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Better Granularity, Better Sports

What is Granularity?

Granularity in games and sports is a combination of two factors: scoring progression and penalty progression. First, how well does the scoring system incrementally reward increasingly better execution? And second, how well are penalties incrementally applied based on how severely a competitor failed to execute?

Most target sports have excellent scoring granularity. In archery, an archer is awarded 10 points for an arrow that lands in the center circle with the value of each ring decreasing by one point as the arrows land farther from center. The more skillful the shot, the higher the score. Plain and simple.

Compare this to darts and weaker granularity quickly becomes apparent. One dart can score from one to 20 points when landing the same distance from center as another dart, and score even higher with a wider range at equidistant points farther from center. Sports like running or swimming have even more precise scoring granularity than archery, with times measured to thousandths of a second.


Archery board (left) and dart board (right) provide different levels of granularity for scoring.

Sports with minimal scoring granularity like soccer or hockey rely on granular incremental penalties to help determine which of the two teams played better. A goal counts as just one, no matter how well the team/scorer executed the play required to score. Contrast this with American football, AKA gridiron football, a sport with much better scoring granularity. There are increasingly more skillful ways required to score one, two, three, or six points.

The ruling bodies of soccer and hockey have graduated penalties for offsides, fouls, icing, hand ball, high sticking, etc. These are all infractions where the short term advantage provided to the other team is proportionally related to the severity of the transgression.

"Reestablishing competitive balance" or "leveling the playing field" are typical phrases you'll hear when a sport's ruling body works to improve their scoring or penalty granularity. For example, basketball added the 3-pointer many years ago which increased scoring granularity. The NHL has considered and one day may implement an increased goal size. Gridiron football at all levels has been tweaking their penalty granularity in an effort to reduce injuries, and the NFL recently increased scoring granularity by moving the extra point line from the 2 yard line all the way back to the 15 yard line. 

Golf Granularity

How granular are ball and disc golf? Could our granularity factors be improved? The PDGA Board of Directors recently approved the Game Development Team to work with tournament directors to test ideas in the areas of rules, equipment, and course design to discover if any new concepts might improve our game for some or all divisions. Improving granularity, or simply not reducing the existing granularity, will be one of the most important evaluation criteria.

"Risk/reward" is a term used in disc golf to describe course design elements where, in theory, the better the player executes a throw, the better his/her chances are to earn a lower score on the hole. Or the inverse, meaning the worse the player executes a throw, the harsher the penalty. The goal for each risk/reward element for good course design should be progressive granularity for both the scoring and penalty elements.

Ball Golf

Ball golf has had more than 400 years of experience that has developed a relatively smooth granularity in its penalty structure. Scoring appears nicely granular on the surface, with each shot counting as one. However, the characteristics of each shot can look quite different, ranging from a 325-yard slice off the tee to a tap-in putt on the green. Both of those shots count as one, just like a goal in soccer.

But, since every player must ultimately end up in the hole, there's no need to evaluate and score the quality of each shot. Just count the total shots until holing out to indicate the cumulative quality (or lack) of all shots. Play enough different holes and a more precise measurement emerges to determine players skill differences.

Ball golf achieved good penalty granularity by incorporating a variety of less desirable landing areas in hole designs, e.g. sand traps, short rough, high rough, trees, waste areas, water hazards, etc. A ball that lands in these areas cumulatively produce percentage penalties; less than a 1-stroke penalty per lie based on the probability a player will "save" a stroke from their unfavorable lie.

For example, if a player develops the skill to save a shot three out of four times when landing in a green-side sand trap, landing in the trap has the equivalent of a 0.25 stroke percentage penalty (one stroke lost in four lies). The player who saves only three out of five times in the same trap suffers a percentage penalty equivalent to 0.40 stroke (two strokes lost in five tries).

On many holes in ball golf, there's no location a ball can land that earns an immediate penalty stroke, including very shallow water where players are allowed to play their next shot with a splash. The only immediate penalty location on some holes is true out-of-bounds, typically only achievable with a bad slice that completely leaves the property. Ball golf course designers try to build holes so that only the most severe slices ever go out-of-bounds, earning the dreaded stroke-and-distance penalty.


Bubba Watson #44745, playing it as it lies.

Most but not all water landings do result in a 1-stroke penalty, since players usually aren't able to find or play their ball. However in addition to the stroke, a percentage penalty does result from how much distance is lost ranging from zero to the full length of the shot that entered the water. In ball golf, every 22 yards raises the cumulative scoring average for scratch golfers by about 0.1 strokes. Even water hazards produce a granular percentage penalty similar to sand traps and rough.

