What Is the Golden Rule of Disc Golf?

Rules are the foundation of every sport, including disc golf. Generally, rules determine which actions are allowed, how scores are calculated, and how to ultimately win the game.

There are some rules, such as the golden rule, that promote the safety of all players, the fairness of the game, and the preservation of the course. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional disc golfer, following this rule is essential to your performance in every game.

But what is the golden rule of disc golf, even? How does it impact the way disc golfers play the sport? Do officials and tournament directors enforce this rule, as well?

In this guide, we’ll run through several vital rules of disc golf, including the famous golden rule. We’ll also discuss this sport’s code of ethics, etiquette, player penalties, and more!

What Is the Golden Rule of Disc Golf?

The golden rule of disc golf is a broad statement that involves having the right attitude towards the game, other players, and your playing environment. It’s about treating the entirety of disc golf in the same way you’d like to be treated—with kindness and respect.

By following the golden rule, disc golfers get the chance to cherish the game and play to the best of their abilities. Enjoyment, experience, and environmental awareness are maximized, while misunderstandings between players are kept to a minimum.

Disc Golfer’s Code of Ethics

Due to the increasing number of disc golf enthusiasts and players, the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) developed a universal code of conduct for all disc golfers. Following this code enables disc golf to be a safe, satisfying, and sustainable sport for everyone:

1. Play Smart

The first part of the code prioritizes the safety of spectators, officials, players, and other individuals in the playing area. As a disc golfer, you must ensure that the space is clear and safe before throwing.

2. Respect the Course

Each disc golf course has its own set of policies regarding littering, maintenance, and use of facilities. Do your part in caring for the course by following all guidelines and keeping the course clean and in good condition.

3. Represent the Sport

Having a positive attitude, playing the game responsibly, and coaching beginner players are some of the best ways to represent disc golf. This part of the code promotes the growth of the sport and encourages interested players to join the fun.

Preventing Player Misconduct in Disc Golf

Engaging in unfair practices, bad habits, and unsportsmanlike behavior doesn’t just ruin the game of disc golf for everyone—it can cost you the game and invalidate all your efforts, too.

Disc golfers who commit violations and player misconduct face penalties, disqualification, and serious disciplinary action.

For instance, a particular case in 2012 involved a disc golfer who was disqualified due to personal misconduct, despite winning in his division. Both his victory and a $750 prize were nullified by the PDGA and the tournament director merely hours after making his last putt.

Instances of Player Misconduct

Professional player Nikko Locastro was disqualified from the 2022 European Open due to an altercation with a tournament official. Threatening and intimidating officials and players is one of the most serious forms of misconduct.

Valerie Jenkins is another professional disc golfer who was disqualified from the Santa Cruz Masters Cup due to player misconduct involving her caddie. Valerie’s caddie possessed alcohol during one of the rounds, which is against the official rules.

Additionally, professional player Bradley Williams received an 18-month suspension from the PDGA due to his unsportsmanlike conduct of bumping into another player. This event took place at the 2016 Ledgestone Insurance Open.

The suspension caused Bradley to miss the United States Disc Golf Championship and the Disc Golf Pro Tour finale. Prior to this event, Bradley had already been suspended for kicking over a disc golf basket in-game.

Official Rules for Disc Golf

The rules for playing disc golf are fairly simple and easy to learn. If you’ve played traditional golf before, you’ll notice plenty of similarities between the two sports. 

Tournament rounds and official games involve four disc golf players per group, with no group having less than three players. Amateur and professional players are usually grouped separately. Groupings can also be randomized or based on players’ ratings.

As for disc golf courses, they’re built around wooded areas and parks. The landscaping and diversity of terrain vary and contribute to the difficulty level of each course. 

Players aren’t allowed to change any part of the course. Avoid clearing paths, breaking tree branches, or moving plants, as this will result in a penalty.

Disc Golf Officials

A tournament official is a person who has the authority to enforce the game’s proper application and call out rule violations. Meanwhile, the director is the individual who’s in charge of the event. The director is the only person who can officially disqualify a player.

Disc Golf Equipment

The main thing you’ll need for every game is a disc golf set. Discs are usually classified into putters, drivers, and all-purpose mid-range discs.

disc golf bag and dog set

For added convenience and accuracy, consider utilizing the following items as well:

  • Disc carrying bag
  • Disc retriever
  • Mini marker discs
  • Scorecard
  • Permanent marker
  • Disc golf rangefinder
  • Disc golf cart
  • Friction disc golf glove

Don’t forget your personal essentials, such as towels, comfortable shoes, and a water bottle!

Objective of the Game

The objective of disc golf is to complete the entire course with the lowest score or the least total strokes or throws. A typical disc golf course includes either 9 or 18 holes, which are individual units for scoring.

Each throw of a disc counts for one throw or stroke. A hole is considered complete when the disc enters the disc golf basket or gets suspended in the chains.

Disc Golf Throwing Rules

Players start each game by throwing from the teeing area of the first hole. This area, which is also known as the tee, is the spot that’s three meters behind the tee line. Some courses have a designated tee pad where you can stay and make your first throw.

teeing off in disc golf

According to Section 802.04 of the Professional Disc Golf Association’s (PDGA) official rules, a disc golfer can have a supporting point outside the teeing area before or after disc release. 

