Moneydisc, Pt. 3: The Value Of Skills

Mahmoud Bahrani avatar
Dec 23, 2019 • 8 min read


Moneydisc is a series seeking to answer one important question: What makes professional disc golfers valuable to sponsors? Our investigation so far has included two parts where we've used a range of overlooked and never-before-seen stats to assess the possible value of current professionals and a special edition focusing specifically on the possible value of Paige Pierce to Discraft, her new sponsor. Read these articles by clicking the links below:

Moneydisc, Pt. 1: The Value Of Screen Time

Moneydisc, Pt. 2: The Value Of Fans

Moneydisc, Special Edition: The Value of Paige Pierce

In previous parts of Moneydisc, we’ve looked into various indicators of player popularity and influence. While we've examined factors like social media followings and expand totals on UDisc Live, we haven't dug much into specifics of how a player's performance on the course could translate to popularity. That's changing today.

Below we examine which stats measured by UDisc Live correlate most with being favorited by UDisc Live users (what we believe to be the best metric that we currently have for measuring player popularity among disc golf fans). This information could be valuable for sponsors because it gives them a guideline for which stats to focus on when considering a player's potential value to their company. In short, they'll have a better idea of what skills could help pay the bills.

About The Stats

By clicking "Favorite" on UDisc Live, a player stays at the top of a user's Results page no matter where they're placed in the tournament.

As we said before, our analysis in this edition of Moneydisc focuses on how UDisc Live stats correlate to total times being favorited on UDisc Live. You can see a brief explanation of what it means to be favorited in the picture caption at the beginning of this section. A more thorough explanation can be found near the beginning of Part 2.

Regarding the UDisc Live stats, most of them should be familiar to anyone who's used UDisc or followed a tournament using UDisc Live. The only exceptions here are C1 and C2 before regulation. Those stats indicate whether a player got into C1 or C2 with their next shot being for eagle or better. Basically: Did you get on the green on a par 4 in one shot? Congratulations, you’re in C1 before regulation. If you need them, explanations of all other stats are here.

Another important part of the stats is understanding what the numbers in the "Correlation" column mean. For a full explanation of correlation, go here. If you're short on time, the most important thing to know is that the closer a number in that column is to one, the more positively correlated two things are. For example, Open C2 putting percentage's number is 0.27 and Open C1X putting percentage's is 0.44. C1X's number is closer to one. That means a higher C1X putting percentage correlates to being favorited on UDisc Live more than having a higher C2 putting percentage.

If a number in the correlation column is negative, it means that higher rates in a stat correlate to fewer UDisc Live favorites. The closer to negative one, the stronger the correlation. Not surprisingly, the only two stats in the negative are OB rate and Bogey percentage.

The Stats

Below are our findings of how UDisc Live stats in both divisions correlated to favorite totals. The stats are organized by strongest positive correlation to strongest negative correlation. One stat included is not from UDisc Live:  PDGA player rating.

Stat Correlation to Fav.     Stat Correlation to Fav.
Birdie % 0.81 C2 Before Reg 0.81
Rating 0.79 C1 Before Reg 0.80
C2 in Reg 0.71 Birdie % 0.79
C1 in Reg 0.67 C1 in Reg 0.76
Parked 0.60 Parked 0.73
Fairway Hits 0.51 C2 in Reg 0.72
C1X Putting % 0.44 Rating 0.71
C2 Before Reg 0.39 Fairway Hits 0.66
Holes Played 0.34 Holes Played 0.54
C2 Putting % 0.27 C2 Putting % 0.44
C1 Before Reg 0.26 Scramble 0.25
Scramble 0.03 C1X Putting % 0.22
OB Rate -0.12 OB Rate -0.03
Bogey + % -0.51 Bogey + % -0.62

Birdies Matter for Everyone. But Going Big? Mostly for Women

Jennifer Allen (above) is currently one of the biggest arms in the Open Women division. Credit: Alyssa Van Lanen

Okay, so it's not a huge revelation to anyone that in disc golf, getting birdies is good. Just as unsurprisingly, our analysis shows Birdie percentage having nearly the strongest correlation with favorite totals in Open Women and the strongest in Open. However, it's actually a great thing that our stats support an obvious conclusion. If our numbers didn’t pass the basic eye test, they probably couldn’t be trusted. For example, if you came up with a stat for the NBA that told you a player like LeBron James wasn't one of the best players in the league, then there’d be something wrong with the stat, not the player.

But the relation of Birdie percentage to other stats does bring up interesting topics.

