to move up into the next division a new golfer who enjoys the sport enuff to compete, should play several different parks. Then he/she will get a more accurate feel for how well they are learning and what their truer rating should be. I also believe the PDGA should be allowed to "recommend" that a competitor move up if he/she is grossly dominant on a consistant basis in a lower division. I am completely interested in this topic and open minded, (but am new to the sport and do not yet have a deep well of experience to draw a seasoned opinion) and would welcome any feedback from fellow players. My name is ajetrip on Instagram hmu anytime. May your drives fly true, and your putts find the basket.

  3. I think it’s so different for men than women. I usually play FA1, but I’ve only been playing about 9 months. I play softball so a flick and an overhand came pretty naturally, but I’ve been working on my backhand. I debate every time I sign up for a tournament whether I should play FA2, but I’ve placed in every tournament I’ve played in, even won my very first PDGA. This, of course, comes from the fact that there aren’t nearly as many women who play as there are men. I think someone can have an exceptional day on the course and they shouldn’t be called a bagger. But if someone consistently plays down, just so they can win, that’s not okay.

  4. can dynamic add a byline to these articles so i know who is writing this tripe?