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How many rounds is ideal?

Over the next few years, one of the goals of the Pro Tour will be to make the top tier of our sport more consistent and more fun to watch. Knowing when events will be on, knowing the format of the events, and trusting that the coverage will be good will, in and of themselves, increase the number of spectators. One aspect of this is the number of rounds that events will be played.
The first PDGA NT of the year, the Memorial, was four rounds. The DGWT’s first event, the La Mirada open was three rounds. What is the ideal number of rounds for a premier disc golf tournament? Also, some events have a final nine, some have a cut to make the final round, some have no cut. What is the best format? Frankly, I’m not sure. I’ll start typing and we will see where this leads.

​As with all things, the first step is to determine the goal. When it comes to the competition, Pro Tour events have several goals:

  • Crown the best players champion.
  • Maximize the viewership of the tour.
  • Make touring affordable so pros can stay on tour.

Two, three, four … or more

First goal: crown the best players champion. The more holes that are played, the higher the chances that the best player will come out on top. At some point endurance becomes an issue, which is not what we are measuring, so let’s agree to limit the number of rounds to four at the top end. To crown the best player champion, we want the largest number of rounds, so we should set the number of rounds to four.

Nearly 40% of the PDGA NTs had a lead change or tie broken in the fourth round. This would seem to indicate that a fourth round is useful in determining the best player. PDGA NTs since 2010, not counting the 17 three-round events:

  • 18: No lead change after round 3
  • 11: Lead change after round 3

Second goal: maximize viewership of the tour. The NFL has one game to determine the champion of their season. This increases the odds that either team can win and is insanely exciting. The NBA has a seven game series, which increases the odds that the better team will win, but lessens the excitement – until a deciding seventh game, which only happens about 25% of the time. In general, less rounds equals more excitement but also means less opportunities to watch.

  • Super Bowl : 110 million viewers
  • NBA Finals : 17.5 million viewers per game, or about 100 million over an average series

If the NBA went to a one game finals, interest in the game would certainly increase, but it would probably not increase five fold. Conversely, if the NFL went to a best of three format for the Super Bowl, interest in the game would plummet as it would cease to be a national event. It seems as though both leagues have successfully maximized the viewership for their championships.

Regarding viewership, less rounds is more exciting while more rounds is more opportunities for people to watch. In disc golf currently, it would seem that more opportunities to watch is more crucial to increasing viewership as each round is relatively exciting in its own right and one extra round gives more opportunity to build the excitement for the final round. Therefore, to maximize viewership, I am going to side with four rounds.

Third goal: make touring affordable so pros can stay on tour. Presuming that premier events happen every couple weeks, touring pros would most likely be staying on the road during the length of the tour. This means that the extra costs incurred by staying on the road for an extra day/round are not large. However, for regional pros who may play only a few events in their region, the extra day could have a significant impact (days off work, nights away from home), and we need to remember that these regional pros are the touring pros of the future. Bearing in mind a large percentage of our players are currently regional pros, I have to give the nod to three days here.

Recap. To meet the goals, is three or four rounds better? We have a split decision.

  • Crown the best players champion. – Four rounds
  • Maximize the viewership of the tour. – Four rounds
  • Make touring affordable so pros can stay on tour. – Three rounds

Furthermore, what format should the events utilize?

Presuming we have four rounds, should there be a cut going into the final round? And if so, should it be top half (like the Vibram Open) or a top card (like the Hambrick) or a sweet sixteen, giving anyone that could make a run at the title a chance?

​Presuming we have three rounds, should we add in a skins, doubles, or pro-am event the day before or after the tournament to showcase top players and maybe some regional pros?
In the next few years, what kind of format would you like to see on the Pro Tour?