DISCussion: More chains or fewer chains?

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One of the most frustrating moments in disc golf is the spit out. You have a nice drive for a look at a birdie or a nice upshot to put yourself in a position to save par and then it all turns sour. You line up your putt, give it a solid release, only to see it spit right through the chains. We aren’t talking about the putts where you hit the far left or right side of the chains. These are the putts right through the heart of the target.

No one likes a chained out putt. We can all agree on that point. Where the masses tend to disagree is the solution to these missed putts. Some say you need to add chains to help catch the spit outs. Others believe this is part of the sport and adding chains could make putting “too easy” and catch too many putts.

After our DISCussion on the difficulty of disc golf courses a few weeks ago, we want to keep the conversation going, but in a new direction. Are more chains in disc golf baskets a good thing or should we limit the number of chains to help with difficulty? 

DGA Mach III

DGA Mach III basket at the 2014 Brent Hambrick Memorial Open. (Photo: PDGA Media)

The more chains, the better

At one point in time, disc golf baskets were simple. Take the DGA Mach III for example. While it has seen some upgrades over the years, it 24 chain design is widely used. The layout of the outer chains and inner chains became quite common. DGA also uses 24 chains, but in a slightly different layout, in their Mach V. Even their description mentions the idea of using the chain layout to help catch discs. Discraft also offers the 24 chain Chainstar with a similar layout to the Mach V.

Latitude 64 has their Pro Basket has 26 total chains in two layers of 13. They go with a slightly different mindset of removing a middle layer of chains to help the disc have some room to slow down.

Latitude 64 Pro Basket

Latitude 64 Pro Basket at the 2013 Amateur World Championships. (Photo: PDGA Media)

A few years ago the popular Innova DISCatcher was upgraded to 28 chains in three layers (previous versions had 24).

Just in the last few months, we’ve seen the introduction of the new Professional Basket from Prodigy Disc. It brings 30 chains to each basket in two layers with the inner layer linked together with horizontal chains. The Arroyo Disc Sports Vortex also has 30 chains with their own interconnected set of chains.

Mach X

DGA Mach X at the 2015 Memorial Championships. (Photo: PDGA Media)

Finally, DGA took everything to a new level with 40 total chains in their new Mach X. The Mach X also features three rows of chains with the middle layer also connected in a X style layout.

All of these options obviously lean toward the “more chains the better” mentality. It is easy to think if a golfer can make more putts, the happier they likely are.

Less is more

The other side of the argument says that more chains isn’t necessarily the answer. If baskets are designed to basically catch every putt it sees, then were is the reward in making the putt. Sure, chain outs happen even on putts that do just about everything right. What about those that aren’t the most accurate or come in too fast? Should those putts be rewarded as well?

You’ll often hear people talk about Gateway’s Bullseye basket. While it isn’t approved for PDGA tournament play, the Bullseye has just one narrow layer of 15 chains. Putts that would typically hit chains on the far left or right of any of the previously stated baskets wouldn’t even hit a thing.

This style basket puts a higher reward on accurate putts. It puts the pressure on you to aim at the pole and with the right velocity to make the putt. There aren’t any extra chains to help catch an errant putt or one with too much power behind it.

This might be the extreme solution, and the Bullseye basket is just one example of a simplified chain layout. In our opinion, it might be too simplified.

Discraft Chainstar

Discraft Chainstar at the 2014 Fort Steilacoom Open. (Photo: PDGA Media)

Inconsistency and frustration

Now, we have to say that we’ve experienced a spit out or chain out on every type of basket we’ve played on. To us, it is just part of the sport. Bad putts have been saved by chains while good putts have just had bad luck. Is it frustrating? Of course it is. Is it better for the sport as a whole if nearly every putt is made? Does that help with competition? Do we lose the excitement of when a tough putt is made? To be fair, we’ve had spit outs on the more modern baskets too.

