Does Garrett Gurthie Play Better On Wooded Or Open Courses?

Gurthie’s win at Masters Cup should be no surprise

Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen – PDGA

If you were to ask most disc golf fans what type of course gives Garrett Gurthie the best chance of winning, they would probably say an open, bomber course like those at the Las Vegas Challenge or Glass Blown Open.

Heck, until this weekend, if you asked me I would have said the same thing. But it turns out that is just not true.1 Gurthie thrives on the classics tracks like DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course, and his win at the 2019 Masters Cup is piece of evidence A1.

Gurthie won the Masters Cup by six strokes, which is quite a wide margin for the event. It is the same as the difference between second and ninth place. And he was in the top five for all UDisc Live stats except C1X putting. He hit fairways, hit greens, and sank some long putts — all leading to a tournament best 44% birdie rate.

But as I mentioned before, his good play at the Masters Cup is not a surprise to those that watch Gurthie closely. Yes, he can throw a disc a country mile, which one would think gives him a heavy advantage at tournaments held on open, ball-golf type courses. However, that is not the story the data tell. If we compare his results for tournaments held on exclusively open versus not open courses,2 we see that Gurthie thrives in the latter category.

Standardized values for Circle 2 in regulation (C2R), Circle 1X putting (C1P), and score in events played on exclusively open (blue) versus not exclusively open (red) courses. For standardized values, the average is zero and the standard deviation is one. So a standardized value of one means it is one standard deviation above the average value.

His C2R is always good, but it is about twice as good at events including not open courses and over one standard deviation above average. This pattern holds for his C1P as well, but to an even greater extent. His C1P is well below average (zero) on open courses, but well above average otherwise (0.31 standard deviations to be exact). Both of these stats help to explain why his scoring is 60% worse on open courses!

Why does Gurthie perform better at events with more traditional courses? I am not sure, and I don’t know if I have the data at this point to successfully answer that question.

Nonetheless, I have learned this weekend that Garrett Gurthie is one well-rounded disc golfer. He can throw the disc far, but he can also hit greens, make big putts, and win an NT.

  1. Thank you to Jamie Thomas and Darren LeMay for making this phenomenon apparent to me! 

  2. Tournaments with a mixture of course types, like this years Masters Cup that had two rounds on the heavily wooded DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course and one round on the relatively open DeLaveaga Golf Course, were included in the not open category. Gurthie’s dataset includes 27 tournaments across the 2018 and 2019 season. 

  1. Aaron Howard
    Aaron Howard

    Aaron Howard is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Franklin & Marshall College. He loves to play disc golf and to think about things he loves quantitatively. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Instagram.

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