shorter-tees 21

Where are the Women’s Tees?

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.

450 vs 350

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′.

  • Long Par 4s – 800′
  • Short Par 4s – 650′
  • Long Par 3s – 450′
  • Short Par 3s – 350′

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.

Courses in Depth
  • Long Par 4s: Big distance twice (4/course)
  • Short Par 4s: Big distance once, controlled distance once (5/course)
  • Long Par 3s: Big distance once (5/course)
  • Short Par 3s: Controlled distance once (4/course)

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:

  • Big Distance: 18 shots
  • Controlled Distance: 9 shots
  • Putt and Approach: 36 shots

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.

  • Long Par 4s: Big distance twice, controlled distance once (4/course)
  • Short Par 4s: Big distance twice (5/course)
  • Long Par 3s: Big distance once, simple upshot once (5/course)
  • Short Par 3s: Big distance once (4/course)

Counting up the shot types being tested results in:

  • Big Distance: 27 shots
  • Controlled Distance: 4 shots
  • Simple Upshots: 5 shots
  • Putt and Approach: 36 shots

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.

Women’s Disc Golf Growth being stunted?

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.

Specific Examples

DGWT_LaMirada_TeeSigns
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.

21 Comments

  • Grant Zellner

    May 16, 2017 at 11:40 am

    This same mentality needs to be extended to those playing at the lower, amateur levels – e.g. anything under “intermediate,” and also to senior players, in addition to women’s divisions. But, this will all only work if those of us that are more advanced men encourage the right attitude toward shorter pins and ensure they are not labeled a “belittling” element. They are a strategic element, similar to handicapping, that allow for greater competition and more enjoyment.

    • May 16, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      We entirely agree and, as we are the DGPT, are primarily focused on the pro men and women. Your comments ring true though.

  • Kathryn Meyer

    May 16, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    I love this idea for junior golfers. We aim to grow the sport yet at many tournaments my junior 5 girl has to throw from the tees. The play is slow and there are many complaints over it but how can you expect an 8 year old little girl to throw 400+’ holes anywhere close to par.

    Her first tournament she threw a 178 & 165 (age 7) and we were proud of her for finishing but that’s way more throws than her little arm needed in one day. Last weekend she participated in a tournament that had junior pads. Yes, the girls still all threw bogie/double bogie golf but they had fun and her total for the 2 rounds was 162, half of last year at the same event. The shorter tee pads made the game so much more enjoyable for them and they left talking about next year and that’s what we want, to keep them coming back.

    • May 17, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      Agreed! I look forward to seeing them on the course for years to come!

  • Tim Lucas

    May 16, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    To add to this, I believe the par system could be modified to have par by skill level. At our local course we have a fairly wide open 1000′ hole slightly down hill Par 5 with a lake near the basket. Local pros can 3 it fairly consistently, where novice players take a 6 on a good day. I’d like to see what I’ve nicknamed the PAIN Par system (Pro/Advanced, Intermediate, Novice) with 3 different pars on a hole. This would help players realize where they’re at and see how they’re getting better. I think this might also help get people into playing tournaments as the “I’m not good enough” thought is kind of thwarted because they know that they consistently play slightly under par at the Intermediate level and should do well playing Intermediate at the next tournament.
    This wouldn’t help with throwing a lot of extra throws compared to others, but would help with the mental game when that Novice person goes from a +30 round with the current system to maybe a +7 with my system. Much less intimidating.

  • Nick Blakehill

    May 17, 2017 at 2:55 am

    Well said Steve, a superb article. The Women’s game probably is suffering for this reason and I fully agree that to help it grow things will need to change. It always annoys me when I read comments about how “boring” watching the FPO coverage is but when FPO and MPO are playing the same holes almost every single time, it’s hardly surprising all you’re going to see is drive, drive, putt, putt on almost every hole.
    The truly funny thing for me is that if you think about it, the women’s game is actually more representative of how the game should be in terms of final scores. I completely agree that par is irrelevant but seeing rounds of 15 under is IMO not good for the very top events.
    Thanks again Steve.

  • Frank

    May 17, 2017 at 5:15 am

    So we need extra tees for women, for amateurs, for juniors and for the older players? What do we do with the par 4s, where the second shot needs be very long to reach the par? And obviously many holes simply don´t work any more if you simply shorten the first throw, so we have to change them for those non-MPO players too? Me and my wife are in the game for 30 years. We never met players (of any division) who liked to play from the “chicken tee”. Never! Only if a throw has to be over app. 80m to be able to finish a hole (e.g. over water) there would be a option to go for the safe way (by adding one penalty stroke obviously). As soon as there is one shorter tee out there for one of the divisions, the skills of those player get´s devalued completely. Who would talk about Paige sensational rounds if she would´ve played them on a course with shorter tees? Nobody! A majority would say, yeah she´s good, but from the shorter tees, I bet I could play a similar score. There is much to do to bring more women into the game, shorter tees are one of the worst ideas.

    • May 17, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      Hi Frank, thank you for your passion. I will try to clarify a couple points. First, the Pro Tour is for the Pro Open and Pro Women divisions only. Amateurs, juniors, age protected and the like are not part of what we are proposing, but yes, the course should be designed for the people playing it.

      Regarding par 4s where the second shot is the big distance shot, if we are going to design the hole for women, then perhaps we move the pin instead of the tee, or perhaps we move both. You are correct that some holes will be more difficult to adjust, but that does not discount the fact that the holes (at a premier event) were designed for the distances that men throw, leaving women to play on a course which is poorly designed for their abilities.

