Welcome new and beginning players to frisbee golf! There has never been a better time to learn about this sport and the enjoyment that awaits you.
If you’ve landed here on this page, it is likely you’ve been playing disc golf for a short time and you’ve become hooked on the sport. Addicted even. And now that you’re obsessed with it, you want to improve.
If you’re just curious to find out what frisbee golf is all about, you can skip down to the section, What is Frisbee Golf? to get a quick explanation of the sport. If you like what you hear, keep reading to learn more about how to play.
All players just starting out face many of the same challenges when playing this game, especially throwing a golf disc. It is a difficult task to puzzle out on your own, especially when you see other players throwing the disc farther and more accurately than yourself, and you can’t quite seem to elevate your game to their level.
I’ve been there and I understand your frustration.
Even if you’ve been playing disc golf for a while and you don’t consider yourself a beginner, this guide will bring you back to the basics and heighten your game.
First and foremost, that’s what I want to focus on in this guide. Disc golf basics.
Allow me to be your guide as you start down this path of developing the technique, skills, and knowledge needed to become the best you can possibly be when starting out at disc golf. Simply put, I want to share with you the disc golf tips and tricks that I wish I had when first starting out; when I was a beginner at disc golf.
In this beginner’s guide we’ll review the following topics:
- What is Frisbee Golf
- Choosing a Golf Disc
- Throwing a Golf Disc
- Playing a Round of Disc Golf
- Disc Golf Tournaments
The 2nd and 3rd topics we’ll cover have the most important information you will need to succeed at disc golf: choosing a golf disc and throwing a golf disc. I suggest going through the material slowly to ensure you understand and follow the basic principles meticulously.
It is paramount that you start off moving in the right direction in this sport. If you start with the wrong disc or throwing technique, everything else will be just that much harder for you to figure out.
1. What is Frisbee Golf?
Disc golf, frequently referred to as frisbee golf, is played with very similar rules to traditional golf. Instead of hitting a golf ball with a club into a hole, frisbee golf is played using a golf disc with the objective of throwing it into an elevated basket.
Akin to traditional golf, a disc golfer will attempt to throw their golf disc into a basket using the fewest amount of throws possible from a starting area, or tee pad. Progressing from the tee pad and finishing at the basket is referred to as ‘hole’. A full game or round of disc golf is typically comprised of 9 to 18 holes on a course and the player that completes a round in the least amount of throws in the winner.
It is important to note that a golf disc is not the same as a normal frisbee. While a frisbee is typically designed for playing catch with a friend, a golf disc is designed for traveling long distances and absorbing hard impacts into the ground, trees, and metal baskets.
Disc golf can certainly be played with a catch frisbee and sometimes is used during causal play. Although mostly you’ll find disc golfers using discs that are more aerodynamic with sharp edges and made of much tougher plastic, flying hundreds of feet through the air.
Various forms of disc golf have been around for many years, but what is known today as modern disc golf originated during the 1970’s. Since that time, the sport has grown at an ever increasing rate each year. There are now thousands of courses worldwide being enjoyed by people from all walks of life.
Not only is disc golf an addictive game, the barriers of entry into the sport are significantly low. Most disc golf courses are free-to-play, being shared with public parks. Additionally, one only need purchase a few discs usually between $10 to $15 each to get started.
These are the major reasons why disc golf has been growing at such a fast rate in recent years and will likely continue to grow far into the future.
If you like what you’ve heard so far, keep reading to figure out exactly what you’ll need to know to get started playing disc golf.
2. Choosing a Golf Disc
WAIT! Do not skip over this section yet.
You might feel like you don’t need help choosing a golf disc because chances are you’ve purchased some discs already and you’ve been playing with them. If you don’t currently have any golf discs, this section is perfect for you.
You may just be looking for tips on how to throw your existing discs further or more accurately. All of that and more will be covered later on. However, I’ve put this section at the start for a reason. It is very easy to start off with the wrong disc.
My first major mistake when starting out in disc golf was buying the discs that looked exciting and flashy. I had borrowed some discs from a friend the first time I played and I decided to buy a few of my own for the next time. I used those discs for a short time and quickly became unsatisfied with the results and moved on.
My second major mistake when beginning disc golf was buying discs that I saw others having success with. When the first discs I purchased weren’t working out as much as I would have liked, I took note of the discs I saw other players using. I even researched what some of the professional players used. I made the assumption that I should be using the same discs as those players.
However, buying a disc that you saw someone else using is not a good strategy for choosing a disc, especially when it is a professional player. This is the #1 fallacy players make. Myself included.
