Getting Started / 101

Get Ready For Your First Time

Course Components

While the roots of the game are very casual and laid back, the newer generations of players are taking course design as well as the other elements of the game to a new level. Though early on targets were trees or fence posts in the woods, now courses are being cut out and under-utilized parts of parks, schools, and private land are being used to make some of the most challenging and strategic courses around. All courses share the same basic elements; targets, tee pads, signage, topography, and most important, safety.

Targets

The first incarnation of targets were known as tonal poles because of the sound they made when hit. These consisted of a metal pipe placed on a smaller pipe that when struck with the disc made a gong type sound. While these were much more accurate than a tree, arguments and disagreements led to the invention of the Disc Pole Hole by Ed Headrick in 1975. The basket (as it is now known in most circles) is the standard for disc golf courses.

 

Tee pads

The tee pad is where a player begins the hole. A solid base is a must for any successful course, and where early courses had plain dirt pads, modern courses use concrete, or more cost effective materials such as mulch, decomposed granite, or other natural materials. In recent years recycled rubber mats have been developed and are starting to catch on. While many alternatives have been created, concrete is the standard.

Signage

Signage is critical to any good course. Knowing distances, par count, out-of-bounds, and layout for each hole will give a player the information they need to make a great shot. Many courses have a main layout sign at the beginning of the course to show details of the course as a whole, as well as any needed information about the course. Hole signs give specific details about the hole the player is on, such as mandatory paths, out-of-bounds, and length. Not only are hole information signs critical, but way-finding signs and informational signs can make a good course great, and the absence of these can make a good course bad.

Topography

What makes disc golf unique is the utilization of natural elements, using trees and shrubs as obstacles and elevation changes to make the course challenging. Keeping the raw and environmentally conscious elements gives each course its own personality and strategy.

Basic rules

  • Teeing off - Play begins on each hole with each player throwing from within a designated area. This area is usually signified by a cement or rubber tee pad measuring approximately 5' by 12'. At least one foot must be in contact with the tee at the time of release.
  • Establishing position - A thrown disc establishes a position where it first comes to rest. A disc is considered at rest once it is no longer moving. If the disc breaks into pieces the largest piece establishes position.
  • Marking the lie - The established position of a thrown disc on the in-bounds playing surface marks its lie. Alternatively, a mini marker may be used to mark the lie by placing it directly in front of the thrown disc on the line of play.
  • Throwing from a stance – To throw from a correct stance when the disc is released, a player must have one supporting point in contact with the playing surface on the lie. You may also not have any supporting points out of bounds, touching the marker or an object in front of your lie. After the disc is released, supporting points may come in contact with the playing surface in front of your lie except when putting. One is considered putting when inside a 10-meter radius of the target. Once a lie is inside this circle, all supporting points on the surface must stay behind the lie until after the throw is complete and you have established balance. A player shall receive a warning for the first stance violation in the round and all subsequent violations will result in a one stroke penalty and re-throw.
  • Holing out - In disc golf, there are two types of targets; there is a basket target and an object target. To hole out on a basket target the disc must come to rest within the bottom cylinder of the basket or within the chains. A disc on top of the basket or wedged into the side of the cage is not considered holed out. To hole out on an object target the disc must strike the designated target area on the object.
  • Out of bounds - A disc is out of bounds when it is clearly and completely surrounded by the out of bounds area. A player whose disc is out of bounds shall receive one penalty throw. The player may elect to throw next from the previous lie or a lie that is up to one meter from and perpendicular to the point where the disc crossed the out of bounds line.
  • Discs used in play – Discs used in play must meet the conditions set forth by the PDGA Technical Standards. Any disc modified to change its original flight characteristics is considered illegal; this includes discs that crack or break. A player who throws an illegal disc will receive two penalty throws without a warning.
  • Order of play – Teeing order on the first hole is determined by the order of the players on the scorecard. Teeing on subsequent holes is determined by the scores on the previous hole with the lowest score throwing first and so on. If two or more players tied on the previous hole the order is determined by the order of the players who tied on the previous hole. After all players have teed off the player farthest away from the target plays next and so on until all players have holed out.
  • Courtesy - Courtesy rules establish the proper etiquette for players on the course and violations of courtesy rules can result in penalties; the following are the basic rules of courtesy.
    • Players should not throw until they are certain the thrown disc will not distract another player or injure anyone present.
    • Players should take care to not distract other players while it is their turn.
    • Littering on the course is discouraged and considered a courtesy violation.
    • Players are expected to watch where other players' discs go and search for discs in the event they are lost.

