What's Going To Make Achieving Par Tougher For Pros?

What's Going To Make Achieving Par Tougher For Pros?

I’ll admit that I don’t care if someone wins a tournament +3 or -21. To me it just means that they played the best golf out of everyone at the tournament.

Do people want to see pros struggle to make par? I understand that everyone competing on tour is better than me, and seeing them shoot over par doesn’t make me suddenly feel better because I’m 4 under at my home course. But if the goal is to see players finish -4 to win, these are the ways it could be done.

I’d like to preface this blog saying I don’t have any experience in building courses, and that I admire people who take the time to build them. These are just things I think about when it comes to course design. I could get into the “disc golf on ball golf course” debate but I don’t think there’s anything to say that hasn’t been said already.

Some people think that disc golf should be “harder” and that’s a fine opinion to have. So this week I want to look at how they can make courses harder for top touring pros, then examine the pros and cons of doing so.

Make the holes longer.
Pros: Yeah, it’ll definitely bring the scores up. Every pro expects to get up and down from 200 feet. But I wonder how the percentages go down when they have a 250 foot shot, or a 300 foot shot as their upshot on a long par 4. It’s fair, if you don’t make holes 800+ feet on a par 4. If everyone can reasonably drive that far and upshot that far it comes down to execution.
Cons: It’s not really going to work on par 3’s. Par 3’s should be reachable on a good drive. Hole 1 at the Portland Open has produced 1 birdie in round 1, 2 in round 2, and 2 in round 3. It’s scoring so far over par it’s a little ridiculous.
It’s also just hurting pros who don’t crush. I understand that throwing long distances is part of the game, but players who can’t rip 500’ off the tee are at a massive disadvantage.
Should it be in the game? Yes, some holes should obviously be longer. Anything shorter than 350 (unless it’s an island/feature OB/Unique) shouldn’t be on tour for the top pros. Gimme’s aren’t something that people want to see. Tournaments that are held year in and year out should evaluate how their course plays to par.
Make the basket smaller.
Pros: The putt percentages will drop. This has been a point that gets brought up every few years, how putting is too easy now. We have better putters with grippier plastic, and we’ve got baskets that catch better than ever before. It’s going to make people who hit the pole consistently have better scores than people who just catch chains all the time.
Cons: Will smaller baskets lead to pros laying up more frequently? I get layups from 50 feet when you have a death putt, but I’d be pretty upset to see pros laying up from 50 regularly because hitting a 25 foot comebacker on a smaller target is too difficult. Also every course in the world would have to change their baskets. Because we all want to use the same equipment as the pros, that’s why we throw their signature discs. That cost would be huge to replace 18 holes on every course in the world.
I’ve argued this point before, and I will again. When you hit 7th grade you play baseball on the same base paths as MLB players. At that age you also start kicking soccer balls that are size 5 into the 8’x24’ goals. People appreciate a sport more when they can awe at the pros who use the same equipment. If we suddenly made all the baskets more difficult, people wouldn’t care as much.
Should it be in the game? Absolutely not. Smaller baskets can be useful for practice so you focus on hitting the middle. I’d hate to see the sport change to smaller targets. If you’re looking to make putting difficult there are other ways to do this.
Raise the baskets.
Pros: Lower scores for sure. We practice at a certain height all the time, changing that one normal thing will lead to people missing low or overcompensating and missing high. It will lead to more layups as well, because when you’re not confident you’ll draw metal you don’t want to go even further away on a miss.
Cons: It’s absolutely going to lead to layups. I had a 30 foot putt on the raised basket last year when I played in the Maine State Championships in the DGPT Silver Series. You know what I did? I laid it up for par. It’s also going to lead to people putting back and forth more often. Someone will miss and go long, then miss again, then make their putt. You want a surefire way to bring the energy of a card down? Have someone 3-putt. It’s also going to be more difficult for shorter people to retrieve their discs. Big Jerm won’t have any issues, but I don’t want to see the top players in the world having to jump up to get their discs out of the basket. Or if they land on top of it using a Kwik Stik to get it down.
Should it be in the game? I’ll say yes, but take it a step further. Baskets should be sunk as well. If you’re going to adjust the height of a pole to make it more difficult, a low putt will be as difficult, and may lead to exciting skip ins.
Artificial OB
Pros: It’s easily moveable year in and year out. If a tree is blocking everyone from driving you have to either cut down the tree or preferably move the teepad/basket. If everyone made the island, you can shrink it. It’s adjustable and you can make it uniform. Everyone knows what the white spikes at Fox Run means, or the yellow rope at the EURGC.
Cons: It’s ugly, feels arbitrary, and can lead to confusing moments. “Is this grass in or out?” “Am I on the line?” “Do I get a meter in this direction even though it takes me closer to the basket?”
Every year it feels like there’s a different issue that comes up from OB and has to be solved. Players don’t ask if they get relief from a tree, they just lean out to both sides and determine their best throw. Here’s a moment where even the top players in the world don’t know what to do. This decision ultimately cost Nate Sexton a PDGA Championship title in 2018.
Regulate Disc Choices
Pros: State that no drivers are allowed off the tee on this hole and you turn some par 4’s and 5’s into challenges. Or like they do at the Japan Open, regulate the weight of the discs. It’s much tougher to control a 150g disc than a 175g.
Cons: No one should be told what they can’t throw off the tee. Limiting people’s choices make the game less fun. The 159g discs are basically paper plates in the wind to top players. Making them learn new discs is a bit unreasonable. What happens if it’s windy on the final day? You’re going to watch some of your least favorite golf ever I assure you.
Should it be in the game? No. While it would absolutely raise scores, it’s not in the spirit of the game. Also how would you punish someone who forgot? I’m also not a fan of the 159g disc limits set forth by the Japan Open. However I respect their decision and their reasoning about not wanting to hurt spectators.
All Island Holes
Pros: Lower scores for sure. This could be done on inlets the way they do at Fountain Hills, or Hole 17 at the Dynamic Discs Open. It could also be done without water, like they do at the European Open. Making pros hit the green every single time would lead to drama late in the round. Think of Hole 17 at the EURGC. That event isn’t over until you’ve putted out there.
Cons: I think it’s a little gimmicky. Having one island hole is excellent, having two is just fine. But having more than say 2-3 would lead to a repetitive round for pros and spectators. It’s also going to lose people a lot of discs. I know it doesn’t mean as much to pros as their discs are paid for. But I’m not going to play a course with three island holes, and 51/52 weeks a year that course isn’t for the best players on the planet.
Should it be in the game? No. It’s gimmicky, won’t see a lot of play, and it would be extra susceptible to people who played in different weather in the morning/afternoon.
Add Extra Mandos
Pros: By forcing players to go around a pole or underneath a wire you’ll be showing them which fairways to take and shaping their shots. Missing the mando will be a stroke penalty and you can make them throw from difficult drop zones. This would probably be great for the DGPT live crew and post production camera teams as they would know exactly where drives are going.
Cons: Mandos should be reserved for player safety in my opinion. I appreciate when trees create a tunnel shot. But if there’s multiple lines then people should be allowed to throw what they are good at.
Should it be in the game? No. I mean the triple mandos that the pro tour uses for advertising is great. Love it! I think having that at hole 1 makes everything look super cool. But mandos are really about keeping players and spectators safe and shouldn’t be used to force players to take a line.
Swinging baskets

