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A friendly reminder: Showing etiquette on the course

In the world of disc golf, many players are unfortunately not even aware of the “etiquette” concept.

I’d guess that many players have had no exposure to ball golf prior to discovering disc golf, and everything about our version of the sport is more casual. Most courses have no pro shops, no marshal, no tee times, and feel much more like what they are: a public park where people can come, go, and do as they please.

However, anyone familiar with ball golf knows that etiquette is a big part of the game. Golf is a self-officiated game, with no referees, umpires or the like to point out when a player has broken a rule or committed an infraction. But “golf etiquette” is specifically concerned with the unwritten rules that have less to do with the scoring part of the game and more to do with respect for the other players in your group and on the course.

According to Merriam-Webster, etiquette is defined as “the
conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by
authority to be observed in social or official life” In the ball-golf
world, this translates to a universally-understood group of social mores that all serious competitive or even learned recreational players observe.

The more laid-back nature of disc golf means that the rules of etiquette for our sport will differ accordingly. However, the reality that it’s still golf — a game that calls for intense focus to play well, mixed precariously with interactions with groups of people both familiar and unfamiliar — requires us act within unspoken but generally agreed-upon mores.

I personally enjoy a disc golf setting that simulates this aspect of ball golf as closely as possible, and if you’re reading this, odds are that you also treat your rounds of disc golf as more than just tossing plastic for a couple hours. If that is the case, please read my non-exhaustive compilation of disc golf etiquette guidelines and let me know what you think. Tell me if you agree or disagree, and if there is anything I overlooked, which I’m sure is the case.

In general:

  • Groups should be no larger than five players. If you must play in a herd, be very sensitive to the faster speed-of-play of smaller groups behind you. Go out of your way to offer them a chance to play through.
  • If you notice that a group behind you is waiting for your group on successive holes, offer to let them play through. Everyone should be able to play at the pace they desire if possible. This is, of course, qualified by whether your group is also waiting for groups to clear the holes ahead.
  • If you notice a player on a nearby hole getting ready to throw or putt, and see that you are in their sight-line, stop moving and talking until they release their disc.
  • If possible, try to grant the requests of other players, however ridiculous they may seem to you (such as “don’t talk to my disc” or “don’t stand directly behind me-even if you’re 15
    feet away.”) It’s always easier to just take the high road and
    let it go.
  • One big difference between ball and disc golf is it is common for disc golfers to start on a hole other than hole No. 1. This is OK, but if you do “jump on” in the middle of the course, take notice of the groups on the preceding hole(s). It is bad form to start on, say, hole No. 7 if there is a group putting out on hole No. 6. That group will suddenly have to wait behind a group that just jumped on, and that isn’t cool. If you do “jump on” in the middle of the course, try to find a spot where you don’t interrupt another group’s flow.
  • If you feel compelled to share etiquette tips with others, make sure to pick your words and tone carefully. Most players are not “rude” on purpose, but out of ignorance. They don’t consciously plan to aggravate you. And they may be disc golfing for the first or second time ever, so try to enlighten them with a smile rather than scold them with a scowl.
  • If you see an errant disc disappear into the rough near you, from another hole, take the time to give the unfortunate thrower an idea of where to look for his or her disc.
  • If you find an abandoned disc, attempt to reunite it with its owner. Ask the groups ahead of you if they left a disc behind, then either turn it in to lost and found or call the phone number on the bottom.
  • Some obvious ones: pack ALL of your trash, including cigarette butts; pick up and remove your doggie’s doo.
  • Speaking of dogs, keep your dog on a leash, and don’t bring a dog on the course at all if he/she is likely to bark uncontrollably or chase random discs.

Within your own group (these are subjective, depending on what you and your playing partners find acceptable):

  • Stop moving and talking when another player reaches the teepad. He/she may not seem ready to throw, but everyone has their own pace and focus strategy and deserves silence and stillness when it’s their turn. Same goes for putts and to a lesser degree upshots, since you may be standing far apart in the middle of a long fairway.
  • Stay perceptively behind the disc of whoever is out (the player whose disc is furthest from the hole). This one is obvious, but also easy to violate — especially in larger groups.
  • Don’t talk about someone else’s game unless they bring it up.
  • Don’t talk about your own game too much.
  • Don’t talk too much, period. Unless your regular group likes to talk nonstop, of course, in which case — gab away! But keep the volume at a level that doesn’t force other groups to listen to your banter.

That’s all I can think of for now, but I’m eager to hear feedback from others. What do you agree/disagree with? What did I leave out? Many items on my list are heavily influenced by the fact that I love the golf aspect of disc golf. Your take may be different, but that’s one of the great things about disc golf — the sport can be many different things to different people. I’m eager to hear what everyone else has to say on the subject.

