Beginner's Guide to Disc Golf
What Is Disc Golf and Why Do People Love It?
You might’ve seen people running around your local park throwing a Frisbee but not catching it. They move in groups and seem to be playing together, but aren’t catching anything. So what gives?
That, friends, is likely a round of disc golf. Disc golf, much like traditional golf, is about getting your own disc into a basket or net at the end of a hole. You’ll see multiple holes in a single course and plenty of people keeping score, hoping to keep things as low as possible. But when you ask any of these players, “What is disc golf?”, you’ll hear a lot more than just “Golf with Frisbees.”
Disc golf is a fun, user-friendly and low-entry game that gets lots of people outside, hanging out and engaging in strategy. It’s as much a physical game as a mental one, with the need to balance long drives with precision curves as you move about the course. There’s a rhythm to it, and it’s an amazing feeling when you make a great toss.
This "Disc Golf for Beginners" guide will show you the basics of how to play disc golf and give you some tips for getting the right gear and understanding what to look for when you play. While there are some technical elements, the most important part of disc golf is actually quite simple:
When someone asks you what is disc golf, the response you want to be able to give after every toss is: “Fun!”
Disc golf was invented for everyone to have something they can do together and enjoy, so we hope this disc golf guide shows you just how much fun our favorite past-time can be.
How to Play Disc Golf: Rules of the Game
When you want to learn how to play disc golf, it’s good to start with the disc golf rules. Together, we’ll walk through some of the basic rules that you can expect to see no matter where you play. However, these are general guidelines and you must always adhere to any rules specific to the place you’re playing, or to the tournament or game you’re involved with that day.
Like traditional golf, disc golf features strokes that represent each attempt to get closer to, or in, the hole, and penalties will add to your stroke/point count. One stroke is counted each time you throw a disc, and the goal is to get into the hole in as few strokes as possible.
There’s no set way for you to select who throws first on the first hole. Sometimes people flip for it, but you really have your choice. After that, the player who had the fewest strokes on the previous hole is the first to throw (“tee off”). After everyone has teed off, the player who is farthest from the hole throws first.
Tees are set up at the beginning of each hole. Your first throw for any hole needs to begin inside of, or behind, a designated tee area.
The lie is the spot where a player’s throw lands. The lie spot is marked with a mini disc, or by simply turning over the larger thrown disc itself. When it’s your next turn to throw, you must throw from directly behind the marked lie.
Sometimes, the lie isn’t playable because your disc gets stuck in a tree or large bush. In fact, it happens a lot on some courses. If you have a disc that’s stuck, or you can’t get behind the lie to throw, you’ll need to throw from as close to the lie as possible. This may simply mean you’re throwing it from underneath a disc-grabbing tree branch.
If you’re on the fairway, you get a little extra movement with your throw. A fairway throw must be made from behind the lie, but you’re allowed to run up to the lie and can follow through normally, as long as you release the disc behind the lie.
However, you’re not allowed the extra movement if you’re within 10 meters (30 feet). You can’t cross the lie until your disc has stopped moving.
A dogleg is a tree or pole along the fairway that must be passed — and it should be clearly marked by arrows on the course. The dogleg is used to make you move across the course in a specific way, such as an S-shape, where you’re not allowed to throw directly at the end hole.
Before you pass the dogleg, you have to place your foot closest to the dogleg on your lie when throwing. This can add some difficulty on some courses.
Completion (of Hole)
At the end of each hole is a basket or a set of chains. You’ll need to throw the disc into this to end the round. When you get your disc into the basket, you’ve completed the hole. This is sometimes called the completion of the hole, but is usually just called by the short-hand term: “completion.”
Remove your disc after you complete the hole.
There are certain areas you’re not allowed to throw into or out of, and these are considered out-of-bounds (OB). If your disc goes OB, then you need to move your lie to a point three feet in bounds from where the disc went OB. You’ll also need to add another stroke to your score. In general, hazards such as water features and public roads are always OB.
In most situations, you won’t have any official decorum or rules, but it’s best to play in a way that everyone enjoys. This mirrors regular golf with common practices where the non-throwers remain quiet and try not to move around while others are throwing.
