A new strategy

This past weekend I had the pleasure to play in the first Queen’s Cup at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. We got to play on a modified version of the 2016 PDGA/WFDF Team Worlds Disc Golf Championship course that extends into the Queen Elizabeth Park arboretum. The course was an unusual design with six par three holes of between 363 feet and 450 feet on wooded and slightly hilly terrain. While I pride myself on a big arm (particularly at the masters/grandmasters level), getting into the putting circle on a 400 foot wooded hole is a big ask for me. In discussion with other players during the practice round, the conversation revolved around would par be enough? Would the winning score be under or over course par?

The day of the tournament dawned dark and rainy. An incredible 100- 150mm of rain was forecast for the day (seriously folks that’s up to 15 centimetres or six inches of water falling over the course of the day!). The first round I ran my normal game plan–throw hard, throw long, and hit your upshots. In all honesty, it wasn’t the best round I’ve thrown, but it felt solid. One birdie, two bogies, and one double bogey on a bad bounce OB had me in at three over par, which turned out to be third place in Masters and two back of the lead.

Going in to round two, I revised my game plan. Knowing that one over par held the lead, I resolved to play for easy pars in round two. What that meant was shorter more controlled drives designed to set up an easy layup for a par. If I accidentally got close enough for a birdie putt, great, but this was going to be boring disc golf at its best. And at the end of the day, that’s what it was. I missed a short birdie putt on the first hole of the round, and got a late bogey on a blind tree hit and a later birdie on a 312 foot relatively open anhyzer S backhand (thank you Pekapeka!), but other than that it was par golf–and it turned out par golf was all I needed for the win.

I learned a couple of things this tournament. First, I actually can play conservative golf and I am solid on 100-150 foot layups (which I still think is a weakness in my game). My Tui (also my putter) was absolute money on the short upshots–be they hyzer, anhyzer or straight on. Second, being prepared for the rain makes a huge difference. I had a complete change of clothes (shoes and waterproof anorak included) at the lunch break, as well as a cart (Rovic carts are awesome in the rain) with an umbrella holder and a dozen towels to keep things dry(ish) throughout. I also throw wearing a Friction disc golf glove and had zero slip-outs all day long. In truth, I hate rain golf, and it was nice to have a couple of rounds that seemed to play out well in the wet.

A few final thoughts–this time on course design. Across those six par-three holes there were only three birdies from 27 open and advanced players, and those three birdies came on the shortest of the six holes (363 feet). 375-450 foot holes are boring golf. They offer very few players realistic scoring options and result in smart players playing to avoid a bogey, rather than playing to score. A few feet longer can make them a viable par 4, a few feet shorter can make them scoring birdie holes. That said, I’ll cut the designers a bit of slack as those holes had their fair share of bogies and worse, so one might argue that they were really par fours mislabeled. That said, I’d urge course designers to exercise caution when considering the use 400+/- foot holes on their courses.

All in all, it was a fun, if soggy Sunday that proved that even an old dog can learn new tricks!