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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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There is another side to consider. The "dead money" guys have to have some incentive to play. Without the guys who don't cash, the guys who did would win much smaller amounts. When I first started playing I immediately entered a tournament at the urging of a friend. My payout was the players pack and the experience I received playing new courses. All my local tournaments treat the Rec players like gold, the first out of town tournament I play I received some stickers and a towel for my $50. There are people who know they are not going to win and play anyway. Just something to think about.
Chuck,

How about looking at the player's performance before and after the player played with significantly higher rated players? I wouldn't think the performance for that particular tourny would change much - a tourney is a poor place to try new things. But I think that there could be an effect on subsequent tournaments, after the player has had time to try out the new things and become comfortable enough with them to use in a tournament.

What do you think?

Chuck Kennedy said:
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.
>>But I think that there could be an effect on subsequent tournaments, after the player has had time to try out the new things and become comfortable enough with them to use in a tournament.

I agree in the age of Instant Gratification learning new tricks takes time. Improvement is not instantly noticeable but takes me weeks for muscle memory to take effect. However slow the process of learning I like to play with better players. I know I will never perfect the 500 foot Long shot nor the 100ft. putt. But I am playing against MY SCORE and looking for improvement. I will get more exercise than my Opponent so how can I loose!
If I should happen to win an ACE RACE tourney it will be largely LUCK. I can factor for wind and distance and ARCH but for the most part CHANCE LUCK is going to play a big part. That's where the FUN comes into play.
I will watch those that are better for GRIP, footwork and angle of attack. It will be weeks before I can repeat their moves.
Folks:

Suzette Simons (discette) inquired: “If ratings are the least fair method of creating divisions, what "fair" method would you suggest?”
Suzette, I am not advocating a new divisional structure, merely addressing the mistaken belief that Rating based divisions is inherently fair.

Nibs Carter said: I think old men and young women should play together! ;>)
Nibs has it right but the game should be Twister.

Bogeyman claimed: "Maybe what we need to do is "keep rating levels" but get rid of the TERM "AM", since the majority of the tournaments are PDGA supported, let there be classes as: Novice Intermediate Advanced Expert"

Bogeyman, perhaps there are no true Ams since Ams play for plastic coins (merchandise) but that genie is out of the bottle. If the PDGA mandated that Ams could not receive merchandise (Trophy Only) then unsanctioned events which paid out merch would become vastly more popular. I’m not sure why an Am winning a cool prize is bad. We celebrate a Pro winning a big payout. Why is it wrong for the Am?

As far as Ams taking cash, my concern is that a high school or college age disc golfer might harm his/her eligibility to compete in other sports (NCAA rules).

The nomenclature of the Am divisions should be Am1, Am2, Am3 or Am4. It is logical and intuitive. Beginner, Novice, Recreational and whatever the newest name they switch to are not intuitive and endlessly confusing.

Queen wants to see PDGA templates.
Queen, the PDGA rides on the backs of TD’s. Mostly uncompensated, too little appreciated TD’s. Often good-hearted, independently minded TD’s. There is a limit to how far the PDGA can push its most vital volunteers. How many TD’s are at the end of their patience already?

Tarazarr thinks there are “Way too many divisions”. I have heard this complaint but I don’t understand it. If offering more divisions brings in more players and makes them happy then what is wrong with it?

Chuck Kennedy said a number of things.
For those of you new to the sport, Chuck Kennedy is the “mad scientist” of disc golf. Chuck, along with Roger Smith, invented, developed, implemented and refined the handicap system the PDGA uses. The sport owes an immense debt of gratitude to Chuck as one of the sports hardest working and most talented volunteers. I love Chuck Kennedy.

With that being said there is not enough space in Cyberspace to argue with Chuck Kennedy.
I agree with most of Ellis' responses. The thing with the number of divisions is that even though we theoretically could have around 28 possible, the reality is that most events have fewer than 7 with competitors. And Orienteering, which is a sport similar in structure to DG, has even more possible divisions and fewer overall participants. The big difference is that all divisions are Am with low entry fees and no payout. But as Mark says, "The genie's out of the bottle regarding payouts."

One idea that has been floated several times since ratings were developed is to have different ratings breaks for each tier. That would solve the issue of a player being trapped at the bottom of an arbitrary division break. The Competition Committee has always felt that sliding breaks would be an additional complication for players and TDs to keep track of the different breaks. Although as mentioned before, even now a player isn't permanently trapped at the bottom with little chance of cashing. There's enough variance in player performance and different mixes of other rated players in any division that it would hard to not ever cash if you were really trying.
I have always enjoyed playing in the Professional divisions !!!! You can learn alot from great players !!!!
well without saying that the current system is screwed up...at least the rating system is a step in the right direction.


Compared to my other sport, IDPA...there you have to classify in order to compete in sanctioned matches. You can't move backwards or forwards...you are stuck with competitors of the same skill level. Makes sandbagging difficult....plus if you win and/or place ahead of a certain number of competitors, you automatically get bumped to the next level.