The underlying principle that helps produce this smooth penalty granularity in ball golf is "Play it as it lies." This results in a percentage penalty of less than one stroke per lie, most of the time. When a player cannot play from the lie and/or chooses to relocate, it's a one stroke penalty plus a percentage penalty for the shortest possible lost distance.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) has avoided forcing a re-hit with or without a 1-stroke penalty unless deemed absolutely necessary due to: (1) "Play it where it lies" principle, (2) penalty too severe for the miss-hit, and (3) slowing down the game. The current stroke and distance penalties for a lost ball and out-of-bounds have been simply one stroke or just the lost distance at various times during the 1900s. Even now, it's quite common for recreational players to just accept a player taking a 1-stroke penalty and playing their lost or OB shot in-bounds from where last seen in-bounds.

Disc Golf

With the finer points of ball golf granularity explored, let's look at how disc golf has adopted ball golf elements to try to duplicate similar granularity. It was apparent right away that the "Play it as it lies" principle in ball golf had to become "Throw it from where it lies" for disc golf. Unfortunately, most of the percentage penalty areas like the sand traps and rough of ball golf do not impact disc golf play in the same way, although landing in the woods remained a key element in a similar way to ball golf. Landing a disc in sand, rough, mud, rocks, and even shallow water has minimal impact to granularity in disc golf, as it is often still fairly easy to throw from those hazards.

Instead of using different ground surfaces, our primary means of producing percentage penalty granularity for a thrown disc is using vertical obstacles, typically trees. Trees have worked well for 40+ years to provide percentage penalty granularity where striking a tree can lose distance and proportionately increase the challenge of the next throw, depending on where the disc lands after striking the tree.

However, if a course has few trees, designers have struggled to develop other ways to produce percentage penalties outside of simply adding length. Increasing distance has been a key designer option in disc golf, where every 30 feet adds about 0.1 throw average to the score for scratch players. Unfortunately for many courses, lengthening holes isn't always an option due to property constraints.


Brad Schick #7992 playing out of the woods at the Brent Hambrick Memorial Open.

Casual water provides some percentage penalty granularity whether the player throws from there with a more restricted stance or loses a small amount of distance by relocating. However, "casual water" means that the water may not always be there as a consistent hazard.

Permanent bodies of water and concrete on or bordering fairways have historically been called "out-of-bounds" versus a "hazard" in ball golf. This may have been an unfortunate slip in our terminology, as ball golfers that become disc golfers think of out-of-bounds as places where a full stroke and distance penalty should apply. Fortunately, our OB penalty default has been set at just one throw plus some percentage loss of distance depending on the last point the disc was over or touching the in-bounds playing surface.

Artificial ground hazards, e.g. marking off an OB area with string or paint, usually incur at least a 1-throw penalty and possibly a percentage penalty for lost length. These marked areas add imbalanced granularity to produce scoring separation on more open property. But both artificial and natural OB penalty areas fail to produce the equivalent percentage granularity produced by well done wooded course designs. The OB penalty incurred by a bad throw on an open course is far higher in comparison to a similar bad throw on a wooded course that results in hitting a tree.

Requiring the throw and distance penalty for a marked area in the field of play reduces comparative granularity (compared to a wooded course) even more and is actually against the PDGA Official Rules of Disc Golf without an approved request from the PDGA Tour Manager. The Game Development Team hopes to develop and test some new percentage penalty options, some averaging less than a 1-throw penalty that designers and tournament directors can use to add appropriate granularity challenges on holes and courses where trees are scarce.

Granularity in Putting

On a ball golf green, the ball must regularly traverse an undulating surface that may go uphill, downhill, left, and/or right. Even the professionals average close to two putts around the green to complete the hole when including fringe chips in the count. Scoring spread results from a nice mix of one, two, or three skillful putts per hole at the pro level. That said, putting length and terrain produce smooth granular penalties to measure putting skill.

Putting in ball golf also has a different look and type of equipment (putter) used to execute shots towards a circular hole consistent from all directions. Many viewers indicate that shots around the green, especially putts, are the easiest to see and the most interesting to watch, compared to drives and fairway shots.

How does the putting environment in disc golf stack up? Well, for starters, course owners/designers rarely build well-defined greens because there are minimal rules that significantly differentiate putting from other shots.


Ball golf green (left) and disc golf "green" (right).

Often misunderstood, the 10-meter circle around the target in disc golf does not define where a putt or a putting stance must be taken. It simply regulates a player's balance requirement when executing the shot. An observer might not notice anything different when watching a player putt from eight meters, and then watching that player again putting from 12 meters. No different equipment is used, the ground surface looks the same, and there's minimal or no difference in how the player executes the throws.

Official disc golf targets are not uniformly circular (12 repetitive sections) like a hole in ball golf. Targets include a variety of visually different models and are more likely than a ball golf hole to randomly reject putts that appear to be going in. The route for a putt is usually straight, even if throwing uphill/downhill. Inconsistent wind speed and direction are sometimes taken into account, but certainly not every time. Without much wind, there's usually nothing between the player and the target to affect a throw in a way that would be considered equivalent to grass friction and terrain undulations on a ball golf green.