It COULD work if you’re lucky, but that’s unlikely.
Like most anything, disc golf discs have degrees of difficulty and required skill. If you were weight lifting for the first time in your life, you wouldn’t start with the heaviest weights in the gym. You’d work up to the hefty stuff slowly. And if you were lifting weights that were too heavy for you, there would be plenty of obvious signs that would indicate this such as bad form and injuries.
The same goes for throwing a golf disc. However, it is very easy to get this part wrong if you don’t understand a few of the basics about discs. So, let’s go over those right now:
- The Best Disc Golf Discs for Beginners
- Golf Disc Categories
- Golf Disc Flight Ratings
- Flight Pattern Examples
- Golf Disc Speed Requirement
- Golf Disc Weight
- Golf Disc Plastics
The Best Disc Golf Discs for Beginners
I want to start off by simply telling you exactly which discs I would recommend you start throwing as a beginner. In fact, I insist on this. Then we’ll look into WHY these discs are the best for a new and developing player.
I really like the Innova starter set. The guys at Innova know what their doing. They’ve been manufacturing golf discs for years and they’ve put together three fantastic starter discs that have been tried and tested for years. These are hands down some of the best discs to start out with. The Leopard, Shark, and Aviar.
Even if you’ve already purchased some discs, I encourage you to take a step back and try these. They are all very easy to throw and are commonly used by all skill levels.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone discouraged before throwing a Leopard, Shark, or Aviar, and then quickly brighten up when they see how far and accurately they can throw these discs compared to others. I was pleased to find that the online listing on Infinite Discs was extremely affordable and cheaper than anywhere else I looked, so be sure to check out the current price for each one when you go to pick these up: Innova DX Leopard, Innova DX Shark , Innova DX Aviar.
But what is it that makes these particular discs perfect for beginning players? There are 6 areas that I want to discuss so you can understand exactly why these discs are excellent to start with. We’ll look at golf disc categories, flight ratings, flight patterns, speed requirement, weight, and plastic types, which all play an important role when choosing discs.
Golf Disc Categories
There are 4 general categories of golf discs. Distance drivers, fairway drivers, mid-ranges, and putters.
Distance drivers – As is obvious by the name, this type of disc has the highest potential to fly the furthest distance. They are also the hardest discs to throw. This is due to their thinner profile, sharper outer edge, and thicker rims that provide for maximum aerodynamics. To tap into that extra distance these discs offer, the thrower needs to have a fast and powerful arm to allow the disc to soar through the air at high speeds. If a distance driver is not thrown with enough power the disc will have lackluster results. Typically used for distances in excess of 300 feet by intermediate to advanced players.
Fairway drivers – A fairway driver (sometimes referred to as a control driver) is a step down in distance from the distance drivers, but offer more control over the flight of the disc. The outer edge is not as aerodynamic and the rim is a bit smaller, which means these discs do not have to be thrown as fast to achieve great results. Typically used for distances between 200 and 350 feet by intermediate to advanced players and some beginners.
Mid-ranges – This disc takes down the distance once again from the fairway driver. Similarly, the thrower will gain more control in the trade off for less distance. A mid-range disc will have a more rounded outer edge and thinner rim. When thrown correctly, this type of disc has the ability to fly much straighter than a distance or fairway driver. Typically used for distances between 150 and 250 feet by beginner, intermediate, and advanced players.
Putters – A putter will have the the roundest outer edge and smallest rim, resulting in the least aerodynamics. The blunt edge is designed for grabbing the chains when thrown in a basket. Typically used for distances within 100 feet to finish out a hole by landing in the basket. Used by all levels of players.
The Innova starter discs that I suggested above comes with a fairway driver, mid-range, and putter. You’ll notice that it doesn’t have a distance driver. This is because distance drivers require a high degree of practice and arm speed to actually throw effectively.
I propose that you keep clear of any distance drivers for the time being. In fact, the same goes for most fairway drivers too. Mastering your mid-range and putter discs first is a key stepping stone to graduating up to your drivers. And you’ll be glad you did it this way.
Golf Disc Flight Ratings
When you look at your three starter discs , you’ll notice that there are 4 numbers displayed. These numbers are known as the flight rating system, which was first developed by Innova and has since been adopted by many other disc manufacturers in some form or another.
The flight ratings are used as a way to help you understand how the disc is designed to fly using four categories: Speed|Glide|Turn|Fade.
The below explanations as given from the perspective of a right handed player throwing a backhand throw. We’ll review later on what all the different throws are, but a backhand throw is how a catch frisbee is traditionally thrown.
