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Should Baskets Be Smaller? Post-Roundtable Thoughts

Some of the quick take arguments heard about making the baskets smaller:

  • Putting has become too easy.
  • If pros are inside the circle, it’s a snoozefest.
  • Putting is not a meaningful statistic.
  • Putting is not needed if you want to win.

These are just some of the comments made in regards to the discussion about making baskets smaller. There is an additional argument that rings true logically. The basket was originally designed to catch larger discs. Today, the discs are about 2/3 the size of the original golf discs. Logically, it would make sense to proportionally change the size of the basket to match the smaller modern golf disc size.

Here are the top ten players in C1 Putting on the Pro Tour:

Let’s look at the best Circle one putters on the pro tour this year. It is not a veritable who’s who of podium finishes. On the other hand, let’s look at Circle one in regulation, and we will see that this is the most important statistic. The reason for this is the fact that once you are inside Circle one everything is just about the same in regards to the top players. They all putt well enough to win. What they need to do is merely give themselves enough opportunities for birdie, and then they will have a chance to win.

Over the past 40 years, every other facet of the game has been made more difficult. As championship-caliber courses get developed, more mandatories or defined shots are required, courses have more distance, landing zones are smaller and surrounded by OB. Yet the basket remains the same. The most natural thing to adjust to make the game more difficult is not being discussed.

Not testing the putting skill of the top players at our top events is a travesty. If a player hits dead center, their putt is going to go in no matter the size of the basket because they have great skill.

However, before we give up on the size of the catching device that we have had for over 40 years, perhaps we should try to implement better course design, a larger defined green, and attractive natural obstacles on the green. Interestingly, if we Implement these suggestions, we may also resolve the par conundrum. More on this later.

Back to the action: Let’s go ahead and presume that the basket is “too big” for modern-day disc golf. The significant upside to this is that the game is much more approachable to beginners. The hippie culture that founded the sport is all about acceptance and invitation and good-natured competition.

Not only that, having a larger basket allows the game to be more exciting to watch and to play. If you are very confident that you can hit a 25-foot putt, you can take a legitimate run from 75-feet and not worry about going 25ft past. The size of the basket then allows our top players to be aggressive on the green and to be thrilling no matter where they are.

Additionally, making the basket smaller may cause the sport to grow slower because it would make it harder to succeed. It feels like we may have accidentally happened into a place where the game is easy to learn because our target was designed when discs were larger and flew very differently.

Rather than “fix” the basket problem, perhaps we should try to address this through course design, expanded green sizes, and natural objects on the green that help define what a good approach shot is.

As Jamie Thomas said on the Upshot last week, in basketball as you go up in skill level, the three-point line moves back. This argument was put forward to justify having smaller baskets. However, what it is analogous to is increasing the 10-meter circle to 15 or 20 meters or even 30 meters as you go up in skill level. For example, Junior divisions could have a 10-meter circle, college divisions could have a 20-meter circle, and pro divisions could have a 30 meter circle.

First, changing the size of the basket is not an easy task. Additionally, the answer is not always what seems to be the most obvious solution. There are much more elegant solutions, all of which have been mentioned above, which keep the game exciting while also increasing the difficulty of putting.

Lastly, it is easy to argue that smaller baskets should be implemented just at the pro level. This argument fails to look forward and recognize that a different basket size adopted to the pro level of play will almost certainly result in the dissemination of smaller baskets across existing and new disc golf courses. It is not accurate to say that the smaller baskets would stay with the elite pro events because they would inevitably become the standard for the game as a whole.

We need to be careful with this game that we love. The first step is to recognize that the players have gotten much better and our course design needs to up its game as well. Additionally, increasing the size of the green and thoughtfully adding obstacles on the green to define where a good drive or approach should land will likely address the majority of the issues with putting.

Par Solve Production?
In golf, par is set to the number of throws it takes to get the green plus two. In golf, the best players in the world average 1.67 putts per green. Our sport has taken this same concept and applied it to our 10M circle, however our top players average 1.06 putts per green. This is what leads to the possibility of 18 down and to 10 down per round being an average winning score.

Defining the green as 30 meters, or almost 100 feet, then setting par to the number of throws it takes to get on the green plus two will make much more sense because the amount of “putts” will increase to more closely match what we would expect, especially with improved course design. For example, if we designed a hole with 9 par 3s and 9 par 4s, the long par 3s would have a good drive getting to 20-30M out while the short par 3s would have a good drive getting to 0-10M out. Opening up the green opens up the design.

In conclusion
Rather than look to make baskets smaller right away, let’s work to implement other changes that can keep the game accessible to newer players while also challenging our sport’s best. Namely, improve course design on our Championship Caliber courses, increase the defined green to 30M, and add obstacles to the green to help define landing areas on or around the green.

Please share your thoughts with us!