Sunday, September 2, 2018

Is Disc Golf Too Easy?

Transport yourself back to the time when disc golf was just starting to plant its roots across America and imagine what it was like to design one of the first disc golf courses in any given area. Do you think that our forefathers considered that one day, players would be absolutely shredding and shooting 10, 11, or 12 down could be the norm?

Our guess is probably not, as disc golf didn’t quite have the competitive spirit that it has these days. As the sport grows and players become more and more talented, we’ve seen tournament performances become increasingly impressive. After all, Paul McBeth’s 18 down during the Discraft Great Lakes Open earned him almost two minutes on ESPN, and Eagle McMahon’s back to back 16 down rounds at Konopiště literally had the world talking.

We pose the all-important question - is disc golf too easy? Your answer will largely depend on who you are and your current skill set, but we thought we’d touch base with some of the DD team members to get their perspective on where the sport is headed.

Time And Effort

AJ Risley shared with us an important insight to consider when assessing if disc golf is too easy, causing us to remember that touring pros aren’t really like everyone else:

“I don't necessarily think the sport or the courses have become too easy, but the players have gotten much better. As touring professionals who don't have other serious jobs that take up the majority of our time. We're able to focus a lot more on all the aspects of the game that help us fulfill our maximum potential.

For example, I'm able to play several practice rounds, putt for a few hours, and scheme about the course I'm playing each and every week while I'm on tour. There are different ways that we've seen course designers challenge the players over the recent years, but overall I think players have gotten better and better.”

Considering All The Elements

Dynamic Discs CEO Jeremy Rusco points to various aspects of the course, rather than the players themselves, and brings up some interesting viewpoints:

“I do not believe that we are to the point where disc golf is too easy. Our equipment and our talent (athletes) have certainly improved over the last 10-20 years which has caused us to change courses to accommodate, but I do not think that the top talent of our sport should make us change things drastically. The shift has been gradual and will continue to be gradual for as long as we continue to improve our top talent base. Out of around 40,000 active PDGA members, I'm going to estimate that we have around 10-20 players that can shoot a consistent 16-18 down and for that reason, we do not need to be overly concerned with this topic.

Many have asked me whether we need to change the targets that are on the course to the Marksman and I disagree with this being the way of the future (for the time being). Today, most of our player base is composed of recreational players that enjoy hearing the sound of the chains more often than not. They want the game to be 'easy' and enjoyable. It is what keeps them coming back to the course. Replacing our current baskets with Marksman baskets will only discourage continued growth for our sport, and until a vast majority of our society knows what those metal baskets are, we shouldn't change them up.

With the above being said, I am 100% on board with events that utilize the Marksman basket to increase the difficulty. Jerry Patterson with Launchpad Disc Golf has hosted numerous events in the Kansas City area setting up temporary courses with Marksman baskets and has seen great success and interest in this. I think that this is a great opportunity to increase the difficulty at the competitive tournament level on a temporary basis.”

The idea of changing up the basket style for specific events is one that many have toyed around with and perhaps it could become something we see more often at large scale events.

Going Hole By Hole

Right in line with the sentiments from AJ and Jeremy, Eric Oakley points to other contributing factors that may explain why players seem to be getting better and better. He shares:

“I personally hope that 16-18 doesn’t become the norm to help keep it special. Course design is our best chance of keeping those things from happening, so when someone does go off, we can celebrate it even more. With better course design we can challenge professional players to execute and be on to win or perform well at a tournament.

Too many courses have tweener holes that are easily scored by the best players with no real challenge unless they go for the big shot. The hole should be designed to require a quality shot from the tee, on the approach, and everywhere in between. If we could get more people together for course design I believe the sport will shape into something great on the professional side, but that takes a lot of knowledgeable people who understand the level at which our sport is being played.

That is why we see so many courses being shredded - they generally are outdated by the skill level, but with some minor adjustments they can be made challenging for all professional players.”

We’d love to know what you think - if we want to keep these 1100+ rated rounds from becoming commonplace, how do we address it? Is the answer in redesigning our courses, using different baskets, or is it really not an issue at all? Most sports do have a handful of players who are truly exceptional, and it doesn’t call for a complete overhaul of the game.

Share with us your thoughts in the comments below!
  1. I think professional level tournaments need professional level courses.

    The first pass should be re-assessing par on courses for tournaments. There's no reason that a hole couldn't normally be a par 5, but for a tournament it would be played as a pro par 4. This would be especially useful for tournaments that play courses that are installed on public parks. The higher par for everyday players will make the game feel more accessible, and perhaps there isn't enough space or the city doesn't want to put forth the funds to alter the course design.

    Longer term, we may just need to be willing to accept that certain courses just aren't up to professional level anymore. If there's no real opportunity to meaningfully redesign the course so it poses a proper challenge, then maybe it's time to find (or build) a course better suited to professional play. Like, they certainly wouldn't hold a PGA tournament at my local golf course for exactly the same reason. The course is fun and poses a challenge to recreational players like myself, but pros would just tear it apart.

    However, the players also hold a key component in this whole thing, too. Watching pro commentary on tournament coverage, it feels like there's a trend among pros in thinking that birdies are normal, and shooting for par off the teepad is a form of resignation. There's nothing wrong with a par 3 where the birdie is rare and par would require two good shots and a putt. So as course design changes, players are going to need to be willing to accept that not every hole is going to be a birdie opportunity, and par is a fine score.

  2. Most disc golf players don´t play competitions and are not members of PDGA, instead they come to play for the fun of it. They are so many that they create the economic base for disc golf. Without them, there would be no "disc golf industry". Make sure all courses are fun to play for the fun loving players - here is where we can grow the sport.
    What the pros feel about the courses are not very important for the development of the sport.

  3. I think course re-design would be the easiest solution to the problem. As said in the article players have evolved and courses should as well.

    I believe Changing to a smaller basket will completely change the dynamic of the game. Not to mention if I just installed a course with pdga champ approved targets to find out the pro tour will not use said baskets i would be a little upset. When purchasing baskets we want to be able to host any kind of event possible.

  4. i have been playing disc golf on and off for 20 years. i have discs that are older than some folks i play with. I no longer throw the old discs, because newer discs are better and more enjoyable to throw. the courses in the South east are pretty technical and wooded and their are plenty of challenging courses that get new tee or pin positions that make it more difficult. I think DG is in a great spot to lure in more players young and old.

  5. i dont even bother playing anymore. cant throw past 320ft, so will never win. waste of time. courses are just getting too long.

  6. AJ Risley is correct, Top Touring pros are in a class by themselves. I witness this recently first hand at the NT at Iron hill. Courses or changes to the game in general should not be designed around those few pros. However, I see no problem designing monster difficult pro tour courses in various parts of the country that is accessible to the rec player. Having a pro course within reach to watch and talk to and learn from those players is just great for the growth of the game. Those types of courses also provide a measure of your own game when you play them.

    Smaller baskets will only effect the close range game. course design is where the changes are needed. One consideration for older courses is to use more designated OB areas for pro tournaments. Easy to rope off and this will require the pros to be more accurate on landing areas.

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