Regardless, as most of us have experienced, disc golf putting has proven to be challenging enough to provide decent scoring spreads for players ranging from brand new recreational players to seasoned pros. However, for the top touring professionals, not only is granularity weaker (less scoring spread), but we're also missing the look, drama, and distinctive putting environment found in ball golf. Our top level players have become so good at putting that, when throwing from the hypothetical "green", an average of just a few tenths higher than one throw is all that is needed to hole out. In other words, once inside or near the 10m circle, there's a minuscule chance of a missed putt.

This discussion was not meant to be a takedown of disc golf as it is today. We believe the game more than holds its own vs ball golf as an equally fun but more reachable form of golf for the recreational masses. We know disc golf is growing fast while ball golf has stalled in growth in recent years. That being said, it doesn't mean some of the equipment and mechanics of our game as dissected above couldn't be improved. Hopefully, we can borrow some of the game design concepts ball golf has fine-tuned over its storied history and recast them to work in disc golf's favor.

A key mission for the new PDGA Game Development Team is to seek out and test ideas and equipment proposed to enhance granularity, fairness, fun, or simply interest in a fiscally feasible fashion. And, more importantly, the mission is to not screw up the greatness we already have in our beloved game.


This is a fantastic topic and well written article! Thank you! It's something I think about a lot. The interesting hypothetical scenario is two people are playing a round. One person is all over the basket, chaining out, hitting just high, just low etc, and most the other guy's putts are nowhere near the basket, but they get the same score. The score doesn't reflect the difference in skill levels at all. Over time their scores will represent their different abilities, but not during that round.

Submitted by pnkgtr on

Instead of artificial OB, I would prefer either a surface which requires a flat footed throw (large round river rock for example) or areas on the left and/or right of a fairway which the next throw must be flat footed as a penalty.

Also, I believe the 2M rule should be routinely used but with a 2M easement (no closer to the hole) for your following shot. Getting stuck in a tree is one thing, having to throw your next shot from inside the branches is like a double penalty.Once penalized, the player should have some clearance for their next shot.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

Something I've thought about is marking a fairway hazard, probably closer to the green, where you had to either have at least one knee on the ground or be sitting (for those with bad knees) to make your throw. No other throwing restrictions or penalty. There's a required shot like that among the EDGE skillshot throws.

Submitted by ldtrainman on

I feel that artificial OB (such as painted lines) is boring and adds little to the game. Actually I'm not enamored with OB at all. In my opinion a good course design would use natural objects with no OB to create penalties for errant throws. There is no actual penalty just the difficulty of recovering from a bad lie. I also realize that some courses don't have enough natural objects. I usually don't play those courses.

As far as the 2M rule is concerned, I think it stinks. I have yet to see anyone on a course with a measuring implement to determine what 2M actually is. The usual "rule" is that if you can reach it without jumping then it is within 2M. That's an unfair advantage to the person who is 6'5" over the one who is 5'2". The penalty is that you may not have a good lie.

Submitted by Catamount on

Chuck-- Another well written and thought provoking article. Thanks for writing it.

Courses range from wide open to densely wooded. The very best courses in the world tend to be at the partially wooded point on the continuum. Changing a few rules won’t change that fact so don’t fret, the committee can’t screw that up.

As a spectator, I don’t want to watch pros miss a lot of putts for the sake of granularity, but I don’t want to watch pros lay-up often because the risk is too great either. I want to watch pros make challenging, clutch putts. Simply converting a course to smaller targets (like the Dynamic Discs Marksman) won’t meet my lofty expectations. After all, every ball golf hole is the exact same size-- it’s the greens that are different. Better overall course design (from tee pad to target on each hole) ultimately equates to better granularity and more intrigue when watching the best pros play.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

I agree that smaller targets may not the best direction to go for several reasons. But we're open to testing the concept if a manufacturer wishes to make prototypes for testing. One of the reasons I lobbied to organize this GD Team is I felt there might be better ways than smaller targets to make putting more challenging and interesting to watch and add some drama. Without revealing some of those ideas just yet while we're in this brainstormng phase, I'd say that smaller baskets might be near the bottom of GDT's list of interesting possibilities to test.

Submitted by Matt Geck on

Excellent discussion!

I am not in favor of changing the basket however the idea of adding granulation to putting specifically is something that I am in favor of and have thought about.

I am sure none of these ideas are unique- I think when possible large fairway and greenside bunkers would be effective. I know that on many of our current courses we could not dig a a 20 foot deep bunker in the fairway or near the green but when possible I think this would create an interesting challenge. Also with that painted bunkers that would not incur an "out of bounds" penalty but would instead require players to putt from a drop zone of greater distance or difficulty would require more accurate upshot
and make the approach to the green more challenging. We could also use painted bunkers in the fairway that might include a drop zone that does not add distance but instead changes the angle to the green in a way that would create granulation to approach shots.

I think these kind of discussions could go a long way to helping in course design and creating a more challenging game with out any fundamental change to the existing equipment. I am looking forward to hearing about other creative ways designers could create challenges for golfers with speed of play and fairness being considered.

