1. Officially reserve the disc golf course(s)
Over twenty years of playing events, I have seen family reunions, a car show, multiple cross-country meets, a fishing contest, and major construction on the actual fairways and greens of sanctioned tournaments. This does not lend itself to a positive experience for the players.
2. Reserve the whole park
If you are using a public park, try to reserve the whole park, not just the disc golf course. I have been involved with events as both a player and as a TD where the course has been reserved, but other components or resources at the same park have been reserved for other uses. I remember a tournament several years ago where a permit for the “disc golf course” was in hand for the event. Unfortunately a major softball organization had a concurrent permit for the softball fields in the park for a major softball tournament. The confusion that ensued made for a less than enjoyable experience. It is not always going to be possible to afford, or to reserve an entire park. I would suggest though that you ask if you can.
3. Water, water, water
Regardless of the weather, have water on the course. Don’t let the temperature dictate whether you have water. If you know that you will not be able to provide accessible water to the players at your event, add a comment to your registration page or tournament flyer that states “Water not available on the course – remember to bring your own water”. I believe that the most frequent complaint that I have heard over the years at tournaments has been, “I can’t believe they didn’t have water on the course”.
4. Print extra scorecards
TD might think that if they have 90 players they need 90 score cards. This logic is correct. However, it does not account for the guy who while paying for the ace pot, knocks over his coffee on the registration table spilling and soaking that coffee into three groups worth of score cards. Have some back-ups. This goes for maps, caddy books, course notes, or anything else that you may be giving to players. Always have some extras for that odd thing that always seems to happen at the absolutely worst time!
5. Have easy access to a portable basket or two
You never know what might happen. This falls into the same advice as #4 on the list. Back-up plans are good! I recently attended an event where a hole could not be played on account of folks working on a large cell tower on the course. It was a Saturday, so I am fairly certain that this was not regularly scheduled maintenance. This was something that was unavoidable. The TD thought quickly on his feet and added a hole using a portable basket to make up for the issue of the missing hole. It is hard to do this without a basket on hand.
6. Have a supply of zip-lock baggies
Make sure you have enough of these bags for the number of holes you have groups starting on. (again, see #4 and have a few extras.) TDs cannot control the rain or the snow. Trying to mark a score with a small lead pencil on a rain-soaked piece of card stock that at one point was actually a scorecard is problematic. This is not just a problem for the players on the course, but for the TD at the end of the round! I do not know who sent zip-lock baggies out on the course with scorecards for the first time in disc golf tournament history, but if I did, I would thank them for what is a great solution to a real problem. These bags should not just go out while it is raining. If it looks like rain, send them out.
7. Have a lunch plan in place for your staff and yourself
A majority of tournaments involve a round before lunch and a round after lunch. If lunch is not provided on a course during an event, make sure someone is responsible for getting lunch to the staff. Make sure that the folks checking scores, entering scores into the computer, filling in the new cards for the second round, discussing issues that came up on the course, selling discs, etc… are getting fed. Even if it is sneaking a bite here and there between everything that has to be done between the two rounds, it sure beats doing it all on an empty stomach.
8. Have printed copies
Have a printed copy of the important tournament-related documents that you also have on your laptop. I have been to a few events where “technical difficulties” have led to some frustrated players. Having paper copies of your player list and your payout tables can sure save you some headaches in a situation of either poor connectivity or a fading laptop.
9. Avoid course confusion
Do what you can to avoid confusion on courses that have multiple tee pads and multiple baskets on the same holes. It is so frustrating to talk to a group of folks who have played the course wrong. When they signed up for the event, their intent was not to earn penalty strokes for playing the course the wrong way. Even if you spell it out in your caddy book and announce it in a player meeting, if it is not crystal clear, folks will play the course incorrectly. There are two great solutions that I think can save a TD a ton of potential headaches resulting from players playing a course wrong. First, if a basket is on the course that is not to be used for an event – put a trash bag over it. In the twenty years that I have played disc golf, I have never seen or heard of a player that argued with their group about whether or not they should play to a basket with a large trash bag over it! Second, find a trash can, a water cooler, or a traffic cone and put it on top of tee pads that are not to be used. You can also put trash bags over the tee signs by these pads to indicate that they are not to be played. These two things can really save you a lot of tough conversations with groups that have misplayed the course.
10. Take good notes
When the dust settles after your event, don’t forget to grab a piece of paper or your laptop and jot down the things that worked and the things that did not work. One of the easiest ways to get folks to keep coming back to your events is to repeat the things that work and do not repeat the things that did not! Most players give a TD a free pass on a mistake or a poor decision. Most players do not return to events when these same mistakes or poor decisions are made over and over.
Ironically, while putting together a list of ten things not to overlook as a TD, I am sure I overlooked some of them myself. To every TD out there, I commend you. It is hard to keep every disc golfer that plays your events happy. If you can keep most of them happy though, you are doing a fantastic job!