It’s also smart and safe to stand behind the thrower until their turn is complete. To make sure your course is fun time and time again, you should also pick up any trash you see while walking around and work hard not to damage, alter or modify the course.
You can see a full set of disc golf rules on the Professional Disc Golf Association’s website here.
How to Throw Disc Golf’s Basic Throw
1. Grip your four fingers under the disc and put your thumb near the edge on the top of your disc. Grip it good and tight so that you can release it with specific control. Your four fingers should line up on the underside of the disc and press your thumb flat on the top, soft part of the disc.
A few extra tips include keeping your arm and wrist loose during the throw. If you’re struggling to throw it where you want it, extend your pointer finger along the underside of the disc, though you may lose a little power.
2. Most throws will involve a short run of three steps where you release on the last step. Make sure you start and end on your dominant foot. For the best accuracy at this point, square your shoulders with the end basket and try to make sure each step is even and smooth. (The next three elements take place during this three-step movement). The three steps are a core part of good disc golf technique.
3. During the first step, raise the disc to the height of your chest. Raising it in this way will naturally turn your body as you curve the disc into your chest. This turn will pull your body away from the basket, and that’s okay. Take note of where you raise your disc, because you’ll want to keep it at this height when learning the other steps of how to throw disc golf discs.
4. Step with your next foot and point it perpendicular to the basket. This helps your aim, and your continued rotation will put your back toward the basket in front of you. You’re coiling your back, moving your hips and shoulders, and bringing the disc behind you. This movement will give your throw power from your back and legs. End this step with the disc behind you and your body turned away from the basket, ready to spring into action and hurl it on your next step.
5. Take the final step and move your weight to the dominant foot, uncoiling your body. This step will naturally bring your back and hips toward your dominant foot and the basket. As you turn, bring your arm across your body, keeping the disc flat in your hand. You want to start the movement with the disc about shoulder-height and you want it to move in a straight line and release it away from your body, also at shoulder-height. You’ll feel your leg naturally pull forward and you should end up with most of your body turned and facing the basket.
Holding Your Arm 1. Pull the disc straight and tight across your body as you throw and release. If you move your wrist and arc your body, you’ll typically throw it off to the side. Windmilling your arms and curling around the disc itself can do the same things. To properly throw it, you’ll want to point the disc at your target before the throw and try to keep it straight during the entire movement. When releasing, bend your elbow and extend across the chest, unbending as it moves away from you to keep the disc straight.
Holding Your Arm 2. Move the arm fluidly. You’ll want to practice a lot to get the entire motion smooth and feeling fluid. Release the disc itself when it’s pointing at your target. Power comes from your hips up through your wrist, so you’ll be twisting your entire body in an uncoiling motion, pushing all that power through your body to the disc itself. Try and try again to get things smooth, and remember that it’s okay if your movement causes you to keep twisting after you release the disc.
Holding Your Arm 3. Flick your wrist to release the disc when it’s pointing at your bucket. The flick keeps things smooth and accurate. Again, you’ll want to practice this so it flows smoothly with the rest of your motion. At the end of the flick, allow your body to keep moving with the release and keep your throwing hand with palm facing upward. This movement will prevent you from turning or swinging your body, which could cause the disc to veer off-course. And don’t worry: everyone looks a bit wobbly when they’re still learning the disc golf technique.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the motion, it’s time to look at the discs themselves. We’ll go through a few things to help you choose the right disc. Always be sure to test things out or grab some discs that come highly recommended. We’ve made a few recommendations at the end of this guide, too, picked out specifically for beginners to get a disc they’ll enjoy!
Disc Golf Guide: Disc Stability and Weight
When you’re starting to learn how to play disc golf, you’ll want to choose discs that are the easiest to throw and control, even if they don’t go as far as some other discs. Two things you’ll want to consider right away are stability and weight.
Stability comes with some of the most confusing language in disc golf. The quick and easy rule of thumb is to go for a stability as close to (0) as possible when you’re still learning how to throw. Once you have a decent handle on the general technique, you’ll actually want to find a disc that curves to your natural side — i.e. to the right for right-handers — because the throwing motion you make tends to push a disc away from this side, and you’ll use the curve to help keep things straight.
