During my first year of playing disc golf I had to learn most of what I know through the school of hard knocks. In this post, I want to look at 7 disc golf mistakes I made that year, as well as the mistakes I’ve see others make who are just starting out.
#1 Marking Your Lie
At the beginning, I had a general sense of the rules of the game. Get your disc in the basket in as little throws are possible. Easy enough, right? When your disc comes to rest, mark the spot and proceed with your next throw at that spot.
What I never paid attention to was the subtlety of properly marking my lie. In my first few games, I would come up to the general area that my disc landed, scoot it aside and make my next throw. As things progressed, I noticed that other people were carrying around little miniaturize discs all the time. I had no idea what purpose they served.
Eventually, I saw that people were not actually using the mini discs in the game, but were simply marking the front of where they discs came to rest.
I didn’t have one of these mini discs, so instead I would carefully flip my disc over toward the basket as a method of marking the front of my disc. This seemed like an adequate substitute. Turns out, it is not. In fact, a nice gentleman pointed this out to me and referred me to a Q&A portion of the rules:
Whoops, my mistake. Indeed, I was an inexperienced player since I didn’t know what the proper methods were to mark the lie.
What is the Correct Method to Mark the Lie?
If you don’t have a mini disc like me at first, the best option is to leave the disc where it lands and throw from behind it. You lose a few inches, but it is an acceptable method per the official rules.
By far the most popular method for marking the lie of a disc is to use a mini disc. To mark the lie with a mini disc, I would pretend there is an imaginary line from my disc to the basket, and place the mini at the front edge of the disc on that imaginary line. Once my mini is placed, I would then remove the thrown disc and place it back in my bag.
When you go for your next throw, be careful not to cross the plane of the mini or disturb it in anyway during the throw.
#2 Foot Faults Oversight
A foot fault results in a penalty throw. The rules for foot faults surprised me when I first learned about them on the course, because I discovered I was foot faulting WAY too much.
In general, most people understand that you cannot cross the plane of your lie. During your throw, do not cross the lie or disrupt it in any way. I figured as long as I was behind my marked lie when the disc left my hand, I was good, right?
If I ended up throwing the disc a few feet behind my lie, there’s no foul play because if anything it’s just creating more distance for me to cover. However, as I was watching some disc golf coverage, I learned that there very well could be an advantage to a player that chooses to throw further back from their lie.
For example, if my disc landed right behind a tree, my next throw would be quite difficult. Since the tree is obstructing my view of the basket, I would have to stretch and reach out to the side of the tree, eliminating a lot of my power. Not to mention a run up wouldn’t be possible as I would crash into the tree.
If I were to quietly take a few steps back and then throw, the field of play is much more open for me to access from more angles.
So, Where Can I Throw From?
The understand this, I had to research how the rules defined what the lie actually was. I learned that once you mark your position, the lie is an imaginary rectangular box that is 8 inches wide by 12 inches long behind your marker.
Upon releasing the disc, you need to have some part of your foot within that rectangle. At first, this was a bit difficult for me because I enjoy my run ups to generate a little extra power. Hitting that small target took some practice, but once I understood what I was aiming for, it became easier and easier.
#3 Throwing to the Wrong Basket
Some courses I’ve been to have many different configurations and possibilities. It isn’t as simple as stepping up to the basket and throwing, since there could be multiple baskets down the fairway. Not to mention multiple tee pads to throw from.
And it can be easy to get confused on these types of courses when it is your first time playing there.
I just about made this error when playing in a disc golf doubles tournament. Typically during a tournament on a course with multiple targets, the targets that are out-of-play will either be removed entirely or marked in a clear way that signifies they are out-of-play. However, this isn’t always reliable.
On one particular hole in this tournament, I locked my sights on a basket down the fairway and took aim. It was a par 4, 750 foot hole, and the basket I had my sights on seemed to be just about the right distance. My doubles partner and I had thrown our first two shots and ended up about 20 feet from the target. A great result for us on a 750 foot hole of this difficulty!
As I was about to execute my putt to sink in the birdie, a member of our card questioned what I was doing. Turns out, I was putting to the short pin which was more like 680 feet. Completing a hole on the wrong target results in a misplay and can tack on penalty throws to the offending player.
Fortunately, the other member of our card was paying attention and had stopped me right before making the mistake.
Turns out, someone had taken the tape off some of the baskets earlier that morning before the tournament began. However, we were provided a map of the course fully detailing the layout. For then on out, even when it seems obvious, I always refer to the map for confirmation. And if necessary, discuss with my card the baskets we are throwing to on hole that are ambiguous.