Let’s look at basketball for a moment. The size of the rim isn’t much larger than the ball itself. From youth leagues to the NBA we see shots hit the edge of the rim and bounce out or rattle around before a miss. This is all part of the sport. Sure, you could increase the size of the rim and the number of made baskets would increase and everyone would be happy. Right? Does that take away the reward of making a basket though? Just as in disc golf, something needs to separate the field in a tournament. It often comes down to accurate putting and if the basket itself takes away some of that competitiveness then what else can we do?

When we were looking for photos for this post one thing stood out to us. Look at any of the big disc golf tournaments on the National Tour or the Majors that are held around the world. You are faced with different style baskets for each tournament and at times different style baskets on different courses throughout the tournament, especially in smaller local tournaments.

The best disc golfers should be able to perform regardless of the basket, but disc golf is one of the few sports to where the rules allow for slightly different targets to be used from event to event.

DISCussion

Let’s tie this all together. In our DISCussion about course difficulty we mainly focused on course length. Could you make a course harder without adding any distance by simplifying the baskets used?

Yes, making putts is a great feeling, but it doesn’t help with the competition factor at times. Instead of going to the 30-40 chain baskets, should the sport shift back to a simple 24 chain layout? Or, do we stick with the high chain count and go crazy?

What do you feel is the best solution? More chains? Fewer chains? Simple targets? Keep the DISCussion going!

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10 Comments

  1. Matthew S. on

    I’ve thrown at Innova DISCatcher and DGA Mach 3 and 5 baskets mostly. They all seem to catch about the same when a putt is good, and I’ve had a few pass-throughs or spit-outs, however you want to describe them. I’ve seen the new Prodigy basket only once, at a PAR 2 event I went to in Memphis, TN, and it was very nice. While the 40 chains seems excessive, has there really been any independent testing to see which basket and chain design catches the best? I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen any articles comparing baskets and their differing chain designs and robotic throwing of a disc thousands of times to test the effectiveness of any particular design. Is that what we need? I don’t know, but at least we don’t have a strictly rigid set of rules that govern the basket height, depth, # of chains, pattern of chains, and the weight of the individual links in the chains that makes for a strictly conforming style of play for all players on every course. Should there be a limit to the number of chains on a basket? I think so, and leave it at that. Leave the chain design/pattern up to the manufacturers and the disc golfers/course designers to pick the one they want on their course.

  2. At the pro level, I think there’s a solid argument for using a basket that requires a lot more skill in putting. Anyone who watches enough coverage can tell you that at the 1000+ rated level of play, they’re shooting 50% or better outside the circle, which is ridiculous and needs to change. On the whole, I feel that the introduction of newer chain layouts that are designed to reduce rejections do nothing but further hurt the sport at that level by making putting far and away too easy.

    From where I’m sitting, I think that the Discatcher Pro/Mach V layouts are ideal for general usage. They’re fairly generous in accepting less than ideal putts, and will always spit a bad putt, regardless of what the player may think, such as the cases where Dave Feldberg and Nate Doss have had seemingly good putts reject due to hitting the pole and getting bounced out. If two to three layers of chains can’t absorb that much force, then you put too much on your shot guys.

    At the end of the day, something has to be done to force professionals to shrink their wheelhouse to within the circle. And from there, course designers need to work to introduce disc golf’s equivalent to ball golf’s rolling greens and sand traps around the pin to make putting and approach shots and integral part of the game, rather than something automatic.

  3. I saw a youtube video in which Paul McBeth stated that putting was too easy. He advocated using a basket like the Gateway Bullseye. I agree with that approach. The top pros make way too many 40-50 ft putts. And if you blow by, so what, you just smash a 20 footer.

  4. Personally I’d like to see all baskets with similar dimesions as the Gateway Bullseye. I use a Gateway Bullseye basket for personal putting practicing. Then when I go out to the course I feel like i’m putting into something much easier. Downside to less chains would be that the “Average Joe/ Jane” player would have a more difficult time playing and getting really low scores. But wouldn’t the baskets be cheaper for purchase with less chains and wouldn’t these baskets legititize the game for better than average players. Can you imagine putting to a basket like the Gateway Bullseye on a windy day with water behind the basket. Well, the smarter players would just lay up like the pro golfers tend to do.

