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Should Pro Tour courses be harder?

Disc golf courses, especially on the Pro Tour, getting longer. Longer is the easiest way to make a course harder and we want to challenge the best players in the world. On this week’s podcast and Patreon call, we discussed course distance, naturally challenging, stroke and distance, ratings, and more.

Let’s start the discussion with four examples.

  1. Hole 3 at Toboggan . 900 foot par 4, no OB. The one thing players need to avoid is going right. The woods on the right are an awful place to be. An accurate drive in the fairway is rewarded less than a bomb that hyzers out into the adjoining fairway.
  2. An 800′ hole lined with OB ropes on both sides and around circle 2 at the pin. Big Huk player throws the disc 600 feet. Half the time he is in bounds, half the time he is not. If he is OB, he has a 200′ upshot and will be able to easily save his par. If he throws in bounds, he has a 200′ upshot for the birdie. A controlled 450′ drive that will land safely 90% of the time will leave a 350′ foot upshot which could easily go OB, bringing a bogey into play. The controlled drive off the tee will result in a worse score.
  3. The exact same hole as #2 above, but with stroke and distance on the OB. Now we are playing golf.
  4. Hole 8 at Idlewild . 576 par 5. Stay on the fairway or you are in trouble. This type of hole has natural obstacles that force a player to throw controlled shots as far as they can. As soon as you get outside your controlled distance, the trouble starts. Here, you are playing golf, contemplating the risk of going far vs the potential reward of gaining a stroke on the field.

To me, what this is boiling down to is finding the appropriate balance between risk and reward. In the first two examples, there is really no risk to hukking the disc as far as you can. On some holes this is appropriate. Distance is a skill that should be rewarded. The argument being made is that the lack of stroke and distance, especially without extremely thoughtful course design, is causing reckless play to be rewarded.

One point that is worth noting: the Toboggan is a great course. It plays long and fair and challenges a player mentally and physically, In reviewing the statistics on some holes, there is an opportunity to tighten things up. This is how we learn and improve. We are very excited to return to DGLO and see how the players stack up in Michigan again in 2019.

Back to brass tacks, later that night on our 8:30 Patreon call, we had our most spirited discussion yet. Below is a quick recap of some of the primary points that were made.

Some takeaways from our Patreon conversation:

  1. Distance is not always the way to make it harder
  2. Make the course fun for spectators, not just hard
    1. Elevation, especially downhill
    2. Interesting local icons are great to include (Ledgestone water tower, bridge)
    3. Seeing ropes is not fun (but can improve the golf being played)
  3. Was Ledgestone fun to watch. Ledgestone was the consensus due to the interesting features of the course (water carries, baseball field, water tower, bridge, natural and roped OB).
  4. Need to avoid “mini golf”
    1. Truss addition vs maybe choose a different course?
    2. Toboggan needs ropes
    3. Truss can be used to define direction of start of throw but should not be used as a mando 100+ feet down the fairway
  5. The Pro Tour needs to be played on courses that are designed for the top players as opposed to a standard course that is retrofitted when the pros come into town
  6. Make courses tougher, which does not necessarily mean longer

We would love to know what you think.