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Digital World


When the world ka-boomed from COVID-19, disc golf was not left out of the damage. For months, sanctioned events were canceled or postponed and like many aspects of our lives, nothing post COVID-19 in the world of disc golf would be the same.

PDGA staff worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that once sanctioned play could happen once again that the competitors were not only following all laws, but were safe.

“You can’t gather in groups” and “you should not pass objects to other people” were park and local law mandates that made a very standard practice of gathering for player meetings to discuss rules and tee assignments as well as keeping score on a traditional paper scorecard nearly impossible. The PDGA already had PDGA Live, introduced in 2003, where anyone could view hole-by-hole results for events that used it. The PDGA Technology team had also been hard at work since the summer of 2018 on the PDGA Digital Scorecard, which was first released in 2019 for sanctioned leagues, and later put it to its biggest test at the 2019 PDGA Amateur Worlds.

While COVID-19's impact was far reaching and lead to the cancellation of some of the sport’s biggest events in 2020, it also highlighted the need for digital scoring to come front and center.

“The PDGA Technology team had the benefit of over a year of iteration, scaling, and fine-tuning the application so it was ready for prime-time once we started to emerge from the COVID-19 shutdown,” Steve Ganz, former PDGA Director of Technology, explained. “The PDGA Digital Scorecard, along with a set of new tournament administration tools developed to support it, made it possible for event directors to run truly contactless events at a time we needed it the most.”

Introducing the PDGA Live App »

Just like teleworking is now the norm in the workplace thanks to COVID-19, digital scoring is now the standard for players to keep score for their sanctioned rounds.

According to Pete Crist, PDGA’s current Director of Technology, 79.1% of PDGA events used the digital scorecard in July of 2022 and 79.6% in August with roughly 35,000 unique scorecards used in both events. Despite that, there are still those who do not take full advantage of digital scoring because they might be worried about cheating or a myriad of other concerns.

Let’s do a deep dive and pull the curtain back a little bit to really understand why every player and event should be using this incredible piece of technology.

Money, Money, Money

Let’s just cut to the point here – we all want larger purses and more payout, right? There’s two basic ways to do that; increase sponsorship and decrease event costs. One of the largest costs for a tournament director is simply printing materials. In the mid to late 2000s, to run a PDGA event properly, there was quite a bit of costs associated.

When your event was open for registration, there was no digital leaderboard. While you could assign tee times on the event results page, you could not assign hole numbers. Since most events are shotgun start, this required you to have a physical leaderboard on site as well as leaderboard cards to assign groups. Even if you had a TD who had the ability to post scores from the event online during the tournament, almost no one had the ability to see them since the internet had not reached our cell phones yet.

The leaderboard cards solved all of this, but were pricey. And if you were someone with terrible handwriting (like me), you usually printed mailing labels to post onto the card. When you factored in all that and printing of the labels, this expense for a 90-person event was around $50.

Now that everyone knows what hole to start on, scorecards and pencils had to be passed out. In my experience, the average cost of getting these materials ran about $100 an event. Each player needed rules sheets; throw in another $100. Finally, if it rained, you needed to make sure you had Ziploc bags to keep scorecards dry.

Before the event even started tournament directors would be spending around $250 per event just to simply tell people where to start playing, the rules of the holes and the scores for that hole. If event A and event B have the same number of players with the same entry fees, income and debits but event A uses digital scorecard and event B does not, event A will have a higher payout for all players.

Not the Only Green

One of the key themes that disc golfers agree on is that we should always leave the course better than we found it. The PDGA takes things to another level with the Throw Green Initiative which is the brainchild of the Environmental Committee. The committee, chaired by Bill Newman, focuses on reducing waste at tournaments.

All that paper we just talked about? Well, that eventually becomes trash.

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Throwback to the leaderboards at the 2012 Kansas City Wide Open. Photos: PDGA Media

“By using electronic scoring methods the (environmental) impact of our events is lessened,” Newman stated. “Stacks of single use scorecards end up in local landfills.”

Newman’s main point here may be the “single use” that the old method of scoring used. Many tournaments play certain layouts in tournaments that you don’t find the rest of the year or add temporary holes for a myriad of reasons. Even if a course has scorecards matching the layout(s) to be played, the generic scorecards don’t factor in tournament sponsors and many other things. All of this leads back to Newman’s key point; the old method of scoring created a lot of waste. Digital scoring dramatically solves that issue.

It's Pretty Easy

When I’ve encountered people who are intimidated by or reluctant to use technology and / or have been playing disc golf a long time, the idea of getting rid of a method that was universally used accepted and proven to be effective seems radical. One of the key pieces of advice I give tournament directors is don’t fix what isn’t broken and scoring was not broken.

Each and every time I’ve had that discussion and showed the player how it works, the reaction is almost always the same; “oh wow, is that it?”

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Features of the PDGA Live app include Digital Scoring, Live Scoring, Results and Rules.

