Disc Golf

Tee Times and Ghost Groups

Putting at Snow Bowl Az.

Putting at Snow Bowl Az.

My favorite format for a disc golf tournaments is Tee Times with one round a day for three or four days. For competitive reasons, a tournament should be at least three rounds long, four is even better.  Two rounds can be too small a sample size – a player could get lucky or unlucky for two consecutive rounds and the score may not be a reflection of their skill level.  I certainly like a one day tournament but I naturally get less geared up for those events.

Most disc golfers – casual players anyway – cannot be available for three day weekends often enough to play tee times for three rounds so we play them in 2 days. I’ve even played 3 in one day. We are disc golfers after all; we play in all types of inclement weather and in all sorts of adverse conditions. I’m proud of the tougher side of disc golf but there are still a lot of advantages to playing tournament rounds with tee times.

Tee times allow for a far more focused effort. Knowing exactly when your event will start really allows a player to be prepared physically and mentally to perform at the highest possible level. I also feel it adds an air of professionalism that our sport needs. I am frequently quite gross by the end of a two round tournament day. With a 4 hour round of golf, a 1 hour lunch break, followed by another 4 hour round, the average golfer does not look his or her best. Our sport is more presentable with tee times.

Tru Line Finale 10.14.2012Tee times also provide a more pleasant tournament round.  There are far less waits with tee times. My game stays in a more natural rhythm. Tee times allow tournament directors the ability to register more players for a single course and still maintain foursomes instead of five-somes. Events are more controllable with tee times. Officials can meet with groups right before the tee time rather than in a large crowd. Important points can be made with certainty that they are understood.

For me, the other end of the PDGA tournament enjoyment spectrum, is the frequency of Ghost Groups at events. Ghost groups are extra cards in excess of the number of holes involved in a shotgun start – 19 or even sometimes 20 cards for a shotgun start on an 18 hole course.

There are a couple good reasons for a ghost group. The number and configuration of the smaller divisions at an event might mean that two cards with 3 players and one card with 4 players is better than two cards with 5 players. Depending on circumstance, this could make sense for speed of play. I can see circumstances that could call for ghost groups.

Hole 9 at the Treebash

Hole 9 at the Treebash

I can also envision events that have extra players for other reasons such as income or a TD’s inability to say no to late entries. I find that the improper use of ghost groups to be the biggest impediment to a smooth tournament round. Events start late as the TD hurriedly assemble last minute cards. There is no rhythm and there are frequent waits on holes with ghost groups. I’ve had rounds go over 5 hours because of ghost groups. Playing with ghost groups is no better than allowing 7 players on a card – which has happened to me in a PDGA event. This is a result of the explosion of disc golf and its grassroots nature that wants everyone to be able to play.

I agree. I want everyone to be able to play. But everyone can play. Everyone had the opportunity to register for the event and by taking extra registrations, we reduce the enjoyment had by all the players who did register on time. I recently played in the Truckee River Pro/Am and the TD arrived with cards completed and assigned to holes. It was a very professional event. There was a ghost group but it was not noticeable as it was done to help sort cards by division in a more logical manner that helped speed of player rather than causing longer waits.

Our events are filling up very fast lately. This trend could be used to our advantage. It is the law of supply and demand. If your events are constantly full, charge more to find a balance with the demand and use the funds to increase the value for those registering for the event. I’ve heard a lot of online chatter about how World’s didn’t pay out that well. It is a combination of no real big money sponsors and the trend in disc golf to keep everything as inexpensive as possible.

If we want bigger payouts it will only come with bigger investors, bigger expenses, bigger entry fees, and more time commitment. So make your tournament more expensive rather than over full. Have bigger payouts and nicer trophies. Provide nicer rounds, courses and lunches. Make it three days and have tee times. Tee times, no ghost groups, and more professional play – how could that not benefit disc golf?


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