Opinion: Hey, bagger! Move up! Or not…

By P.J. Harmer — RattlingChains.com Staff

I’ve noticed a trend recently in disc golf — the cry for sandbaggers to get out of the way of others.

But what’s a sandbagger?

Not too long ago, there was an entertaining discussion in my area about whether or not somebody was bagging because they wouldn’t move up.

The argument was based on the fact that a person won at Am 2 last year by 10 strokes. He was returning to play Am 2 this year.

So, people hollered for this player to move up. (Side note — the person did eventually move up).

According to Urban Dictionary, a sandbagger is:

A person who pads a handicap or acts as if he/she is at a lower skill level than he/she actually is so he/she can achieve better during competition that’s handicapped or by skill level.

In traditional golf, sandbagging has been done for years. I’ve played in tournaments where you know a person is way better than their handicap. However, with ball golf being more widespread, people can find ways of padding that handicap.

In disc golf, though possible, it seems a little less likely to me. There’s more of a reason for the screaming of “bagging,” in my eyes.

It’s players moving up and all around.

And, yes, it’s ego.

The PDGA has a rating system. Though it might not be perfect, the system in place is made to set up where people should be playing in PDGA-sanctioned tournaments.

Now, can you be a bagger with the ratings in place? Absolutely. Maybe you haven’t played in a PDGA tournament before. If you don’t have a rating, you might not have an idea where you should play. So if you win the rec division by some 30 strokes, you’ll hear the bagger cries. But that’s not necessarily a situation that was done on purpose.

This goes beyond that.

I’m just shy of a 700 rating. Basically, that means as far as ratings go, I’m on the extremely low spectrum. That puts me in the Am 4 (novice) division.

Here’s a problem — the majority of tournaments in my area don’t offer Am 4. Therefore, I have to move up to Am 3 (rec).

By PDGA ratings, novice is somebody who lays at a rating less than 850. Rec is less than 900.

So my back is already against the wall in a novice division if people are playing at the level they are supposed to play.

The other two am divisions (for men) is Am 1 (advanced), where the rating is 935 or higher; and Am 2 (intermediate), where the rating is less than 935.

The women’s divisions are slightly different. Advanced is is 800 and above; intermediate is less than 800; and rec is less than 750. I’ve talked with a lot of women golfers, though, and I haven’t heard the “sandbagger” talk from them too often. Maybe the men can take note of this.

Remember, too, that there are many other divisions based on age that breaks these things up. And pros are a different animal as well.

Now, whether you agree with how the ratings are set up or titled is for another argument. The reality is this is how it’s set up, so that’s the bar you need to go with.

So, with this all in mind, here’s what often happens — people move up. An 850 player might be playing Am 3 or, sometimes, Am 2. When people move up, often it is going to be a situation where people will win by larger margins over certain players.

I’ve also noticed that the “sandbagger” catcalls often come from the people who have moved up to another division.

Hey, if you want to move up, more power to you. But that doesn’t give you the right to start calling somebody a sandbagger — especially if they are playing in the division their rating shows they should be in.

The system isn’t perfect. And I realize there are people who stay in a division when they have the talent to go up. But, if the rating speaks, it’s not bagging.

Is this person purposely trying to keep his or her rating lower to stay in the division? I’m sure it happens, but is it really something that happens that often in disc golf? People will always find a way to get ahead in a game, but having a community of disc golfers call people out in public, on message boards and anywhere else is bad for the game.

And, well, it’s childish.

I’m in firm agreement that things could be tightened up with the game, ratings and the such. How about a rule addition that allows a tournament director to move somebody up a division if they won the tournament at the same division the year before?

Or, play your rating. Stop worrying about the names of the divisions and play where you are supposed to. If all am divisions are offered, maybe these divisions will start to play the way they were slated to be played.

The numbers and divisions are set up for a reason. If we, as disc golfers, follow these ratings a bit better, sandbagging might become less and less of something to worry about.

The reality is, sandbagging will always happen. There are players who are not PDGA members who can play at a higher level. There are PDGA members who don’t play many tournaments. But, if we play our ratings, the likelihood of bagging at least shrinks a bit, and that’s about the best we can do. And, truthfully, if there’s anything decent to win, people are always going to find ways to bag as well.

Could changes be made? Certainly. Both at the top level and at the tournament level.

Until changes happen, do what you can. Play your division and know you are doing it right. And, well, zipping the mouth could also be a good thing because in the end, it makes people look silly. And that’s something this game doesn’t need if it’s going to continue to grow in a positive manner.