1. Speed – Rating of 1 to 14 – This is the first rating provided on the disc, and for good reason. I would argue this is the most important number you need to focus on when choosing a disc. The speed indicates how fast the disc CAN go if throw with the required power. Higher speed indicates higher distance potential. The more rounded the outer edge of a disc, the lower the speed rating. For example, most putters are between 1 and 3 speeds. Distance drivers are usually 9 speed or higher.
If a higher speed disc isn’t thrown with enough power, it will have lackluster results.
2. Glide – Rating of 1 to 7 – The glide rating of a disc indicates how long a disc will stay in the air, with 7 being the longest and 1 being the shortest. Higher glide is usually associated with drivers to maximize distance. Putters will usually have lower glide since the disc is traveling shorter distances.
3. Turn – Rating of 1 to -5 – Turn is an indicator for how likely a disc will curve to the right at the beginning of its flight (when thrown by a right handed backhand thrower). A rating of -5 indicates the disc has a strong tendency to curve right, while a rating of 1 indicates the disc has very little tendency to curve to the right.
4. Fade – Rating of 0 to 5 – Fade is an indicator of how likely a disc will curve to the left at the end of its flight (when thrown by a right handed backhand thrower). A rating of 5 indicates the disc has a strong tendency to curve left at the end of its flight, while a disc with a rating of 0 will have the tendency to fly straighter with little or no curve to the left.
Flight Pattern Examples
From the flight ratings, a flight pattern can be drawn to help players visualize what SHOULD occur when a disc is thrown flat, level and with the required speed. In the case of the Leopard fairway driver, the flight ratings of 6|5|-2|1 would result in an expected flight path of the below:
For contrast, the Jade from Latitude 64 has all of the same ratings except for a little more speed. This results in essentially the same flight shape, but with more distance:
Next, take the Orion LS from Millennium that has all the same ratings as a Jade but adds more fade. Take note of how the extra fade impacts the flight pattern creating a more extreme hook at the end.
Lastly, let’s look at the Innova Roadrunner which has the same ratings, but this time with more turn. The disc takes a much wider turn out to the right before gently fading back to the left.
From these examples, you can begin to appreciate and understand the numerous variations of flight patterns a disc can take as the ratings are tweaked. Keep in mind, these are the EXPECTED flight paths a disc is designed to take. If a disc isn’t thrown with enough power to meet the speed rating requirement, the flight path will be much different.
Here is what the flight pattern of a Leopard would possibly look like if thrown by a brand new player.
Notice that even though the disc has -2 turn, there is almost no curve to the right. Also, the disc is designed with fade of 1, however the disc has an extreme hook to the left at the end of its flight that would indicate a higher fade around 2 or 3.
This is likely what the flight path would look like if a player didn’t throw the disc with enough power to meet the speed requirement rating of 6 for the Leopard.
Conversely, a disc can thrown with more power than is required. When a disc is ‘overpowered’ it will fly as if it has more turn. Meaning, it will curve more to the right at the beginning of its flight.
Golf Disc Speed Requirement
As was seen previously, if a disc isn’t thrown with enough power, the flight characteristics will be completely different than the manufacturer intended in the design. This is almost always going to be a bad thing because instead of the disc flying straight, it will fade off to the left in an extreme fashion.
For this reason, I am going to recommend that you focus specifically on mastering your mid-range and putter from the starter discs.
The Shark has a speed rating of 4 and the Aviar has a speed rating of 2. Both will fly very straight and do not require much arm power for great results. Once we get to the section on the proper way to throw a golf disc, these will be the two discs that you want to use first.
As you develop technique and arm power, you’ll want to move up to your fairway drive. And then so on to discs with even more speed, all the way up. This doesn’t happen overnight, so remain patient as you develop the necessary skills to move up in disc speed.
Golf Disc Weight
Disc golf discs typically come in weights between 150-180 grams. There are some discs that come in lower weights under 150 grams, although I don’t suggest going much lower than this, unless the disc is intended for a younger kid.
However, the first thing you should know about golf disc weight is to keep the weight low when starting out.
The concept is simple. The heavier the disc, the harder it will be to throw it. When a disc is lighter, the thrower has the ability to release the disc with more velocity or speed. As weight is added, the thrower is required to throw with more power to achieve the same result.
If you stick with the starter discs I recommended above, you’ll end up with 3 discs that are all right around 150 grams. This is perfect. Just make sure to selection the lower weight option when purchasing. Starting with a low weight is going to dramatically increase your performance in the early days.
Even as you become more advanced, these are discs that you’ll still be able to use for multiple purposes for years to come. That purpose may just changed as you progressively get better.