–From Wikipedia For the complete rules of disc golf, one can read the PDGA Official Rules and Regulations. For a detailed listing of the rules of Disc Golf refer to the PDGA rules guidelines at the following: http://www.pdga.com/rules/official-rules-disc-golf

Scoring

Stroke play is the most common scoring method used in the sport but there are many other forms. These include match play, skins, speed golf and captain's choice, which in disc golf is referred to as "doubles" (not to be confused with partner or team play). Regardless of which form of play the participants choose, the main objectives of disc golf are conceptually the same as traditional golf in the sense that players follow the same scorekeeping technique. Scoreboard:

  • Condor - Where a player is four throws under par, or "-4".
  • Albatross (or double-eagle) - Where a player is three throws under par, or "-3".
  • Eagle (or double-birdie) - Where a player is two throws under par, or "-2".
  • Birdie - Where a player is one throw under par, or "-1".
  • Par - Where a player has thrown par, or "0".
  • Bogey - Where a player is one throw over par, or "+1".
  • Double Bogey - Where a player is two throws over par, or "+2".
  • Triple Bogey - Where a player is three throws over par, or "+3".

Doubles play is a unique style of play that many local courses offer on a weekly basis. In this format, teams of two golfers are determined. Sometimes this is done by random draw, and other times it is a pro-am format. On the course, it is a "best-disc" scramble, meaning both players throw their tee shot; and then decide which lie they would like to play. Both players then play from the same lie, again choosing which lie is preferable. The World Amateur Doubles Format includes best shot, alternate shot, best score (players play singles and take the best result from the hole) and worst shot (both players must sink the putt) – From Wikipedia

Etiquette

Etiquette of Disc Golf is same as ball golf while player takes his turn, others stand behind him no closer to the hole and remains quiet until the players has fully released their shot. Obvious things such as cell phones and music are not permitted during tournaments but are a good fun addition to any recreational round. Allow people to play through when they have smaller groups than you. Finally treat every player with respect and remember in this sport the matto is “the most fun wins”, Steady Ed Headrick PDGA #001.

Throwing Technique and Styles

Stability

Stability is the measurement of a disc's tendency to bank during its flight. A disc that is over-stable will tend to track left (for a right handed, backhand throw), whereas a disc that is under-stable will tend to track right (also for a right handed, backhand throw). The stability rating of the discs differs depending on the manufacturer of the disc. The major companies rate stability as "turn" and "fade". "Turn" references how the disc will fly at high speed during the beginning and middle of its flight, and is rated on a scale of +1 to −5, where +1 is the most overstable and −5 is the most understable. "Fade" references how the disc will fly at lower speeds towards the end of its flight, and is rated on a scale of 0 to 5, where 0 has the least fade, and 5 has the most fade. For example, a disc with a turn of -5 and fade of +1 will fly to the right for (right handed, backhand throw) the majority of its flight then curl back minimally left at the end. A disc with a turn of -1 and a fade of +3 will turn slightly right during the middle of its flight and turn hard left as it slows down. These ratings can be found on the discs themselves or from the manufacturer's web site. Discraft prints the stability rating on all discs and also provides this information on their web site. The stability ranges from 3 to −2 for Discraft discs; however Discraft's ratings are more of a combination of turn and fade with the predominance being fade. –From Wikipedia

Throw styles

While there are many different grips and styles to throwing the disc, there are two basic throwing techniques, backhand and forehand (or sidearm). These two techniques are different and effective in different circumstances. Their understanding and mastery can greatly improve a player's' game, and offer diverse options in maneuvering to the basket with greater efficacy. Many players use what is referred to as a run-up during their drive. This is practiced to build more forward disc momentum and distance. Throwing styles vary from player to player, and there is no standard throwing style, but there is a correct bio-mechanical way to throw a disc golf disc. All discs when thrown will naturally fall to a certain direction, this direction is termed Hyzer, the natural fall of the disc, or Anhyzer, making the disc fall against its natural flight pattern. For a right-handed, back-hand thrower (RHBH), the disc will naturally fall to the left. For a right-handed fore-hand thrower (RHFH), the disc will naturally fall to the right. For a left-handed, back-hand thrower (LHBH), the disc will naturally fall to the right. For a left-handed, fore-hand thrower (LHFH), the disc will naturally fall to the left.