One of these is how for Open, Birdie pecentage's correlation strength was trailed much more closely by C1 and C2 in Regulation than by Parked whereas for Open Women, Birdie percentage, Parked, and C1/C2 in Regulation were all relatively close. There are many reasonable interpretations of this, but a possibility is that pinpoint accuracy doesn't matter as much in Open because putting is generally more accurate in that division (the top individual C1X rate for Open Women in 2019 was 72%, which would have placed outside the top 75 for Open), making the crowd-pleasing birdies more likely from any range. 

Another topic that bears mentioning is how C1 and C2 Before Regulation beat out Birdie percentage in correlation strength for Open Women, but both were significantly far behind Birdie percentage in Open. In fact, C1 and C2 Before Regulation had the two strongest correlations to favorite totals of all Open Women stats.

Could it be that in Open Women fans are looking for the big shots that put eagle in play much more than in Open? Maybe this result is just a byproduct of there being relatively few bombers in the Open Women field. There is a small group of women who vastly outdistance the competition whereas in Open, the people who throw farther are only doing so by a matter of percentages. The big shot is rarer in Open Women, which might be why fans seem to gravitate towards players who can throw it.

Scrambling Snoozefest

A tricky woods shot for Eagle McMahon at the Delaware Disc Golf Challenge. Credit: Alyssa Van Lanen

Woods magicians, avert your eyes!  Apparently, fans don’t really care if you’re able to make par from a sticky situation. Scrambling has almost no correlation to how much a player in Open was favorited and is far down the list for Open Women, too.

This paints an interesting picture of the type of player fans seem to gravitate towards. Our stats seems to suggest the following: Given two players who shoot the same score, fans would likely prefer a player who got there by making a lot of birdies over a player who made some incredible scrambles to save par1

The Curious Case of the Putting Green 

Hannah McBeth stares down a putt at the 2019 United States Women's Disc Golf Championship. Credit: Alyssa Van Lanen

For the most difficult puzzle in the data, we need look no further than the putting green, an area of general confusion for a lot of disc golfers out there. The Open Women field features the statistical trend that you might expect: The more exciting C2 putts have a stronger positive correlation to favorites than C1X putting.

But in Open, you see the data completely flip-flop, and making putts from C1X is correlated more strongly with UDisc Live favorites. 

There isn’t a real easy answer to this one. My best theory is that C1X putting is a pretty good indicator of Birdie percentage on a week-to-week basis, and Open fans seem to care more about overall performance than anything else. Better C1X putting means more birdies, and birdie rate, as we established earlier, is the best indicator for favorites in Open. In Open Women, fans seems to be looking for more highlight plays (see also: Open Women correlation rates of C1 and C2 Before Reg), which could be why C2 putting is more closely correlated to being favorited in that division.

You Gotta Play

keith putts at worlds.jpg
Before his sensational showing at 2019 Worlds, Emerson Keith had notoriety for playing more tournaments per year than almost anyone else. Credit: Alyssa Van Lanen 

One statistic that the grinders on tour should take to heart is that simply playing rounds of disc golf at big tournaments seems to have a positive correlation with being favorited. This is similar to the theory in part one of Moneydisc: You have to be seen for people to know who you are, whether that’s on a video channel like Jomez or Central Coast or on a UDisc Live leaderboard.

This is especially true for Open Women, where simply playing more rounds was more strongly correlated with being favorited than putting from either C1X or C2, which makes intuitive sense. The UDisc Live leaderboard for Open Women is shorter, and it requires less scrolling to see the whole field. A player’s name simply being seen at every tournament, even if it’s near the bottom, seems to matter.

So, Who’s Best to Sponsor?

If we're looking at this data as a guide for who to sponsor, the real revelations seem to be in the Open Women division. In Open, there's very little that's shocking. Fans want to see birdies more than anything else; pars in the form of scrambling aren't great, but not terrible; and bogeys are strongly disliked. 

In Open Women, however, the data seems to show an audience hankering for players to do sensational things. Yes, birdies are important, but slightly more important is the ability to throw big shots and create chances for eagles. Likewise, making C2 putts is more highly valued than making less thrilling C1X putts. So if you're a company on the lookout for new female talent, keep your eyes peeled for players with a lot of distance and a knack for long-range putting.

1. It's important to note that UDisc Live's definition of scrambling may not match the popular conception of it as someone finding a tricky line through the woods after an errant shot or bad kick. Scramble rate increases when a player achieves par or better after not reaching C2 in regulation (i.e., with two shots left to achieve par or better). That means saving par or better after an OB penalty or even just very short shots in an open field will raise scramble rate just as much as a masterful shot through a wall of trees. 

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