I should add that there is no money involved it's about pride, prestige and the occasional prize or trophy.
This is such a thought provoking thread. The info from such long time pdga and rule experts is invaluable. Thanks guys!
My only concern is the accuracy of ratings VS divisions. The fact that the formula is SO complicated that the TD's have a "shortcut formula" that gets removed for X amount of time before PDGA posts the REAL rated rounds is fishy, and believe it or not, that is the LEAST questionable part of it for me. I am new and plenty green, so if I sound uneducated, it's true I AM!
How is it even POSSIBLE that other people affect my rating for a specific course in specific conditions? Doesn't that sound CRAZY? If a course is FAIRLY rated by the pdga, then there should be an EASY formula that EVERYONE can follow that provides rating information right? Instead, it is a system that only arithmeticians(I am being funny) can understand. It seems that ball golf guru's figured out the most simple system and they will take every disc golfers first born if we try to adopt it, isn't there something WAY easier for us to develop and keep the divisions proper? I agree with chuck Kennedy and mark Ellis on most of this topic, but the variance seems to be crazy? I am sure after years the variance seems to be less "definitive" as a whole. The fairness of a courses rating is in question as well, even though it was not part of this discussion I think it is relevant because it affects ratings too, right?
Eirik said:
The fact that the formula is SO complicated that the TD's have a "shortcut formula" that gets removed for X amount of time before PDGA posts the REAL rated rounds is fishy, and believe it or not, that is the LEAST questionable part of it for me. I am new and plenty green, so if I sound uneducated, it's true I AM!
How is it even POSSIBLE that other people affect my rating for a specific course in specific conditions? Doesn't that sound CRAZY? If a course is FAIRLY rated by the pdga, then there should be an EASY formula that EVERYONE can follow that provides rating information right? Instead, it is a system that only arithmeticians(I am being funny) can understand. It seems that ball golf guru's figured out the most simple system and they will take every disc golfers first born if we try to adopt it, isn't there something WAY easier for us to develop and keep the divisions proper?The fairness of a courses rating is in question as well, even though it was not part of this discussion I think it is relevant because it affects ratings too, right?
Valid concerns from someone who doesn't know the background for ratings and how we ended up with the process we have. We looked at ball golf's course rating and handicap process and it is severely flawed. But is continued because there are significant financial interests to continuing the process. Some of the calculation techniques they use such as using only half of a players rounds for handicaps and the slope system are actually fudging techniques to cover up for suspect data.

One fallacy in their system is that each course layout has a single rating that is unchanging regardless of weather and they normally don't even play sanctioned events in the winter like disc golf. Seasonal foliage changes, wind and terrain variances, such as inconsistent mowing, have much more impact on disc golf scores than ball golf scores. But in either sport, the fundamental question is where does the initial "objective" rating come from for a course if not in relation to scores from rated players? There's no independent measure for rating courses other than scores. You can't just do calculations based on length, width, number of trees, angles, pin placement, etc. Ball golf actually attempts to do this but it is never validated against scores because they have no way to do it.

This is not just my opinion. I've been a USGA member for many years and have visited with their handicapping team at USGA HQ in Far Hills, NJ to discuss these issues. They wish they could do something like the way we do the course rating calculations. But when they tried, they failed miserably when they discovered their handicaps were way off and produced impossible numbers.

Generating course ratings dynamically from actual scores from rated players indicates how the course is playing at that exact moment taking wind, lack of mowing, foliage, dew on the grass, sun angles, rain into account in an integrated fashion. My question would be, "Why would you ever expect a course to play exactly the same every round?" If anything, using the same number for each round would be unusual and yet some feel it should be the same more like a basketball court.

Because some feel it's unfair if someone at an event gets a different rating for the same score even if played in different rounds, we now combine scores from multiple rounds to do calculations for official ratings. That's why the ratings you see right after an event may differ from the official ratings. The unofficial online ratings process when TDs upload scores doesn't 'know' how to combine scores from multiple rounds on the same course. We have to do that when we do the official ratings process.
Mark says: Bogeyman claimed: "Maybe what we need to do is "keep rating levels" but get rid of the TERM "AM", since the majority of the tournaments are PDGA supported, let there be classes as: Novice Intermediate Advanced Expert"

Bogeyman, perhaps there are no true Ams since Ams play for plastic coins (merchandise) but that genie is out of the bottle. If the PDGA mandated that Ams could not receive merchandise (Trophy Only) then unsanctioned events which paid out merch would become vastly more popular. I’m not sure why an Am winning a cool prize is bad. We celebrate a Pro winning a big payout. Why is it wrong for the Am?

As far as Ams taking cash, my concern is that a high school or college age disc golfer might harm his/her eligibility to compete in other sports (NCAA rules).

The nomenclature of the Am divisions should be Am1, Am2, Am3 or Am4. It is logical and intuitive. Beginner, Novice, Recreational and whatever the newest name they switch to are not intuitive and endlessly confusing.
=====================================================================================

B.J. says: Mark, I do agree with your AM1-2-3-4 etc. set up, it's much easier to understand than the current "Division Names". Still I don't think the PDGA or yourself really LOOKS at current DG practices. It is "ALL ABOUT THE MONEY", even in lowly "DG Club League Play", you've got to fork up $5-10 to play, then there's money for ACE Pot, Money for a TAG, then there's a lot of "SIDE BETTING" going on, I've seen this and I've only been playing DG and a local DG Club Member for 1 year!!!!!