Digital scoring is very simple.  There are no stats, stories or anything else. Just simply record the score for the hole. To make things even easier, digital scoring will automatically suggest par as the score. If you make a birdie, there’s a minus sign to reduce strokes off the par. If you make a bogey, there is a positive sign. You repeat this for all members of the card when collecting scores at the completion of the hole. The entire process takes about three to five seconds and is actually faster than a paper scorecard. No more digging for a pen or pencil, no more worrying about what happens if the pencil breaks, no more erasing errors and no more terrible handwriting (who hasn’t seen a scorecard with a 3 that looks like an 8 at some point?).

Accessing and setting up the scoring database is also very simple. Players can simply go to PDGA.com/Score or download the PDGA Live App (which also has a searchable rule book) which directly links them to it. From there, the tournament director provides a passcode which you enter in, find yourself and hit go. Tournament directors simply need to check a box in tournament manager, create a password and distribute that. Anyone with questions or issues can contact the Event Support Team.

Are You Winning or Losing?

This is a really key point that people often forget about; digital scorecard solved a problem that existed in our sport for years. How are the other people in your division shooting?

Prior to digital scoring, there was nothing worse than struggling all round and shooting a score you were upset about and then having players from other groups come to you wondering what you shot. It was a combination of general curiosity, friendship and wanting to know if they moved up or down in the field based on their performance. Digital scoring allows you to see how the field is playing and what they scored during the round. This goes beyond after the completion of the round, as well.

Put a Face to that Rating: Update your PDGA.com Profile »

Let’s say you have a death putt that you are not sure if you should run it or play safe. Simply reviewing digital scoring to see your position and what your competitors do is a key factor in that decision and one that our sport lacked for decades. The only feeling worse than being asked how you played after a bad round was remembering the putt you shouldn’t have gone for that cost you the victory or kicking yourself for not going for a heroic shot when it could have given you the win.

The counter to all this is “well all that is great, but I don’t want to see the scores until the final few holes.” We’ve all played with players like this, and they absolutely have the right to not take in that information for whatever reason they want. A big myth with digital scoring is that if you do it, you can see cumulative scores. While there is an option to view them within the application, it does require you to click it. There simply is no running total posted or viewable when entering the scores without the additional and optional step taken by the scorer.

Airplane Mode

When players and tournament directors are reluctant to use digital scoring, the same four reasons seem to be the answers when asked why.

“The internet isn’t good on the course.”

“My phone might die using that.”

“I don’t have much data left in my cell phone plan.”

“I’m focused on golf, I don’t want to open my phone and get texts or Facebook messages”

If you only remember one thing from this article, make sure it is this key point: Internet is not needed to use digital scoring after the scorecard has been accessed. You can literally put your phone in airplane mode and the digital scoring will still work.

This means that if you have an internet signal at the start, like at tournament central, the internet signal on the course is irrelevant. Airplane mode reduces battery at a much slower rate and makes sure you don’t get other texts and messages all while ensuring you aren’t using additional data.

It is worth noting, however, that to submit the scores you need an internet connection.

Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eater

When digital scoring first debuted, the biggest concern was cheating. While there’s no way to truly eliminate or prevent cheating in any sport, skeptics were thinking this provided an easier way to cheat. The logic was a paper scorecard was passed around the group and players can see eraser marks, scratch outs, etc. PDGA digital not only has these features, but it can also prove cheating in ways that no paper scorecard can.

Before we discuss how this proves cheating, some context and a description of hands down the best feature of the platform is needed.

The PDGA Competition Manual in section 1.05G clearly states that two scorecards must be kept and then reconciled amongst each other. Not only does the digital scorecard allow for two players from the group to log in, but it also allows for all members of the group to log in. If someone enters a score differently from another member of the group in digital scorecard, the app will send a message alerting scorers of a discrepancy. An extremely large percentage of the time, this is due to a simple error. The plus sign hit too many times. The scorer thought someone received a score they didn’t. A player accidentally reports the wrong score. Digital scorecard solves this problem that paper never can and never will. It’s so much easier to solve a scoring discrepancy in the moment rather than a few hours later trying to recall what happened.

Digital scoring is, in essence, reconciling for you.

This feature is one of the ways cheating is prevented. In those rare cases where someone is entering the score with the intent to cheat, that same error message happens. The scoring app has basically prevented cheating. But what about if someone changes it after everyone has submitted their card or the digital is not the back up. Well, it can still prove cheating.

Prior to working for the PDGA, I was chair of the Disciplinary Committee for just shy of a decade. One of the biggest issues we always had with cheating was proving it actually was intentional and malicious. When a player changes their score in digital scorecard, this change is logged into the PDGA scoring database. While a tournament director cannot see this, PDGA staff can. The database logs which player logs in, which players submits scores and any changes made to scores and by whom. For example, here’s a real scenario and how digital scorecard was able to prove this player cheated.

  • Player A logs into digital scoring. No one else logs into digital scoring app so errors are not caught as described above. All players at the end of the round agree with the scores and player A, goes back and changes three holes, all in his favor, and submits the scorecard. Players notice this and report player A for cheating. It’s worth mentioning that this exact thing can happen with paper.

