When I attended my first disc golf tournament, I had no idea what was going on and I definitely didn’t know anything about what a tournament director (TD) did. After a frustrating experience, I decided to find out.
What does a tournament director do in disc golf? In short, a disc golf tournament director is responsible for planning, sanctioning, and running PDGA events. In other words, they have a full plate on before after and during tournament day.
For that first tournament I attended, I went to the designated area for the player’s meeting at 8:45 am and stood there for 30 minutes surrounded by a group of confused and eager players. Eager to hit the course and confused about when the player’s meeting was actually going to start. Eventually a man approached with a clipboard and oversize hat, and I heard a nearby competitor lean over to his friend to declare that the TD was finally coming.
I didn’t have any reference points from previous tournaments of what to expect, but as the day progressed I felt like I signed up for an event that was not being run well. No one was sure which baskets we were throwing to, there were 8 people assigned to each hole, and no one could figure out where to turn in their scorecards. It wasn’t a great experience and I was hesitant to sign up for another tournament after that.
It was clear that the TD was responsible for keeping the tournaments running smoothly, and it wasn’t going well. When I got home that night I started reading everything I could find how to become a TD and what a TD was responsible for doing.
How to Become a TD
The Tournament Director is mentioned 60 times in the official PDGA rules! They are by far the busiest person on tournament day. The most important thing I learned about the TD is that their rulings are final. They essentially have the final word on everything that happens on the course, regardless of whether people disagree with their decisions. That’s a lot of power. But in my experience and observations, TDs are great ambassadors for the sport of disc golf.
Before a person can become a TD they need to be a PDGA member and pass a 25 question exam on the official rules and competition manual. The test is open book and one will receive the designation of a Certified Official once completed. Once a person is a Certified Official and active PDGA member in good standing, they can start putting on tournaments. Its as easy as that. However, putting on a successful tournament is the tricky part.
How to Plan, Sanction & Run PDGA Tournaments
Once someone becomes a Certified Official of the PDGA, they can begin planning their first event. This is going to be the most important responsibility of a TD as the planning phase sets the tone for an entire tournament. The PDGA has provided a guides for how TDs can plan events, which is mostly full of good sense advice. Although there are a few critical decisions that the TD needs to make in the planning phase:
- What type of event will this be? (Major, National Tour, A-Tier, B-Teri, C-Tier, X-Tier, League)
- Determine the Divisions that will be allowed (Amateur Divisions, Pro Divisions, etc)
- Set the date, course and capacity
There are many other elements to consider in the planning phase such as prizes, sponsorship, food & water, etc, that the planning guide covers.
Next, the TD is required to get sanctioning from the PDGA for the event. The PDGA provides an online form that can be filled out using all the information determined in the planning phase. However, before filling out the sanctioning form, the TD needs to obtain pre-approval from the PDGA coordinator in their state/province/country. A small fee between $50 – $100 is required for C-tier to A-tier events, but is waived for Major and National Tour events.
To actually run the event, the TD is responsible for getting the course prepared, organizing a staff, ensuring all competitors are active PDGA members (for certain tiers), holding a players meeting, tracking the leader board, making calls on the field, decimating the prizes and reporting the results back to the PDGA. Of course, there’s many other ancillary tasks that a TD will likely take on during the course of an event, but these are the major points.
During actual play of a tournament is where a TDs responsibilities can get interesting. Let’s take a look at some of the responsibilities assigned to TDs in the official rules of the game.
TDs Responsibilities in the Official Rules
A tournament director can appoint officials to assist with making calls on the field as they are not able to be everywhere at once.
As mentioned before, an TD has final ruling on everything on the field of play. A TD decides if the two-meter rule is in play. This can be determined for specific holes or for the entire course. This one is a bit controversial since many players feel the two-meter rule isn’t useful to the sport. The two-meter rule in disc golf essentially means when a persons’ disc lands on something that is higher than two-meters (6.5 feet) such as a tree, that player receives a penalty throw. A TD can also decide to throw the two-meter rule out, which is what I see happen at most tournaments.
A TD is the only person that can disqualify a player in an event. An appointed official cannot do this. There are many instances of where a player can be disqualify, but it is up to the discretion of the TD to follow through. For example, intentionally damaging the course, intentional misplay (moving your lie), courtesy violations, and use of an illegal disc.
They can allow players more leeway on moving obstacles and obtaining relief from obstacles. Such as playing in the desert and your disc is on a cactus. TDs will commonly give guidance that players should always put safety first rather than trying to play from a dangerous lie.
Disc golf is a game where the players are responsible for understanding the rules and making calls on the other members of their card. However, players interpretations can often be different, especially as competitors. When a group cannot come to a majority decision, an appeal can be made to the TD.
The TD is in charge of declaring casual areas, relief areas, hazard areas and drop zones. They determine the mandatory lines, out of bounds and settle disagreements between players. When a provisional throw occurs, the TD decides which throw counts toward the player’s score.
Practical Advice for Tournament Directors
I consulted with a number of players that have attending many tournaments over the years, and asked what sort of advice they would provide to TDs. Of course, everyone wants an event to simply run smoothly, but what specifically do players want to see?
- Provide a clear schedule and STICK to it. If the event is suppose to start at 9:00 am, then start it at 9:00 am. Don’t delay the start because a few players haven’t shown up yet. Move on without them.
- Make it clear WHERE the player’s meeting is going to be held.
- Bring plenty of help with you and delegate responsibilities. A TD can’t be everywhere at once, so there needs to be other people that can share the load.
- Make it clear where the score cards are to be turned in. Once a round is over, the last thing players want to do is run around looking for the correct place to put their scorecards
- Bring extra water for the field. Pretty much everyone brings their own water with them, but sometimes rounds drag on longer than expected and people run out. They can only carry so much in their bag at a time, so it is nice to have places to refill at.