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.
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.