I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: disc golf is a heck of a game and a sport. But sometimes, while we’re all playing, we see some ridiculous things that question why we even play. Those things violate every etiquette rule in the book. Out on the course a few weeks ago, I had to stop and address an etiquette issue that needed to be dealt with. Today, though, we’re going to be looking deeply into disc golf etiquette and exactly how we all need to carry ourselves on the disc good course.
What is disc golf etiquette?
Google defines etiquette as, “the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.” Essentially, disc golf etiquette is how we as a disc golf community act and behave amongst each other on the disc golf course. Etiquette is not a hard concept to grasp, so we should all seek to follow these next 27 steps for proper etiquette on the disc golf course.
1. Respect other players, their property, and their discs
Remember that simple golden rule we all learned back in elementary school, the one that goes, “treat others like you would want to be treated”? Yes, that first grade lesson applies to disc golf in this first step of good disc golf etiquette. This is a very simple rule in that you need to treat other players with respect. Easy, right? But it’s not just the other players. You need to make sure to treat their property and discs with respect as well.
Many, like myself, really take care of our discs and all of our gear. I treat all of my stuff like gold because I’ve spent hard-earned money on it. And if you’re out on the course, you should treat everyone else and their stuff just like this.
2. Always obey park rules
Before we jump onto the disc golf course, let’s quickly think about where we are. If you’re like the rest of us, you will probably play your rounds on a public park funded by your local town, city, or municipality. Most of these courses are free. If you play on one of these courses, please take note of the park rules and make sure you understand all of them. Now If the park closes at dusk, you leave at dusk. If the park prohibits alcohol and drugs, you leave everything at home. Your local township has given you a disc golf course and you need to respect all park rules. A park rules board should be present someone on park property. So read it.
3. Respect the course
Once you make it out on the course, you should be ready to start crushing some drives and sinking some putts. That’s awesome, but remember this while you’re out there: you need to respect the course. If you’re like the 95% percent of other players, you’re most likely playing on a free park course. That is absolutely fantastic and we can’t take that luxury for granted. Even players who go to pay-to-play courses are only paying a few dollars per round.
This means you need to first clean up all of your trash. If you bag it in, take it back out with you or trash it (in a legitimate trashcan). A messy course looks terrible and does not positively promote disc golf as sport. Although you can’t help what your disc hits, you can do your best not to destroy or damage course property. I see teepads all the time where someone either ripped the hole information marker off or defaced something on a hole by spray painting it a weird color. Again, I can’t stress this “free” thing enough. Local park disc golf courses cost absolutely nothing to play on (for the most part) and should be kept up by everyone.
4. Clean up all of your alcohol bottles.
This goes along the same lines as the last step, but deserves it’s own paragraph because of the annoyance it causes a lot of disc golfers. If your course even allows you to bring alcohol (which most do not), take the time to throw away each and every alcohol bottle or can that you have consumed. It infuriates me when I see Bud Light bottles or Mike’s Harder Lemonade cans strewn all over the course. By no means am I a saint, but I will go out of my way to keep my local free disc golf courses clear of all of alcohol containers. If you bring alcohol, clean it up!
5. Stop smoking weed on the course
Look, I have absolutely nothing against people smoking weed. But unless you live in a place that has legalized it and allows it on public parks, you need to save that for your house. I won’t go too much into opinions here on this one, but weed still brings law enforcement into the equation in states like North Carolina where it isn’t legal. I play in NC and I smell it on the course all the time. And I understand the frustration of some, but until it is fully legal everywhere, you’ve got to leave your stash at home.
This is something that has carried over from ball golf and that I follow very closely. When others throw, do anything and everything in your power to be quiet. This etiquette tip is very important and can really affect someone’s throw if you yell or scream as someone is in the process of throwing. The best example of this is when the Jackass crew did their golf course airhorn skit. The video below is funny as hell, but leave it to them and be quiet on the course.