Golf Disc Plastics
Manufactures have come up with numerous different types of plastic blends that they mold their discs with. There are four general levels of plastic quality.
- Low Quality – is easier to damage, lower in cost, and easier to grip. Ideal for short range throws like putters and mid-range.
- Medium Quality – a few dollars more expensive than the low quality plastic. Grip is still satisfactory and the extra durability will enable to disc to last longer.
- High Quality – has the most durability, but the least grip due to the plastic being slick.
- Premium Quality – the most expensive plastic type. Offers the best of both worlds. Will last the longest and offer good grip.
The starter discs linked above will all come in the DX plastic blend, which is a low quality type plastic. Let me explain why this is the ideal plastic for a player just starting out in disc golf.
No one plans to be a beginner forever. The fact that you have read this far into this guide says that you want to get better at disc golf and you have the dedication to make it happen.
By following this guide, you’re chances of improving will increase greatly. Especially after you’ve mastered the proper way to throw a disc in the next section. Once you have mastered the basics, you’ll want to move on to more advanced discs.
Once you are ready to move on to more advanced discs, you’ll learn more about what your specific preferences are. Whether you want a disc with more or less speed, glide, turn, or fade. At that point, you’ll want to invest the money into a more quality plastic that can last a much longer time.
Keep in mind that as a disc is used more often, the plastic will get beat up and begin to change the flight characteristics. I wrote a post on a test I ran to see how long it would take to beat in a golf disc, and how that impacted the flight of the disc. The examples and results were intriguing. You can check that out here.
Picking a Disc After Your the Starter Discs
After you progress beyond your started discs, picking a disc will become more of a personal preference over anything else. There are a number of discs that a high percentage of players use, which is always a good indicator that a disc could work for your game.
I have found some discs that I like to throw that are not that popular. However, the vast majority of what I throw are discs that are used by a high percentage of players out there.
There are discs out there that can clearly be called the BEST, simply because so many people find success with them. I put together a Disc Golf Disc Buyer’s Guide where I list my top golf disc recommendations. After you have mastered this guide and your starter discs, you’ll want to take a look at the buyer’s guide next.
The guide will review some of the information we have covered, but in more details. And the discs and strategies for selecting new discs will be more advanced.
3. Throwing a Golf Disc
Now that you have your discs in hand and you understand WHY you have those specific discs, let’s move into HOW you should throw them. There are plenty of ways to throw a golf disc, but there are some basic concepts and principles that you should follow when perfecting your technique.
The most common throw you will see disc golfers use is the backhand. That is the throw I advocate for beginners to understand first.
A golf disc is thrown differently than a catch frisbee. Typically a person would throw a catch frisbee from their body with their toes and body point at their target location.
However, throwing a golf disc is much different than a catch frisbee. Let’s review the steps.
Steps to Throwing a Backhand
- Placement of the disc in your hand
- Gripping the disc
- Take an athletic stance
- Point the disc at your target
- Reach back with the disc passed your body
- Quickly pull the disc through close to your body
- Snapping your wrist
- Follow through
Let’s review each one step by step so you can follow along with your discs.
1. Placement of the disc in your hand
Find a comfortable position to place the outer rim of the disc in the palm of your hand, just between your pointer finger and thumb. Some players find it helpful to use the creases of their hand as a guide of where to place the disc. This can help with consistency.
2. Gripping the disc
There are countless ways to grip a golf disc. I recommend starting with the power grip and the fan grip. You’ll use the power grip when going for maximum distance and you’ll use the fan grip when going for accuracy and control over short to medium distances.
For a power grip, tuck all four of your fingers into the inner rim, right where it meets the bottom flight plate. The finger nails or top knuckles may incidentally be touching the bottom flight plate, but the fingers pads should not be resting there. The pressure on the inner rim will create a strong pinch up against your hand. The thumb is placed on top where the rim and flight plate meet. Thumb placement may vary based on hand size.
A fan grip is performed by fanning your four fingers along the bottom flight plate. Your thumb rests on the top flight plate directly over your middle and ring fingers. This allows a tight squeeze on the disc. The pointer and pinkie finger rest along the inner rim for angle control.
Make sure you keep a firm grip on the disc. You don’t want it to slip out of your hand too soon during the throw.
3. Take an athletic stance
When throwing a golf disc, you will actually position your body so your feet create a 90 degree angle with the target. Your throwing arm will be pointed at the target location. Have a little bend in your knees and hips, and make sure your body is loosened up. Your feet should be staggered slightly. This will allow the hips to lock into place and provide full range of motion during the throw.