Great topic congrats!

Submitted by Chad Moore on

I'll second the idea of re-envisioning a disc golf bunker, where one would not incur an out of bounds penalty, but would instead have to rethrow from a drop zone. In the last couple of years, TDs have used way more OBs and in some cases they have gone too far (I've seen overly ambitious island holes where much of the field took a 10 or greater score). There has to be a better way than a bunch of pink spray paint and a plethora of OBs, and it looks like these folks are leading the way.

I'd be interested in helping out the Game Development Team with running models in Excel if they are interested in assistance, but not sure how to get in touch.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

Thanks for the Excel modeling offer. I'm not sure how much modeling will be needed. it's real world tests that will help guide our long term directions along with player feedback.

I think that one aspect of comparing ball golf to disc golf that is being overlooked is not necessarily the putting, but what the player must do to put themselves in the position to MAKE the putt.

It has been well documented that most elite, touring pros routinely drain the 30 foot putts.

I think what is being overlooked is the shot making ability of the players that allow them to be in position to make the putt to begin with, I mean when was the last time you saw a ball golf green with a virtual picket fence surrounding the hole?

The disc golf pro must possess the skill to make such a wide variety of shots consistently, that the putts are naturally going to be somewhat anti climactic.

If you make the change to a smaller target, it COULD impact the scores for a short period of time, but eventually the pros would become just as skilled at making the 30 ft putt as are now.

I think the key is in course design, and implementation of natural obstacles and hazards.

Look at the infamous Hole 17 at Winthrop many dreams has THAT hole crushed?

Not because of a smaller target, but because of the obstacles that are designed into the hole.

Too many targets are in the wide holes that are challenging from tee to green. As a course designer my best friends are trees, bushes, lakes, and cliffs.

Basket placement is the key, utilize the natural hazards as much as possible. I love the way many holes at Winthop are designed....great water hazards.

Risk and Reward.

Steep hills, lakes and cliffs directly behind a target are awesome. Of course not every hole can have those, but in my opinion things like that are not used enough.

A lake or steep drop off directly behind the basket makes the player think twice about trying a "go for it" putt, But, what if winning a tournament depends on THAT shot making ability, and leaves the player no choice?

Just my 2 cents

Submitted by ldtrainman on

You got that right. I'll add to and amplify your post.

In the article it is stated that "Our top level players have become so good at putting that, when throwing from the hypothetical "green", an average of just a few tenths higher than one throw is all that is needed to hole out."

That's probably because someone has decided that a disc golf putting green should be clear of obstructions. That's kind of like making ball golf greens flat with no undulations or grain to the grass. On a ball golf green a putt may have to follow an "S" turn. That's kind of difficult at 7M with a disc. However, putting from a backward stance and throwing a high, upside-down anhyser to clear obstacles will, when made, bring a bigger roar from the crowd than a straight in 10M putt.

One thing that is not mentioned in the risk/reward part of the article is the level of risk. Sure a top pro will go for that 10M putt and make it most of the time. If there is OB 1.5M past the basket then penalty is minor (a missed birdie putt turns into a bogie). But what if there is a 20M steep ledge 1.5M past the basket with dense trees at the bottom and no OB. Now the missed 10M putt could turn into a triple bogie. Now even the top players have to evaluate the risk/reward and decide that (given the circumstances, score, etc.) laying up may be a better alternative.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

Close OB and rollaways that produce any full penalties are poor design from a granularity standpoint. In other words, the penalty doesn't fit the crime and is deliberately fluky by design. And remember the player has the option to rethrow from their previous lie if their putt careens down a steep hill into nastiness or OB. No question that adding elements around the green will sometimes require putts with more shaping. But placing a bunch of portable obstacles usually isn't feasible on temporary courses used for elite events.

Submitted by ldtrainman on

You have a point, however I feel that close OB and the possibility of stiff penalties puts more thinking into the game. The rethrow option might cause a player to layup on the rethrow to avoid the previous nasty consequences a second time. Once again putting more thinking and strategy into the game. I don't agree with a bunch of portable obstacles (and artificial OB) on temporary courses for elite events. I'd much rather see elite events played on permanent courses in their usual configuration. This allows the non-elite player to see how they do in comparison. All too often the elite events are about how far can you throw with reasonable accuracy. I'd much rather see an elite player on a 300 ft. hole with a tight, tree-lined fairway and a dogleg than the same elite player on a 600ft wide open hole. I'd also rather play the shorter, tighter hole. Of course a mix of both is ideal.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

The reality is you're going to see more elite events on more open temporary and permanent courses to accommodate both spectators and video coverage. That's one reason the GDT has started looking at elements that can be added temporarily to provide challenges more like wooded courses.

Submitted by ldtrainman on

Here is a weird idea that probably won't fly. Modeling archery, what if a chain hit that does not go in is only counted as 1/2 a stroke. You would get some reward for being close and spit-outs would be less of a penalty. To remove the argument of whether there was a chain hit or not from a long distance away, this 1/2 stroke rule would only apply to putts within 10M where there are enough eyes to actually determine if the chains were hit.