7. Don’t blare loud music
This etiquette tip is something very common that I see on the disc golf course. Players who think it’s okay to play your hardcore dubstep hip hop trap music make the game unbearable sometimes. Now don’t get me wrong, because I love all kinds of music. I listen to music all the time and there’s nothing wrong with any of the new genres of music. But when your music is blasting on the disc golf course, that gets very distracting to everyone else.
So is it okay to play music on the disc golf course? It is absolutely okay to play music on the disc golf course, but you need to take note of the volume level of your music. While I recommend you take some earbuds and confine the music to just your ears, if you keep the volume on your speakers low, that’s fine. Confine the sound to just your group and you’re golden.
8. Don’t distract people with your motions
Another thing to be aware of is your movement and different motions on the disc golf course. You need to make sure you don’t distract someone who’s throwing by acting ridiculous, walking in front of them, standing too close to them, touching them in the middle of a throw, or just generally doing anything that will distract them. If you’re throwing up the Y-M-C-A because that song came on, stop for a minute and let the thrower throw. If you just have to have someone watch you whip and nae nae, make sure everybody’s thrown first then dance away. And if you start twerking and can’t stop, go behind a tree or something.
9. Try not to be a slow disc golfer
Nobody likes playing with the slow guy. You may be the coolest person on the course, but if you’re slow, you will hold everybody up. If your friends seem annoyed every single time you go out to play, you may be that guy. So move it along, Kemosabe.
10. Groups no larger than four or five
If you have a group of seven or eight players, split everybody up. Do not play with everyone in that one group. Split the group up into four to five players and then go out and play. A huge group of people will only congest the course and every single other group will be having to play through. Besides, this isn’t fun for anyone in the group having to wait for six to seven other people to throw.
11. Stay behind the disc of the furthest person out
Remember the rule about who throws next: it’s always the person who is farthest out away from the basket. This is something even I didn’t realize I was doing. This etiquette rule is not a serious one in casual play and most players don’t really follow it. But if you’re playing in a tournament, you will need to stay behind the furthest person’s disc and wait for them to throw. Then you can move up.
12. Let faster players play through
If there are some players approaching quicker than your group is moving, be aware and talk with your group about letting them play through. My group got passed twice by a group of two guys practicing with one disc each. They cruised through the first 18 holes then jumped back on 9 and played through again. That was fine. Them passing us both times only took a couple of minutes total and we didn’t have to hold anyone up.
13. Jumping holes…don’t jump right in front of someone
the great thing about disc golf is that it’s usually easy to jump on the back nine or on any of the holes of the course with ease. But if you do that, check on who may be behind you. If you’re jumping on hole 10, check the last hole and make sure no one is finishing up. If they are, now they may be waiting on you and your group. Try to jump on a hole that isn’t directly in front of someone else’s group. Other than that, you should be good to go.
14. Stop while others are throwing or putting
It’s generally a good thing to do to stop what you’re doing when someone else is throwing or putting. If you see someone on a nearby hole putting, if you can, take a pause in your game and let them throw. As soon as they’re done, go ahead and play away.
15. Grant the requests of other disc golfers
Some people have weird requests, like not wanting others to stand in front or behind them (no matter how far away you are). It may seem trivial to you, but other golfers have routines that make them better players. You should do your best to grant these requests if you can.
16. Help others find their disc
If someone near you loses their disc, help them look for it if you have time. Always do this if the person is in your party. If the person is not in your party, you don’t have to do this. But if you have time, help them out.
17. Point that disc out
If you’re on a hole near someone who just threw and their disc went into the rough near you, make an effort to point it out to them or show them where it went when they approach. I hate it when this happens to me and it’s always super nice when someone helps me out like this.
