With more events happening in the region, many players will find themselves having to choose between divisions during the registration process. For many players, choosing a division involves a fair bit of thought, for some however, the decision is simple. Choosing the best division definitely gets easier as players become more in tune with their skill set, the competition level in their community and their expectations / preferences for competitive play.
Having trouble picking a division? Here’s a quick breakdown to help with divisions for both sanctioned and non-sanctioned play:
Sanctioned PDGA Play:
PDGA play has a long list of set divisions for tournament directors to choose from according to what fits their event and community’s needs best. In the Thunder Bay area, we do not offer every PDGA division so we focused on the ones we offer most. These divisions are further explained in great detail HERE.
MA4/FA4: Players newer to the sport often choose MA4. If this is your first event or you’re not yet comfortable in a competitive setting. Traditionally players will not play more than a season or so in this division.
MA3/FA3: This is sort of the “experienced rec” division of sorts that many casually competitive players feel very comfortable playing in. Those that find a lot of success in MA3 will often move up to MA2 as the competitive feel is a bit more relaxed in MA3.
MA2/FA2: MA2 is often known as the “intermediate” offering of the bunch. This can be where a lot of amateur players find a really good fit long-term because it has a good level of competition but does still maintain a casual feel.
MA40/FA40/MA50: Play here if you fit into either the MA2/FA2/MA1/FA1 division characteristics but would prefer to play with other folks who are in your age bracket (either 40+ or 50+). Larger tournaments will also have masters divisions for professionals.
MA1/FA1: This is the highest level of amateur disc golf available. Often players will play in this division because they have had a lot of success in MA2 or as another step towards the professional division.
MPO/FPO: Play here if you are a professional or would like to head down the road to becoming a professional. This guide is likely redundant if this pertains to you, but here’s a high-five anyways for taking the plunge to pro!
Often, non-sanctioned events will offer simplified / condensed divisions with a different format than players will see in PDGA-sanctioned play. The names of divisions can essentially be whatever they choose so some decoding may have to be done.
Competitive / Open: Professionals, players that might normally play MA1 and other top compeition
Intermediate: Experienced with an average skill set and relaxed need for competition. Players from many sanctioned divisions can fall into non-sanctioned intermediate divisions. MA2/MA3
Recreational: First time players, beginners, very casual players. MA3/MA4
Masters: Usually limited to players age 40+ but not all tournaments offer age-protected divisions
First, players need a goal going into the event to be able to choose effectively. Are you playing to win or playing for fun? Do you want to play under pressure or play more casually for the event?
Knowing the field and the community you are registering as part of is hugely key during the registration process. This is easy for players entering local events but quite difficult for players traveling to areas they have no knowledge of.
Players that remain amateurs when their scores suggest they should pursue the MPO or FPO divisions can tend to draw the dreaded “sandbagger” talk but there’s another important factor to consider. Some players just prefer not to play in the open / pro divisions because they don’t wish to play for money and prefer to remain an amateur. This is a fairly common outlook in disc golf so be careful not to judge other players for the divisions they choose to play in barring situations like very good players playing vs. newer players in the recreational division. Just because someone can go pro doesn’t mean they have to.
What is a sandbagger? Well, most of the time, this is a term used in various sports for athletes and/or teams that choose to play vs. a field that is well under their abilities for the purpose of winning easily. Please don’t do this, everyone in your community will appreciate you a lot more.
Knowing when to make a jump to a higher division or perhaps dropping to a lower division can be really tough to figure out. Luckily, like everything else in disc golf, there’s a few great YouTube videos to explain it perfectly.