4. Point the disc at your target
Now that you have your body pointed in the correct direction it is also helpful to point the disc at your target. This isn’t essential, but it will help you to further align your body so it is originated correctly. As your arm is extended toward the target, ensure that the disc is flat and level, without any tilt.
5. Reach back with the disc passed your body
As the disc is extended out in front of your body, begin reach back with the disc past your body. Keep it slow and controlled. Also, keep the disc as close to your body as possible on a straight line. If I were to draw a line of the path the disc takes past your body all the way to the basket, it should be relatively straight.
During the reach back, your body should turn at the hips with your opposite arm held away from your body. Your head will also turn with the disc and your hips. Focus on not extending the disc up beyond your shoulder or down by your hips. It should be about chest height. You’re now at the beginning of the throw.
6. Quickly pull the disc through close to your body
The throw is an explosive movement. Quickly pull the disc through on that same path as before, which forms a straight line all the way to the target. As you bring the disc through, your hips should start leaning in with the movement and turning around with your arm. The elbow of your throwing arm should go from straight, to a 90 degree angle.
As your elbow is at a 90 degree angle, it will start breaking through your throwing line and rotating beyond your body. Your hips will start to open up toward the target. Your leading foot should now rotate on your heel, not your toe, toward the target.
At no point during your pull-through should the disc move in a curved motion. It should always remain on that straight line toward the target.
7. Snapping your wrist
As your disc is coming down the line, your arm will begin to fully extend and swing past your body. At the apex of the pull through, just before your arm being to take the disc off that straight line, you will snap your wrist. This is a similar motion to cracking a whip.
It is this snapping motion with your wrist, coupled with the power of your hips and arm pulling through that will allow the disc to rip out of your grip. This generates maximum spin on the disc, which is what allows the disc to fly through the air smoothly.
Remember on keeping the disc flat and level throughout the throwing motion. Once the disc is released from your hand, you do not want the disc to go nose up into the sky or nose down into the ground.
8. Follow through
As the disc rips from your hand, you need to make sure you follow through the motion using your body. The follow through is led by the elbow of your throwing arm, with your chest and hips fully opening toward the target. Your opposite arm should also follow through, swinging past your body. And finally your back leg will gentle swing forward. The disc should not be pointed up or down when released.
The power of the pull through plus the snap will rip the disc from your grip. The more powerful the rip, the most spin generated on the disc. More spin results in more distance down the fairway.
Add In a Run-up: The X-Step
The majority of your power is going to be generated from your pull through, hips, and wrist snap. However, adding in a short run-up before you throw a golf disc can give you even more distance.
Throwing a golf disc is not a common motion we do with our bodies all the time. The motion is sometimes compared to starting a lawn mower with a pull cord. You need to give your body time to develop the necessary muscle memory to execute the throw correctly and consistently every time.
For this reason, make sure that you master throwing a disc using a standstill stance first. This will help you to focus on the mechanics of the throw itself, without adding another layer of complexity to think about.
Once you are comfortable with a standstill throw, you’ll want to add in a run-up. There are a few styles out there that disc golfers use, but by far the most popular is the x-step.
The throwing mechanics previously reviewed as all the same. To demonstrate, we’ll take a look a player performing a right handed backhand throw.
To perform an x-step, start back a few steps from the end of the tee pad.
Begin by taking a small side step forward with your right foot. Notice how the body is not facing the target, but is facing to the side. The feet are also pointing to the side.
Next, take your left foot and cross it behind the right leg for another small step. This will create an X with your legs for a brief moment. Take note that the hips are slightly angled back. This will allow for maximum power from the hips when turned at the end of the throw.
Use your right leg to now take a very large step out toward the end of the tee pad. By transferring your weight from a small step to a large step, you’ll be able to generate maximum power. Notice how the toes and hips are pointed back toward the starting position. This is achieved by planting the right foot slightly to the left side of the top of the tee box.
At this point, you will execute the throw similar to using a standstill throw. Everything is leading up to this last step. All weight is shifted to the right leg, while the right foot pivots on the heel and points towards the target.
Shot Shapes & Release Angles
So far we have discussed releasing the disc on a flat plane with no angle. Now, we’ll take a look at what else you can do with your discs to traverse any obstacles on a course by using different release angles.
There are three basic ways you can release a disc out of your hand:
- Flat Release – the disc remains parallel to the ground
- Hyzer Release – the disc is angled inward toward your body
- Anhyzer Release – the disc is angled outward toward the ground
The release angle will significantly dictate the flight the disc takes. However, that is only one half of the equation. The type of disc thrown will also have an impact.
