Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Quick Tip: Leagues

Hey guys, I'm Robert McCall, and I'm the Dynamic Discs Team Manager. Each week, I like to share a quick tip I've learned over the years.

If you took a poll of most competitive disc golfers today, I think their path to playing in tournaments likely looks like mine did:

When I was in college, a friend invited me out to play disc golf. I had played once in high school and wasn’t bad at tossing an Ultimate frisbee around, so I accepted and told him I was going to crush him at disc golf. I almost crushed him the first time we played, but instead, I lost by 20 or so. I’m a competitive person by nature, so I wanted to play again immediately. I kept playing and kept losing until things started to click. Once they did, I would only lose by two throws, then one, then I’d win occasionally, then I’d win most of the time. I loved competing and wanted to take that competition to the next level. I heard about a mini (league) that ran every Saturday, so I went out to play and expected to win, because I was beating my friend at disc golf pretty consistently, so I was the best, right? That’s a negative, Ghost Rider. I lost by a hefty margin, but I loved seeing what scores were possible and playing a round with people with whom I’d never played. Through those new connections, I learned of actual tournaments, attended my first one in 2010, and the rest is history.

Leagues and/or minis serve several important purposes for experienced and new players alike:

  • New players can play with more established disc golfers if they’re paired on the same card. This allows them to learn from the experienced players and see new shots or lines that they might not have considered.
  • New players can meet more disc golfers in their community and feel connected more quickly. Most people enjoy having some disc golf friends to play rounds with occasionally.
  • Experienced players can use leagues as a pressure simulator for competitive tournament rounds. Everyone understands the importance of muscle memory in the physical portions of disc golf, but practicing in pressure-filled situations is imperative to handling them well in the future.

If you’re reading through this and thinking, “That would be nice, but I don’t have any leagues in my area”, I have good news for you: leagues are easy to run, and they’re a great way to contribute to your local disc golf scene. Running a league or mini that gains traction and is well-attended can work wonders for unifying local disc golfers and creating a welcoming environment for growth.

For first time league or mini tournament directors, here are a couple of suggestions that should help you when starting out:

A little organization on the front end goes a long way. Having a scorepoint board or easy method of entering and tracking scores makes the end of the round really easy to manage. Ensure that you know which holes are the best starting holes for your course (hint: they’re not always holes 1-6). Have plenty of scorecards and pencils on hand. Don’t let people choose their own cards as everyone will play with the people with whom they typically play.

Singles typically works best if you offer at least two divisions. Local disc golfers should be able to help you determine which players should be in each division. In general, lower divisions should be paid out in discs as to discourage better players from playing down to win cash. I’m sure some will argue with this point, but this structure has been my favorite to date. I am not opposed, however, to mixing players from different divisions on different cards at leagues, because people will have an opportunity to play with better players or newer players depending on their situation.

I don’t love handicap leagues personally, but the way I’ve seen them done best is occasionally mixed in with singles and doubles instead of every week. Your league may be different and could encourage more people to attend with handicap leagues, so do what works best for your situation.

If you play doubles, either random draw doubles or splitting players into an “A” and “B” pool helps to make the teams slightly more fair. With random draw, you run the risk of having one or two stacked teams, but it’s pure chance. With “A” and “B” pools drawing at different times, you can basically guarantee that newer or less skilled players will be paired with better players which will allow them to learn from the better player and ask questions throughout the round.

I would encourage players of all skill levels to attend leagues, even if you don’t feel ready to compete. Even if you’ve been playing for less than a year, you can learn from playing with better players and competing against others around your skill level. Leagues are a great primer for becoming accustomed to competitive play!

What’s your favorite format for league? Have you attended or run a successful league? If so, let us know in the comments below. See you next week!
  1. Hey Robert! An idea has been floating around at my local league to help determine who should play open division and who should play amateur. Usually people choose their division and if you win amateur 3 times in a row you have to move up. We also have tags for the singles rounds now, so the idea was put forth to split the open and amateur divisions based on tags. So top half is open and bottom half is amateur. What are your thoughts on this. I think it will hurt the amateur players because it will most likely bring the amateur scores lower.


  2. That's a tough one. I like the idea of having the ability to choose your division, but being forced to move up after wins seems like a good idea, too. I would keep tags in their regular order by score, but keep the fields separated for payout. That way, when an amateur player decides to move up, they don't have to buy a new tag or trade theirs in.

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