When investigating the situation for the disciplinary process, the PDGA staff was able to pull the logs and saw the following:

  • Player A Logged in: 9:00AM
  • Player A changed hole 12 for Player A from a 4 to a 3: 12:16PM
  • Player A changed hole 15 for Player A from a 5 to a 4: 12:16PM
  • Player A changed hole 1 for Player A from a 3 to a 2: 12:16PM
  • Player A submits scores.

This log not only confirmed the reports of cheating, but we could also see that not only did Player A keep score, Player A changed 3 holes, at the same time, and only for himself and only in his favor.

Learn More About the Multiple Scorekeeper Feature »

So, You’ve Read the Rules?

One of the complaints I’ve heard is a concern that the Digital Scorecard prevents players from following a rule that not many players are aware of. Rule 808 C says that “any warnings or penalty throws are to be noted along with the score for the hole.” On a paper scorecard, this is simple; find a blank area of the scorecard and simply write down what happened. “Hole 12, John, stance violation warning.” So how in the heck do we follow this rule with digital scorecard?

Ganz and the Technology team, now under the direction of Pete Crist, thought of that, too.

When scoring a hole, each player has a note bubble beside their name. Any scorer can open a bubble for any player and a open text column expands. Here, the scorer can enter any notations required by rule. Not only does this fulfill the requirement of 808 C (and better since now you don’t have to deal with limited space, handwriting issues, etc), the tournament director can see this note. This means that if a violation results in a tournament warning, which carries over beyond the round, this is permanently attached to the events history. Should you have a ruling question as a tournament director and contact the Event Support Team, they now also can see exactly what was notated.

The Digital Scorecard also helps you prevent misplays, which are a one or two throw penalty (based on scenario) per incorrectly played hole. The tournament director can put tee assignments, basket locations, hole distance and any applicable rules for a hole within the scorecard that any viewer can see.

Tell All Your Friends!

We have all been in a scenario at a tournament where the telephone game was played, right? You know when something unexpected happens, the tournament director updates you and then asks you to tell everyone you see? I’ve had this happen with normal circumstances (“storm coming, be ready to stop”), not so normal circumstances (“there is an impromptu wedding on hole 5, skip that hole”) very serious circumstances (“there is a medical emergency, the ambulance is on the way. Please stop play”) and things that don’t deal with competition (“the players party is now at 7, not 6.”)

Communication is key in all these situations yet for decades we have relied on word of mouth as the medium. Here’s where the digital scorecard solves yet another issue.

The tournament director can send one of three types of alerts – info, alert, emergency – and every single player logged into digital scoring gets this alert sent to them. This means you can get the information referenced above and so much more. Re-start times from weather delays, layout changes, everything. It’s hands down a solution to a problem that no one has ever figured out.

Well, had never figured it out.

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Des Reading and Jen Allen double check a paper scorecard. Photo: PDGA Media

You Can’t Math!

Personally, I’ve played over 300 PDGA events with over 1,000 rounds of experience. One time I misadded my score. It’s the worst feeling in the world of disc golf – to get a two-throw penalty over something as silly as a misadd.  Well, no more misadd concerns for those that use digital scoring.

While members of the group are still required to verify that each hole is correct with a reconciliation process (which as described above, the app does for you) and to ensure their total is correct, if all 18 scores are entered correctly, the system does the math for you. There is no need to be concerned with counting birdies or however you add scorecards. The app simply does this for you. 

Math is not everyone’s strong suit, and the required math section of scoring is a little intimidating to some. This simple feature has prevented tons of scoring errors around the world of disc golf which at the end of the day is probably the best feature in the entire system.

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No more manually entering scores for tournament directors. Photo: PDGA Media

Thankless Job of TDing

When all is said and done, everyone who plays disc golf wants one thing: a good solid experience at an event. Making things easier for event directors makes the TD able to focus on so many more details of the event which provides the best experience possible. Simply put, running a tournament when every group uses digital scoring is infinitely easier than when a group does not.        

When COVID hit and digital scoring really became, at least publicly, the main way we keep score, Event Support and Training Manager Todd Lion wrote a piece about how to run an event in a COVID world. Todd’s most impactful line, at least to me, was “why haven’t (we) been doing it this way the whole time?” 

Digital scoring and everything involved in it really put to bed an archaic system of event management. Tournament directors can now run their event from a basic smart phone and do so many things on site that previously were not done until the night of the event. Multiple pool events can now have someone remotely supporting the event and most importantly, tournament directors don’t have to spend a half hour at the completion of a round sorting a leaderboard and checking scorecards.

All of this means the tournament director has a better experience which simply flows down hill to you, the player.

Steve Ganz and Todd Lion contributed to and verified the accuracy of this article.

Comments

Submitted by wsfaplau on

The app works great, I like the rules are in the app too. I also like how quickly the scores are done after a round. Great job - Pete 6002

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