We discussed the 4 categories of discs with distance drivers, fairway drivers, mid-ranges, and putters. In addition to this, each disc is molded in such a way to encourage certain flight characteristics. The flight rating system is the way in which these characteristics are tracked, but there are three general types of flights a disc will take:
- Stable – refers to a disc that generally flies straight when thrown flat. Discs with a rating of 0 turn and 0 fade would be referred to as stable.
- Overstable – refers to a disc that generally fades to the left when thrown flat by a right handed backhand player. Discs with a high fade rating would be referred to as overstable.
- Understable – refers to a disc that generally turns to the right when thrown flat by a right handed backhand player. Discs with a high turn rating would be referred to as understable.
When you combine the three release angles and the three types of discs, you are able to create nine different basic shot shapes. Between these nine shot shapes, players are able to negotiate almost any obstacle on a disc golf course.
All of these flight paths are drawn under the assumption that the discs are being thrown with the proper speed. If any of the discs were under or over thrown, the shot shapes would take the same general form, but the turn and fade would be intensified to a greater degree.
Also, the severity to which you angle the your disc will accentuate the above flight paths. For example, if you were to throw the Leopard on a very extreme anhyzer release angle, it would fly far to the right and likely have no fade back to the left at the end.
Conversely, if you released the Leopard on a very extreme hyzer angle, it would curve very far to the left out of your hand and likely have no straightness at the beginning of the flight.
4. Playing a Round of Disc Golf
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about choosing and throwing a golf disc, so now its time to get out there and play. Of course, the entire objective of disc golf is to throw your disc into a target basket in the fewest throws possible. Along with that objective, there are various situations that may arise that you’ll want to understand how to handle.
Honestly, there isn’t just one way to play this game. People out there have many different adapted styles and approaches that can all be viewed as equally enjoyable. However, there are official rules that have been published by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) that I would encourage you to read. Once you understand all the rules, you’ll be able to determine how you want to adapt them for your play.
A good portion of the official rules are geared toward professional tournament play. Some of it won’t be applicable if you’re going to play casually, but if you ever watch professional tournaments it’ll be helpful to follow along.
Official Disc Golf Rules
In this section, we’ll cover the major rules that you should at least be aware of for casual play. These are the things that most players out there will insist on you following if you were to play with them.
The official rules of disc golf can be found on the PDGA website. Here are the ones of which you should quickly be aware :
- Order of play – any order can be determined on the first throw from the tee pad. After that, the player furthest from the basket throws next. Once the first hole is completed, the player with the lowest score throws first and so on.
- Excessive time – once it is your turn to throw and you’ve come up to your disc, you have 30 seconds to throw. Most players don’t get too picky on this one, just be prompt and you’ll be fine.
- Teeing off – make sure you have at least one foot (supporting point) on the tee pad at the moment you release your disc. This is true for fairway throws as well.
- Marking your lie – once your disc comes to rest after a throw, it is known as a lie. You can use a mini disc to mark the front edge of your lie. You can also just throw your next shot from behind your disc without marking with a mini disc.
- Lie – after you mark your lie, you must make your next throw from behind your lie within a 8 x 12 inch imaginary rectangle. Make sure at least some part of either of your feet is touching this area at the time of release.
- Mandatory route – some courses will have mandatory routes that restrict the path your disc must fly through. Just be aware and look for anything marked as mando or mandatory with arrows indicating the required flight path. If you miss the mandatory route you’ll receive one penalty throw to your score and must re-throw from your previous lie.
- Putting area – anything within 10 meters of the basket. After you release your putt, you must ‘demonstrate full control‘ over your body behind your lie. Just make sure you don’t step over your marked disc immediately after putting. After a putt, take a moment and pick up whatever you are using to mark your lie before advancing to the basket. Breaking this rule adds one penalty throw to your score.
- Out of bounds – courses will typically outline that in-play area that you need to keep your disc (the fairway). Any time your disc comes to rest outside of the fairway, you’ve gone out of bounds, which add one penalty throw to your score.
If you’re not playing in a tournament setting you can obviously pick and choose which rules you want to incorporate into your game. But you’ll find the above rules to be widely recognized even during recreational play, so it is a good idea to get familiar with them.
There are multiple others covered in the official rules on the PDGA site that players usually ignored during casual play. There are even some rules that are specifically allowed to be disregarded during sanction tournament events, such as the two-meter rule.
Finding a Disc Golf Course
There are some many great disc golf courses out there that anybody would love to play on. Some are shared with golf courses and others are shared with public parks. But you have to find them first.