Submitted by Jbarg42 on

See I like this idea. Yeah, maybe it didn't go in and you missed your putt, but if you were dead straight and got that unlucky spit out or slip through, you'd at least be rewarded a little bit. This could really change the way someone plays a hole in a tournament, knowing they could win it all just by hitting the chains. It would definitely change things a bit. I'm all for it.

Submitted by lyleoross on

Direct hit putts that don't go in, that is pop out, and even that spit through, are actually bad putts. The pop out means that you had the lid pointed up, or hit the pole directly. If the lid is tipped down, the motion of the chains, the surface of the disc, the characteristics of the plastic push it down into the basket. A spit through is a putt that has too much oomph on it or is sideways on disc contact.

It could be that you've hit the limits of the player's ability to overcome such things, I don't believe this, but the misses aren't random and can't be compensated for; they can be.

I have to point out that what Idtrainman is suggesting is not penalizing but rather REWARDS a player for "almosts" and "pretty close".
We use to play that way, to a degree, when first learning the sport.

We allowed players to have 1 "Mulligan" drive per 9 holes, and one "Ting" as well.
In essence knocking 4 strokes off your final score in essentially every game we played, just to stroke your ego.

This is a bad idea....either you made the putt, or you didn't. With the evolution of better and better targets as well as the skill level that's already been discussed, there is no need to reward "pretty close" and "almost".

I still believe the answer lies in increasing the risk and reward when possible.
I'm not saying put a target at the edge of the Grand Canyon, but instead of having so many targets unobstructed, the designer should use the NATURAL obstacles.

Even something as simple as tucking the basket 50 feet inside of a wooded area increases the difficulty of the ENTIRE hole.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

You're preaching to the choir regarding extra foliage or obstacles. The issue is figuring out ways to emulate that, if possible, on courses with little to no foliage whether for temp events or permanent layouts. And frankly, I have no issue with the potential that some additional scoring granularity might be tested. Not sure what it might be but it shouldn't be written off before consideration.

For example, why does the throw that holes out count only "1" same as throws that miss? Shouldn't the hole out be considered a better throw and maybe counted as zero? But, it's not necessary since everyone completing the round would have 18 zeroes. It was much easier when scoring was developed to simply count hole outs the same as missed throws. Interesting though that at one time ball golf had holes with half pars (par 3 1/2, 4 1/2) presumably recognizing tweener holes. Probably killed it during the time before computers when it was just tougher to keep over/under scores in events when there were half pars to deal with.

I think that the concept of a half stroke is very intriguing. If a golfer chains out his drive and the group and make the decision that it hit the chains, I think it would be fair that he gets a half stroke. The skill required to hit the target at long distances currently is weighted the same as a 2 foot putt. Should the guy who hits the target and chains out deserve 1.5 if he makes his comebacker? Maybe yes, maybe no. Now on the flipside, does a guy putting from the edge of the circle deserve half a stroke for hitting chains vesus the guy who parks it or makes a long putt? Maybe yes, maybe no. Like mentioned above, disc golf courses tend to have those holes that are in between pars, and having half strokes could help separate the field on those holes.

Other sports like Canadian football and aussie rules football incorporate 'rogue points' for coming close to your intended target than others.

Submitted by Kirbyr98 on

"Group decision" has a high potential for disagreement and hard feelings. Not to mention speed of play. I just think about playing on "tone" courses and the inevitable "it hit it - no it didn't" scenario that always seems to occur. Throw in "blind" shots where you can't see the hole from the tee and you've just got another bad rule.

Submitted by ldtrainman on

You are correct that it REWARDS "almosts" just as in archery the closer you get to the bullseye the bigger the reward which equals greater granularity.

Submitted by Catamount on

Wow. One indication of a great article is that it elicits a lot of feedback.

All the talk about putts that barely miss counting the same as putts that never had a chance is simply part of the game....the same goes for throws that are not great but get a little's called GOLF. And I hope is what Chuck means by "the mission is to not screw up the greatness..."

Sometimes you have to challege the status quo, and derivatives of the original idea wind up being sound theories, for me it doesn't sound that radical idea. Given other examples

I absolutely agree with Catamount...."Don't screw up the greatness"

I have had more than my share of bounce outs and blow throughs.....never one time have I thought to myself, "Man, I should only get half a stroke for that"

A miss is a miss,,,is a MISS !

Period. PLEASE, as a 35 year player, supporter, promoter of this great game.
I am begging....don't fix it if it's not broken.

It's 99.9% a design issue, to many baskets in the wide open.

Who among us hasn't thought more than once, after playing some courses that "such and such a hole would be better if they moved the basket to......."

Fill in the blank.

I believe what truly sets the elite players apart from the even very good players isn't the 30 foot putts...its the ability to get within that range more consistently,,,the shot making ability,

Please, leave the "close but no cigar" mentality to horseshoes and darts.

