I’m sitting here on the course after a minor incident wondering to myself, how could this accident been avoided? In this article, I want to share with you some disc golf accidents that have ruined my day out on the course, as well as accidents I have seen out in the community.
#1 Course Awareness is Essential to Avoiding Disc Golf Disasters
Have you ever been struck by a disc golf driver traveling 60 mph? I have and it hurts. A lot. It felt like getting shot by a paintball gun on steroids.
Partially, this was my fault for not being mindful of my surrounding on the course.
Course awareness is an absolute must when you’re a disc golf player. We cannot assume that others are always going to be watching out for where we are. And oftentimes, even if other players are watching out for us, they can still throw a bad shot that ends up in our lap.
When we step out onto the course, we need to keep our head on a swivel and be defensively safe to avoid unnecessary disc golf accidents. Especially on a course that is designed close together, there is always the possibility of a disc going astray.
But let’s put the danger aside for a minute and consider course awareness from another perspective. When I’m not paying attention to my surroundings, I could be holding up another group from playing. They are exercising course awareness and waiting for me to pass, while I may be having a discussion with a friend at the basket they are throwing at.
Be respectful to others by looking back to see who is coming and be aware of those you may be throwing toward so you don’t hit them.
#2 Public Courses Can Be Frustrating
When it comes to public courses, we can’t always expect others to have course awareness, because not everyone on the course is a player. This can be frustrating, but most of the courses around the world are free-to-play since most are run by towns and cities that added a few baskets to a park that may have existed for years before.
I used to work at a company that installed a 9 hole disc golf course on the campus. When I learned about this, it was my most exciting day of work.
A group of friends and myself would spent our lunch hour every day playing a short round of disc golf. And if we were quick, we could sometimes get in two rounds. Obviously, it was my favorite part of the day. After getting into work at 6:00 am and grinding through hours of tedious number crunching, I was more than ready to hit the course.
I would quickly email the group of co-workers that I played with to see if they were ready, and off we went. For what it was, the course at my previous job was amazing. And I’ve seen many, many disc golf courses.
Because the course was designed on a campus that had existed for years and years, there were plenty of gigantic trees and grassy knolls to traverse. Each hole presented a unique problem that I could solve in different ways.
However, one problem that I had a difficult time solving was the fact that it was a public course. Hundreds of other people worked at this campus and each day they would venture out of the buildings to go to lunch at the same time I was playing disc golf. Oftentimes, we would have to wait to tee off until a group of people walked by. It was a rather condensed course.
You Need to be Patient!
Not surprisingly, I would get frustrated when I had to wait. We always tried to be courteous, but we only had an hour and we wanted to make the most of it. On one particular occasion I was lining up a short up-shot to the basket with my Discraft Challenger putter. The basket had a sidewalk behind it which commonly had people walking past to the parking garage.
I had executed this shot countless times before with no problem, so I decided to go for it without waiting for the people to cross out of my line of flight. Big mistake. I whiffed the shot.
The disc soared through the air, right over the basket, and struck a woman in the leg. I felt terrible and instantly regretted the decision. I ran down the disc and profusely apologized to the person I hit. Luckily, it was only a putter that I had thrown from 150 feet away. When the disc struck her, it had already slowed down significantly, so the impact was minimal.
After finding that she was okay and unbothered by the situation, I apologized again and she went on her way.
It could have been much worse.
Ever since that day, I have become much more patient while playing the game. If I think there is even a small chance I’ll hit someone, I’ll wait for them to pass by. Similarly, when I play on public courses I’ll try to get people’s attention before I throw so they have a head up.
I’ve heard some devastating stories of people being struck in the eye from 300 feet away by a distance driver and losing their sight in that eye. Absolutely terrible. Just wait for them to pass by with their dog and if they refuse (as I have had happen many times before), move on. It isn’t worth your time for the grief.
#3 What’s That on the Ground? The Run Up
When I prepare to throw, whether from the tee box or anywhere else on the course, I always take a slow and controlled practice run up. Too often I have seen people fall flat on their back after stepping on a muddy patch of ground.
Years ago, I was playing an early morning Sunday round of disc golf at a location not far from my house. It was summer and the sun was beaming outside. When I got to the course, the grass was seemingly normal and dry for a summer day. And also rather tall.