  5. With more chains the disc is more likely to stay in the entrapment, making it easier to complete a hole in disc golf. Scoring 10 under par per round is fairly normal these days. That means experts are expecting to get a birdie on more than half the holes of a 18 hole round. That seems too easy and so I agree that making the targets more difficult is a simple solution to raising the standards of skill to complete a hole.

  6. Andrew Felker on

    I wouldn’t want any changes that help putts to the side catch better, but I’m all for the criss cross chains that stop a dead center putt from sliding through. If you hit dead center from 5 feet or 50 feet it should stick. The comparison to basketball hoops doesn’t fit because you never see a perfect shot thrown out of the hoop because of the net.

  7. Having an excessive amount of chain hinders a person’s progress in the long run. It feels great to sink a long putt and it sucks when a decent putt gets ‘spit out’ but that is the finesse portion of the game.

    Just like in ball golf if the person putts to hard the ball will skip over the hole or if it’s too far off to the side it will swivel out. I played for 15 years and the finesse of putting is hard to master. I remember putting in my living room for years mastering the bounce of my ball off my putter head.

  8. I’ve got two concerns that dominate my thoughts on this issue.

    Firstly, the magic of an ace.

    The illusive ace is an exciting and universally loved achievement in our sport.
    Maybe you’ve gotten one or know someone who has.
    Perhaps you saw a card mate land one during a tournament or heard the roar of excitement as some other card got to feel the thrill elsewhere on the course.
    I worry that minimizing the size of the target will turn this rare event into an almost non-existent one.
    Can you imagine a drive ever having a chance to stop and drop into a bullseye style target?

    Secondly, segregation by divisions.

    I can picture a future where bullseye baskets are the new standard for pros.
    In this future, probably all lower profile non-national tour or A Tier worthy local courses will keep their current targets.

    Still with me? Here’s where my point lies.
    Every time I go out to practice or try to play for my course record, whenever my buddy makes a sweet putt, whenever I’m walking away from a well played hole…
    It wouldn’t be official. It wouldn’t be “the true game.”

    You, my friends, and myself…we will be alienated from our favorite players.

    I don’t want to have to be a national tour professional for a chance to throw at an “officially recognized pro-level” target.

  9. Arthur makes a really great point here. If “Bullseye” style baskets are switched out just during the national tour, the game that the rest of us play becomes the kiddie version. When the NT stops on my course we like to talk about McBeth and Lizotte going over the top, or the huge field “ace” from Philo. We all strive to improve our game and if the ams and pros are playing on different equipment, there goes the benchmark.

    And pros shooting 50% or better outside the circle, as one commenter noted, is not a problem. It’s something for the average golfer to aspire to. When you’re 70 out, there’s no finesse to that shot. It’s an authoritative jump putt to run those chains. A smaller target will lead to more layups, which leads to less excitement, for players and spectators. This doesn’t have to be ball golf. Our sport shouldn’t try to be ball golf. Picture the tedium of ball golf when a player is putting from 5 feet out (at this distance ball golf pros make 80% of putts on tour). All the lining up. The calculating. It’s boring as hell. They shouldn’t do that to disc golf’s circle. If a pro has gotten to 33ft or in, do we want to watch him wipe sweat from his hands, read the wind, take that extra 30 seconds to line up? I say reserve that for those 60+ .

    Don’t modify the targets, modify the approaches. Plant trees, utilze natural obstacles, make pin locations with dangerous backdrop….or just let the pros get their 14 downs. (and don’t turn my 2-3 down into 10 over)Sure, smaller/less chained baskets will open up a needed skill gap for only the highest level of competition, but for the majority of the game it will turn putts into approaches, runs into layups.

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