Submitted by DLawton on

Making a basket with adjustable chains might be an idea. Basically a tournament director would adjust the overall width of the chains based on the level of players. Might be difficult to design... and it would increase the overall cost of the basket... but it would increase granularity.

Submitted by miletta on

Great article. Where did you come across these ideas?

What about the converse of granular scoring progressions?
Specifically in regards to ONLY Paul McBeth.

By that I mean he and only he should be punished for better execution. Maybe tie his left hand closer to his body the better he does? Good for drama and parity, right?

Seriously though I like the idea of a smaller targets but maybe 1 per nine holes in the testing phase?
Working with the hole out as zero could be interesting on a smaller target hole. You card no stroke for the putt if you make the putt on your first attempt at whatever putting distance. (You have to call it first to your card that you're making an attempt for 'zero').

Also I've thought about how disc golf first used targets and not baskets. Why not a 'throwback' hole somewhere in a championship layout that incorporates an old school target other than a basket. Have an official there and a camera rolling for any disputes.
That way you honor the roots of the game while the game is moving inevitably forward. Work granular scoring into that perhaps.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

Several of the ideas that might be tested have been percolating for years when designing courses. Now we have a platform to test some of them to see how well or if they work. The smaller basket seems to be discussed more than anything else. But I've indicated that might be the lowest priority idea to test partly because it's expensive and some manufacturer would have to be motivated enough to make enough baskets for sufficient testing. Thanks everyone for contributing your thoughts on this topic.

I would say, that of all ideas mentioned, the smaller basket would do less damage to the integrity of the game we all love so much.

Trying to incorporate 1/2 strokes, and "calling your shots" reeks of desperation.
Let us all take a breath, and remember that Disc Golf is the fastest growing sport in the world for a reason, A gigantic overhaul in rules will do nothing but hinder growth, and confuse and frustrate people. (In my EXTREMELY humble opinion)

If I had a vote, which I do not, but if I did...I would say experiment with the smaller baskets for one NT event. Not a MAJOR....

Maybe something close to Dynamic Discs like the Glass Blown Open.
Collect thoughts and feeling from players who participated. Of course it will inflate scores initially.....but I think in the long run the great players will adjust.

Again....I completely and freely admit that I am a traditionalist, I honestly don't think radical changes are needed.

Thanks to everybody for their ideas and contributions on this topic.


Submitted by cgkdisc on

The elite game has not had many spectators for a long time in the U.S. Just switching to smaller baskets for elite events is unlikely to fix that. However, fiddling with the basket in some way may still be part of that solution. But I think more tweaks may be needed to make the game at the elite level compelling enough to not only attract more spectators by an order of magnitude but have paying spectators in person and/or online. Hopefully some of the ideas we'll be testing will at least contribute toward a more compelling elite game.

Submitted by Chad Moore on

Hopefully the fruits of this committee can be gathered into a Guidebook for TDs. A lot of this discussion is not new, but I'd guess some tournament directors today are unaware of the options and understanding of concepts like granularity.

For example, some previous threads on Chuck Kennedy's Buncr concepts:

Great discussion here.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

I agree that buncrs in the fairway, and especially by the green, are granular elements better than OB and should be used more often including by me in some of the holes I designed. Here's the stockade on the last hole of my Squaw Creek Gold course north of Chicago. The rough grassy mounds are buncrs where you have to move back away from the basket on the line of play if you land in either one so you're putting over the mound. stockade_buncrs.jpg

Submitted by hazenz on

Mounds are a good way to go for otherwise open courses. They have a more natural aesthetic than many other man made obstacles, and can be combined with "buncr" rules to add some risk/reward.

I do have to call you out on the number of spectators at elite events.

USDGC draws record crowds every year, the PDGA Pro world galleries are growing yearly as well....

I don't understand your comment about not having spectators at elite events. I have been present at past 3 USDGC and each has outdone the preceding one by substantial numbers.

Of course I'd like to see more spectators, we all would.

But making it a game of gimmicks isn't the answer. Of course this is only my opinion.
However, disc golf continues phenomenal growth rate....must mean we are doing something right.

Paul Mc Beth came up in conversation, but he's not the first one to be as dominant as he has been...lest we forget Kenny's run of World Title's that spanned a whole decade.

What sport doesn't have one or two teams or individuals that seem to always finish at or near the top ?

I'm not saying we should be stagnant.....but why rush to make radical changes when disc golf continues to be the fastest growing sport in this, or any other universe ?

Submitted by cgkdisc on

Paying spectators both in person and online have been missing or at least enough to come anywhere close to justifying the cost and efforts made to run pro events and provide cash to the purse on a financially sustainable basis like other pro sports. Read my series of stories on getting more spectators if you haven't already. The game as it's played has been much more interesting for people to play than watch let alone pay to watch. Don't take my word for it. Ask around how many players would rather play or even do other things than watch. If we first can't get enough hard core players to pay to watch, how do we expect to attract increasingly less hard core players to watch? I'm not sure tweaking the game at the elite level will significantly increase spectators. Time will tell. But some of the ideas to be tested might make the game look a bit more professional. That way, it might look a bit better and more interesting in person and on camera if other efforts beyond tweaking the game are made to attract more spectators.

