If There Was 1 Stat I Could Create For Disc Golf...

If There Was 1 Stat I Could Create For Disc Golf...

It would be gaps hit.

Ball Golf (yeah, I call it that sorry) has fairways hit and so does disc golf. But in disc golf we have to hit gaps on a regular basis that can be really tight and we have mandos to hit as well.

There’s a few things I want to say about this proposed statistic.
  1. Stats make me happy, but there’s no point in creating a new stat just so the person scoring on UDisc for a tour card has an extra swipe per player.
  2. I think it will eventually help the building of future courses and add a way to judge technicality.
  3. This isn’t the only stat I’d love to have. My first idea was far more impractical, proposing a statistic to measure the area of trees blocking a shot.
  4. There’s already a flaw in holes that have multiple gaps. Or tunnel shots, which are essentially a series of gaps.
  5. Would missing a gap and still getting the desired landing zone outcome matter?
All of these points and more answered in this week’s dive into the mind of Streeter.

Let’s start with my first point about not creating extra stats. This statistic could be applied to players as well as holes. So I like the versatility of it. I’d love to know that when Isaac Robinson is on hole 16 of Fox Run at worlds this year he’s been hitting the gap 63% of the time. This would create additional information needing to be entered, so I understand at this time it’s probably a lot of work to code that into an app.

I also like having “perfect” information. When I watch tournaments on YouTube I know the distance to the pin from wherever they are. It adds plenty to the drama when I know that someone has to hit a 415 foot shot. If I know the gap size they’re going to hit (or miss) I think it adds a lot to the viewers appreciation.

The second point about building future courses is important from a championship perspective. If you want to compare your course to other courses on tour but don’t want to travel to Maple Hill just to measure the distance between the trees on hole 1, this would be a great way to judge if you need to remove a tree or leave it.
Courses shouldn’t all be the same, and I like very tight gaps off the tee sometimes. But having a general understanding of pros abilities to hit 15 foot gaps at certain distances can help so we don’t get outrageously tight gaps or gaps that are essentially wide open.

“Why are trees?” I guess my third point about tree coverage would include rocks and all obstacles that inhibit the flight path of the disc. I would like to know the total airspace that you can throw through, or conversely the amount of trees, leaves, and rocks that are blocking a shot. Somewhere like Idlewild has an incredible hole 17. I’d like to know that 22% of the path is blocked due to trees.

But that would take some kind of echolocation technology to figure out. I’m not sure it exists, but if it does I imagine it would be too expensive for the Disc Golf Pro Tour to buy and use. So I’ll stick with measuring gaps and the distance to gaps.

My point about multiple gaps is on something like Hole 4 of the USDGC or TPWDGC this tunnel shot is something I wish I had measured when I was down there. Coverage has the hole at 299, the caddy book has it at 304.
Brian Earhart estimated an 8 foot gap at the tightest point. I did walk through the hole when I was there just to get a sense of how incredible these folks playing in the tournament are. It felt like 8-10 feet wide and a tunnel shot that I’d hit maybe 1 time out of 8 or 10 shots.

This gets to my point about initial gaps, and how if you count the trees there’s really 4 gaps you’re looking to hit on this hole. Would I measure the initial gap with the mando that’s 40 feet off the tree on the left side? That’s the widest point in the gap and it’s the closest.
Would we measure the last gap, when it’s the least important?
Because if you’re already down there and you leak left or right you could still be in C1 for a good shot.
That’s why this would take some refining, and while it’s quantitative (did you hit the gap or not) it’s also subjective to which gaps are important to hit.

That brings me to point five about does any of this matter if they hit the fairway/circle 1/ desired landing zone?

It probably doesn’t matter all that much. But then again, we care about what percentage of the time a person throws OB, how likely they are to make a C2 putt, and things other than the overall score. They add to the intrigue and help us as players identify what areas we’re struggling with.

So now let’s look at a few gaps at Sabattus.
I chose Hole 1 Falcon, Hole 9 Hawk, and Hole 12 Hawk.

Hole 1 of the Falcon course is a tunnel shot for 284 feet.
That’s right, we don’t start you out easy here. This is kind of what the course has to offer as a whole. Tight shots that force clean play for good scores.

There’s a few gaps you have to hit to get the ideal shot. But the one I want to look at is 196 feet off the tee and 14 feet wide. I outlined it in blue and sort of covered up the trees in the process, but you can get the idea.
I consider this to be the goal of the hole. If I can get my midrange through that gap I don’t mind being left or right of the pin.

Hole 9 of the Hawk

Hole 9 has a 13 foot gap at 281 feet. The hole itself is 551 feet, so it’s a little over halfway.

This is the hardest hole on any of our courses according to par. It’s a Maine par 5, true par 4, and it averages 5.11 according to UDisc. Since UDisc users tend to be more regular players, I’d bet that it averages even higher if you count everyone on the hole.
This is a gap I’d love to know the percentages of pros hitting. My only reference point is the 2016 USWDGC where no one hits it off the tee, but Zoey Andyke lines herself up perfectly for a second shot.

Hole 12 of the Hawk is a variable distance shot. This is a gap you set yourself up to hit after your teeshot.

I like that it looks like a house. This is a gap that’s 27 feet. I think the left side was 15 and the right side of the rock was 12 feet. There’s an arrow in the middle of the hole on a concrete pillar, that’s 356 feet away.
I find that I’m usually 245 feet away from the gap. It’s one that’s very satisfying to hit because missing guarantees you won’t make the putt. One thing I like about this gap that the others don’t have is that this is the only gap on the hole. The left side and the right side are pretty heavily covered in leaves and trees. You might be able to sneak through occasionally, but this is the gap you need to hit to get to the hole.

Now that I’ve covered the 5 main points and the 3 holes with tight gaps at Sabattus I’d like to look at an article on course design from John Houck. If you’re unfamiliar with John Houck, he’s widely regarded as the greatest course designer ever. According to his bio he has designed 24 courses used in PDGA World Championships, National Championships, DGPT and NT events. He’s been involved in the sport for a very long time, and you’ve probably seen one or more of his courses on YouTube.
I love anytime I get to hear him speak in a video or read any of his thoughts on courses. You can follow him on Twitter, I suggest it.

His article talks about a window that’s “3 feet square and 275 feet from the tee.” as an example of what’s unfair to even the top players. I’d like to see a way to talk about gaps where we kind of identify what’s fair for touring pros and for average players.

I think that creating a reasonable expected gap hit at certain distances would be a cool statistic to add. It could be something like 10 feet wide at 100 feet long, 15 feet wide at 200 feet long, and 20 feet wide at 300 feet long.

It would provide context for folks watching coverage, could help compare courses for folks when they’re deciding what to play, and I think also help with practicing hitting certain sized gaps.

When I work on a caddy book for our courses I will hope to add the size of gaps to the layout of the holes. And I hope that someday it becomes a standard thing to do so I can better increase my chances of scoring well on unfamiliar courses.
If I know that I hit a 15 foot gap at 225 on my home course regularly I could check a caddy book and see that I’m trying to hit a 12 foot gap at 240 and realize that it’s much tougher than I expected, so I could lay it up.

Would a gap size or gaps hit statistic be something that you care about? Or is it really superfluous and you don’t think it would help the sport all that much?
Let me know in the comments!

May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397