Backhand

To perform this throw, the disc is rapidly drawn from across the front of the body, and released towards a forward aimpoint. Due to the potential snap available with this technique, one can expect greater distance and accuracy than with its counterpart. It is important to initiate momentum from the feet and allow it to travel up the body, hips and shoulders, culminating in the transfer of energy to the disc.

Forehand

The forehand (sidearm) throw is performed by drawing the disc from behind and partially across the front of the body: similar to a sidearm throw in baseball. The term sidearm actually predates the descriptor forehand, which is seemingly in use today as a simpler means to communicate the technique: equating to a tennis forehand.

Alternative throws

The following examples of throws may be used to better deliver a disc where the former common two throws would be impeded by obstacles (bushes, trees, boulders, structures, etc.

Common alternative styles

  • The Hatchet (or Tomahawk) - Gripped similar to the sidearm toss but thrown with an overhand motion; the disc orientation nearly perpendicular to the ground over much of the flight.
  • The Thumber (or U.D.) - Thrown in an overhand manner but with thumb held on the disc's underside.
  • The Roller - Thrown either backhand or forehand, the disc will predominately be in contact with the ground. The disc remains in motion while travelling on its edge at a slight angle, and can travel exceedingly far in ideal situations. Once perfected, the roller is an invaluably versatile tool in the golfer's arsenal.
  • The Turbo-Putt Thrown with a putter when the player has the upright disc supported in the middle by the thumb with the finger tips outside of the edge, somewhat like a waiter holding a platter. The player stands with the leg opposite from the throwing arm forward, reaches back and then extends their arm towards the basket, throwing the disc in a similar motion to throwing a dart. Ideally the thrower does not rotate his wrist; the act of following through will give the disc its spin. The Turbo-Putt is a throw known for its accuracy, However it has extremely limited range.

Other alternative styles

  • The Baseball or Grenade. Thrown as in the backhand, but with the disc upside-down. This shot is used often to get up and down on a short shot where there is danger of a shot rolling away or going out of bounds if thrown too far. Primarily used on downhill shots but can be used to go up and over. Also due to the quick turn and backspin of this shot, it is sometimes used to get out of the woods.
  • The Overhand wrist flip (or chicken-wing). This is a very difficult and stylized throw with which accomplished free-stylers and classic ultimate players are familiar; it is less used in disc golf. It is thrown in the same manner the "baseball" but drawn on the sidearm side of the body, and by inverting the arm and disc. Using the thumb as the power finger, the disc is drawn from the thigh area; rear-wards and up from behind the body; to over the shoulder; releasing toward a forward aimpoint. The disc flies in a conventional flight pattern. To the untrained eye, this appears to be an ungainly throw. It is however, elegant and accurate.
  • Skomahawk- The shot is thrown backhand like a sky roller but the disc flips all the way over landing on the face of the disc similar to a pankcake or overhand throw. This shot is used for players who do not feel comfortable throwing overhand or grenade shots , but still need to throw up and down over an obstacle.

–From Wikipedia

Safety Tips

All players should always keep in mind that disc golf discs can potentially be very dangerous if not thrown with safety and common sense always in mind. Never throw a disc in the area someone occupies unless they are completely aware you are throwing it in their direction. Players should always wait until the player or group in front of them have completed a hole and moved out of the way until they throw. If you come upon a hole where the target is blind and you can potentially not see a group ahead it is common procedure to call out "clear on (number of hole you are on)". If there is no answer you should again call out and before throwing say "coming down on (number of hole you are on)".

Beginner Checklist

  • Discs
  • Disc Bag
  • Sunblock
  • Insect repellent (if needed)
  • Water
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Course map