Getting out on the disc golf course can make for a fun afternoon. A round of disc golf can help you relax, get some exercise, get some sun, make friends, save money, and develop solid hand-eye coordination. The game can be friendly or competitive, with the majority of players being extremely helpful if you’re a new player trying to get better. A lot of new players ask me, “is disc golf hard to play?” I tell them yes and then generously explain why.
But is it really that hard?
Yes, disc golf is a tough sport and it is very hard to play. Trying to throw a small disc hundreds of feet accurately takes tremendous skill and practice. Disc golf is an extremely challenging sport that takes years of practice to master.
So what makes it tough and how can you overcome this to get better and master the game?
5 Reasons why it’s tough (And how to get better)
1. You have to throw a small disc hundreds of feet accurately
Disc golf is all about how you throw the disc. That’s the simple truth. If you can’t throw the disc correctly and accurately, you will not be good at this game.
One of the reasons, though, that disc golf is difficult lies in how far you have to throw the disc. Most holes on a disc golf course are hundreds of feet from the tee to the basket. Some holes can be up to 500 feet, which is almost two whole football fields.
You have to be able to able to sling that disc accurately. If you can’t get the accuracy, you probably won’t do well on each hole.
How you throw the disc matters
In the game of disc golf, how you throw disc always matters. You have to understand each type of throw (and when you need to use them) so that you can get better and make disc golf easier. Let’s quickly take a look at four common types of throws (these apply to both left-handed players and right-handed players).
- Forehand: this is a throw like a sidearm baseball pitcher. You bring the disc back behind your body and sidearm sling it toward the target.
- Backhand: a backhand throw is the normal disc throwing motion of everyone from disc golfers to the average Joe throwing a frisbee. You bring the arm back across the body and then throw the disc.
- Hammer: this type of throw is when you grip the disc with your pointer and middle finger on the inside ring of the disc and you throw it like a baseball pitcher would.
- Thumber or Tomahawk: this throw is similar to the previous, but you would have your thumb on this inside rim of the disc.
Make sure you test all of these out and know which throw you like and which throw you can use on each hole.
Your throw approach, or your first drive, is important because it’s the first throw of each hole. We’re basically talking about how you walk up to get momentum for your throw.
When first starting, most players (myself included), believe that you have to run up and try to throw as hard as possible. That is not a good beginning approach. This can lead to bad form, injuries, and your disc going nowhere near the basket. This was my go-to approach until I tried to throw the disc so hard that I partially tore my rotator cuff. Not fun.
If you watch closely, the majority of professional players will walk up and use good technique to deliver a beautiful throw with pinpoint accuracy in the direction they wanted the disc to go. Disc golf is hard because you have to understand the difference between running up and throwing the disc extremely hard vs. walking up and throwing the disc with good technique.
Once you have good technique, running up and trying to throw the disc harder can be a good thing. Once you are good, you can try that approach. Until then, good technique trumps.
The last thing we focus on is disc curve. You’ve seen a frisbee curve and a disc golf disc curve. In order to make the game easier, you have to learn how the disc curves. Once you understand how the disc will curve, you can use that to develop your game and get better.
2. You only get a certain numbers of strokes (throws) to get it into the basket
Another thing that makes disc golf so dang hard is the number of strokes (or throws) you get per hole. Technically, you can throw the disc as many times as you want, but in order to do well, you have to sink the disc in a certain number of throws (normally three to five throws).
When you start, you’ll understand that this isn’t always an easy feat. Between the countless distractions, obstacles, and length of each hole, getting par on each hole can always be a challenge.
3. The course can have uneven terrain
One big part of what makes disc golf tough is the course itself. More specifically, the terrain and layout of each course. Out of the many places that I’ve played, I can tell you that each and every course is completely different. Most free courses (which make up the majority of courses) are public parks or city courses, winding around through the woods and over open fields.
Discs can be thrown anywhere. If you’re not quite as accurate as you’d like to be, you may face shots around trees, uphill, and on uneven surfaces.
Disc golf through open fields is not quite as tough, but once you start playing through the woods, the terrain comes into play in a major way. Learning how to play through even the most aggressive terrain can help you get better quickly.
4. You are often faced with obstacles
Just like the previous paragraph, another reason disc golf can be difficult is because of obstacles in your path. I will say that trees make up about 90% of the obstacles. Any experienced player will also let you know the same.
Trees are my downfall, as well as the downfall of many others. If you want to be good at this game, you have to eliminate the trees from your perspective. Also, if you give it a, “I don’t give a f*ck attitude,” like I’ve had to do (unfortunately), the trees will just be there and you can play through.
If you pay too much attention to the trees in disc golf, you can’t master the game. Don’t let the trees screw you up.
5. Disc golf takes a lot of mental focus.
Paying attention to the trees can hurt you, as I’ve explained in the last paragraph.
In order to be good at disc golf, you have to focus. Mental focus is crucial when trying to master the game. We’ve already talked about this, but disc golf can be very hard. If you don’t focus, you don’t get better.
