Note: This is part 15 in a series of posts which make up the chapters of a tongue-in-cheek look at the game of disc golf and why we love it so much. It is not actually intended to improve your game…unless it does…in which case we’re happy to take the credit.
Chapter 15 – Are You Ready for Tournament Play?
If you’ve been playing disc golf for a while and feel like your skills are finally lifting off the proverbial beginner’s plateau, then it’s time to do what you should have done from day one– start playing tournaments! You have to understand, disc golf is very different from a lot of sports out there. The disc golf community fully expects everybody, no matter your skill level, to play tournaments, and a lot of them. So what are you waiting for?
I began my disc golf journey in a geographical area where the sport was still on the distant fringe until two or three years had gone by. Then it picked up steam and suddenly there were tournaments every week or two, as long as the sun was out. OK, even if the sun wasn’t out, there were tournaments. I took longer than most players to step into tournament play. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not competitive by nature, which is another way of saying I’m very self-conscious about my abilities and don’t want my scores to be seen by anybody. But I found myself being criticized by fellow disc golfers for not slapping my money on the barrel and playing more tournaments. So, I caved-in and started to play in tournaments now and then.
Let’s back up a couple sentences to where I mentioned the word “money” because it is very important to let that sink in. Tournaments are not free, so all the pressure to start playing tournaments amounts to you spending more money. Disc golf is supposed to be inexpensive to get into, and almost always free to play, so why am I spending more and more money all of the time? I keep buying discs I don’t need. I keep buying bags to store them in. And now I’m supposed to spend money on tournaments. Well darn! But everybody’s doing it, so sure, I’ll get my feet wet.
Then after my first big tournament I realized why it was that almost every disc golfer I knew was pressuring me to jump into the fray. That money I paid to enter went into the pot for people who are much better than I am. Yes, they wanted me to play tournaments so I could help boost the payout– a payout in which they knew I would not partake. My next mission became clear. If I were to continue playing tournaments, then I would have to seek out much worse players than myself and convince them that they too should be playing tournaments.
“But I don’t feel ready. I just started playing yesterday.”
“Pish posh! You’re ready! Look at you! You’re a throwing machine!”
“But I average twenty over par on nine holes. Do you think I can compete?”
“Sure! That’s better than I was when I started playing tournaments. Just play in the rec division and you’ll be fine.”
“OK, I’ll give it a try…”
Oh yes, let’s talk about the divisions in tournaments, and how best to sandbag without looking like a sandbagger. After all, if you want some of that payout, then you’ve got to hit within the top few scores of your division. The most common entry-level division is “recreational” which is a fun term that roughly means “division for people who shouldn’t be playing tournaments yet, but welcome!” Then you can usually find intermediate and advanced divisions, which is where you go once your sandbagging skills in the recreational division have become far too apparent. Then there is the “Open” division which is where the pros, or people who think they are pros play for the big dollars. Oh, and I can’t forget my favorite division, which is “masters” because it sounds like anybody in that division is a master disc golfer, when really it just means “old guys.” When I finally qualified to play in the masters division it was a huge break-through because I suddenly had a built-in excuse for my lack of skills. I can always fall back onto excuses of muscles aching and other body parts falling into disrepair because I’m old. When I play well in masters, I look like I’m a really cool old guy. When I play poorly, it doesn’t matter, because I’m an old guy, so give me some respect you cocky, young, millennial, disc golf hero! Oh yeah, and there are women’s divisions and youth divisions too. In my area, that means my 13-year-old daughter can join any tournament and walk way with a prize.
Back to sandbagging. This is a term which, according to UrbanDictionary.com means: “When a player in any game chooses (on purpose) to not play their best. Normally this is because they are too superior, they want to hustle you, or they are too lazy to play their best with nothing on the line.”
When applied to disc golf tournaments, a sandbagger is somebody who signs up to play in a lower division than where they are qualified, usually because they would rather win and take the prize money than actually have to compete with better players. In their minds, it makes them look superior to always win, rather than falling in the middle of the pack. But if that is your aim, you need to be careful and spread those efforts around to different tournaments in different locations, because eventually people will catch on to you, and your name will spoken with great disdain. So, if this is your method, then take measures to lose from time to time, and keep dragging it out until you can finally move from the recreational division up to intermediate, when you should be playing in advanced, and so on. Only move up when you are certain that you can continue destroying the competition in whatever division you move to. Sandbagger…
Now, lets talk about players packs. These are fun incentive packages given to you just for participating, but basically function as lures to get you to sign up for tournaments.
“How much did you pay to play that big tournament?”
“It was $100.”
“Really? Wow! That is expensive!”
“But I got this really cool players pack with two discs, a glorified dish towel and a bumper sticker. It’s so cool!”
But honestly, there are some really sweet players packs out there, especially for the huge, national tournaments. A lot of the bigger disc golf manufacturers see these big tournaments as a great way to put their newest products into the hands of hundreds of the most enthusiastic players. So, you can sometimes score a player pack that is worth more than what you paid to get into the tournament. You already walk away a winner, though you still have to abase yourself for a few rounds with all of those really good players who actually came to compete. Worth it!
What I’ve come to understand after a few years and a few tournaments (only one in which I ever won anything) is that tournament play isn’t really about the tournament. It isn’t about competing, or winning, or proving who is best. At least not for me. It’s mostly about spending some time with other disc golfers in an atmosphere that stands out from most competitive sports in the world. It’s simply a place where like-minded folks who have fallen in love with disc golf get together, hang out, play their game, make new friends, and basically call it a “tournament” because that makes it sound more official and upper-crust than what it really is– a huge disc golf party.
Chapter 1 – Why Do We Play?
Chapter 2 – Be the Basket / Be the Disc
Chapter 3 – It’s Always the Disc’s Fault
Chapter 4 – Achieving True Disc Lust
Chapter 5 – The Need for Companionship
Chapter 6 – Rules of Communication
Chapter 7 – Keeping Score
Chapter 8 – Disc Golf and Sports Injuries
Chapter 9 – Disc Prejudice and Brand Elitism
Chapter 10 – Golf with Frisbees
Chapter 11 – Properly Marking Your Disc
Chapter 12 – Crash Course Course Design
Chapter 13– Maintaining Relationships Outside of Disc Golf
Chapter 14 – How to Carry Your Plastic
Chapter 15 – Are You Ready for Tournament Play?
Chapter 16 – Pros are People Too
Chapter 17 – Loving the Hazards
Chapter 18 – Coping With Loss