      Regarding holes that “don’t work” if the tee is moved up, move the pin or get creative. On an 18 hole course, my guess is that, on average, there are fewer than three holes where a solution is not workable.

      30 years in! You started the same year as me, we’ve come a long way! Regarding “never meeting players who like to play for the ‘chicken tee'”, you are not looking and/or are not asking the right question. Clearly FA3 should not be playing Maple Hill Golds. That would be a horrible experience for them and presuming there were any other divisions, they would cause horrible backups. They would much rather play a course designed for their skill set, just like everyone.

      It is one thing to say, “I want to challenge myself, I’m playing the Golds.” It is another to say, at Maple Hill for example, “None of the other courses, the beginner Red, the am/adv Whites, nor the 1000 rated Blues, are worthy of me – or anyone else. Why did they even build them?”

      Clearly, as evidenced at the four configuration Maple Hill (my home course), most players prefer to play the Red course. This proves that your idea of avoiding the “chicken tee” is incorrect.

      For the past six years, the women’s division has played different tees. In 2011, it was just hole 1, which went over well. It has since expanded to five different tees last year and probably nine this year. The women appreciate the fact that the course they play is designed for them. Their skills are not only not devalued, they are respected and challenged appropriately.

      Paige’s rounds, much like Cat’s and Val’s and Sarah’s, are indeed talked about with much gusto. Their final round battle last year was one for the ages.

      Regarding the “I bet I could play a similar score” comment, anyone rated around 960 could put up a similar score, although if they were playing the likes of our sport’s best women, they may be intimidated enough to gack a few putts and end up losing a head to head match. :-)

      If you would like, I’ll be happy to continue the conversation. We are clearly miles apart so far.

      • Frank

        May 19, 2017 at 10:17 am

        Hi Steve, indeed we are miles apart :-). First of all you´re right, you started a discussion concerning FPO and MPO. But to me this holds true for all Pro Divisions. We should never forget that everybody is free to play pro and if he thinks he or she can´t handle it there are a vast amount of additional divisions to choose (way to many for me, but this could be another interesting discussion). I´m fine and totally support the idea to present the women (and for the last time – all other age protected divisions) in a way that give´s them all the support they need to have a fair competition and that enables them to show their best game. So, special Women Tournaments? Yes, the more the better. Special Women Course design? The same. But as long as Women and Men play the same course special tees aren´t the way to go. We (and especially the women) have to find a way to present womens DG in a way that people can recognize the greatness and the abilities of those female athletes. They will never be able to throw distances like Simon or Eagle. But making that “deficit” visible and putting a focus on this lack of comparability on every hole by forcing them to play from a shorter tee can´t be the right way. So we need more events for women on courses made for women (on all holes and all throws, not only on the tee shots). BTW would also be happy to continue conversations about such topics with you. I follow “your way” for quite a long time and think your´re on of the great thinkers in our game. Over here there are also some people who are thinking about the future of our sport and love to discuss ideas and concepts. Best wishes Frank

  • Aaron

    May 17, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    It’s the difference between equality and equity. Equality would be everyone playing from the same tee to the same pin regardless of rank, age, division, sex, or time of year. Equity would be having tee’s or pin’s that allow for the same possible scoring spread in an individual division, where the MPO might have a select group of players go -10 but most go -5, and the FPO field would have a group that goes -10 and most go -5.

    • May 17, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      This would be a valid final goal. If the courses are testing analogous skills sets, the scores should be the same or similar.

    • Frank

      May 26, 2017 at 3:01 am

      And why stop at DG, what´s about track and field? How about changing the 100m dash of the women to 87m. This would allow for more equity, men and women would so be able to run comparable times around 9,7sec.

  • Eric

    May 17, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    Hi Steve,
    You’ve got the stats to back this up-thank you UDiscs. It makes sense to me especially if as a course designer you are looking to challenge the woman like you’re challenging the men. This is why there is a Pro tour! Keep listening to the players and evolve. There is a better way and you are on the right path.

  • May 17, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you Eric!

  • Kevin

    May 18, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Ball golf has a long history of women’s tees. Female ball golfers are not considered lesser players because they shoot from shorter tees. Not sure why disc golf would be different. We should learn from what has been proven with time. Ball golf grew for women, and for developing amateur players as well, at least in part due to shorter tees. A concept proven with time, a lot of time, is always something to seriously consider rather than change.

    • May 18, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      Thank you Kevin. The tough part is that the sport and the great people in it have used one tee for decades and change is tough. While ball golf figured it out already, we need a culture shift to figure it out for our golf.

  • Andrew Rivers

    May 23, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Wouldn’t a more accurate subheader be:

    “Is it time for different tees?” rather than “Is it time for shorter tees?”

    The tee chosen should increase skill-based scoring separation and will likely include a mixture of shorter and longer tees depending on the hole under consideration and the mixture of other shots required for the rest of the course.

    Consider that the open men are frequently assigned to “long” tees that have little to no scoring separation. The tees should be moved, but could be moved shorter (with a reduction in average strokes) or moved further back (with an increase in average strokes).

    Scoring separation is where it’s at. Length is a poor proxy.

    • Andrew Rivers

      May 23, 2017 at 7:42 pm

      I should also add, nice piece! It is exciting that these questions are being systematically addressed :)

  • Kyle

    May 30, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    I’d recommend not using Hole 3 at La Mirada Golden State layout for your example… it’s a pure roller hole… not a good example for a distance conversation

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