18. Return lost disc golf discs
Disc golf karma is real, ya’ll. I’ve experienced it in a positive way multiple times already. In 2018, I found and returned three discs to players who were all very happy to have their discs back. I believe that because of karma, I’ve found multiple discs with no names on them. One of my best karma stories is my awesome Discraft Thrasher. I went way out of my way to return a Thrasher by mail to a player in Raleigh, NC. A few weeks later, I found a brand new Discraft Thrasher just sitting on top of a basket at another course. Always try to return a disc to it’s owner. If there is a name, number, or email, make a strong effort to return the disc. On top of karma, it’s just the right thing to do.
19. If you give out Etiquette tips, try to be nice
During some of these tough rounds on the course, it’s far too easy to notice improper etiquette. Most of the time, it’s just someone being too loud or playing music at the top of their speaker’s volume level. Some of the simple stuff is easy to blow off, but with the more serious stuff, you need to always address it. When you do this, try to be as nice as possible. This is the best way to keep everything cool and calm on the course.
keep calm even when this happens…
A few weeks ago, I was playing in front of two groups of people. The first group came up to us playing really fast. My group let the two guys play through and then we kept playing. We finished up hole 17, then went to 18. The next group was a group of kids about 12 years old. Since we were on hole 18, we decided to finish instead of letting them play through. Our group threw our first throws and were walking up to our discs a couple hundred feet away.
Before I knew it, I saw a disc fly about 15 feet in front of my face. I looked back and saw another one of the kids throw almost hitting another person in our group. We finished the hole and I waited at the basket. When they came up, I firmly let the kids know that they need to either wait for the group ahead to let them play through or wait for for the group to finish the hole. I was nice to them, but addressed the issue so that they would know for next time. They apologized and I left. Make sure you do the same if you see players breaking etiquette rules. Etiquette is important for the quality of the game.
20. Tips and advice
It’s okay to give tips and advice, but be weary of giving out too much advice. If you are giving advice, read the person to make sure they aren’t getting upset at you. Giving helpful advice is always okay but if another person doesn’t want to take it, that’s on them.
When it comes to someone’s play on the disc golf course, especially if it’s bad, it’s okay to give out tips and advice to help them get better. Be weary, though, of giving out too much advice. Some players understand that you must practice to get better and they always accept tips. But there are a lot of players who just hate getting their game critiqued. There are some that do not want any friendly advice or any insights.
You need to read how players react to your advice when you give it. To you, it may seem like helpful information. But to some, it might sound like, “you suck. If you ever want to get better then you better change this…” It’s all about the delivery. Try to give out helpful advice if you can, but if other players don’t want to take it, then that’s on them. You tried to help them. Don’t read too much into it after that. Just carry on with your game.
21. Don’t talk about another person’s game
Even if someone is playing worse than your very first round, you need to respect that they may be trying their hardest to get better. Watch what you say when you talk about someone’s game in a negative light. If you’re trying to give them a little bit of advice, just like we talked about in the last step, keep it short and sweet. After that, move on and just let them play. Don’t continue to insult their play. In the words of Kevin Hart, do you, boo boo. On the other hand, friendly compliments and motivational words are always acceptable. Telling someone, “great throw,” or “you got this, bro,” is allowed all the time (as long as you aren’t being a sarcastic A**hole).
22. Don’t brag
Try not to brag about your game, shove your good throws in someone else’s face, or talk about your game too much. Just the same as the previous etiquette tip, use good judgment when you’re out on the course and you seem to be doing really well. I know there have been times when my game was on and other people were struggling. When you’re looking at someone that seems to be riding the struggle bus, give some words of encouragement to them. Let them know that those trees never really had it out for them. For the trees, it’s all business and it’s nothing personal against anyone. Also, try to not talk about your game too much. With my buddy Hunter, I usually will discuss what I think has helped and what hasn’t. But I don’t go out of my way to brag if I have a better round than him. And he doesn’t either when his round is better.
