Disc golf needs women’s tees, on every hole. If we want to test the women in the same way that we test the men, then women should play shorter holes than men.
Touring men, on average, can throw about 450′.
Some can throw farther, some shorter, but in general, this is about right. Now, let’s think about the distances on a disc golf course. There are basically four primary distances, +/- 50′.
These distances test different things. For the Par 3s, 350′ is testing controlled distance. 450′ is testing big distance and accuracy. These holes test different things and this is good.
Touring women, on average, can throw about 350′. To test controlled distance and big distance with accuracy, women’s Par 3s would be 275′ and 350′ respectively.
As Josh Lichti pointed out in Unreachable Greens, the women’s game is different than the men’s game, especially when holes are the same length. However, his point is deeper than it first seems. The women’s game is different because they play on men’s courses. For the men, 350′ and 475′ are testing different skills. For the women, 350′ and 450′ are testing the same skill, namely distance.
Note: Please understand that this is simplified for the sake of this argument. Not all short par 3s are going to test the same shot. Some will require a right to left, left to right, straight thru the thin gap, and/or have headwinds or tailwinds. There are many ways to challenge the players, but in general, a short par 3 is testing controlled distance, no matter how the disc goes that distance.
Counting up the number of shots being tested:
Note: Players taking less than two putts per hole is why our top players are consistently under par. See Par vs What We Should Expect.
Using the same hole distances, let’s look at the women’s game in depth.
Counting up the shot types being tested results in:
The women’s game is distance centric. Big drives are 85% of their drives, compared to 66% for the men. Controlled drives by women (4) are done half as much as men (9). To succeed as a woman on tour, big distance is critical. This may be making the top levels of disc golf unattainable by many women, inadvertently stunting the growth of the women’s side of the game.
In order to create a sport for women that is similar to what men currently enjoy, our sport needs to develop women’s tee pads, for every hole. Basically, women throw about 75% of the distance of men. A 400′ hole for men should be 300′ for women. An 800′ hole for men should be 600′ for women. This is a big shift in the thinking of course design and I understand that it will cause some people to react negatively initially. If this happens to you please let it sit for a day and then reread this piece. If you still have a negative reaction, please share your thoughts.
The lack of women’s tees may not only be testing different skills in tournaments, it may also be holding back the women’s game. When we introduce women to the game, they step up to the same tees as the men and everyone says, “throw it. good luck.” We have the best of intentions, but we are setting them up for failure. Presuming women throw 75% as far as men, their game is significantly different and has a much smaller chance of being fun.
Imagine if, as an amateur man that can throw 300′, when you first started playing, every hole was 400′. Ugh. That would not be fun. And it would be hard to imagine how much work it would take until it became fun. We need to create women’s tees – for all levels of women – and let them play the game that we men have been enjoying for decades.
Lastly, a huge shout out to the women that are currently playing disc golf. You are a testament to how much fun this sport can be, no matter how difficult it is. Hopefully we can grow even more women’s leagues and tournaments (which is a great way to bring women into the game) by setting the new women up for success with women’s tees.
Note: We are choosing to utilize holes from the DGWT’s La Mirada Open as this course was designed solely for the Open field. Choosing holes from a course on which women play could be seen as an attack on a particular course. This article is not an attack on any one course, it is a constructive criticism of virtually every championship level course.
Starting with Hole 8 at the La Mirada Open, at 400′ this hole falls in our Long Par 3s category. Additionally, it is surrounded by OB and punishes aggressive, uncontrolled drives. This is a very well designed hole for the men. If you want the birdie, a good percentage can reach the pin, but if they go for it, poor accuracy will result in an OB/penalty stroke.
For the women however, this hole would be a poor design. First, this hole is designed to be a getable birdie and very few women can even reach the hole. Second, if the women did try to reach the hole, they would be throwing with full power and on a full power drive, surrounding the hole with OB is overly punitive. Almost all women would end up throwing a 250 foot drive followed by a 150 foot upshot, both of which are easy to execute and relatively boring to watch.
If we move the tee up 100′ so that it is a 300′ hole, then a good percentage of women can reach the hole and it becomes a great risk and reward challenge.
Similarly with Hole 3
For men, this is a fairly long Par 4, but definitely a getable birdie with a good drive and fairway drive. The OB is placed well to make overly aggressive play dangerous. It is a very well designed hole to challenge their drives, which need to be big distance without losing accuracy and then also challenge the fairway drive to the pin.
However, the women have no reason to challenge themselves. Two max distance perfect drives would put them 50 feet out while bringing an amazing amount of danger into play. The women would end up throwing 300′, then 250′, then 200′ to secure their four. This is not the goal of the hole design. To get a similar design for the women, the tee would be moved up 150-200 feet. This would give the women a reason to be aggressive on their drive, trying to throw the disc as far down the fairway as they can while also trying to be tight to the left OB line so they have a good look into the green.