I started playing disc golf when a course was installed not far from where I worked. It was always easy for me to walk over there during a lunch hour or after work to play a round with some friends.
Over time we started to look for other courses that we could go to and enjoy. There are a few different places that you can go on the internet to search for disc golf courses. Let me share with you my favorite ways I’ve used to find courses.
Disc Golf Course Databases
Disc Golf Scene – this website has become my first stop when looking up disc golf courses. It has a clean look and easy to navigate interface. You can quickly set your location to find all of the courses around you, along with reviews, comments, and rankings from other users.
Disc Golf Course Review – this website is widely used by disc golfers. It has the largest database of course reviews out of any I have found. There is an interactive map that you can use to find new courses. When I’m going out of town and I’m not familiar with the area, this is the site I like to use to find courses around where I’m staying.
Infinite Courses – Infinite Courses is a relatively new site. Out of all the sites, this one has the best look and feel to it and creates a useful user experience. However, since it is new it doesn’t have nearly as many reviews and ratings left by other users.
PDGA Course Directory – the PDGA website is likely the most complete and authoritative list of courses on the internet. Unfortunately, there just aren’t any reviews and ratings, which makes it difficult to justify using this one over the others.
Google Search – This is likely what most people do when they are first curious about finding new disc golf courses. Just type in ‘disc golf courses near me’ and wait for the results that show up on Google Maps. There are surprising a lot of people out there that leave Google reviews on disc golf courses so it can be a good place to check before going to a new course. Once I discovered the other databases available out there, I haven’t really used this much.
UDisc – UDisc is an app for your phone available on iPhone and Android. If you enjoy using apps, then this is the one for you. It is great for finding new courses, but it does much more than that.
Common Disc Golf Terminology
When I first got into disc golf, I heard plenty of terms that I was unfamiliar with and it was hard to follow along with some conversation. Some of which we’ve already gone over in this guide such as hyzer, anhyzer, overstable, understable, fade, turn, glide, lie, order of play, mandatory, etc. So we won’t go over those again.
Since disc golf is a derivative of golf, many of the same terms are used, so if you’re familiar with golf most of these terms will just be a review for you. Although there are many terms which are specific to disc golf. Let’s take a look at some common terminology that you’ll want to be familiar with:
- Par – a set number of throws for you to complete a hole (this is typically between three to five throws). For example, if the hole is a par three, you should expect to complete the hole in three throws.
- Ace – finishing a hole in one throw. Rare and usually only on a par three.
- Condor – finishing a hole at four under par. Almost impossible to do.
- Albatross – finishing a hole at three under par. Almost never happens.
- Eagle – finishing a hole at two under par. Rarely happens.
- Birdie – finishing a hole at one under par. Occurs regularly. A birdie score is typically the goal of each hole you play. Anything better is icing on the cake.
- Bogey – finishing a hole at one over par. If you finishing a hole at two over par, this is called a double bogey. If you finishing a hole at three over par, this is called a triple bogey. And so on.
- Circle 1 – within 10 meters around the basket
- Circle 2 – between 10 and 20 meters around the basket
These terms will be helpful to understand when keeping score of your rounds.
Keeping Score In Disc Golf and More
In most sports you’re goal is to score the most points possible. In disc golf, a lower score is actually considered better.
Each hole on a course is assigned a par value and the amount of throws it takes you to complete a hole is scored according to par. You’ll typically want to bring along a scorecard with you. Follow along as we go through a scorecard example.
Disc Golf Scorecard Example
In this example, we have four players playing a par 58 course at a total of 6947 feet:
In the first section, the total throws it took to complete each hole are recorded for each player:
In the next section, each players’ total throws are subtracted from par to give them a final score for each hole:
Analyzing the first hole and applying what we learned in the common terminology section, we see that:
- Susan scored a -1, which would be called a birdie
- Frank scored a 0, which would be called even
- Carl scored a 2, which would be called a double bogey
- Patty scored a 0, which would be called even
At the end of the round, we find that Carl is the winner with a total score of 9 over par. Put another way, it took Carl 67 total throws to complete a course that was designed to be completed in 58 throws.
If you prefer using paper and a pencil, when here is a blank template scorecard image that you can download and printout.
However, the easiest way to keep score during your disc golf round is by using an app on your phone. Here are two of the popular options out there that I like which can make the process very painless by automatically calculating everything for you.
UDisc is the flagship app for disc golf. As mentioned previously, this app can be used for finding new course. It is difficult to capture how great this app is in just a few short sentences, but it really does make your experience out on the course enjoyable. It has a very active community which allows for the app to continuously receive updates for improvement.
