How to Play Disc Golf

Despite not being as famous as its cousin, golf, disc golf is still a favorite game of many. It offers the same competitive spirit but with a more laid-back experience—you get to play with a frisbee, after all!

Yet, this begs the question: how to play disc golf? So today, we’ll share with you everything you need to know about how to play it, its little rules, and what equipment you’ll need!

Now bring your disc, and let’s get started.

What Is Disc Golf?

There are two primary similarities between golf and disc golf: the name and the scoring system. That’s where the similarities end, though.

Disc golf, also known as frisbee golf, is a game where you don’t need golf clubs or even balls, just your hands and a flying golf disc.

Unlike regular golf, you’re not aiming for a hole in the ground. Instead, you’re aiming for a disc basket that looks a bit like a basketball hoop.

The basket stands on a pole extending from the ground with multiple chains hanging from the pole and surrounding it from all directions. You win by scoring the lowest points in each hole.

Each course is usually around 9 or 18 holes that are surrounded by trees, shrubs, and many obstacles that make putting hard.

The game started in the early 1900s and took on many shapes until it was formalized by “Steady” Ed Headrick in 1976.

What You Need to Play Disc Golf 

Starting a game of disc golf isn’t just about heading to the course with a frisbee and playing. You’ll also need a few essential items with you!

Here’s a quick rundown of them:

  1. Discs

Disc Golf discs usually range from around $13–$15. However, some types can go up to $20 or $25, depending on the dye, disc type, plastic quality, and manufacturer.

disc golf discs

As you advance in the game, you can use more than one disc, but you’ll need just one for now. Furthermore, there are four types of discs that you need to keep in mind, and those are the following:

  • Putters (Accuracy Shots)

Have you thrown a frisbee before? If you have, then you should be familiar with the putter disc. Though most discs resemble frisbees, putters are the closest when it comes to flight and shape.

They have the thinnest rims among other discs with soft, round edges. Plus, they’re the slowest! This gives the putter discs two primary benefits:

  • They’re less likely to deviate from their course
  • They fly short distances

Thus, putter discs are created to…putt! The putter’s main benefits allow you to aim at the basket without fearing it’ll fly past it or veer off course.

  • Mid-Ranges

The mid-range discs are every beginner’s friend. They offer a more extended shot than the putter’s but with a less rigid flight path. 

They also have sharper edges, and smaller, deeper inner rims, making them more comfortable in players’ hands.

The main aim of mid-rangers is to glide longer and cover more distance to help you get closer to the basket. You don’t need a lot of arm strength to throw them, and they’ll stick to their path until the end of their flight.

  • Fairway Drivers

Fairway drivers are here to help you deliver the shots that putter and mid-range discs won’t be able to accomplish. Basically, they’re designed to slice through the air and cover as much ground as possible in a straight line.

They have a lower profile than the previous two options, and their body is way more dynamic, allowing the fairway drivers to fly faster and farther.

However, you’re only allowed to throw some of these discs after you’ve had your fill of putters and mid-range ones! 

They need a lot of arm strength and an excellent technique to be thrown properly, both of which you can get after practicing with the putters and midranges first.

  • Distance Drivers

If you’ve not yet developed the right arm strength or speed, this disc will be hard to deal with—even after practicing with the fairway driver disc.

Distance drivers, as the name suggests, are designed to provide maximum speed and distance. 

They have bigger rims than fairway drivers, and they’re far less easy to control as they require arm speed and precise technique to be thrown correctly. 

They’re the best discs to tee off with for intermediates and pros. When it comes to beginners, though, they’ll need to stick with fairway drivers or midranges until they develop their techniques.

  1. Disc Golf Retriever

If there’s one thing we know about frisbees, it’s that they’re almost effortlessly easy to lose. And, of course, the same could be said for their cousins, the golf discs.

Once you’re on the course, you’ll probably see loads of spots where you can lose your discs, such as water hazards or tree branches. 

A disc golf retriever helps keep the game going and your clothes dry by simply allowing you to recover the disc from its tough spot. 

  1. Mini Marker Disc

Another good item to have on you is the mini marker disc. As you read on and learn how to play the game, you’ll discover that you throw your disc from where it landed—that spot is called the lie. 