23. Try to limit cell phone use
Alright, so I’m bad about this one. I take my phone out every single time I play. But when I say try to limit cell phone use, I’m not talking about just snapping some pictures or shooting a couple of texts off. I’m talking about limiting your cell phone use by talking on the phone and holding everyone up. I think everyone should have their phone with them on the course, because phones can help you document the fun (through pictures and videos), they can help you keep score using smartphone apps like UDisc, and they can be very useful if there is an emergency on the course. I wrote about this a little bit in one of my recent posts, “How to Build the Ultimate Disc Golf Bag.” Cell phones can be awesome on the course. I use my phone to get pictures for this blog and videos for YouTube. They’re fine, just make sure you’re not holding anybody up.
I just want to start this one off by saying that it is okay to bring your dogs to the course. That’s one of the great differences between disc golf and ball golf. BUT there are some dogs that should never come to the course. If your dogs bark a lot, is aggressive, or chew up discs, they should not come to the course. I have two weiner dogs at home that I would never take out on the course because one barks at everyone and the other chews up discs. They have no aspiration of getting in good exercise. If your dogs can’t behave perfectly, it’s better to leave them at home.
Check out my post, “Can I Take my Dog to the Disc Golf Course?” for more on this.
25. Support the sport
Whether it’s by donating a few bucks to your local disc golf charity, helping to teach others, or chipping in to make a local course better, you should always do everything you can to support the sport of disc golf. There may be other ways that you can support the sport, like I’m doing with my disc golf blog. One of my goals with this site is to spread the word about disc golf to as many people as possible. So far it’s going well and my ultimate goal is to have 100,000 people per month reading the blog. And if you really like this sport, try to find a way to spread it to friends, family, or anyone else interested in having fun and trying something new.
26. Remember that YOU represent disc golf
Whenever you’re out on the course, through every round, you have to remember that you are representing the sport of disc golf as a whole. Although most of the community is really awesome and goes out of their way to show others the best of disc golf, there are a very small group of people that seem to want to show everyone else the worst behaviors possible. Those who represent disc golf poorly put a stain on the sport and make the outside world think, “oh, so that’s who plays disc golf. Wow, they’re a really poorly behaved, sketchy group of people.” When in reality, the majority of players try to keep a very professional appearance or at the least, try to play in an organized, orderly fashion.
So, try to represent the sport by showing up looking the part. Disc golf is nothing like ball golf. But ball golf does have a tradition of always looking well-dressed on the course. I love disc golf, because you aren’t required to wear polos, khaki dress pants, or anything more formal than that. You should aim to try and wear a decent shirt, cargo shorts, and tennis shoes. There are a lot of disc golfers, though, that show up in ratty, torn clothes and expect the general public to look at us like a professional, organized sport. It’s just not going to happen. If you just want to wear a t-shirt and basketball shorts to the course that is completely okay. When you play, just try to represent the game of disc golf like a professional disc golfer would.
27. Don’t forget about sportsmanship
Although sportsmanship is very similar to etiquette, in that they are both similar in customary and fair behavior, etiquette is more of a code amongst a group of people. Sportsmanship is more of an individual effort by you, being how you treat others and how you act during a sports contest. The sportsmanship is the effort put forth by you on the disc golf course. In disc golf, it’s easy to get frustrated and take your seemingly horrible luck out on other people. But you can’t. You have to keep you cool and treat others fairly on the course. We’ve already pretty much run the gamut on how you need to act on the course. Let’s just end it on our last and final note in the next paragraph.
So it all comes down to…
It all comes down to using reasonable judgment and just a little bit of common sense. This game that we share with millions of other players all over the world is amazing. And the community that’s grown out of it is top-notch. That’s why we all have to help each other in making the game of disc golf even better and growing the sport in whatever way we can. You can help the game out each and every day through friendly social media interaction, teaching new players about the sport, and being an A1 player out on the disc golf course. If we all do that, disc golf has an amazing future. Thanks for reading, disc golfers. Now get out there and go throw!