Risk vs. Reward : Using Stokely's Base Ten Method

At the Sundog in Hastings I was faced with the question that most of us deal with multiple times on the course. Risk vs. Reward. I wasn’t in a great spot -up against the woods on the right side of the sidewalk on Hole 13. I had the choice to shoot through the small opening on a direct line to the basket and land with an easy drop-in putt, but risking hitting junk early and not even having a chance at a putt. Or the other choice, an open anhyzer shot around the large guardian tree in the fairway-but chances are I would have the opportunity to make a good 25-40 foot putt. What do you do?

I use Stokley’s Base Ten Method of evaluating shots choices while playing. When I mentioned why I chose to go around and give myself the longer putt and not risk getting caught up branches early, one of the other players asked me to explain more about Base Ten.

This will be a paraphrase from Stokely’s writing: (Scott Stokely’s book Complete Guide to Playing Professional Disc Golf is available at GGGT and other disc golf vendors if you’re interested in reading the complete language about Base Ten and more player strategies and techniques.)

Base Ten incorporates a similar model used by Casinos- they win- because the numbers prove it. People can beat the odds on the short term- but over time the house will take your money. It is math- pure and simple.

Stokely’s method gets you to think about the shot that will give you the best result over the long run. There are of course exceptions to this method-like being in a tight race near the end of tournament where decisions might need to be made differently in order to win. He writes, “During 97% of your game you should play for the long run.”

It’s taking the result of ten finishes on the hole and looking at the scoring possibilities and doing the math. Let’s give it a try using my earlier predicament on Hole 13. (This next section is an almost a word for word transcription from his book)

Knowing my game, the anhyzer around the tree only offers a 3/10 chance of finishing up and down. And even though I may miss the putt (7/10) there is little/no risk of four more shots. Outta ten times finishing the hole from that position I’d average 2.7 or that equates to 3-3’s or 7-4’s on my score card.

Let’s do the math (3x3=9) + (4x7=28) = 36 (3.6 average)

On the other hand, if I choose to shoot through the small gap I may make the gap 5/10 times, hit stuff early 3/10 times and have an OK shot to the basket after that; 1/10 it hits a branch and deflects off deeper into the woods requiring three more shots; and 1/10 it’s even worse than that. Let’s do the math- Id’ get 5- 3’s, 3-4’s, 1-5, and 1-6 for my choice to shoot the gap. That average is more than the other route. It might not seem like much but over the course of a tournament that can equate to many strokes off your score.

Let’s do the math from above 15+12+5+6= 38 (3.8 average)

When I first applied this to my game it was a bit tough to think about, but now it’s really easy and I hardly know I doing it. It also helps me take the emotions out of the game especially towards the end of long tournaments when I'm am not throwing with the same physical and mental ability as when I first started.

By the way ….I missed my putt and carded a 4.

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Comment by Chuck Kennedy on May 31, 2010 at 10:04pm
7. While the probabilities make sense, you usually need a faster way to do the calcs during the round. The best advice on this I've gotten is to usually choose the route where the first tree you might accidentally hit is farther from you/closer to the hole. And if you have the arm, take trees mostly out of play completely by going over them.
Comment by Barton Erickson on May 10, 2010 at 9:23pm
***For the benefit of myself (it will help determine future posts) and all readers would you please quickly take time to rate the blog 1-10 when you're done in the comments section.

1-that sucked, 2- boring and not informative, 3-I didn't wate me time-but still pretty bad, 4- I get it, 5- It made sense, 6- I liked it, pretty cool- I can see how that'd help my game, 7- good use of my time- a couple helpful points, 8-useful good stuff, 9-very-very helpful 10-all inner demons are gone because of this brilliant piece of writing!

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