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If there was only one division at every tournament then no one would be accused of sandbagging. Of course, most players would not enter such an event since they have no realistic chance of winning or cashing.

Our tournaments generally have multiple divisions based on classification (Am or Pro), ratings, gender and age. Some players are proponents of only using ratings to determine the divisions. Evidently they find it distressing that there are so many different divisions which host players of overlapping skills.

A Tournament Director can decide which divisions to offer. The TD can offer only one division (like the USDGC or Amateur Nationals) or restrict which divisions are offered. If the TD chooses not to sanction the tournament with the PDGA then he or she can invent any divisional structure they want.

At first glance it would seem that the fairest way to create divisions would be by ratings. If we accept the premise that ratings are essentially accurate (which I personally do)-that is to say that the handicap rating given to a player is a reasonably accurate measure of how well the player has performed in past tournaments-then players of similar handicaps should be able to compete fairly against one another regardless of classification, age or gender.

My personal experience is that ratings are the least fair method of creating divisions. This is because ratings divisions are based on arbitrary numerical ranges. Just as an example, let's say the top division is above 970. The second division is 970 to 920. The third division is 919 to 869 and the lowest division is below 868. So let's deal with two players, Joe the Plumber whose rating is 971 and Barack Calhoun McCain (BCM) whose rating is 970. Poor Joe the Plumber is doomed to donate in his division. There are a handful of pros well over 1000 rated who will crush Joe darn near any day and everyone in his division is better than he is. Meanwhile BCM, only one rating point below Joe is the top rated player in his division and will cash even if he plays poorly and is likely to be at the very top in his division if he plays well.

In a ratings based division the numerical range is always arbitrary. No matter where it is set it will hugely benefit some players and hugely harm others.

No other divisional criteria is arbitrary. Classifications (AM or Pro) are voluntary. No one can complain about the choice they make. Gender is rationally based. Men are bigger and stronger than women. Age is rationally based. The great cycle of life dictates that a person starts small and weak, develops into adulthood and eventually declines in old age.

It is possible to manipulate a rating. If BCM wants to stay in his division he can sometimes play poorly on purpose to insure this. No one can manipulate their gender (surgery notwithstanding) or their age.

In the lower divisions the unfairness of ratings is less severe. Basic skills in our sport are relatively easy to acquire. (It's the beauty of the game: it's easy to develop competance but near impossible to master) So players with decent athletic ability should be able to move up from the lower divisions over time. A player may be at the bottom of a division this year and rise to the top the division eventually. As a player improves, the next level is more difficult to obtain than the last. Everyone has natural ceiling based on their talents. The closer a player gets to that ceiling the tougher the climb.

So a new tournament player still developing their game can shoot 50 points over his rating on a good round and 100 points over on a great round. A player close to their natural ceiling is hard pressed to shoot 30 points over their rating.

What then can be done about the most grating (for some) scenario where the best players compete in different divisions (Open and Pro Masters)? Does anything need to be done? And can't a TD manipulate entry fees and payouts to encourage the best players to choose the top division?

Tags: age, divisions, protected, ratings, sandbagging

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I could work with what Bogeyman suggested. Wouldn't it be hard to raise enough money for a for a considerable payout to the expert pro's? Especially if money is given out to intermediate and am divisions as well? I know a lesser amount of course but still. would unrated players automatically be put in the intermediate bracket with the lesser payout to encourage stepping up to advanced and paying for a PDGA membership to compete on that level? I could see that working...it's an idea more or less. I'm a new comer so there's my two cents. Good discussion Mark.
i like the idea of non-rated players being separated. i'm playing less tournaments because of players winning and placing that aren't in the pdga at sanctioned tourneys. i would also play more tournaments if am- grandmaster divisions were offered more.
Here is my deal. When I started playing at 16 years of age , I was able to play Novice for my first tournament.
When I turned 18 , I was told to play Open till I was 35. I had played Open Pro till I was 40 , then I was told I could play Pro Masters. There was NO other divisions available. I always had to play Open no matter what and I never complained about it , I just learned to play Better !!!!!! There are now AM's who have been playing for 10+ years and still complain.
I have always believed that in order to PLAY BETTER you had to Play AGAINST somebody better. It raises your level of game. I do not like to be totally enhilated in sports, its happened but I don't CRY about it. I just dust my pride off a bit and practice more. I actually Learn from a defeat and when I learn enough I PASS IT ON. I cannot get younger than I am but I can get smarter. And there's LOTS of room for GROWTH in that department as well!
Spoken like a true player !!!!
Glen Atwell said:
I have always believed that in order to PLAY BETTER you had to Play AGAINST somebody better. It raises your level of game.
Popular theory but not supported by actual facts. We looked at data from several events and a player's performance was no better or worse either when playing with higher rated players or lower rated players. Of course Climo hasn't ever played in a group of players higher rated than himself for over 15 years and he's done OK.
practicing with someone better is beneficial.
doing one tournament playing with better players wouldnt help but if you go out and play with better players everyday you improve fast
stephen b said:
practicing with someone better is beneficial.
The current rating system is the lesser of the evils. Just like everything else it has to have some self governing to work. TD's provide the essential "human element" that helps rule the grey areas. If anything should change, I would like to see the PDGA stress the importance of stricter enforcement of the division guidelines during the sanctioning process. In short train the TD's to do a better job. Most TD's I'm familiar with do it to benefit the sport and already do an outstanding job.
I'd like to see the AM classification disappear, too.

I like that comment about training the TD's. How about this...

For PDGA events, a TD can only select from an assortment of templates for the event. These templates would have everything laid out in detail with respect to the classifications/divisions offered, the payment scale and how to add extra cash, everything. The template would help the TD, especially new TD's, develop and execute the event, and meanwhile the PDGA would know what was going on, and the players would know what to expect. And then, for promotion of the event, a TD could say the tournament is a B-tier that follows template #12, or more simply "PDGA B-tier v.12 event". That would allow more accountability, more standardization, more... well, lots more good points, IMO.
I've been playing for a little over 3yrs. now and have been playing in adv. masters (40+) and have finished consistantly in the top 5. Next year I can go up to grandmaster (50+) or stay in adv. master, just because you're over 50 doesn't mean you "have" to play in the grandmaster div. And if some are "pro" players then pay attention to what they do differently and learn from them. Playing with better players will only make you a better player, it just takes a little time and practice.
I think there are WAY too many divisions, and I've seen and heard the complaint of players choosing which division they play in based on where it's easiest to "cash" at any certian tournament. I like bogeymans idea, keep it simple. When you take away 3 of the 4 options a player can choose to play in, at a tournament, then they will play where they should play, and not where it "pays best" to play.

I've never seen another sport with so many divisions....it's a joke

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