So, to mark that spot, you’ll need to either leave your disc where it is or use a mini marker disc instead. This way, you save yourself a couple of inches, which can help you get close to the target.

  1. Bug Spray and Sunscreen

If you thought that to play the game, you only need disc golf-related equipment, then you’re in for a surprise! 

The whole point of playing disc golf is to go outside, under the sun, and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery.

However, you’ll still need to take some precautionary measures, as a typical 18-hole course can take around two hours to finish, if not more. 

So, a bottle of sunscreen and bug spray are two essential items that you need to bring along; you don’t want to spend the rest of your day with sunburns and bug bites!

  1. Good Shoes
the best disc golf shoes
The Best Disc Golf Shoes Guide

To get a good shot, you need to plant your feet on the ground and use them as leverage to propel your arm forward and let the disc fly.

However, this is hard to accomplish if there’s rain, mud, or snow on the ground.

As a result, players need good shoes that offer traction to help keep them grounded during throws. So, make sure to specifically look for disc golf shoes with rubber soles, for example, to help you get a better grip.

  1. Towel, Water, and Snacks

Now, before you learn how to play and head to the course, you must ensure that you stay energized and hydrated.

The easiest way to do this is by bringing snacks like granola bars, fruit, and a large bottle of water!

Moreover, you’ll need a towel to wipe away any sweat and dirt accumulated on your skin. This will help you keep your skin clear and clean when you reapply your sunscreen.

How to Play Disc Golf

Now that you have all your equipment ready for the big game, it’s time to learn how to play it correctly! So here’s our quick guide:

  1. Find the Perfect Course

First things first, to play a decent game of disc golf, you need to find the best disc golf course around you. Approximately there are 9,000 courses in America alone and almost 13,000 worldwide.

If you’re a beginner—or playing with family and young kids— we recommend choosing your course according to its length.

This allows you to filter out all the challenging courses and hone your skills in a more relaxed environment. It also lets you and your family enjoy the game itself instead of worrying about the difficulty and length of each hole.

To make things easier, check out the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) course directory map to find the courses near you.

  1. Get Your Grip Right

Once you’re on the course, it’s time to take out the discs and warm up before starting the game. The first thing you need to know is how to grip the disc.

Basically, your grip is how you hold the disc when you’re about to throw it. The grip affects everything from the disc’s flight path to how far it’ll go. However, telling you there’s a “right/correct” way to hold your disc would be a blatant lie.

Holding a disc is similar to holding a pen or a pencil; there’s no right or wrong when it comes to it, only what’s comfortable for you. The only advice that matters is that your disc should feel like a continuation of your arm.

It must align and match evenly with your arm as you extend it. If the disc is hanging at an angle when you’re stretching your hands, you’re holding it wrong.

Moreover, hold the disc in your hand in a way that allows its axis to rest against your hand’s seam. This is a line that starts from the point between your middle finger and index finger and ends at the center of your wrist.

After that, you can place your thumb on top of the disc and move the rest of your fingers underneath it until you’re comfortable with its placement.

Remember, mixing the best form with comfortability will allow you to easily grip the disc and throw it with a more natural motion.

  1. Adjust Your Stance

Many newbies think that getting the grip right is all that matters when it comes to throwing the discs. However, your grip is just one part of the equation. Another important aspect is your stance.

You see, whether you’re standing still or running for momentum before you throw the disc, your final stance affects your point of release.

Thus, it affects your overall throwing distance and speed.

Therefore, you’ll need to adjust your stance according to each throw and hole. To do this correctly, you must space your feet about shoulder width apart.

Moreover, because being lower to the ground offers you more balance, you should bend slightly at the knees in a simple crouch.

There are many popular stances that you could use. For instance, the foot-forward stance allows for a perfect putting shot or any short-distance throw. 

Another popular one is the straddling stance, where the disc golf player faces his feet toward the target. This stance is one of the best when it comes to backhand throws.

Lastly, you have the side straddling stance, which is the same as the straddling one except that it’s turned sideways.

