From June 22-26, 2021, the PDGA Pro Disc Golf World Championships will take place on two courses in Ogden, Utah, that local pro Justin Bilodeau calls "polar opposites." The courses are the very open Mulligan's (built on land also used as a 9-hole golf course) and The Fort, a very wooded course with tight fairways.
"Mulligan's is a pick-your-landing-but-throw-however-you-want course, and The Fort is hyper-specific on shot shape," explained Bilodeau, who lives just a four minute drive away from The Fort. "Both demand incredible focus and control because if you are off at either, you are losing strokes from bad tree kicks [at The Fort] or water/sand hazards [at Mulligan's]."
It seems that despite their differences, both courses share a trait: plenty of places where the smallest of errors could spell disaster.
But not every disaster is equal. If you go out-of-bounds or hit an early tree on a hole where most people go OB or hit early trees, it's really not so bad. The holes that truly decide tournaments are the ones where the opportunity for a big mistake is almost equal to the opportunity to play the hole perfectly. These are the holes most likely to create score swings and make or break championship dreams.
We wanted to find out which holes at the upcoming disc golf Worlds were most likely to create such swings. So we combed through the UDisc Live stats from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021 Utah Opens (which featured Mulligan's all years and The Fort in 2019 and 2021) in hopes of learning which holes separated players most. The first thing we noticed was unfortunate. Because some holes at The Fort have changed since it was first used in 2019 and the field in 2021 was relatively small, we couldn't feel confident enough in our data for the course to merit digging deeply into the biggest score separators.
Mulligan's, luckily, was a different story. Though the course's holes have undergone some minor changes and once-OB sidewalks became casual at one point, we feel like the holes have remained similar enough that we can trust the stats (especially in Open). Below, we look at which holes at Mulligan's have separated scores the most on average over four years of Utah Opens. You'll get to see the holes and read our analysis of what makes them the likeliest dream makers and breakers at the 2021 Pro Disc Golf World Championships.
For those who are curious, we also include stats for which three holes in each division separated scores the most at The Fort at the 2021 Utah Open, but we don't include in-depth analysis for the reasons stated above.
How Do We Know Which Holes Were Separators?
Finding out which holes were separators, believe it or not, has nothing to do with par. It's all about the scoring averages on holes and the ranges of scores they produced.
Once we found the scoring average of a hole over all the times it had been played at the Utah Open, we then looked at what the standard deviation from that average was. The higher the standard deviation, the more widely scores varied on the hole or, said differently, the more often the hole separated players' scores.
A Note About Open Women's Stats
Prior to the 2021 Utah Open, Open Women played the same tees as Open competitors. In 2021, women's tees were added for some holes that significantly changed how they played. Because of this, we excluded from this article any hole that had a different distance in 2021 than it did in previous years. This is because the Open Women field at the 2021 Utah Open consisted of 20 players who only played Mulligan's once, which isn't enough to produce reliable data.
The Biggest Score Separators at Mulligan's
Below we explore which holes have separated scores at Mulligan's the most over the years. The stats showed two holes that stood out in both divisions and one other hole that was specific to Open. We look at all three holes below.
Hole 6: 261 feet/80 meters
Hole 6 plays the exact same for both Open and Open Women, and it's a top separator in both divisions.
You can see a JomezPro hole preview from 2018 here:
The reason for the separation is obvious in the clip: It's an island hole. If you make it, you have a great shot at a birdie. If you miss it, it's almost an automatic bogey due to the OB penalty. Though 261 feet/80 meters isn't far for a pro in any division, anyone who has played island holes knows the mental games they can play, especially in a high stakes situation.
Here are the hole's stats (if you're on mobile, swipe to the left on the table to see all columns.):
That .97 standard deviation from the scoring average in Open Women is the highest of any hole at Mulligan's in either division. It means that this hole is highly likely to create two-stroke swings (and sometimes more) because the high standard deviation shows us that scores on this hole can vary widely. The .91 standard deviation in Open is lower, but it is only one of three holes at Mulligan's with a standard deviation above .90 in the division.
