Friday, August 15, 2008

Disc Golf is way too easy

Imagine playing 114 holes of disc golf and being -67 under on those holes; now imagine being 11 shots off the lead at the same time.
As of 2:53 on Friday, August 15th, this is what Nikko Locastro of St. Louis, Missouri is experiencing. His play has been unreal this week and other than the fact Dave Feldberg should win his first world title, Nikko's play has been the story of the week.
However there has been lots of bickering on the discussion board about these courses not being a true test of disc golf due to the "deuce or die" mentality of the worlds. My opinion is that the courses are not to blame, its simply that disc golf is way too easy.
So many people get caught up in the idea that disc golf needs more tough courses. I 100% agree with these people. However, most players perception of hard a course is one where most scores come in over the number 54.
My definition of hard is not what I should shoot on a course, but the difference between SSA and course par. If a course has 18 par 3's with a par of 54 and 53 is considered 1000, to me, this is a really tough course. The fact that every hole is a chance for 2 makes no difference in its difficulty. That course would be a lot more difficult than a par 60 course with the same SSA.
The main example I use when talking about this is about a par 72 course. Imagine a course with 18 wide open flat 550 foot holes. By nature, these would be par 4's. However, wide open and flat and only 550 would leave even the smaller arms with 250 foot upshots. Most players would be throwing only 200 - 150 foot upshots. This would basically create a par 4 version of the dreaded pitch and putt. With an SSA of around 62 (which I am getting from the fact that most pitch and putts have an SSA of 44 or -10), this course would score identical to the course that people hate and in theory (even with a high SSA) and would be very very easy. Even though the tee shots would be simple and the upshots would be almost the same thing as most tee shots on the pitch and putt courses, the same people who hated the pitch and putt course would probably enjoy the course. This makes no sense to me.
The way I calculate difficulty is simple. Take the course par and subtract the SSA and you should arrive at a number that gives you an idea of the course's difficulty. If you get anything 3 or lower, that's a pretty hard course. 4- 8 is about average and anything higher than 8 is a pretty simple. If you apply this logic to most courses, even the bigger and longer ones, you will soon see that most courses aren't as tough as you think. Also, you may be surprised at how many courses with only 1 or 2 par 4's are tougher than people give them credit for.
My solution to this and the reasoning disc golf is so easy is simply because putting is way too easy. I have been a long time proponent of making the targets smaller. You would scores be higher due to the obvious; tougher putts. However, it also would make things tougher because the random 65 foot jump putt we all make from time to time would have less and less people go for them. I know I have no fear from this range because even if I blow by, a 20 foot come backer is nothing. Also, you will see people got a lot more aggressive off the tee by trying to get closer and thus, added an element of risk verses reward.
No matter what we do, disc golf is simply too easy. The only course I've ever seen where par and SSA are anything close is Renny Gold in Charlotte. The par there is 70 and SSA comes in around that mark. The best players in the world only shoot around the -4 to -5 mark when they play there and outside of Schweberger's insane round there earlier this year, most people never get below 64 or 63 even on their best rounds.
Most people will argue that Winthrop Gold also yields a score around 0 and technically they are correct. However the circus like elements added to that course increase the SSA well beyond what it should be. The course can't be that hard if we see a score of -12 (56) shot there every single year. The Memorial Course this year was like this and we saw lots of 1080 - 1090 rounds. When I saw Barry Schultz a few weeks after and talked to him about this amazing play, he told me that the ratings were way to high. He said the shots were identical to the ones in the past, they just added rope for really bad shots. What this did was produce the top players still shooting what they always shot and then everyone else shooting worse. This raised the SSA when in reality they were not doing anything different.
While I would love to see the baskets made smaller, at this point there are so many at that current type, it would be almost impossible to start over with them, so to speak. The only way to get better now is make sure you know how to putt and realize a safe play sometimes is the best play. You can always make that 30 footer.


Pat said...

is it that DG is too easy (i disagree strongly) or that design, especially old design, is not up to snuff with today's reality? or are we simply picking weak courses to hold top events? look at The Vibram and you'll see that good design does create good events where only a few end up under par.

good4what_ails_u said...

I think we are comparing disc golf to regular golf and that is not a valid comparison. They are two very different sports. What makes any sport "tough" is the chance that an inferior player will beat a superior player because they got lucky. In a tough sport the likelihood of that is quite low. If disc golf were no tough to master then you would see inferior players regularly beating superior players. The fact that very few different players have won the Worlds or USDGC argues against it being an easy sport.