  1. Balance Your Windup

The last thing we need to discuss before your throws is the windup. Simply put, you can’t just snap your arm back, throw the disc as far as you can, and expect it to stay on track. You need to plan everything. 

From the minute you grab the disc to pulling it back and moving it from the first point to the point of release. If you don’t plan all of these points, you risk your consistency, which will affect your shots terribly.

Simply put, it doesn’t matter what kind of throwing method you’re trying or what hand you’re using; your windup needs to be the same every time.

Try building a routine for your windup. For example, you can start by quickly looking at your feet, ensuring you’re in the proper stance, then take a deep breath as you lift your head.

Then, bring your arm back and, as you’re exhaling, let the disc fly.

Your routine doesn’t have to be identical to this one; the only thing that matters is staying consistent and monitoring your throws.

  1. Learn the Different Throwing Techniques

Generally, any new disc golfer knows one main throwing technique: the backhand throw. This throw gets its name from tennis, as there is a stroke style with a similar name. 

In this technique, the player essentially extends his entire arm in front of him while holding the disc. Then, he pulls his arm back behind his body and snaps it back with all his strength.

To hit your target with this technique, grip the disc’s rim as we’ve described and choose your preferred stance. After that, let it zoom through the air. 

We know that this may sound redundant, but it’s essential to master these previous elements, as some players focus too much on the technique that they lose sight of their target. 

However, memorizing those elements, balancing your windup, and always keeping your eyes on the target is the key to hitting it right on.

Nonetheless, the backhand throw isn’t the only technique around. Here’s a quick rundown of the most famous ones:

  • The Sidearm (Forehand) Throw

Also named after a tennis stroke, the sidearm throw allows the player to use his arm while facing his target or standing sideways.

When it comes to the grip, it’s almost the same as the backhand throw, except you won’t pull your arm from behind your back.

Instead, it’ll start from behind your shoulder line, move in alignment with your shoulder, chest, and arm, and then release. 

Generally, this throw is a bit harder to achieve than the backhand shot, as it gets messier when creating stability and disc control. However, it’s an excellent technique if you want to gain distance. 

  • The Hyzer Throw
Anhyzer Vs Hyzer

This throwing method was named after H.R. Hyzer, a disc golfer guru who played the game back when it started. In essence, the Hyzer throw is designed to take advantage of the angle at which a disc naturally flies.

When the player throws his disc, you can see that the ungripped section is more angled toward the ground than the part in the player’s hand.

It’s a great technique to use during tight spots, as the disc will carry forward in a straight line until it curves in the last few seconds. If you’re right-handed, the natural angle of the disc will help it curve toward the left. Of course, the opposite is true.

  • The Anhyzer Throw

The Anhyzer technique is the opposite of the Hyzer one. It means that the gripped part of the disc is angled more toward the ground than the ungripped one.

Moreover, the disc won’t curve in the opposite direction when you throw it. In fact, it’ll continue to travel in the same direction!

The main trick with this shot is to keep your disc above shoulder level. If you start out from below the shoulder before you release the disc, you’ll end up messing with the shot.

  • The Overhand Throw

Also known as the Thumber or Tomahawk throw, the overhand throw is your friend if you want your disc to go up and away!

Essentially, this method requires you to throw the disc like a baseball. First, you circle your arm behind your body and then allow it to go forward with a flick of your wrist. 

It’s the perfect technique if you’re stuck behind large obstacles like trees, as it allows your disc to completely bypass it and curve back from the left or right.

It’s not the easiest method, though; it requires a lot of practice as it could lead to injury. So, if you’re still a beginner, read a lot about this shot first and watch plenty of videos.

  1. Tee Off

Just like traditional golf, you start this game from a teeing area. You decide who starts first by flipping a disc like a coin. The side with the prints is considered heads, and the person who gets that side should go first.

During the game, players tee off in order of their score on the previous hole—the player with the lowest points gets to tee off.

Following this same pattern, the game continues until all players have finished the course. Then, of course, the player with the lowest score is the winner.

General Disc Golf Rules and Aims

You now have your bag packed with all the necessary equipment, and you know how to play the game. All that’s left for you is to look at some basic disc golf rules.

