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Disc Golf: How To Play and Win Every Time

woman playing frisbee golf

Disc golf, once known as Frisbee Golf or Frolf, for short, is a fun game in which players throw a Frisbee-like disc at a target. The game has been in existence for decades and has grown in popularity with every passing year. In the following article we will describe this entertaining sport in great detail, including the rules of the game and how to play it, followed by some tips and tricks that will greatly enhance your odds of winning.

What is Disc Golf and How Did It Begin?

As we mentioned in the introduction, disc golf is a flying disc sport in which players hurl a disc at a pre-set target. Played similar to the game of traditional golf, it is an outdoor sport that is usually played on a course of 9 or 18 holes. The participants play these holes in order by throwing a disc from a designated tee area (or tee box) towards a target. They continue playing the hole, throwing each successive throw from the spot where the disc landed, until the target is ultimately reached. The shape and style of these targets have changed over time, but today they usually consist of a basket attached to a pole that is covered with chains—chains that catch the disc and hold it in place. The number of throws (or strokes) that a player requires to reach the target are tallied, usually in relation to par—the expected number of throws it would normally take to complete the hole—and the players’ goal is to complete each hole in the lowest number of total throws.

Although not officially invented by them, the modern game of disc golf can largely be credited to two men: “Steady” Ed Headrick, the inventor of the Frisbee at the company Wham-O Toys, and Dave Dunipace. Headrick formalized the rules of disc golf, invented the first formal disc golf target, and founded the Disc Golf Association (DGA), the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) and the Recreational Disc Golf Association (RDGA). Dunipace invented the modern golf disc in 1983, which differed from the Frisbee in that it had a beveled rim, giving the disc a greater degree of distance and accuracy. He was also one of the founders of Innova, a major disc golf manufacturer.

Although it started slowly, the game of disc golf is now played in roughly 40 countries across the globe, and there are currently about 45,000 active members of the Professional Disc Golf Association worldwide.

Disc Golf: Rules and How to Play

The rules of disc golf are fairly simple and straightforward. Below we have put these rules in an easy-to-read format.

Objective of Disc Golf

As we have previously mentioned, the sport of disc golf is played much like traditional “ball” golf, only using flying discs rather than balls and clubs. For each throw a player makes and for each penalty, one point or stroke is counted. The ultimate goal is to play the entire course, whether 9 holes or 18 holes, in the fewest number of strokes. If playing against an opponent—rather than just for practice or fun—the player with the lowest total of points is declared the winner.

Tee Throws (Teeing Off)

The commencement of each hole in disc golf begins with a throw from a tee area, a designated area at each hole used only for this purpose. All throws from this area must be made from within or behind this designated area. Going over the designated tee box or tee area could result in a penalty stroke in major competitions.

Lie

As in traditional golf, a player’s lie is defined as the spot where his or her previous throw landed—and the spot from which the next shot will be taken. When a player walks up to where his disc has landed, he is required to place a marker of some kind on that spot. This marker can be another disc from his bag, or he can merely turn the landed disc over to mark the spot if he intends to use a different disc for his next shot. Once that spot is marked, the player will then throw his next shot from behind the marked lie.

Throwing Order

Like with traditional ball golf, when playing with another person (or people), the player who recorded the least amount of strokes on the previous hole is required to tee off first on the next hole. If playing with more than two people, the next tee throw would go to the person who recorded the second-least number of points on the previous hole. After teeing off, the order of play is determined by the distance left to the hole. The player who is furthest away from the hole would throw first, and so on until all fairway throws have been completed. This throwing order continues until every player has reached the target.

Fairway Throws

Fairway throws must be released from directly behind the marked lie. Players are permitted to run up to the marked lie before throwing, and they are allowed to make a normal follow through after release, but the disc must be released prior to crossing over the marked lie. If the lie is within 10 meters (32 feet) of the target, a follow through that takes players past the marked lie is NOT permitted, as the rules state the following: “Any shot within 10 meters of the target requires that the player not move past the lie until the disc is at rest.”