After as few holes, I came to a par four. I threw my first shot, terribly, and still left plenty of meat on the bone. I felt like the situation was salvageable. I just needed to execute an absolute bomb of a spike hyzer to make it over the trees and land on the green some 350 feet away.
As I approached the position of my first throw, I lazily decided to not mark my disc with a mini and immediately transitioned into my second throw. As I performed my run up, my right foot caught a squishy patch of ground and I ended up on the ground looking at the sky. It was a painful fall.
I had thought it was mud, but boy was I wrong. Of course, it was a lovely present left behind by a dog for an unsuspecting disc golfer like myself (if you’re walking you’re dog through a park, kindly pick up after their dropping. Please and thank you).
Not only did my shoe stink for the rest of the round, but my back really hurt for a few weeks after that. It was one of my worst disc golf accidents. Now, I always mark my disc on the ground, inspect the area, and perform a very slow practice run up before my actual throw. I’ve been stink free (and back injury free) ever since.
#4 Throwing Too Hard to Compensate for Poor Technique is a Mistake
As I started to get more involved with disc golf, my dad took an interest in coming out and playing with me one time. I ended up bring him along with my oldest son to an tame intermediate course. As we approached the first hole, I could see my dad looking for the basket. I pointed it out some 300 feet away. He turned to me and said, “there’s just no way”.
I pulled out my Innova Champion Beast and successfully landed within the bullseye zone. It was actually an amazing shot for me on this course, a result I typically don’t see. Of course, I played it off like it was no big deal. My father is a very competitive man.
I handed him Discraft Buzzz and proceeded to give him some basic instruction. He interrupted and said “Yep, I’ve thrown a frisbee before”. I knew what he was planning. He was going to attempt to match my shot! I heartily laughed inside and stood back.
After a short run up, he pendulum swung his him around as hard as he could and released the disc. Surprisingly, it traveled about 150 feet down the fairway, but he turn around looking distressed. “I need to go home. I threw my arm out”. I said, “Yep, a disc is not a frisbee”. When we’re together with my kids now, we just go swimming.
I’m Guilty of Throwing Too Hard Too
I was certainly guilty of this when I first started to play disc golf. Before learning some of the nuances and intricacies of throwing a disc, I would step up to the tee box and huck the disc as hard as I could. When the disc didn’t go as far as I wanted, I would simply try to throw the disc EVEN harder the next time. As far as disc golf accidents go, this is on has to be on the top of the list.
After hurting my shoulder on one such occasion, I decided I needed to do some research on proper technique. I came across the below video from Discraft featuring Scott Papa. I definitely recommend it. After I started to apply these throwing basics into my game, I noticed the disc going further, with less effort. My shoulder stopped hurting and I was seeing my results improve.
I could try to explain all of these throwing basics in this post, but perhaps I’ll save that for another day. Besides, some of these concepts are easier to learn by visually watching someone while they explain it.
#5 Awkward Positions/Stances are the Best
One of my go-to disc golf courses has a bed of river rocks right around hole 18. Its very easy to miss the green and end up in this area. And when you do, there is pretty much no where to plant your feet that feels secure.
Once, I even tried to do a short step to generate just a little bit more power. This led to me twisting my ankle and staying off the course for a week.
To combat awkward stances, I really started to work on my stand still throws. This has come in handy especially when I find myself pinched up against a tree and there is no good opportunity for a run up. I’ve even slammed my hand up against a large tree while playing on a forest course.
One thing my friends and I started to do was to allow a player to move their disc out of harms way when the situation was unreasonably dangerous. This would be discussed and decided on by the other players in the group to determine a reasonable placement of the disc.
If you aren’t playing in a tournament setting, its better to be safe than sorry. For example, whenever my disc lands on those river rocks now, I immediately request for it to be moved out of the rocks onto the grass which is further from the basket. I have no interest in twisting my ankle again.
#6 Climbing Trees is a Disc Golf Accident Waiting to Happen
We’ve all been there. We throw our driver down the fairway and after an unlucky kick off a tree, the disc ends up atop some branches. And when its one of our favorites, we have a hard time letting it go. The solution? Time to climb that tree.