So, here’s a quick summary of the most important ones:

  1. Safety

It’s important to stay safe while you’re playing disc golf. Not just for your own sake but for everyone else on the course. Hence, please ensure you heed these rules:

  • Keep your eyes on your surroundings 
  • Don’t walk in front of other players while they’re preparing to throw
  • Park users and non-players get the right of way
  • Never throw when an animal or a person is crossing
  1. Lie

During each throw, players use a mini marker disc to mark where their lie is—where the thrown disc fell.

The disc can’t be moved until the marker disc is placed, as this marks the spot where the player must throw from. 

  1. Unplayable Lie

An unplayable lie is a benefit you can claim whenever your disc falls somewhere unplayable, at least .6 ft above the ground, like on a tree.

When an unplayable lie is declared, you get to throw the disc from directly underneath the unplayable lie.

  1. Out of Bound

Essentially, an out-of-bound (OB) area is a special zone around or in the course where players aren’t allowed to throw their discs from.

A disc is considered out of bounds if an out-of-bounds area completely surrounds it or if it’s completely lost within an OB area.

If that happens, you’re offered a penalty throw which you can either:

  • Play it from the previous lie
  • Play it from a lie that’s around a meter away from the point where the disc was in-bound
  1. Completion

A hole is only completed when the disc lands in the basket or is suspended in the chain. The hole isn’t complete if the disc lies on the basket. 

Plus, as the player is putting, he isn’t allowed to move until the disc rests in the basket—to keep his spot marked. 

Disc Golf Etiquette

The only thing that could make a game of disc golf better and more fun is if everyone behaved politely on the course. Unfortunately, simply following the rules isn’t enough to guarantee a smooth game! 

So, here are some important etiquette rules for you and your family to follow:

  1. Don’t Litter

Please avoid leaving behind any kind of litter. Whether it’s a plastic snack cover or a chipped disc that you no longer need, don’t leave it on the course.

Instead, look around you for any trash cans or recycling bins. If you find none, put everything in your bag so you can dispose of it later.

  1. Let Fast Players Go First

If you need to take your time or simply enjoy the game at a leisurely pace, let other players who seem in a hurry go first. 

You can do this by waiting for them on the next tee and allowing them to go first. Usually, this is okay for casual games. However, if it’s a tournament play, everyone needs to stick to their turn.

  1. Use Proper Language

We know how exciting a game of disc golf can get. We also know how disappointing it can be when you’re one stroke away from winning a hole.

That’s why it’s important to remember to keep your language clean. So, no profanities of any kind, no shouting, and definitely no throwing the disc in anger! 

  1. Respect Other Players

Sometimes, you can find a long waiting line in front of a hole and think it’s okay to skip to another one.

In some cases, this could be completely fine. Yet, you must first check that by choosing this hole, you won’t bother another player or group.

Moreover, keep the walking and loud talking to a bare minimum when other players are shooting their discs. It’s respectful and shows that you’re paying attention to their throw.

Lastly, when you notice that someone is missing their disc and can’t find it, help them out! This shows that you’re a good sport and will help you make friends in no time.

  1. Pay Your Compliments After the Shot

Though this may sound weird, there’s a common belief about discs being “niced.” This means that when a good throw gets called “nice” before it lands, there’s a big chance it’s going to land horribly!

It’s not a big deal, and most disc golfers wouldn’t mind you exclaiming how good their shot was. Nonetheless, it’s best to keep it until the disc lands.

  1. Respect the Property

The last rule in disc golf etiquette is to learn the course’s rules. Not every course is the same, so you need to understand what’s expected of you and what isn’t. For instance, some courses have strict “no littering” rules, while others may be more lenient.

Also, please be respectful towards the natural aspect of the course. This means you shouldn’t cut down any tree branches or pick flowers. 

We understand that sometimes a branch could change how you play a hole, but that’s not an excuse to harm the tree!

Final Thoughts

So, are you still wondering how to play disc golf? Hopefully, you have a better idea after reading our little guide. 

Disc golf is a great sport you can enjoy with friends and family because it’s easy to learn yet still challenging. The rules are fairly simple, and the equipment is easy to find.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your friends and enjoy the world of disc golf!

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