P.J. Harmer is the lead blogger for Rattling Chains. E-mail him at: pj [at] rattlingchains.com.


0 thoughts on “Opinion: Hey, bagger! Move up! Or not…

  1. Best way to get rid of sand bagging is a trophy system for the lower divisions with cooler players packs and leave the highest am division (advanced) with payouts and smaller player packs.


  2. I have been playing tourneys since the late 90’s and calling winners of a division sandbaggers is all part of the fun. If it really hurts your feelings then maybe you shouldnt play tourneys. It’s all part of the fun. If you are winning your division consistently then move up (unless your already in Open div.)


  3. I agree with Will. I have seen sandbagging since, forever. I have seen baggers pressured into moving up. Trophies would be better than giving the winner a box full of new plastic. These only get turned into cash at the sale the Bagger has after the tournament. I have seen it many many times. If cash is what they want, Then the option is to move up to a cash payout catagory. If they do not want to move up….They will have payed for a nice trophy collection and the cash can go to those who play for it. My Opinion. “Rock The Chains”…


  4. To me there seems to be people just in it for the prizes which is insanly sad. My first tourny ever as a pdga member I was put in rec. I told the td that sure I didnt have a rating but im an advanced player. He doubted me but put me in. I finished 3rd had a decent round. If I was rec. I would have finshed 1st. In my mind id rather compete with guys on my level then just win prizes pretty much knowing you cheated. Discgolf is about being the best player you can be in your divison not winning prizes. Never forget to have fun


  5. I don’t see anything wrong with the bagger catcalls, its just a little ball breaking all in good fun. Most people in our area are all playing up a division anyway (based on the PDGA rating/division categories) so ratings don’t mean a whole lot. From what I’ve seen people who are truly “sandbagging” a division are few and far between and it’s not really a big problem.


  6. I am a career AM2 player. My current rating is around 825. The last tourney I finished 11th (My first ever finish in the prizes) and had to beat a lot of players that had higher ratings.

    Sandbaggers are just a part of the sport until the TD’s enforce the divisions. One of my first tournaments since playing again I didn’t have a rating so I entered the Rec division. The guy who won that division claimed that since he hasn’t played in a year he was a Rec player. He won with a total -3 that would have placed 2nd in AM2 and 10th in AM1.

    I thought that was a little sand baggerish. A Rec player should never finish under par.

    But if the rules say that a player with a low rating can play in the lower divisions then it’s ok. I know a 15-year-old kid that is dominating the local AM1 events and could probably move up but he doesn’t have the experience now. Besides he is staying AM so he can compete against other players his age at the World’s next month.

    I also believe that if a player has honestly hit his skills ceiling at say a 950 rating why shouldn’t he be allowed to stay in AM1 and be the best AM1 player he can.

    Players that sandbag are deep down dishonest. The sad part is some of these players take pride in winning like this.


  7. Thanks for the Sandbagging post… Just the other day I went to a brand new course in town, I was solo, it was crowded, so I joined a group of guys that I caught up with during my round. We got to talking, I told them I was a new player (I’ve only played 23x). I was having a solid day and some of the guys joking called me a sandbagger, I noticed they did this when I was doing well, so I assumed it was a friendly taunt and laughed it off. These guys were FAR better than me and at the end of 18 their scores proved that. I left that day without asking them what a sandbagger was, so this post is timely for me. Thanks.


  8. I am a former “pro” dg’er who took the amnesty option a few years back to return to am. I did this when I was in my upper 50’s, because I wasn’t having much fun playing with the pros. I turned pro after I won the Triple Crown advanced div in FL in the early 2000’s. I was able to cash in a couple of tour events, but there seemed to be too much pressure to perform well, which I didn’t handle well. As I turned 60 I debated turning pro again, but decided that it would be more fun to stay in the am division. For me that’s what it’s all about. I am playing well, playing in my first World’s next month, and hope to meet my peers from around the country and develop new friendships. As for the plastic, one wins in tournaments? How cool was it yesterday, when I was cleaning my attic and found a box with some plastic in it. Christmas in June!! Anyway, the bagger cat calls are for the most part in fun, and what I tell my buds in my division is that they can practice as much as I do and come and knock me down a rung. So even though I’m not as competitive as I used to be, playing am allows me to be competive and have fun. I still enjoy making pressure throws in tight spots, sinkin the 45 footer for par with a 1 stroke lead, etc. Go with your heart and have fun!


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