Forcing Decisions - USDGC and Beyond!!!

Disc golf is a highly strategic sport, and decision-making is an essential part of the game. From things like disc and shot selection, understanding wind, balancing risk vs reward, and staying mentally focused, making the right decisions on the course is crucial and can greatly affect your overall performance and score. Today I want to talk about how this style of play can be seen in great course design by looking at the most recent PDGA Major, the United States Disc Golf Championship.

The USDGC, or United States Disc Golf Championship, is one of the most prestigious and well-known disc golf tournaments in the United States. Held annually in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the Winthrop Gold Course is known for being incredibly challenging. Combining unique hole designs, water, mandatories, and carefully placed OB/Hazards, this course always proves challenging to the best in the world. This could be seen very evidently in the event this past weekend.

While the field continues to grow more and more competitive, narrowing the gap between the best in the world and those outside of the top of the leaderboard in the most recent few seasons. Something truly special happened this weekend in the MPO field. According to StatMando, for the first time in USDGC history, the final round lead card held 0 combined MPO major titles. Not only that, but the chase card also held 0 combined MPO major titles. That can’t just be the growing level of competition in the field, right? What else could cause that? How about the course?

Winthrop Gold is known for severely shaking up the field keeping some of the “usual suspects” on their heels and allowing lesser-known players to rise to the top. How does it do this? One prevailing theory is that USDGC is the best example on the tour of a course that forces key decision-making skills during the round. On a lot of courses, the line in front of you is the line to play. Those who execute that line the best are the ones who succeed the most. However, that’s not the truest statement when applied to Winthrop Gold.

While there are still some holes that are straightforward, a lot of the holes at the USDGC provide players with opportunities to play hyper-aggressively, aggressively, or conservatively. A great example of this can be seen on hole XX, where players have the option of going big onto a small green for a look at an eagle.

When asked about how that hole played into his strategy, Calvin Heimburg (the top-ranked player in tour standings) said that he would likely go for the Eagle if he was having a killer round or a terrible round. However, if he was sitting around 3 or 4 under at the time, he would be more inclined to play it safe for birdie. If the top player in the world is being forced to decide, you know it’s a well-thought-out hole.

The cool part is there were a ton of holes at USDGC like that. What is even better is that this type of design is starting to find its way to the amateur-side of disc golf. I know that locally, there were at least 5 different events that mirrored the USDGC spirit by implementing challenging OB/Hazards and mandatories, forcing amateur players to make decisions on the course at almost every hole.

Personally, I love this. I think that bringing course maintenance into the minds of players during a competitive event is a big win for the sport. It forces everyone to play more strategically and not simply rely on throwing far or being the best at one type of shot or line. Plus, it helps create more score diversity and keeps things more interesting. The key is understanding how much to implement. Too much manipulation of the course can have very negative effects.

As the sport continues to grow and players continue to improve, I think we are going to see more and more events like the USDGC on both the professional and amateur levels. I will welcome this change with open arms. What about you? What do you think? Do you like course designs that force you to manage your strategy and make decisions? Let me know in the comments!


- Gary Daddario III -

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