UDisc's co-founder chats about the rise of UDisc Live, their first event in Europe, and a UDisc app update
April 19, 2018 by Alex Williamson in Interview, News with 0 comments
Arguably, UDisc Live has changed how fans consume live disc golf more than any other technology. It enables fans, media, and players alike to track an immense number of statistics in real time at PDGA National Tour and Disc Golf Pro Tour events. That means “live scoring” suddenly feels all the more “live” as fans can now follow players throw-by-throw instead of just hole-by-hole.
Ultiworld Disc Golf reported on some significant updates to the platform in February before they saw action this season. With UDisc Live heading to Europe for the first time at this weekend’s EuroProTour event, the RE/MAX Open in Finland, it seemed like a great time to catch up again with UDisc co-founder Josh Lichti.
We talked about how the season has gone for UDisc Live, what brought them to the RE/MAX Open, and the future of the scoring app. And—get excited—the statistical magic of UDisc Live will soon be available for all disc golfers to use during every round they play.
The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Can you talk a little bit about UDisc’s origins?
Originally, it was an app Matt Krueger designed six years ago just to help people find courses. But, as he began to add other features over the next two years—scorekeeping, throw measuring, and GPS maps of courses—it became a little too much for one person to manage.
While this was going on, I was an IT consultant, just getting really burned out and wanting something new to get back to my development roots. Also, though I had fallen away from the sport due to living in New York City, I had actually been one of the people that got Matt into disc golf when we both went to Iowa State.
So, when Matt reached out to me to help him with his app, I rediscovered my love of disc golf and programming. We started working together, and UDisc then really moved on to the next level.
How did UDisc begin working with the DGPT and what has that involvement meant for the growth of the company?
Steve Dodge [the DGPT director] sent us an e-mail in late 2015. He really believed, like us, that live scoring and statistics would be an integral part of the future of the sport and wanted to have live scoring on his tour. We decided to team up, and 2016 was UDisc Live’s pilot year with the DGPT — increasing the number of tournaments we covered each year.
This year we are covering twenty tournaments. Along with the DGPT, we’re covering the PDGA National Tour, the Pro World Championship, the United States Disc Golf Championship, the Nick Hyde Memorial, and, of course, the RE/MAX Open in Vierumäki, Finland.
What reactions have you gotten from fans, media, and tournament organizers about the new UDisc Live features?
The fans and media absolutely love it. It makes it so you don’t just know who won, but you know why they won. You know if it was reaching the green that brought Paige [Pierce] to victory or if it was putting that made Ricky [Wysocki] win, and you can also tell what players need to work on.
Something we do that doesn’t get talked about much is that we automate a lot of processes for tournament directors. We work really closely with the PDGA and can pull in tee times and players directly from their website. As all the scorecards finish, the tournament director just has to click a “verify” button to make sure the paper scorecard matches the UDisc Live data. After that’s done, the data loads directly to the PDGA site.
That means players can get their tee times in two or three minutes rather than waiting two or three hours for the often overworked tournament directors to put everything into a spreadsheet. Tournament directors are loving that we’re making it simpler and easier for them to run their tournaments.
And reception from players?
One thing players really enjoy is that their friends and families back home can follow their rounds in real time. Also, we’ve had feedback that because of the way we keep track of scores with UDisc Live, you have to rethink every single throw. With UDisc Live scoring, you have to say “out-of-bounds, fairway, circle two, circle one, in the basket.” It eliminates scoring errors in a tournament using UDisc Live because players can’t just say they got a four when they really got a five.
What else is in store for UDisc in 2018 outside of tournament coverage?
I kind of look at it like we have two different products—the mobile app that’s our bread and butter with tens of thousands of users and UDisc Live. With the mobile app, this spring is going to be really exciting.
Matt and I have been working for well over a year on the next release of the app. For the UDisc mobile app we will introduce a brand new scoring system with the throw-by-throw tracking system that allows us to give you not just scores, but every stat you can track—putting percentages, reaching the green, and other ways to analyze your game. That is all coming into the mobile app with the next update, which should come out later this spring. To make that happen, all of the UDisc app has been entirely rewritten in the last year.
This should also allow us to be used in even more tournaments next year, not just the big pro events.
How did UDisc Live get involved with the RE/MAX Open?
I think it was early January when Harri [Blankenstein] of Bogey Free Productions [an organization with the goal of growing disc golf in Finland and Europe] reached out to us.
The RE/MAX Open had only come onto Harri’s plate a couple of months before that, and since these big events typically take over a year to put together and he had only about 5 months, it was crazy. But they had secured the Vierumäki golf course, which is where the Finnish Olympic golf teams train and were allowed to build a pro, gold-level disc golf course there. They’d also been given the slot as the PDGA EuroProTour opener. Still, they wanted something that would make the event stand out even more.
A lot of people in Finland had followed the UDisc Live events in the U.S. and Harri wanted to be the first to bring that experience to Europe. Matt and I really liked the way he thought about it—his enthusiasm for growing the sport. Also, we’d seen lots of people in Finland following U.S. events (in fact, Finnish was the first language we translated the app into), and so it was a perfect opportunity and the right person for us to work with. We just went from there and started talking more about if UDisc Live would be a good fit.
What do you hope will come of UDisc Live’s involvement with the RE/MAX Open?
Ultimately, we really want to work with a lot more events in Europe in the future and hope that people follow this event. With the tournament really being the biggest event in the world this weekend, it can show off to people in the U.S. exactly how good European disc golf is.
Any last thoughts?
For people in Finland, they should try to come out. They can volunteer to keep score.
Also, I’m actually going to be at the event, so they should come say hello and get some UDisc swag from me. They’ll recognize me because I’ll have on a UDisc hat, hanging mostly around the first tee, and won’t be Finnish.