In business, when making an adjustment, organizations frequently identify the most basic operating unit. Change that most basic unit of operation and the culture of the entire organization can be changed. I recently thought this way about Disc Golf and asked myself what is the most basic operating unit of the PDGA? It has to be the Tournament Director.
The success or failure of an event is almost entirely the responsibility of the TD. Regardless of the size of his or her support/volunteer staff, the TD is the final responsible individual and has to marshal resources, liaise with local government, generate revenue through corporate sponsorship, generate attendance, organize, plan and execute the event. Even more, the TD is the forefront representative of the PDGA. The TD has to perform his or her duties according to the standards of the PDGA and is the only representative of the PDGA that most of us will ever meet.
Almost every bad experience I have had has been because of poor planning or execution on the part of the TD. I was in a PDGA event this spring that started an hour late because the TD admitted way too many last minute registrations. I was in a group of 6 or 7 for both rounds of a one day event. I played the last four holes in the complete darkness.
The main responsibility of a TD is to create an enjoyable experience for the competitors. The second biggest responsibility is to represent the PDGA, disc golf, and disc golfers in a professional manner. Disc Golf is growing and we need to make sure that it grows in the direction we choose. Mostly, our TDs execute their role well; otherwise, we wouldn’t have increasing numbers of events and participants each year.
For every bad experience I have had, I have had ten great experiences. I recently played the Treebash in Flagstaff, AZ run by the Flagstaff Disc Golf Club. I really enjoy their events; their tournaments start on time, are well funded and supported by the community businesses, and are very efficient. I love events with four players per card; the rounds flow, I stay warmer, keep my rhythm. I tend to have more fun in a well run event. The quality of golf is higher and so is the enjoyment we all take from the experience.
I didn’t do very well in the event this year. I was bottom of the pack in MA1 but would have been top ten in MA2 so I guess that means I entered the right division. The elevation really messed with my putting. The changes in my flight path on drives were easier to see and easier to adjust for than on the approaches and the putts. I played a lot of rounds right before the event hoping to help me make this adjustment. I should have practiced my putting a lot more than I did. Instead, my new found backhand was tired from 11 rounds in 5 days and my approaches were not as precise and I kept over-correcting on my putts.
Despite my lack of success, this was still one of the most enjoyable and best run B-tier events. You expect this level of professionalism in an A-tier but Barley and the team of volunteers in the Flagstaff Disc Golf Club really out did themselves. There were sponsors for every hole, good players packs and CTP prizes, and the courses looked great.
Good events require months to plan, a high attention to detail, and a professional demeanor. They never pay well for the time required to make them really good – if they pay at all. I think we are at a point where some of this can change. We have gained enough popularity, and in areas densely populated with disc golfers, we can choose which events to attend. We can make choices based on quality rather than just availability.
Ball golf events are run for profit and the organizers certainly earn money. There is no reason why Disc Golf organizers should not as well. I would personally be happy to pay an extra 10 – 20 dollars for an event that only had 4 players per card, finished in time to have dinner, and was obviously well organized. Rather than charge 50.00 per participant with a field of 90 equaling a cash intake of 4500.00 charge 72 participants 63.00 to get to the same number. The event will be easier to run and will be more enjoyable for the participants. We should reward those golfers who plan ahead and choose one event over another because of the quality of that event.
We should also reward the tournament directors who organize our events. They are important pieces for the successful growth of our sport. Anyone can become a TD and be a representative of our sport to our communities but it does come with greater responsibility. So thank the TD in your area. Volunteer if you can. Make sure he or she has a cup of coffee in the morning. Support the good TD by making the effort to go to those events and let your choice as a consumer guide the direction of events in your area. Enjoy your next event and see what you can do for the TD.
Happy golfing and good scoring everyone.