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Introducing Disc Golf World Rankings
Doeke BuursmaData Scientist
Jun 21 • 8 min read

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Who are the best disc golfers in the world right now?

Thanks to the new Disc Golf World Rankings powered by UDisc, you can always find out the most accurate answer to that question available — no matter when "right now" happens to be. These rankings take players' performances at the biggest international events into account the second competitions conclude.

Additionally, pro disc golf fans can now easily calculate the odds any two players have of beating each other in head-to-head competition via the Dominance Index. There's also a handy player comparison tool available for weighing groups of competitors.

Below we go over the fundamentals of how Disc Golf World Rankings work and what events influence them as well as explain how to use the Dominance Index.

If you can't contain your curiosity and would like to see the full rankings list immediately, you can find the current Disc Golf World Rankings on UDisc Live.

Disc Golf World Rankings Features

This ranking system was designed with some important features in mind:

  • It ranks the top professionals using only their performances on the biggest stages.
  • It is always up-to-date.
  • Only finishing position — and not stroke differential — matters.
  • Players are never penalized when they win an event.

These features ensure that Eagle McMahon doesn't lose his #1 spot because he played a B-tier, or that Paige Pierce isn't penalized for laying up this 20-foot death putt with a two-stroke lead on the final hole of the 2021 OTB Open:

The big-stage events that are incorporated into the ranking system include PDGA Majors, PDGA National Tour and Euro Tour events, DGPT Elite and Silver Series events, Prodigy Disc Pro Tour events, the European Disc Golf Championship, and the Throw Pink Women's Disc Golf Championship. The DGPT Championship event is excluded because players do not start that event on equal footing (see the article linked to the previous mention of DGPT events for further explanation), so there is no way to order the results fairly as a stand-alone event.

The Top 10

If you didn't already jump out to see the full list, your patience has been rewarded. Here are the top 10 disc golfers in the world as of June 13, 2021:

Disc Golf World Rankings Methodology

This new ranking system is motivated by the Elo rating system, which was originally designed for chess by Hungarian-American physicist, astronomer, and chess master Arpad Elo and has been in use by FIDE (the governing body of international chess competition) since 1970. The concept behind Elo is simple: Every chess player maintains a rating — a number between 100 and 3000 — which is an estimate of their true strength and which fluctuates depending on match results.

A player's Elo rating always increases after a victory and always decreases after a defeat. The key is that this number doesn't change by the same amount after each match. If a player with a high Elo rating defeats a lower-Elo player, the system takes this as evidence that the two ratings were approximately correct, and the winner's rating only increases marginally. If, on the other hand, the highly-rated player loses to the lower player, the system takes this as evidence that the loser was overrated, and the loser's Elo rating drops significantly.

The Elo system cannot be directly applied to disc golf due to its many-player nature (Elo only works out-of-the-box for two-player games). However, UDisc's system uses the same concept, in that each player maintains a rating that rises if they place higher in a tournament than expected and falls if they place lower than expected. (Note: "Rating" in this context is not a player's PDGA rating, but rather a rating unique to UDisc's rankings.)

You can find the exact updating formula in our article How Disc Golf World Rankings Work.

Who Makes the Leaderboard?

One potential problem with this new system is that the ratings of retired players don't decrease over time. Two perfect examples are four-time world champion Val Jenkins and three-time world champion Nate Doss, who both stepped off the big stage to start a brewery when they were still very good disc golfers. If the leaderboard included everyone with a rating, Jenkins would be ranked #6 in the world and Doss #13 — a testament to their legacy, but not an accurate reflection of the current state of disc golf. Thus, a separate points-based system is used to determine which players appear on the leaderboard.

Each player maintains a certain number of touring points. This doesn't at all affect where they appear on the leaderboard; it only affects whether they appear on the leaderboard. Players gain points for each big-stage event they play:

  • PDGA Majors — 2 points
  • DGPT Elite Series events — 1 point
  • PDGA National Tour and Euro Tour events — 1 point
  • Prodigy Disc Pro Tour events — 1 point
  • European Disc Golf Championships — 1 point
  • Throw Pink Women's Disc Golf Championship — 1 point
  • DGPT Silver Series events — 0.5 points

Since the PDGA Euro Tour was canceled for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Prodigy Disc Pro Tour events are worth 2 points for these seasons.

