Thank you for the great feedback on the How Many Rounds discussion. We are going to let it keep percolating (notice the link in the first sentence to help drive more people to the conversation :-) The discussion naturally flows to how many courses should a Pro Tour event be played on?Let’s run through it.
Again, we need to go to our goals.
Crown the best player
The simple answer would be that the greater the variety of shots that a tournament demands, the greater the odds that the best player will be crowned. This would lead us to the conclusion that having many courses is ideal. However, to get to the best player, we would also need to play each of these courses multiple times to get more accurate statistical modeling. Presuming a maximum of four rounds, this would limit us to two courses played twice.
This assumes that the two courses successfully balance the discing skills being tested in the right proportions. If we have two courses that are both full of long open holes, or tight wooded holes, or sweeping hyzer shots, then having a second course does nothing to help us find the best player that weekend. With a careful nod towards the selection of the courses and the skill sets they test, having two courses played twice could possibly test a range of skills better than one course played four times.
However, if only one course is played and it tests the desired range of skills appropriately, playing on one course four times would be better than splitting the competition among separate courses. There are other factors to be considered as well. What are the skills that are being tested? Distance, driving accuracy, throwing up and down elevation, S shots, curves left or right, putting on fast greens, mental stamina, the elements. There is a long list of possibilities and we have not come close, and perhaps nor should we, to defining precisely what it takes to be a champion.
One thing that I will love about the Pro Tour, no matter how many courses are used at each stop, is that there are many different styles of disc golf (woods, fields, elevation, weather, distance) and each venue will test a slightly different variety of these skills. In my opinion, only playing a course once brings in too great a level of statistical variance. Therefore, regarding how many courses it takes to determine the best player that weekend, I would lean toward one very good course, or two complimentary courses.
For the purposes of the number of spectators, there are three categories that we should consider. Remote spectators, who are watching live (or edited) video with statistics and live scoring, Onsite spectators, who are following a card or watching their favorite holes on the course, and Festival goers, who want to take in the atmosphere and revelry through the festival.
Remote spectators will probably not change much based on the course being played, although a course with some history or known excitement could draw in some extra eyeballs. Additionally, the media team will be able to do a better job preparing for fewer courses, improving the quality of the live broadcast. Also, over multiple days, there will be more in depth statistics on each hole to give spectators more depth of understanding (eg, “this is the second hardest hole on the course to birdie and he needs to make a move, the pressure is on for him to push and succeed.”) For remote spectators, the number of courses probably does not matter much, but a small tilt towards one course since the stats can be more in depth, especially if it has a name with some history.
Onsite spectators who are following a card would probably be just as happy to travel to any course in the area to watch our sport’s best compete. This presumes that both courses have food, bathrooms, good areas to watch from, and enough parking. However, setting up these amenities at multiple locations can cause some extra costs for the tournament organizers as well as communication issues to spectators about where to go on what days. For these two reasons, I would give the nod to one course when it comes to onsite spectators.
The final category of spectators for Pro Tour events will be festival goers. These are people who traditionally would not attend a disc golf tournament, but since there is a whole disc festival, complete with disc based carnival games, a couple MPH booths, face painting, a bouncy house, disc dying, a kids zone and more, they will come on by and check it out. While there, they may even wander over to hole one to see how good these players really are, or check out hole 18 while the lead cards finish up. Hopefully they will get the bug and get even more into the sport and play and watch more next year. For these folks, presuming the festival is not moving, one location is also the best solution.
Sustainability for players
This one is pretty straight forward and it mirrors the extra work needed to be done by the tournament organizers for multiple courses being used. Players need to review and be able to travel to every course used. If one course is used, prep time for players is cut down as well as travel time, since they will be able to stay close to one course as opposed to between two courses. While these may seem like minor issues – where to stay, time spent preparing for a course – for touring pros, this is critical. One course lets them spend extra time reviewing every slope and OB on a course finding their best lines -allowing them to put on an even better performance for those of us who are watching. When it comes to the number of courses to be used, the pros may be the strongest argument to limit the courses to one.
One course is best. Two works if they are both good, complimentary courses.
As Jonny V pointed out in a Smashboxx podcast recently, a City Parks B-Tier could easily be played on a bunch of courses in the city. It is a city championship. The Pro Tour events should be played on the best course in the area – yes, we will have another blog about what makes a course the best for our purposes, but we agree that the Pro Tour events should be on the singular best course in the area.
If the course is well designed it will crown the best player, it will maximize spectators since they know where to go everyday, will get more in depth stats and better coverage, and it will bring the festival goers and on course spectators to one venue everyday, minimizing the number of staff that is needed and getting everyone together in one place to make us feel like a great big discing community.
Stay tuned next week for what makes a course the best for the Pro Tour. You may be surprised how in-depth we get.
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