A blank bracket with a disc golf basket at the center.

Different Disc Golf Tournament Format Ideas

Worlds was so incredible, it’s honestly one of my favorite sporting events of the year. It’s easily the best disc golf tournament bar none (sorry USWDGC / EURGC). Is there anything more awesome than being called a World Champion at something? Probably not, I wouldn’t know as I’m not a World Champion.

This year the Worlds was 5 rounds of cumulative play with a cut after round 4 to the top 40% of the field participating in the last day, which I think it’s a solid way to determine a champion. Initially, I was skeptical that this would have been yet another distance contest when Utah was announced as the place to play Worlds. However the Fort was a treat to watch, and as it beats in a little more I think it should be a spot that the DGPT plays every year or two.

I’d like to look at some other ways to crown a champion though. While a week of playing seems great, is there any way we could make Worlds… better?

There are tournaments for everything in the world. Humans can be competitive and so we’ve found ways to determine the best in almost everything. Today in the blog I want to look at some tournaments that I enjoy watching. Other ways that sports have found to crown the world's best. Let’s start with the longest ways in sports that determine a champion. Then work it down to shorter tournaments.

English Premier League (9 months)
There are plenty of breaks in this long tournament. This is a points champion, not a championship champion. I’d like to make that distinction because the way they do this is 38 matches. You play each team twice, once home and once away. A win is 3 points, a draw is 1 point, and a loss is 0. Each week you can look at the table and see how teams are doing. They don’t have a “final” or anything. If you have the most points you just win.

Disc golf already has a version of this, it’s a tour series points champion. At each of the DGPT events you get points. The points are used for the DGPT championship to determine who gets an invite and also who get byes into a later round. Check the standings here if you like. There’s a bonus for points winner, but who remembers who that was? We all might remember Kevin Jones and Hailey King with big wins in 2020 though.

Chess World Championship (4 months, but also 2 tournaments)
The chess world championship is held every 2 years so it’s not as frequent as the disc golf championships. The current world champion waits while the runner up of the previous championship and 7 other players (who win play in tournaments) play each other. Then after the candidates tournament the winner of that tournament plays the reigning world champion in a 14 game match to determine the winner.
It’s not really feasible for disc golf to do this. I included it because it’s a selection of the best players in the world competing for a chance to dethrone the champion. Even if you lose the world championship you’re automatically in the 8 players who compete for the next one and I like that.

Disc golf would have to pick it’s 8 best players to play in a match play tournament. Then the winner of that would compete in an event with the reigning champion. While it could be amazing, it’s more likely to flop. When there’s a runaway world champion with a handful of strokes on the field we start to care about 2nd and 3rd place. With this it wouldn’t be as entertaining if that happened.

World Cup (1 month)
Ahhh the grandest of tournaments, where I scream at the television every time the USMNT gets knocked out in the second round. The top 32 teams from regions around the world are separated into 8 groups. The top 2 from each group move on and then it’s a single elimination tournament. The 16 teams who moved on will play head to head until we have a winner.
Disc golf could totally do this. In fact I’d love to see something akin to it. A tournament where 32 people qualify and then play in a group of 4. The top 2 move on to play in a knockout round where you win or go home.
Disc golf could do this, wait they already do for the DGPT! Normally it’s just the top half of the field moves on each time and they’ve given byes to the top points earners. This year they’ve decided to move in a different direction and make it match play. So it will be a different way to crown a champion than in years past. Here’s the way that it’s going to play out now. I think that it’s something worth exploring.
One thing I will mention about the World Cup is the draw. Just the process of putting the top 32 teams into pools draws millions of views live and nearly another million on YoutTube. I remember sitting in my buddies apartment in college while we watched as teams were drawn into groups. There were millions watching an event which you could have seen the results of an hour later.

March Madness (1 month)
Bracket madness is actually kind of awesome. I’ll keep it simple with 64 teams like it used to be. The 64 best college teams are taken at the end of the season and put into a ranking system. Then they’re placed on a bracket (and people watch that too, just not as many as the World Cup draw) where they face off against a team and then move on. The 4 best teams are sent to the 4 corners of the bracket so that they potentially meet in the championship. Win and move on, lose and go home.
It’s easy to follow which I love. You never need to see if Michigan State has to win by 5 points to move on. ESPN puts out how many hour long segments about picking your bracket? It feels like all I see in early March.
I’d like to see disc golf go to something like this for an event in the future. It’s already sort of bracket style in the DGPT Championship. But I’ll explain that later.
A bracket would determine who is consistently the best day in and day out. You’d only have one person to beat each day. But if you won, you’d be the only person to win every day.

Drawbacks would be that a tournament of 32 players would mean that there’s a lot of great players who would get left off the list on the MPO side. 64 would be better but you’d be adding an additional round to the tournament.
It would be tougher to film. You’d be more interested in individual matchups vs a lead card (which wouldn’t really exist). At 3 cameras per hole, with 18 holes… (sure in my dreams)
Eliminating half the field each day kind of stinks for those eliminated. Sure they could go home, but making people travel somewhere to play 1 round and not cash is tough. Not everyone makes 7 figures per year in disc golf, and it’s important that we support the traveling pros who don’t always cash.

Brackets are excellent for disc golf though and very popular in Maine. Each year we have several brackets of singles, dubs, pros, and ams. As much as I’d love this to happen for the pros I just think there’s too much downside to it.

Disc Golf (Current)
Well as it stands players are given dates to buy into the tournament with the highest rated players getting first dibs and then it goes on down the line. The tournament fills up and players play up to 5 rounds. Two on one of the courses and two on the other. Then in the final round the top 40% (those who cash) play for a chance at the title. I don’t know how else I would improve it, other than instituting a Final 9 any time there are fewer than 5 rounds played.

It makes a lead and chase card, it provided us with one of the greatest finishes of all time in both MPO and FPO this year. I think that at the moment the world championships are pretty much as good as it gets.

Are there any other ways you would like to see a disc golf tournament played? Or is it pretty much perfect as it is? I’m a big fan of many different tournaments and I’ll watch almost any sport. So if you have heard of any unique ideas I’d love to hear them.

May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397

Streeter (PGDA #70397 )

He started disc golfing in 2011 and instantly fell in love with the flight of a disc. He has a degree in Sports Management from the university of Southern Maine and has been blogging for SDG since 2020, He writes about informational disc golf content editorials, and disc golf entertainment.

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