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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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Not when Ams are shooting - 10 under par or better per round.
Donny Olow said:
Not when Ams are shooting - 10 under par or better per round.
You missed the point Donny. Pros of all ages are mostly just Expert Advanced Ams for their age with few actually making a living at DG. So making a distinction between Pros versus Ams is less relevant than making a distinction between one group of players (Expert Ams) rated higher than another group of players (Advanced Ams) makes more sense.
Also , ratings don't show how well a player is shooting at that moment !!!!
Donny Olow said:
Also , ratings don't show how well a player is shooting at that moment !!!!
Sure it does. A rating is the midpoint of the expectation for what a player CAN shoot. So any score within 100 points either side of their rating is statistically predictable. However, the more rounds played, the siren call of their rating pulls them right back to their average. 94% of the final standings at Worlds is predicted each year strictly from a player's initial rating going into it.
When Ams keep playing in the same division without moving up to the next division , the lower divisions feel they don't have to move up either !!!! Novice players will also not advance to the next level. Sandbagging continues and it's sad for the Sport. How many years does it take for a player to advance to the next level , 5 - 10 - 30 years ? And they still complain about crappy prizes ?

I have never played Am. I have played in the Pro divisions since 1979.
Donny Olow said:
I have never played Am. I have played in the Pro divisions since 1979.
You're just an old Am that retains the inappropriate pro label that the pioneers thought sounded cooler when the sport started. Did you ever make more than you spent in any year you've played counting all expenses like travel and lodging? We can look at the stats and most players hit their "natural" skill level within a few years of starting competitive play. There are more players who will continue to play within the same range of scores as there are newbies on the way up passing thru. Nothing wrong with players playing up to test themselves and perhaps enjoy rubbing shoulders with better players. But that doesn't mean they'll ever cash there unless everyone else feels pressure to move up.
You must be a Am advocate.
Donny Olow said:
You must be a Am advocate.
Just a realist. This arbitrary distinction between Pros and Ams is holding us back and a source of ongoing controversy. I don't mind being classed as a pro but I recognize the humor in it, especially when mentioned to anyone outside the sport.
Good thread, thanks-all! Amazing that we can have a discussion without nastiness, eh?
Chuck Kennedy said:
Donny Olow said:
You must be a Am advocate.
Just a realist. This arbitrary distinction between Pros and Ams is holding us back and a source of ongoing controversy. I don't mind being classed as a pro but I recognize the humor in it, especially when mentioned to anyone outside the sport.


When I was into photography, the saying was, the difference between AM and PRO was that Pro's made MONEY!! It didn't matter weither you made enough money to make "living" , just that you were PAID for your photographs. That's why I suggested PDGA get RID of the AM lable and have everyone be a "aspiring PRO". As one player stated, getting rid of the AM names, is even a better idea. Baiscly have:

PRO Level: 1-5, which would be set by "ratings" per level. If you just have a CASH prize amount "per level" and make the Cash prize level amount "HIGHER" for each level, it would give players a REASON to want to "play up" to the next level. I think it would get rid of a lot of the "sandbaggin" as your being paid higher winning's as you go up the Level's. At least this way, you could "take the ribbing" from other sports as you do have a chance at winning CASH, therefore, your making MONEY and qualifiy under the "term" of a Professional Player".

Either that or, the PDGA needs to totally seprate AM and PRO play, ie: they shouldn't play on the same day on the same courses cause "mixing" them together brings down the "PRO status" of the tournament, jmho. I'm not saying there has to be a totally different AM and Pro assoc., just that the PDGA needs to show the world there is a "difference" in playing AM and playing PRO in DG. LOL, I know I'll NEVER be a good enough player to WIN any division so what's the difference in me playing in AM2 or PRO 1, at least it would make sense when I tell folks I'm a member of the "PROFESSIONAL DG Assoc." but I'm an Amautuer in rankings, be better to say I'm a bottom level PRO player working my way up! ;) It's all in the perception of the people outside DG so why not make it a "Good impression", right off the bat??

Take care, have FUN, Throw Plastic!

B.J. (bogeyman) Ondo
Colorado Springs, CO.
Chuck Kennedy said:
Donny Olow said:
I have never played Am. I have played in the Pro divisions since 1979.
You're just an old Am that retains the inappropriate pro label that the pioneers thought sounded cooler when the sport started. Did you ever make more than you spent in any year you've played counting all expenses like travel and lodging? We can look at the stats and most players hit their "natural" skill level within a few years of starting competitive play. There are more players who will continue to play within the same range of scores as there are newbies on the way up passing thru. Nothing wrong with players playing up to test themselves and perhaps enjoy rubbing shoulders with better players. But that doesn't mean they'll ever cash there unless everyone else feels pressure to move up.

I have paid taxes on my Disc Golf winnings to the IRS.
Donny Olow said:
Chuck Kennedy said:
Donny Olow said:
I have never played Am. I have played in the Pro divisions since 1979.
You're just an old Am that retains the inappropriate pro label that the pioneers thought sounded cooler when the sport started. Did you ever make more than you spent in any year you've played counting all expenses like travel and lodging? We can look at the stats and most players hit their "natural" skill level within a few years of starting competitive play. There are more players who will continue to play within the same range of scores as there are newbies on the way up passing thru. Nothing wrong with players playing up to test themselves and perhaps enjoy rubbing shoulders with better players. But that doesn't mean they'll ever cash there unless everyone else feels pressure to move up.

I have paid taxes on my Disc Golf winnings to the IRS.
Might need a better accountant. ;-)

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