Pros: Baskets 99.99% of the time are in contact with the ground. Adding a basket that may swing in the wind would lead to dramatic plays. If you’re up 2, you might concede a stroke to make sure you don’t have a super long comebacker.
Cons: It’s not totally fair. The wind may be different for different putts. Now I get that that’s literally always been the case. But now players would have not just the wind to contend with, but the swinging basket to time as well. It feels very gimmicky, like something you’d see at a carnival and not on the course.
Should it be in the game? Sure, one course per year could have a single hanging basket. But it’s going to be controversial when someone gets their putter out of the basket and swings it while someone else is going to line up their putt. I’d be okay with a couple of these baskets on tour, but it would have to be very well done like at The Preserve. This hanging basket is protected from the wind by the woods, and it’s on a slope so it’s adding more challenge even on shorter putts.

I guess at the end of this blog we should ask ourselves the question. “Do I really care if players are shooting far below par?”

If it matters to you, then these are the ways TD’s can increase the difficulty of shots, penalize players more, and raise the overall scores. But you have to remember that these folks on tour are the best in the world. Every time you come up with a new trick, they’ll find a way to get their birdies.

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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Interesting article. It’s funny how the author is so against smaller baskets because itll lead to course modifications, but also suggests raising and lowering baskets, which also requires course modifications. There are a lot of pros that talk about smaller baskets, and that would only be during tournaments, so it would not actually require modifying all other courses. Players know a good putt from one that catches the outer chain, so hitting the stripe, regardless of basket size, will typically act the same no matter what type of basket is used. I can’t really tell which of these suggested mods the author is actually in support of, as each con is explained so heavy handedly.

James C

I think making circle one 50ft would change scores a bit. Most pros probably aren’t jumping/stepping at this range on open putts, but ones out of the rough or from tricky footing would be much harder without the extra momentum from jumping. This doesn’t penalize runs like smaller or more elevated baskets either cause the comebacker is the same. Probably won’t have a drastic effect on scores but I bet it adds a stroke or two to most rounds even for the top players.


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