Dog Leg (or Mandatory)

A dogleg is one or more designated trees or poles on the course. These obstacles must be passed as indicated by the arrows that are placed on these trees or poles. Until that dogleg has been passed, the closest foot to that dogleg must remain on the marked lie when the disc is released.

Completion of a Hole

Once a disc comes to rest inside the disc golf basket, typically a flat-bottomed enclosure covered with a series of graduating chains, the player who reached this target has successfully completed that hole.

Unplayable Lie

An unplayable lie is awarded any time a player’s disc lands somewhere other than the ground—above the ground in a tree or a bush, etc. In cases such as these, the disc must be thrown from a lie on the ground that is directly underneath the unplayable lie. If a player cannot throw from the spot directly underneath the unplayable lie—because of potential damage to the vegetation—the disc can be moved back to a flat surface, but no closer to the disc golf target or basket.

Out of Bounds

Out of Bounds areas on a disc golf course are usually clearly marked by stakes and or ground paint. If any area of the out of bounds area is visible between a player’s disc and the out of bounds line, then that disc is considered to be out of bounds. In situations like these, when a player throws into an out of bounds area, the next shot must be played from a point that is 3 feet from the out of bounds line—in a direct line from where the disc first went into the out of bounds area. Permanent water hazards and public roads are always considered out of bounds on disc gold courses.

Penalties

When playing recreationally, there are seldom any penalties called. However, when playing competitively there are some one-stroke penalties for things like out of bounds and throwing a disc when you have already passed the marked lie.

Safety Rules

Since most disc golf courses are constructed in parks, you must always be aware of other people using the park recreationally. Never throw a disc when a park user is in range of getting struck, and always give park users the right of way.

Rules of Courtesy and Etiquette

Disc golf is a game of fun, so it’s important that you do not let the spirit of competition ruin this primary purpose. To ensure that you and your playing partners have the most entertaining time, try to follow these rules of common courtesy when on the course.

  • Always stand behind the player who is throwing the disc until they have completed their throw.
  • Remain quiet when others players are attempting a throw so as not to ruin their concentration.
  • Always remove your disc from the disc golf basket after completing the hole.
  • Allow faster groups behind you to play through, especially if you are a beginner just learning the game.
  • If you are an experienced player, try to help new players learn the rules.
  • Never leave any trash, cans or bottles on the course.
  • Do not alter the course in any way—no whacking at trees, etc.

In disc golf, the ultimate winner is the player that has the most fun. Never forget this very important rule.

4 Tips and Tricks for Winning at Disc Golf

Although disc golf is a game of fun and good exercise, it’s always more enjoyable when you score low and win the game. Here are just a few tips that will help you accomplish this goal.

Go for Accuracy Rather than Distance

Of course, it is always a lot of fun to try and throw the disc as far as you can, but in the game of disc golf accuracy is much more important than distance. Therefore, let up a little on your throws and try to “hit your spots.”

Think about Footing

When you are making your tee throw—or any fairway throw—you should always consider the footing of your next throw. You want to land the disc in an area that has good footing—an area that will allow for a good run up and a powerful throw on your next shot.

Think about Ground Conditions

When throwing the disc from anywhere on the course it’s important to think about the ground conditions in the area where you expect the disc to land. Certain flat and dry areas of the course may cause the disc to skip and go out of bounds, while damp and marshy areas may cause the disc to stick, making for a muddy mess on your next throw.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Finally, before you even think about playing the sport of disc golf competitively, you should definitely log a lot of hours of practice time. When practicing, work on every aspect of your game, from your tee shots, to fairway shots to throws close to the goal. Certain shots will require you to bend the disc in the air to get around corners, so practice these shots, too. The more time you spend practicing and getting accustomed to the flight tendencies of all your various discs, the better prepared you will be to take on an opponent.

About the author

Sam Frazier

As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family.

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