The most liked feature on this app is being about to view hole maps and real time distance to the basket when you have GPS turned on with your phone. It can get easy to get lost on a new course. And even easier to forget the par of the hole. Not any more. This app will guide you ever step of the way.
Of course, you can track your scores and statistics from each round. If your course is on the app, which most are, it’ll have everything you need to know about each hole. You need only enter in how many throws it took you to finish a hole and it will do the rest.
The target audience for this app are disc golfers that are very serious about the sport. There are apps out there that just provide the basics of scoring, but this one takes it a significant step further.
First it requires that you setup an account. It will help you track a number of helpful statistics about your rounds and provides you a rating for you performance, similar to how the PDGA calculates ratings.
Practicing Disc Golf
If you want to truly improve at anything you need to practice. Disc golf is no different. The best way to practice is by meaningful play out on a disc golf course. However, it can be difficult to get out to a disc golf course every day. For most of you, you’ll likely only have time to play on the weekends, especially if you have a job and family.
In this case, you’ll need some routines that you can practice at home and there are two great options for you to do this.
First, get a disc golf basket for your backyard. You can easily go out to your backyard for 30 minutes a day and practice putting. I’ve used a number of baskets over the years and I’ve settled on one particular basket that I really like and recommend for all players. You can take a look at the my recommendations in an article I wrote here.
A basket at your home is nice for putting, but you won’t be able to use that for practicing your distance throws (unless you have a gigantic yard). Luckily, there is a device that you can use at home for this which I’ve found to be extremely useful. I put together a short review of a product called the ProPull Disc Golf Trainer that you can read here that I personally love to use.
5. Disc Golf Tournaments
This is where most disc golfers get the most out of the sport. Playing in a disc golf tournament or watching the professional players in action can really help you understand and improve your game. It is also tremendously enjoyable to watch other athletes perform at such a high level.
If you are interested in competing in disc golf, then you’ll be glad to know that there are hundreds of tournaments across the country for which anyone can register . There is likely an upcoming tournament close to where you live.
Disc golf is still a growing sport. There isn’t a dedicated TV channel that you can turn on and watch live coverage all day, every day like some other sports. Pretty much all major disc golf tournaments are filmed. However, they are primarily only uploaded to YouTube.
Disc Golf YouTube Channels
Disc golf has grown fast on YouTube, becoming one of the main sources of watching tournament coverage. I wrote a comprehensive article on this not long ago analyzing a number of the largest and growing YouTube channels dedicated to disc golf content.
If you are interested in discovering some of these YouTube channels, this article would be a good place to start.
UDisc Live is a fantastic website that tracks tournament coverage in real time. There aren’t many sources for watching live coverage, but this is a great way to keep up with all of the action. It tracks players scores and stats.
Playing In Your First Disc Golf Tournament
Playing is disc golf tournaments is a pretty common activity that a number of disc golfers get involved with. Both at the professional and amateur level. There are a number of competition tiers and divisions that you can choose from, so you’ll likely be able to compete against other players at your same skill level.
It has never been easier to find a disc golf tournament and register. A very popular place for finding and registering for tournaments is at Disc Golf Scene. Simply list where you live and it will give you all the upcoming events closest to you.
The registration fee is typically very low for these events and you’ll usually walk away with at least some new disc golf discs or gear as a prize.
If you see yourself really pursuing this sport and you’re curious about seeing how much pro disc golfers make from these tournaments, you can check out this article here where I analyzed the average prize of a disc golf tournament.
If you are planning on playing in tournaments more often, then you should considered becoming a member of the PDGA. It comes with great benefits. Also, there are some tournaments that require you to be a PDGA member before you can enter.
The benefits of being a member as listed on the PDGA site include:
- Free UDisc Pro subscription – the official mobile app of the PDGA
- Subscription to Discgolfer magazine – the official publication of the PDGA
- PDGA logo disc
- Mini marker
- The Official Rules of Disc Golf and Competition Manual for Disc Golf Events
- Lifetime member number
- Membership card
- PDGA sticker
- Reusable scorecard
The free UDisc Pro subscription alone almost makes being a member worth it. Also, it brings together a sense of community with other disc golfers all around the world.
Thanks For Reading!
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of this complete beginners guide to frisbee/disc golf. I’m incredibly excited for you as you begin your journey through disc golf. I really do love this sport and I hope you come to love it too.
If you’ve found what you’ve read here to be useful, then I would appreciate you paying it forward by sharing your knowledge of this article with the people on your social networks. It’s easy and it’s a big help to me.
Good luck out there on the course!