Submitted by DLawton on

For the Top Tier NT events, USDGC and Worlds, I think local Radio Advertising telling people about the event and to "come on out and watch the world's best play", is something that, if not is not already being done, should be. I think its too early in the sport to ask them to pay, but their presence would be great and it would look great to those watching online along with any cuts that make it on TV. Problem is it might be difficult for the Organizers to put together a radio spot. Perhaps the PDGA might look at doing it if there is room in the budget.

Again, I must point out that the USDGC attendance has been setting records in attendance every year, including 2015, and it IS a PAY to watch event.

I think the ideas that nobody would pay are not true...USDGC proves that every year.
I have PRO friends that love to play the USDGC because they are TREATED like Pros.

Making them jump through hoops, or putt blindfolded isn't improving the sport.

I agree that advertising is KEY to gaining more spectatorship. I've been playing for 35 years, but still look forward to making the trip to Rock Hill annually and MANY other events as a spectator.

Get the VISIBILITY level up....television, SpinTV, Emerging Sports network, etc. are a great start.

PDGA infusion of $100,000 in Purse money for the PDGA Pro Worlds in 2017 is AWESOME ! It makes that event INSTANTLY more watchable because of the number of ELITE level players it will attract.

DON'T fix want isn't broken.

Smaller targets is the only feasible, NON gimmick that I have seen in this conversation that makes sense, aside from moving baskets to not such wide open easy areas.

Submitted by DLawton on

Ok... the USDGC's is doing well with "paid" attendance. I congratulate you, but what are the numbers? I've got nothing to go on other than what you say. What are the increasing USDGC attendance and paid attendance numbers. What I do know is that people that know little to nothing about Disc Golf... are not about to fork out even $5 to find out as spectators. It depends on what you want crowd wise. Are you trying to attract the curious and maybe interested.... or do you want people that have probably played before? I don't think the focus is about "paying" customers at this point even though you're able to do it.

It isn't only the USDGC, there have been several times that I have attended events, including the PDGA World Champion events that were not free to attend. Including the 2013 PDGA Pros at Lemon Lake.

Mr. Lawton, sir, while I value your opinion, I believe that if the PDGA continues to improve the overall EXPERIENCE of BEING PART of a Major Event people will (and have in the past) "shell out" money to attend.
In fact the cost at the USDGC is $10 per day for total access, or $25 for VIP Treatment 3 Day Pass.
As far as attracting NON DISC GOLF PLAYERS to events, which is key to large growth numbers, you are not going to achieve this by making it a gimmickey, trick shot exhibition.
It will be achieved by folks who love the game bringing friends and spouses along with them. It will be achieved by advertisement, and increased visibility to the general public.

The efforts of many dedicated people in many venues are working on improving the visibility of this great sport. The Disc Golf World Tour is a major step in improving not just visibility in the USA, but all over the world.

Were you present at the 2014 PDGA Pro Worlds,,,to witness one of the greatest finishes in disc golf history? You are saying you wouldn't have paid $5 to be there in person ?

What about the high drama in Pittsburgh this year with the FPO finish, and amazing story of love and compassion that played out in the wake of Sarah's horrible car accident. Paige Pierce showing the true heart of a Champion by giving Sarah the trophy.

It is true, I grant you, that most spectators are DISC GOLFERS themselves. But what sport is that not the case? I mean, if you hated football....would you pay out money to go watch a game ? Of course not.

The key is visibility, the financial aspect is obvious, The higher the payouts the higher the stakes. If touring pro's could make a living at just being the pro athlete, and not have to quit playing, or limit their playing time to survive financially it will help the sport attract fans who can become followers of not just the sport, but of individual players.

This is way off subject from the initial conversation. If you contact the USDGC I am sure they can tell you exact numbers for attendance, I go there every year and have seen the growth every year.

That is the most important thing. I just think keeping the integrity of this great sport is very important, history has clearly shown that we don't need DRASTIC changes to continue unparalleled exponential growth.

Submitted by mattg575 on

Fantastic article, I was discussing this exact topic with a friend the other day. I grew up playing ball golf religiously, and I am constantly reflecting on the similarities/differences between the two. One key difference not addressed above is that the difficulty of a ball golf course can be easily adjusted to meet the competition. For majors, they cut the rough higher, they move the tees back, they can water/dry out the greens to change the speed. And these things can be done on a day to day basis to account for other conditions (wind, rain, etc.) This is not the case in disc golf, where tee and pin positions are pretty much fixed (or limited to one or two positions), and the rough length doesn't really matter. And this "adjustability" is a great thing, because it keeps the courses accessible to the average player the rest of the year. Reducing basket size, elevating pins, or adding distance are permanent modifications that overly penalize beginners.