I’ve personally rescued countless discs from trees previously thought unobtainable. Some were my own discs, some were others I found while looking for mine in the same tree. That all stopped when I almost fell.
I had just gotten a new Innova Star Destroyer and I was throwing it really well. I approached a standard right-to-left shaped hole and pulled it out. As I threw the disc my release was too early. It soared toward the trees and landed some 50 feet up on the branches.
Naturally, I had just gotten that disc and wasn’t about to just leave it up there! Out comes the phone and keys from my pockets and up I went. The tree was well-aged. The branches felt sturdy as I climbed, giving me the support I needed to scale toward my disc. I successfully located my disc and threw it out of the tree to the ground.
As I began my descent, I grabbed onto a branch that was not up to the task of holding my weight. Off it snapped as my life quickly flashed before my eyes. I quickly gained my focus. By shear luck, I found purchase on a larger branch underneath where I feel.
I ended up with a few scrapes from the tree bark, but was generally okay. I continued my climb down the tree, albeit much slower and more careful this time.
The risk/reward of climbing a tree for my disc isn’t worth it to me anymore. It hurts when I lose a disc, but I’ll just spent the extra $15 on a new one to avoid this disc golf accident.
#7 Wet Tee Box Mishaps
Some days when I get to a course there’ll be sprinklers that were on previously and the tee box will be saturated. Most of the courses I go to have concrete slabs for the starting position, so this helps when the surface is wet. However, I’ve seen plenty of people trying to go full speed down a wet tee pad and end up with an injury of some sort.
A while back I was watching some disc golf coverage and noticed a player use an awesome trick on a rainy day. He pulled out a towel from his back and carefully placed it at the front edge of the box where his final step would be. Genius!
I’m sure this isn’t a novel idea that player came up with, but in that moment I quickly loaded up my bag with a few extra towels for such occasions in the future.
#8 Drinking While Playing
I’m not talking about water here. But yes, obviously bring water with you and stay hydrated. Although, I rarely see dehydration leading to many disc golf accidents.
The prospect of going to the disc golf course with a group of friends and having a few beers is enticing. I myself have participated in such activities. However, over the years I’ve just come to personally believe that disc golf isn’t the right setting for drinking alcohol.
After having a few, your throws start to wander and before you know it you’ve hit a car or an unsuspecting pedestrian. There’s always a chance for something that this to happen, but that chance significantly increases once you introduce alcohol. Personally, I just don’t do it anymore.
#9 Take Care of Your Skin
When I think of disc golf accidents my mind typically goes to the sudden events that occur in a split second. Although, disc golf accidents can sometimes take longer to set in.
I love going out into the sun and soaking up the rays. It feels good and has the wonderful side effect of making us look good. But I always have to remind myself that the sun is a double-edged sword. I was quickly reminded about this a few years ago when I went to see a dermatologist.
My lovely wife had been encouraging me to go see a dermatologist when I mentioned I had a small scaly patch of skin on my nose. I put it off and put it off, until finally I broke down and scheduled an appointment. As the doctor was inspecting my problem area, he nonchalantly informed me that it was a precancerous skin growth. WHAT!?
I was taken back by this news. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
The doctor pulled out a can of liquid nitrogen to freeze the precancerous spot and sent me on my way with the obvious cautions. Wear sunblock. Wear a hat. Wear lip balm. Limit the amount of time you’re in the sun. The usual advice that I had been told my whole life. Advice that I was not diligent following.
Before seeing the dermatologist, I had always known that each time I went out into the sun I was putting my skin at risk. What I didn’t anticipate was how quickly the problem progressed over such a short amount of time. Since my appointment, the reality of the situation has really sunk in and I’ve been diligent ever since.
#10 Sustained Injuries Not Addressed
Anytime I feel pain, even slight pain, that causes me to modify the way I throw a disc, I know it is time to take a break.
This is another example of disc golf accidents that occur slowly over time. When you injury yourself, you need to allow your body to properly heal. Sometimes this can take time before you can get back out on the course.
I’ve found that even when I’m doing everything right, accidents can occur that lead to injuries. And when this happens, I need to be willing to step away from the game. I really enjoy playing disc golf, so when I have to take time off I can get cranky. But I’ve some to find that if I take the right amount of time to heal, I can come back strong and get back to my normal enjoyment of the game.