Take some time before you throw to analyze the shot. Get a good throw and see where your disc goes. Take the next shot and try to throw it near the basket. If not, get it close. Shot three should be in or near the basket. No matter what, always FOCUS on where you’re trying to get the disc. Shot three should sink it or get close. If you can’t get it in three shots, you better sink it in four…or five. If you don’t, no worries, because you will get it in.
So we’ve already talked about sinking the disc in the basket and getting better. But what else can you do?! Check out the following 7 steps to really step up your disc golf game.
How to master disc golf (in 7 steps)
Step 1. Understand the previous 5 difficulties
Mastering the game of disc golf will take a considerable amount of effort. Before you even think about going pro or mastering the game, think about this. You will be practicing for years in order to become great at disc golf.
If you’re willing to sacrifice and put in the effort, you can be great at this game.
Now that you’ve started on your path to greatness, take a look at the 5 previous difficulties we talked about. In order to start killin’ it, you have to be able to throw a small disc hundreds of feet accurately, you have to be able to get the disc into the basket in only a few strokes, you have to master terrain, you have to master the obstacles in your path, and you have to be able to focus.
If you can’t get a grip on those difficult situations, you cannot master disc golf.
Step 2. Technique over power
We’ve already talked about this briefly, but taking a look at technique is worth a few minutes of your time.
Power: the good and the bad
So when we talk about power, it’s power in a sense of you trying to throw the disc as hard as you can as far as you can. Basically, just trying to sling the disc all the way to (or close to) the basket.
But be careful when you’re developing your game early on. Power can be good, but it can also be your worst enemy.
Power can help you throw the disc really far, get it close to the basket, and get a better overall score if used correctly.
But power can be bad. If not controlled, power can limit your accuracy, force you to throw too high, and physically hurt you. That last part is true. I hurt my rotator cuff this way. Because I used too much power and just tried to sling the disc as hard as possible. Like I’ve said, injuries are not fun.
Stop trying to use too much power. Focus on technique.
Technique: the good and the bad
Using good technique limits your ability to throw the disc really far at first and can take some time to develop that technique. However, once you have developed good enough technique, you can start to try throwing the disc harder and farther.
Step 3. Find competitive friends
If you want to get better and master disc golf, another thing you can do is find friends who are better than you. I know this sounds counterintuitive as you will probably lose when you play with good players. Why would I want to get beat? Well, you’re trying to get better, so winning and losing doesn’t matter at first.
The idea here is to find better players to play with you because they can teach you. You can learn and develop your game by watching and implementing what those good players show you.
I love this step, because I’m a competitive sports fanatic. I’m sure just like you, I absolutely hate losing. My hate for losing is so extreme that I started a disc golf site (this one) to teach others and learn more myself! Losing just plain sucks.
But luckily I found some friends that played competitively and started learning from them. Sure, they beat me almost every time we play, but I still learn from them every time we’re out on the course.
Step 4. Make sure you are playing with the right discs
One important part of your game is the discs you choose. A good quality disc can be the difference in a few strokes each round. The great thing about disc golf is that the best discs don’t cost a whole lot. You can buy great drivers, mid-ranges, and putters for $20 or less. The best deals are on InfiniteDiscs.com or Amazon where you can get a starter set for $20-25 dollars. Check out this starter set from Innova. These are the discs you want to play with when you start.
Try ’em out
You can’t really try new discs out before you buy them, but if you link up with other players, you can have chances to try out other discs and really get a feel for what you like. It’s all about how the disc feels when you throw it. If you love how the disc flies out of your hand and it goes where you want it to, that’s a great disc. For example, My wombat is amazing and I use it for almost all of my mid-range needs. You can find the newer model Wombat3 here on InfiniteDiscs.com.
Make sure you find what disc you like because it makes all the difference.
Step 5. Practice
Practice makes perfect? No, practice makes permanent – something I learned a long time ago from an awesome teacher. It takes a significant amount of time to learn anything, and if you don’t practice, you won’t get better. If you want to be great, get out on a course and practice your game. You can’t learn everything online.
Step 6. If you want to get better, find out how to get better (online learning)
It’s not all about the practice, practice, practice, though. Don’t get me wrong, practice is really important. You should practice to get better.
But what’s also important is continuously learning the game and understanding how to play. You can do this by getting online and finding out about what you don’t know.
The internet has an insane amount of information about disc golf. Between the numerous forum sites, disc golf course sites, and informational sites like DiscgolfNOW.com, you can take your disc golf game from good to exceptional in a short period of time.
For a fantastic tips post, check out our post, “101 Disc Golf Tips to Take Your Game to the Next Level.”
Step 7. Have fun
This last step is simple: make sure that whenever you play, you have fun. I know that sounds kind of cliche, but disc golf is an entertaining hobby and a great sport. It’s meant to be enjoyed. If you don’t get any enjoyment out of the game, why even play it?
Dig in and get to it! For more on disc golf, check out the related articles below.