Let the dialogue begin! (But not while I’m putting, please)!

Jack Trageser is the founder of School of Disc Golf and is a writer for RattlingChains.com. You can reach him at jack@rattlingchains.com.

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  • Andy Portwood says:

    I have always heard mixed reviews on people who play music during their rounds. I would personally have no problem with someone blasting Iron Maiden to where you can hear it across the course but also know how it can mess with your focus as I found out with the group behind me the other day jamming to Coldplay. I didn’t even know you COULD jam to Coldplay. But it was enough to throw me off my game for the next few holes. I’d say this goes in with the “staying quiet during someones throw” but it needed to be mentioned as it can affect other groups as well.

    April 25, 2012 at 11:26 am
    • Steve says:

      Coldplay would throw off my game, too. And now they are stuck in my head.

      April 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm
      • Andy Portwood says:

        My apologies! Think back to the Iron Maiden!!!

        April 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm
  • StanTheMan says:

    I certainly commend Mr. Trageser for writing this post and believe it to be quite thorough and much needed, though I have to say, most players I’ve encountered have been well-mannered. This writing brings to mind an incident this last week where I made a comment to another thrower that his disc almost struck another player in the back of the head, which could have proven fatal due to the speed his disc was flying. The throw had been made blindly from behind foliage on a doglegged fairway in an attempt to clear the foliage. The thrower was one of a group, but no one acted as a “spotter” to advise him of any throwers in his path. Though I detected some reservation in his response, the thrower said he was sorry — to me — but his excuse was that he “didn’t see anyone”. Well, he didn’t even look, so his excuse meant nil to me, thus, he didn’t appear sincere or did he make any apology to the possible victim. It is typical for many of us to underestimate the impact of these discs. Because they are plastic, they seem unintimidating, yet due to their slim designs, weight, and speed, they certainly have the capability of causing serious injuries or fatalities. Fortunately, we haven’t yet heard of many serious mishaps. Let’s face it, good throwers can really send those discs a long ways at some pretty high speeds. One day, we could look up and get one “in the kisser”. I am steering clear of a local course offering night tournaments simply because the course is so closely entwined that I was incurring some near misses — or they were aiming at me. I would like to read a future post poll on disc injuries that have occurred and the extent of the injuries. One fellow, locally, told me he was hit in the shin on a ground rebounder which required a good number of stitches even though he was wearing denim jeans! There have been times when I’ve wondered if I should be wearing a batter’s helmet! Thank you, Jack, and R.J., for the thoughtful post.

    April 25, 2012 at 5:16 pm
  • Ven Vardin says:

    There is also etiquette toward the course. At minimum do no damage. Carry out others trash you find. The 8:30 Saturday Gang brings a garbage bag. We rotate who carries it. At maximum there is contributing time and/or money to course maintenance.
    I am glad to see the PDGA changed the rule about moving dead things. In an informal round, if something is alive I would rather see someone move their position instead of breaking, twisting, or otherwise messing with a living plant. I would prefer to see rhem try a different throw, grip, or hand. That is what a pro would do.
    Some rounds speed is important so everyone rushes to their disc. That style has its own etiquette. In ball golf its called “ready golf”. Playing slower when everyone goes to the away disc in a group, can be very informative and more social than “ready disc”.
    Can the various parts of disc golf etiquette be boiled down to a simple easy to remember list? I will try.

    April 26, 2012 at 7:39 am
  • GW says:

    Our local group is pretty laid back, even those among us that are PDGA members. We all know each others bags and shots quite well. A few years back one of the guys joined the PDGA and immediately began preaching the rules and running off the more casual players. Now we have a casual, beginner rules round; and a more stringent, tournament rules round each week. Ths lets everyone have a good time, and play as loose or strict as they want. When new people show up for a club round we let them know which group it is, and they don’t mind. Some of the top nearby players even come down on the more lax days and ‘mentor’ the newbies on both ettiquette and technique.

    April 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm
  • Professor says:

    I think the one thing that no one wants to admit is the biggest things holding our sport back. DRUGS! The use of drugs on the course which can be smelled by any and all people walking by. Or the ones that simply don’t care at all and do it in the parking lot for all to see. Weather it is at tournaments or league or just a casual round it would be great to not see it or smell it on the course. PDGA needs to really start being more strict with this rule.

