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. Or they have a valid argument. It could have been your first tournament, but you also could have been an under par player who has played the game a lot. Anonymous is wrong obviously in what they typed. It has nothing to do with how others registered and has to do with you and your own judgment when registering. If you knew you were a good player, you should have registered in MA2 or higher.

  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.

    1. Lol overhand from softball. Great 90 foot throw hahahahaha. But for real, if you’re debating which division to play, choose the harder one. You wouldn’t be considering it if you didn’t belong. By lowering your standards you are by definition, sandbagging.

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

  5. I think it is a complex issue because for a lot of us, judging our own skill level is difficult because we tend to be inconsistent. I agree with the earlier comment about being a much better player on home courses. I have 3 courses in my city that I play a ton, if I was to play a tournament on one of those courses I tend to think I'd score much better. I think the skill level summaries are a bit vague, because there is a lot of crossover in specific skills, for example there are some players who can absolute bomb a disc 400 ft, but still only manage par golf because their putting needs work. I tend to be the opposite, my drives are shorter than most in my peer group but my approach & putt game is pretty decent.

  6. I'm typically the lowest rated, or close to it, MA50 player in most tournaments I play. I enjoy the challenge, even when a player rated 50 or more points higher is in the division. The situation is a little different playing an aged restricted division, but I think you need to be challenged. Where's the fun in winning without any real competition? I won one of our state's few A-tier tournaments last year, with a ranking that was 7th of the 8 in the field. That's a satisfying win.

  7. I kind of feel like the division ratings should be adjusted. Maybe Novice goes to 835, Rec 836 to 875/880, int 875/880 to 925 and adv above 925.
    This would take care of some of it.

  8. I think once you start winning first place in your division it is time to move up (1st place in 3 tournaments would be enough in my opinion). I also think... once you move up you shouldn't be able to move back down, that would solve a lot of issues. Honestly once you move up a division why would you need to move back down!?!?! I do not look at ratings for the simple fact people have great rounds and they also have horrible rounds, so your rating may be reflecting a few of those bad rounds you pumped out while going through a slump a few weeks ago. It's all about being honest with yourself but regardless, "bagger" or not, we are all disc golf fam so lets all be supportive of each other!

    Much love Fam!

  9. I think the biggest issue that I don't see being talked about is the ratings don't match up with the description well. Lets look at 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.” My rating is 914 and I have been playing 4 years now. I throw 350 but I make more than the 5-7/10 20'ers, honestly I can make 5-7/10 25-30'ers. I'm yet to win an intermediate event. I've placed top 5 and top 3 but I'm not good enough to compete in advanced yet. So I've played a year longer than they say, I'm a better putter than they say, and I am a very competitive intermediate player. So I am sandbagging if I'm yet to win an intermediate event? My last two rounds were rated 919 & 964. I argue I am still an intermediate player until my rating says I'm 935+. The other issue is I don't think you should be able to play in pdga sanctioned events without an active pdga membership. That way you have a rating at all times and your rating won't let you sandbag.

  10. As a good tournament director, math nerd, and a poor player myself, I will observe that the PDGA division/rating guidelines are deeply flawed on several levels:
    - I have been playing 5 years, have competed in many tournaments, can throw lots of different shots with equal (ie. marginal) skill - forehand, backhand, overhand, rollers, etc. I think I'm good for 8+ putts at 20'. So that excludes me from ever playing MA3 or even MA2 again.
    - However, a good throw for me is maybe 250', my rating is currently around 800, and never been much above 820. I'm pretty terrible. In as much as I should be playing tournaments at all, I should perhaps get a sex change and play FA2 if I want to be competitive in a division, otherwise I am well able to come in dead last in any given division. Unless there is some complete noob registered.

    My story is extreme but in the tournaments I have directed the theme is common. 900 rated MA3? Come on a good number of our MA1's are not 900.

    Here is what I propose:
    - All ridiculous talk of number of years playing, experience level, number of putts you can make from what distance, how far you can throw - remove all of that rubbish. The only mathematical metric you can use is rating, that's it.
    - Drop the ratings per division significantly: something like MA3 no higher than 830, MA2 no higher than 880, maybe 900. Obviously adjusted numbers for female divisions.
    - All courses used for PDGA sanctioned play should have a dependable Scratch Scoring Average (SSA). If a player is not yet rated, they should have to play a minimum of 3 attested rating rounds, and assigned a provisional rating based on their scores and some yet to be determined mathematical formula, just for the purpose of assigning a division until they have a real rating.

    Just my $0.02 worth.

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  19. I attended a open event. Im new to both the state and sport so didn't know who or what to trust or make of things. I was encouraged to switch divisions due to a sandbagger registering. I did, as did everyone else leaving the lone player.

    The problem is the division was AM50. Age is a qualifying factor. I reviewed the PDGA rules and guidelines listed here. The player accused of sandbagging was qualified fir the division. He was also a much better Disc Golfer. I realized the encouragement to switch divisions was ill wrought.

    I now wish I had stayed with my first choice and just taken a beat down. Who knows what may have transpired? When the pressure is off it can be amazing what I learn from others.

    Sanbagging is specific. So is false accusation and/or slander. I've seen the real ugly and we got that guy removed from the event. Know the difference. If you don't like being outplayed at an event then throw better, don't harm others. Follow the honor code or follow another sport.

    Its just my opinion. You may agree or not but Im not swaying from my position.

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