#4 Using the Wrong Weight of Disc
Starting out, I was throwing very light discs for a long time (160 grams). I never branched out because I thought that I had invested so much time into learning the discs I had that switching would set me back to square one. After getting frustrated, I switch to the opposite end of the spectrum and started throwing only heavy, heavy discs (175 grams). It took some trial and error before I whittle down to the right weight for my play style.
At a certain point, I’ve personally found that with the lighter a disc is there is a distance reduction. To me, it makes sense that I’d be able to throw a lighter disc further because it carries less mass. But when I’ve throw discs close to 160 grams it hasn’t worked out well. As I’ve thrown discs that are closer to 175 grams I’ve also struggled to get good results.
What Weight Works Best?
Somewhere between 165-170 grams is the sweet spot for me. When I lean toward the heavier side of that range I feel like I have more control over the disc, but there is definitely some distance lost there to consider. If I pick up a disc closer to 160 my distance increases, with the trade off of some lost control.
If I don’t have a lot of space to work with, I typically favor the heavier discs. This has allowed me to hit the fairway more consistently on narrow holes. Alternatively, If I have a huge field of play available to me with little obstacles along the way, I’ve definitely going to go with a lighter disc that I can rip on. Even if my disc strays a bit from the lost control, the extra distance tends to pay off in a big way.
I believe that 165-170 grams is going to work for most players. Although I think people just starting out should begin with discs around 160 grams and work up from there. If you aren’t getting favorable results, work up from there. Its a process to find what works for you, just don’t be afraid to experiment with the weights like I was at first.
#5 Establishing a Putting Routine
I’ve missed countless putts over my disc golf career. However, I probably missed more putts in my first year of playing the game than I have in all the subsequent years combined.
A small part of this is simply because I was new to the game. On the other hand, I was never consistent with the routine I used when approaching my putts.
My lack of consistency was because I couldn’t decide on how I wanted to putt. I had seen many different styles of putting in the game and given the various scenarios I was presented, a different style appeared to apply more.
Eventually, I discovered that STICKING to just one style for a long period of time was more important for my game than anything. I needed to give my putt time to develop.
On top of that, the routine I followed right before releasing my disc was just as important. I watched a few tournaments on the PDGA pro tour to get a some ideas of what others were doing. Honestly what I do in my routine before a putt isn’t as important as simply sticking to something.
The routine is a trigger. It triggers the mental side of my game and gets my in the right frame of mind before executing the action.
Each time, I plant my right foot forward on my lie and my left foot back. I load the disc slightly below my chin and narrow my view toward the target. After shifting my weight from my right, to my left foot, and back to my right, I lower the disc and release it toward the basket.
It isn’t special and doesn’t need to be what everyone else follows, but by following it consistently I’ve found my putts landing more often.
#6 Using a Forehand Throw
I’m primarily a backhand player. I’m more accurate and my discs go further. Because of this, I delayed developing my forehand shot.
The course I first started playing had mostly open fields and standard hyzer shots to the baskets. Therefore, I could typically rely on my backhand for any situation the course presented. When I starting playing on other courses that were more diverse, I noticed my game was lacking.
The other players I played with who started around the same time had been using forehand throws fairly consistently. I had tried throwing a forehand shot a few times, but would always go back to my reliable backhand.
It wasn’t until I arrived at one of these more diverse courses that I found the players who had a developed forehand throw were obliterating my scores. I used different adaptations of my backhand, but sometimes a hole just calls for a forehand shot. You know it when you see it.
I wish I started working on my forehand sooner when I had first seen some friends using it, but the backhand was just so comfortable. It took me actually seeing its benefits before I was convinced I needed it.
Forehands are still not a major part of my game, but I feel confident enough to throw them when appropriate.
#7 Carrying Extra Discs
The first time a friend and I went to a course that was built mainly around water, we were not ready for what happened. We had known there was going to be water to contend with, but this course had very narrow fairways and greens surrounded by water. It was treacherous territory.
If we didn’t hit our lines just right, we were swimming with the fishes, so I decided to play cautiously so as to not go out of bounds in the water. Alas, this was inevitable for some beginners.
Amazingly, I left the course that day with all of my discs still in the bag. I almost lost one, but it was floating just by the edge to where I could reach out and grab it. My friend was not so lucky though. He lost both of his drivers that day and was unable to retrieve them.
By the around the 11th basket, he was down to just his mid-ranges and putters. I thought about lending him one of my drivers, but he declined. Its one thing to lose your disc. Its another thing losing a disc that doesn’t belong to you.
Even though I didn’t lose my discs that day, the lesson was learned. Now I always carry more discs than I’ll likely use during a round, especially when going to a course with water.