Also, the skill of "reading a putt" is largely absent in disc golf. Other than accounting for the wind, its pretty much point and shoot inside 10 meters, as you said. Part of the beauty of ball golf is that different types of grass (bermuda, bent, poa annua) all look and play completely differently. Sure, a Mach 2 and a Discatcher are slightly different, but not enough to make me study it.

That said, I don't have many suggestions on how to improve it. One idea is limiting the number of discs you can carry. It's always bothered me that you can carry as many discs as you want. Imagine how much easier ball golf would be if you could carry 5 different drivers with different launch angles, or 6 wedges in 2 degree increments, or both a heel and a toe weighted putter. It would be ridiculous. It is ridiculous the number of discs the pros carry. Limiting club options forces pros to make shots with what they have and levels the playing field between the "haves" and "have nots". I will be excited to see what the GDT comes up with.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

The difference is our discs are a combo of club & ball. Disc golf is one of the few sports where you are regularly put in the position to sacrifice your performance equipment (losing discs in water or schule) and get penalized for it. Losing a golf ball is not the same thing. Now if the USGA required you to toss your 7-iron in the water after hooking your ball into the water, maybe they wouldn't have a 14-club limit. ;-)

Submitted by nfscott3 on

This has been a very interesting topic! After thinking about this I believe that a basket that has a pivot on the top that could open up or close off portions of the basket would be a great way to incentivize players to putt from a specific direction or to place approach shots with more thought than just proximity to the basket. A pivot would be easily installed and used or not depending on the people who may be playing. I have been thinking of some prototypes that might work on the baskets I practice with in my back yard. I think that this topic in disc golf must be addressed in order to improve the game we all love.

Submitted by hazenz on

I think comparing disc golf putting to golf putting is a mistake. Its a projectile target game, like shooting free throws. The argument picks the 10m circle as a metric - observes that pros are boringly sinking everything inside of it, and then argues this has to change. Why? Every sport has a range where no one misses. Extra points in football, layups, etc... The pros are just out putting each other at 40, 50 ft now. So what if there is a distance where top pros tend to all make their putts? Is the argument that we want the 6/10 putt distance for pros to be 20 ft? If so why? Where is it now - 40 ft? Why is this bad?

Submitted by cgkdisc on

It's a reasonable question. One reason a change might be desirable just for top level players is to provide better scoring separation. Imagine if you had a putting competition with Paul McBeth but all you did was see how many 7 ft putts you could make. You both make 10 out of 10. Who's the better putter or even player? Well, you're both great at 7-footers but we can't project from that data how well you both putt in general. When we look at golf for guidance, we're not necessarily trying to learn about their putting because it's golf, but about scoring percentages in their putting environment which provides better scoring spread even for elite golfers. If we can do a better job emulating their scoring dynamic without messing with putting in lower divisions which already has decent spread, it could provide better scoring separation among elite players and add more drama for potential spectators. Maybe some ideas will work or maybe not. But we won't know until we check it out with some testing.

Submitted by hazenz on

I think maybe the important distinction is "putting environment". Sometimes the joke is for a short disc golf ace, ~ 175 ft on some courses, its a great putt. Golf's "putting environment" is clearly defined with a totally different play surface. It also switches the *mechanics* of the very game from "arc through the air and roll" to "just roll". Those are some pretty big differences for us. Our basic play mechanic is not changing. We are always throwing discs at a target, and we don't really care much about whether its considered a "putting environment" (exception of the balanced finish 10m rule). Spread of putts in golf is because the 6/10 range is somewhere inside of this "putting environment". You have to get a 45 ft golf putt close so that you can make your next putt and avoid the dreaded 3 putt. In our sport, this often just means getting your approach close from where our drive landed - which is commonly 100 ft away with obstacles. So our first thing analogous to a golfer's 1st of the standard 2 putts is our second throw. It may not be with a "putter" and it is definitely outside of 10m, but the separation will still be there. Some golfers will get it close enough to sink their next shot and some will bogey. I think its just a scale perception. The separation is not happening "on the green" maybe as one would like or expect to see from ball golf. And of course to really make analogies we have to have par 4s be the norm - and 5's as common as 3's.

Submitted by hazenz on

And I reminded myself of a point about the smaller baskets: most picture putting at a smaller basket and react to the mental image of this more challenging target while throwing into it. I think the more interesting golf aspect is what it will do to the approach game. That little skip and roll at the end of your approach from 100 ft may have just taken you out of your comfortable range. Maybe should have thrown that aviar and made sure it landed flat and stuck, or a spikey hyzer that stops. Parking it close to the smaller target on approach will become a much bigger deal if my comfortable putting range drops to 15 ft.

Submitted by cgkdisc on

I think many of us understand what the environment IS. The question is can it be better and how to do it? That's the quest that's underway.