Touring points decay exponentially with a half-life of one year and are dropped entirely after two years. The cutoff for who makes the leaderboard is set at the 200th highest number of touring points across both divisions. Players whose touring points are above the cutoff automatically appear on the leaderboard. After the top 200 players, those who appeared on the leaderboard as of the most recent event are granted 0.5 grace points, and FPO players are granted 1 grace point. If this puts them above the cutoff, they also appear on the leaderboard. The grace point mechanic is an attempt to give equitable treatment to the FPO field and keeps players from popping on and off the leaderboard too often.

Dominance Index Compares Player Strength

Along with the Disc Golf World Rankings list, UDisc tracks each player's Dominance Index, a number that can be used to directly compare the strength of two players. A player's Dominance Index is always positive and is generally less than 100 — though in theory, it could be arbitrarily large.

The beauty of Dominance Indices is that they can be used to calculate the probability of one player beating another in a head-to-head match-up, and the formula to do that is fairly simple:

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To give that formula context, we'll use the top two MPO players at the time this article was written: McMahon (Dominance Index = 63.88) and Ricky Wysocki (Dominance Index = 59.28).

Let's say you want to know McMahon's current chances of beating Wysocki. McMahon's dominance index becomes D1 in the above formula and Wysocki's becomes D2 . The calculation would then look like this:

The probability McMahon beats Wysocki in head-to-head competition = 63.88 / (63.88 + 59.28).

The answer? 0.5187, which translates to McMahon being likely to win 51.87% of head-to-head match-ups — almost a coin-flip!

As another example, Paige Pierce has a Dominance Index of 98.09, with Catrina Allen at 35.10. Since 98.09 / (98.09 + 35.10) = 0.7365, we expect Pierce to win 73.65% of head-to-head match-ups against Allen.

We would like to stress that since we run two instances of our ranking system (one for MPO and one for FPO), Dominance Indices can only be used to compare players who regularly compete in the same division. This means Dominance Indices of top MPO players and top FPO players cannot be directly compared.

You might ask whether or not it is legitimate to compare North American players with European players, since the two pools have not been able to compete with each other since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are confident in our system's accuracy up to the beginning of the 2020 season, and we acknowledge that we won't be certain of its intercontinental accuracy until there is sufficient competition between North American and European players. However, much of the potential inaccuracy is mitigated by the fact that we enforce an average rating of 0 (a feature the original chess Elo system did not have). Moreover, due to the self-correcting nature of the system, we believe that when intercontinental competition resumes, any inaccuracies will be corrected quickly.

Player Comparison Tool

While we know most disc golfers love math, we also know that you like when math is easier. With that in mind, Disc Golf World Rankings also includes a handy Player Comparison tool that allows for up to six players from the same division to be chosen for win probability matchups based on Dominance Index. Three important caveats with this incredibly fun tool:

  1. Only players from the same division can be compared.
  2. The win probabilities are only applicable to compare players against players. That is, the tool shows who would beat who, but not necessarily who would win a tournament.
  3. The win probabilities are only applicable when players are on even footing (before a tournament or in a tie during a tournament).

Now that those distinctions have been made, you can have fun looking at matchups! Here's a UDisc staff favorite:

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Fun Stats & Deeper Math

This isn't our only article on the new Disc Golf World Rankings. Another one takes a look at some extremely interesting stats that this tool allowed us to find. For example, can you guess how many days Pierce's longest streak in the #1 spot has been? Stop guessing and check out Disc Golf World Rankings: Fun Facts, Rivalries, & More

And for the true stat-heads out there, How Disc Golf World Rankings Work is a deep dive into the math behind the new system.

Follow along with instant scoring and statistics from PDGA Pro Worlds all week at UDisc Live, and come back for updated Disc Golf World Rankings on Monday, June 28.

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