Ultimately these stats show that this island is doing what islands are intended to do: starkly separating the scores of those who throw the right shots and those who don't.
Hole 15: 651 feet/198 meters
Hole 15 has separated both divisions over the years, but it was shortened by 80 feet/24 meters for Open Women in 2021. Because of that change, the numbers from previous years on the hole in the women's division mean very little. That's why we'll only focus on the Open division in this section.
Okay, we'll focus on Open after we tell you that the shortened version of this hole was actually the number one separator for Open Women at Mulligan's in 2021. Again, that was just with 20 players playing it one time and doesn't amount to much, but it is interesting to know.
Getting back on track, let's see what hole 15 pits players against:
And here are its stats (if you're on mobile, swipe to the left on the table to see all columns.):
The par 4 isn't an island, but it's plenty treacherous. If you put too much or too little on a tee shot, you'll find water. Then the basket has water within putting range, making upshots extremely touchy.
Because so much OB comes into play, it's no wonder that this hole separates scores. Players who avoid penalties are all but guaranteed to do at least a stroke better than those who don't.
Hole 18: 207 feet/63 meters
Another top separator in both divisions is hole 18. You can get a look at it in the clip below from Gatekeeper Media's coverage of the Open Women at the 2021 Utah Open:
Before we talk more about this hole, let's look at its stats (if you're on mobile, swipe to the left on the table to see all columns.):
As you can see, the scoring average in both divisions is nearly a half-stroke higher on hole 18 than on hole 6. Many factors could play into that. The water carry and steep slope in front of the basket are intimidating when your in-bounds landing zone is restricted to a fairly small size. And if you do land in bounds but not in tap-in distance, you have a nerve-wracking putt where any little mistake could send you flying or rolling OB.
It could be that such intimidating factors have caused more players to play this hole worse on average than hole 6 throughout the years. Alternatively, it could be that those risks have incentivized more players who have landed in bounds to lay up for par rather than run birdies.
What's really interesting is that though the hole has created significant deviation in both divisions, that deviation has been considerably higher in Open than in Open Women. Unfortunately, we can only speculate as to why. Perhaps the generally higher putting percentages in Open lead to more willingness in the division to run the dangerous putt, leading to great reward and great punishment.
No matter the reasons, the hole is certainly a powerhouse separator in both divisions. Though the standard deviation here is quite a bit lower than on hole 6 for Open Women, it's still the only other one with a standard deviation over .80 strokes in the division.
The Biggest Score Separators at The Fort in 2021
Like we said at the beginning of this piece, taking the time to analyze stats from The Fort didn't make much sense given the recent changes to the course. However, we can fill you in on which holes played at The Fort during the 2021 Utah Open separated scores most. It'll be interesting to see if the stats from the very limited fields (two rounds of 20 Open Women players and 36 Open + 1 round from an Open player who DNF'd) hold up.
If you're on mobile, swipe to the left on the table to see all columns.
Holes with Standard Deviation Over 0.9 in Open Women
||Scoring Average||Standard Deviation|
Holes with Standard Deviation Over 0.9 in Open
|Separator Rank||Hole #
||Scoring Average||Standard Deviation|
And if you'd like a taste of those tight lines at The Fort that Bilodeau mentioned, we've got a clip showing a hole preview and drive filmed on the biggest separator on the course for Open at the 2021 Utah Open: hole 12. Our favorite part is what the commentator (pro James Conrad) says at the end, which points out exactly how small things can cause problems on the hole:
See How It Plays Out
We hope you've enjoyed this look at which holes are most likely to separate the field at 2021 Worlds. You can follow the action and see if these stats hold up by following scores and stats from the 2021 Worlds in real time, shot-by-shot on UDisc Live.