The Merch/Plastic, etc. is the same as MONEY, it's just in a different form, That's the problem, as you rise to the top of a "playing level", you "EXPECT" to get compensated, that pretty much takes the, "Play for the Love of the GAME" out of the equation, if your realistic at all. All I suggested was to do what the PDGA really want's, make the Association a place for PRO's. If you are really WORRIED about "High School or College players" status, then the PDGA NEEDS to split off the AM's into a seprate grouping and there should be NO Merch awarded for winning, only trophies or ribbions. Now a Players Package is ok, that goes to EVERY PLAYER!! There REALLY NEEDS to be a ADGA, within the PDGA.

How can you be a member of the "Professional Disc Golf Assoc." and be afraid that your play might "hurt your sport status" in other AM/school sports, this seems to me to be a "Oxymoron of a situation" and should be addressed and fixed, within the PDGA. Being a PROFESSIONAL is all about, BEING PAID for competetion, weither by Merch or Cash it's not really any different. The PDGA is just afraid to loose the AM's FEE MONEY for tournament play, as I've stated before, the money for the winnings of the PRO's should come from PRO entry Fees and OUTSIDE Sponsorship. No you don't need MEGA Corp or TV sponsors, PDGA should seek out "Mom and Pop" business that want to get their name out in the area of the tournament to create that "Supplementel Cash" to Pay the PRO Level Players, not AM Fees, jmho.

The problem is that the PDGA is truely "AFRAID" to step up and be the organization for the PRO Disc Golf Player and then establish a program that is TRUELY, AMATUER in nature for the rest of us, throwers of plastic.. Yes, it's just my opinon and we all know what opinions are like, LOL!!

Take care, have FUN, Throw Plastic!

B.J. (bogeyman) Ondo
Colorado Springs, CO.
Chuck Kennedy said:
Eirik said:
The fact that the formula is SO complicated that the TD's have a "shortcut formula" that gets removed for X amount of time before PDGA posts the REAL rated rounds is fishy, and believe it or not, that is the LEAST questionable part of it for me. I am new and plenty green, so if I sound uneducated, it's true I AM!
How is it even POSSIBLE that other people affect my rating for a specific course in specific conditions? Doesn't that sound CRAZY? If a course is FAIRLY rated by the pdga, then there should be an EASY formula that EVERYONE can follow that provides rating information right? Instead, it is a system that only arithmeticians(I am being funny) can understand. It seems that ball golf guru's figured out the most simple system and they will take every disc golfers first born if we try to adopt it, isn't there something WAY easier for us to develop and keep the divisions proper?The fairness of a courses rating is in question as well, even though it was not part of this discussion I think it is relevant because it affects ratings too, right?
Valid concerns from someone who doesn't know the background for ratings and how we ended up with the process we have. We looked at ball golf's course rating and handicap process and it is severely flawed. But is continued because there are significant financial interests to continuing the process. Some of the calculation techniques they use such as using only half of a players rounds for handicaps and the slope system are actually fudging techniques to cover up for suspect data.

One fallacy in their system is that each course layout has a single rating that is unchanging regardless of weather and they normally don't even play sanctioned events in the winter like disc golf. Seasonal foliage changes, wind and terrain variances, such as inconsistent mowing, have much more impact on disc golf scores than ball golf scores. But in either sport, the fundamental question is where does the initial "objective" rating come from for a course if not in relation to scores from rated players? There's no independent measure for rating courses other than scores. You can't just do calculations based on length, width, number of trees, angles, pin placement, etc. Ball golf actually attempts to do this but it is never validated against scores because they have no way to do it.

This is not just my opinion. I've been a USGA member for many years and have visited with their handicapping team at USGA HQ in Far Hills, NJ to discuss these issues. They wish they could do something like the way we do the course rating calculations. But when they tried, they failed miserably when they discovered their handicaps were way off and produced impossible numbers.

Generating course ratings dynamically from actual scores from rated players indicates how the course is playing at that exact moment taking wind, lack of mowing, foliage, dew on the grass, sun angles, rain into account in an integrated fashion. My question would be, "Why would you ever expect a course to play exactly the same every round?" If anything, using the same number for each round would be unusual and yet some feel it should be the same more like a basketball court.

Because some feel it's unfair if someone at an event gets a different rating for the same score even if played in different rounds, we now combine scores from multiple rounds to do calculations for official ratings. That's why the ratings you see right after an event may differ from the official ratings. The unofficial online ratings process when TDs upload scores doesn't 'know' how to combine scores from multiple rounds on the same course. We have to do that when we do the official ratings process.

You are right, I have no idea what I am talking about. Is the course rating the "SSA" number or something? What you are saying makes a lot of sense. I think far few people really comprehend the rating formula and all that goes into it. I hope to fully comprehend it at some point.
The ratings documents will be available for downloading from the PDGA site once that gets set up again, hopefully within the week.

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