A supporting point refers to any part of the disc golfer’s body that’s in contact with either the playing surface or the area that gives support. It’s worth mentioning that having a supporting point outside the teeing area at the moment of release isn’t allowed.

Throwing Time

Remember to make all your throws in time! You’ll receive a penalty throw if you’ve taken excessive time during the round.

A disc golfer has taken excessive time in the absence of a throw within 30 seconds of the following circumstances:

  • After the previous player’s throw 
  • After determining the lie in a reasonable amount of time
  • After their turn in the throwing order
  • During the time when the playing area remains clear

Penalty Throws

Each of the following acts adds one penalty throw to a player’s total score:

  • A disc that lands out-of-bounds
  • A disc that lands in the hazard area
  • A disc that doesn’t pass an element correctly or “missed mando”
  • A disc that lands at least two meters above the in-bounds surface
  • A lost disc
  • Stance violation
  • Marking violation
  • Improper relief

For more information regarding penalties, feel free to consult the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Official Rules.

Disc Golf Throwing Order

Did you know that throwing your disc in the wrong order is a courtesy violation? In fact, Section 802.02 of the PDGA’s rules explains the proper order of play. For the first hole, the throwing order follows the players’ list of names on the scorecard.

After the disc golfers have thrown from the teeing area, the player whose disc is farthest from the target, or the away player, throws first. The player with the lowest score on the previous hole will be the first one to throw on the next hole.

Rules on the Lie

After you’ve made your first throw from the tee area, you’ll be making your next throws from where the disc has landed. The lie is the exact spot where the disc golfer’s throw came to rest. Players can mark the lie by positioning a mini marker disc on the surface.

If you’re throwing from the fairway, it must be from the space behind the life. You can perform a run-up and a follow-through after releasing the disc. Meanwhile, a throw that’s within 10 meters of the target is a putt.

putting in disc golf
A putt is a throw from within 10 meters.

Out-of-bounds (OB) areas are places where the disc can’t typically land. These areas include pedestrian paths, parking spaces, roadways, and water formations.

Missing or lost discs are also considered out-of-bounds. Section 806.2 of the PDGA’s rules states that a player with an out-of-bounds disc gets a penalty throw. 

Rules on the Target

The target refers to the device that indicates that you’ve completed the current hole. To finish a hole and move on to the succeeding one, you’ll need to release your disc into the target area. 

Targets come in two primary forms: basket targets and object targets. Basket targets catch discs using a pole, chains, and a tray. On the other hand, an object target has a marked target area that the disc needs to strike.

Disc Golf Etiquette

Generally, disc golf etiquette involves maintaining proper behavior towards the sport, fellow players, and the course. Being mindful of how other disc golfers feel and taking extra steps to preserve the playing environment are some ways to observe disc golf etiquette.

Possessing in-game etiquette and proper behavior greatly contributes to everyone’s success and enjoyment of the sport. On the other hand, an unacceptable attitude brings the whole group down. It results in courtesy violations, penalty throws, and even disqualification.

If you’re looking for detailed guidance on disc golf etiquette, take a look at the following courtesy rules and guidelines published by the PDGA:

Throwing Etiquette

Always follow the correct order when playing, and patiently wait for your turn to throw. Additionally, ensure that the playing area is clear of animals, players, or pedestrians before throwing. Be alert to avoid distracting or injuring animals or people all throughout the game.

Disc Golf Course Etiquette

Avoid dumping trash, cigarette buts, or any other items along the course. Leaving your equipment in places where it can distract other disc golfers or affect a thrown disc is also discouraged.

Group Etiquette

Refrain from losing your temper or performing any unsportsmanlike acts during the game. These actions involve cursing, shouting, or striking players or objects out of anger. 

Smoking, talking loudly, or moving abruptly can cause throwing players to get distracted, so it’s best to avoid these as well. What’s more, advancing beyond the “away” disc golfer is a no-no during the game.

Spotting Etiquette

Every spotter’s main goal in disc golf is to promote fairness, courtesy, and speed of play. If you’re a spotter, you’re expected to facilitate a smooth flow through every hole and to limit spectator noise and movement to help the players focus.

Spotting for lost and out-of-bounds discs is also a spotter’s major responsibility.

Etiquette for spotting involves doing your best to effectively and attentively track the flight of discs to make accurate calls. Give all players equal attention and assistance to ensure a fair and successful match. Keep your phone silent or turned off to avoid distracting the players.

Wrapping Up

One of the major reasons behind disc golf’s widespread popularity is the simplicity of its rules, objectives, and code of ethics. Beginners only need a disc and a bit of patience to learn the sport before competing in official tournaments or casual games.

Hopefully, this guide has answered your question on “What is the golden rule of disc golf?” 

Keep this meaningful rule in mind, and follow it in every game. The golden rule will serve you well and boost your performance regardless of your group, score, or course.

Additionally, take note of the basics of disc golf etiquette. Applying them doesn’t just reduce your chances of penalties. It also makes you a great disc golfer and a player who’s truly worthy of this wonderful sport.

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