Discs will naturally curve during most throws and start to bend — also called a “fade” — to the right or the left. You’ll probably hear the terms “understable” and “overstable,” so here’s a little help with those on the spectrum from (-3) to (3).
One important note is that this is based on a right-handed thrower using the standard backhand-style throw.
Discs that fade to the right during a straight throw at average power are considered understable. An understable disc will have a rating of (-1) to (-3), with a (-3) disc fading the most to the right. In general, you’ll want to look for an understable disc for your long drives when you’re new to disc golf.
Your average golf disc actually banks to the left for most people, especially when it comes to drivers. That means they’re often considered overstable. Sharp-edged discs tend to naturally curve left. The sharper the curve to the left, the higher the number ranging from (1) to (3).
So you’re looking at disc golf discs and see a (0) rating. Should you buy it? In general, you’ll want to look at putter discs with a (0) rating, but not much else. Putters need to fly straight and low over a short distance, which the (0) stability is designed to do. For most, however, this rating doesn’t work well for longer throws like driver discs.
But I’m a Lefty!
The numbers we’re using are typically designed for right-handed throwers. You, however, are one of the lucky lefties. That means you’ll need to reverse the chart, because discs fade in the opposite direction when you’re using an opposite spin.
Think about it this way: a backhand throw with your left hand will create counter-clockwise spin on the disc, so overstable discs will fade to the right and understable discs will fade to the left.
The good news is that you’re not alone with needing to learn how things switch up, because it impacts righties, too. Whenever a right-handed player uses a forehand throw, they’re reversing the spin, too, and will see their overstable discs bank right.
The final thing to consider is the weight of your disc. Generally, a higher weight keeps things straighter and more overstable, so they’re often preferred by more experienced players. Lighter discs, such as those that weight about 166 grams, are easier to throw when you’re learning. Sometimes you’ll see a disc that weighs about 150 grams, which is extremely lightweight and will go very far very easily, but they’ll curve more and be more impacted by the wind in your area.
Disc Golf Guide: Buying Disc Golf Discs
Throw around a few discs before you make a purchase. Get a good feel for the discs you’re considering and make sure they feel right for your hand and your throw style.
Once you’ve found a selection that feels good, which can be a few different brands and styles, go through and check the stability ratings. Players will need a mix of stability ratings to help them maneuver around the course with minimal frustration.
Pick up some overstable discs for those dogleg left holes, S-shaped paths and in cases where you’re throwing in a very windy situation that would normally push you off course. The same goes for understable discs when you’re heading through opposite curves, dogleg rights and when you want the disc to keep rolling after it goes down. And don’t forget some neutral discs for tight, straight shots and putting.
A good mix will get you far and help you practice and learn what you love. Here are a few specific recommendations for you:
For distance, you’ll want to look at something smooth and far-flinging, like the Opto Hex Raketen or the Freedom Lucid Air. Remember: you want these to feel great out of the box, so look for smooth and enjoyable throws. If color is your choice, we would also recommend checking out the Star Plastic Leopard models.
Get your stronger throws going far and precise with a smart mid-range option. We suggest you look for discs that work to prevent flipping and rolling, like the Warrant Lucid. If you really like the feel of a mid-range disc, which has a larger lip than your driver, then you could also consider the Suspect Lucid because its sleek design allows it to work well as a putter, too!
Putt and Approach
Stability is the name of the game when you’re at your goal. For the approach and putting itself, you’ll want to look at something that can handle wind, like the DX Stud, which is a beefed-up version of the very popular Colt.
Not Sure? Pick Up a Set!
If you’re really not sure, it’s time to pick up a golf set to help you feel good about your decision. Sets include specific drivers, mid-rangers and putters, but they’re all designed to work in multiple situations. We really prefer this set of three from Champion because the discs are a good weight and are made of a very durable plastic that’ll last as you play and learn.
If you’re looking for more options and want to see what’s available to you, just check out the SV Sports store here and see how much you’ll love disc golf!
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