I got to shoot my first IDPA course this weekend as well. It was more fun than I have ever had shooting! I was like a kid at Disneyland.
I showed up too late to be in the competition but I ran as much of the course as I could, and set my expectation low. I outdid myself and did very well. I am sure I will do much better after I am familiar with it all. There is much to be said with running your first time sight unseen, Rob, and you were at a disinct disadvantage.
I agree though, that hitting outside the X ring should only cost like half of the points it does. Personally, I prefer the pepper poppers where you either hit them or you don't, and they are a bit bigger than a 9 ring.
The course is certainly much different than the qualifier.
How about this Rob: just shoot for yourself. If you don't win, fine, but you get the experience and you can score however you want. I just enjoyed the experience immensely of running and shooting, shooting from cover, shooting through windows, multiple targets, moving targets etc.