    April 26, 2012 at 1:42 pm
    • P.J. says:

      I think this, however, goes beyond etiquette. It’s something we’ll be covering some in a series of stories about the game we’re planning for next month sometime.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm
    • StanTheMan says:

      Along the lines of “The Professor”, after playing with a group of cigarette chain smokers, I was gasping for some clean air. For those of us who relish being outside to enjoy the natural surroundings, including fresh breezes, the smoke can really plug the nostrils, make the eyes water, and send one in a coughing spree. My granddad went to his grave on “Lucky Strikes” and “Camels” – and he, too, was a dedicated golfer, and perhaps had years ahead of him to enjoy the game. I miss him.

      April 27, 2012 at 4:49 am
  • XDrew says:

    I’d add that it’s almost never ok to throw multiple discs on the same shot. The only time this is ok is if you are playing alone with nobody behind you. Also, around the putting circle, being still and quiet isn’t enough–you should also get out of the direct line of sight of the putter. In casual rounds, I always help people look for their lost discs until they decide to quit, because that’s what I’d want.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:56 pm
  • Lou Doench says:

    I worry that your last two points (talking about your/their game) may lead to beginners getting really frustrated. I know that in my first year or so of playing I was all over the place when it comes to technique/disc selection/etc. And I found my fellow players a little intimidating when it came to asking for advice.
    Lou Doench recently posted..It’s playground season… KABOOM is here to help.My Profile

    April 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm
  • Lynda Newman says:

    Please don’t forget, “no cell phones!” or at least on vibrate, step away, and don’t hold up the game while you gab. Also, we don’t want to hear your conversation.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:55 pm
  • James Pearson says:

    I would like to talk more about item regarding “Don’t talk about someone else’s game unless they bring it up.” I am assuming that comments like “nice shot” or “Oh, so close” would not offend anyone. The social interaction is something that I enjoy about playing this game. I love to ask people what they threw on a certain drive or ask them to share their strategy (approach) after an amazing shot. Obviously if someone is not having their best round and you can see their frustration they do not need any additional comments about “oh so close”, but in this case, it is my belief that you should celebrate their good shots in the hopes of lifting their spirits.

    On this same line of thinking. I would suggest that being in a pissy angry mood would be considered bad etiquette as no one wants to be around someone who is acting all angry and moody. I have seen where one person’s bad mood can kill the joy out of everyone else’s game.

    Your thoughts?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm
    • StanTheMan says:

      Regarding James’s points (well taken), there’s the old cliché “…a time and a place for everything”.

      April 27, 2012 at 7:54 am
    • RedBeard says:

      James,
      I’m of a similar mindset. I don’t think its a matter of, “Don’t talk about it unless they bring it up.” I believe it should be more, “Use common sense.”

      I think most disc golfers understand the differences between supportive comments vs. constructive criticism vs. being obnoxious.

      Like you, I relish the times when I golf with people better than me. Its a great way to ask what they’re throwing, what discs they choose for what situations, or just basic things like, “What grip do you use?” I’ve yet to golf with anyone who was opposed to sharing information and technique.

      April 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm
      • StanTheMan says:

        Amen to RedBeard and James… Why play if you can’t enjoy each others’ company? Part of the fun is sharing the facets of the game. There are times to enjoy playing with a group and other times maybe it’s better to be alone, but I’ve found one of the most admirable aspects of disc golf is the camaraderie of the players I’ve observed and met. It’s a family out there, and though there are a lot of differences and pains, there always seems to be a mutual respect for those who throw. Disc throwers in general demonstrate a passion for their sport, and this blog is one such example. Yes, we can play alone, but I think we grow faster and more if we can share the rewards and experiences of the game, and a few discs, too. It’s been said in other words, previously, “There’s just something of grace, beauty, and mystery about a disc soaring through the air.”

        April 30, 2012 at 5:28 am
  • MM says:

    I would also like to add that some newer players dont know that they need to clear the basket after they make their shot. This is something I try not to do. Do not throw into people when they are still on the hole. If the hole is really long or if the next tee pad is in a dangerous location its ok.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm
  • Dennis says:

    3 points:
    Disc golfers litter. You might as well pick up after them.
    Course designers fail when they build courses that conflict baseball, soccer, running, biking, walking etc. If a park already has other amenities, then the disc golf course designer should do everything in their power to insure that the disc golf course will not breed resentment or irritation in those not playing disc golf.
    Music and dogs really are not going to help anyone’s round unless they are going to win by irritating the other players on their card.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm
    • Jack says:

      As expected, we received a bunch of great comments on this post. I’ll be writing a follow-up post that highlight some of them, and respond to the questions that were asked about my list- which as a reminder, is highly subjective. Thanks everyone!

      April 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm
  • StanTheMan says:

    I’ll second Dennis’s comments by saying when I went to make my drive on the starting fairway yesterday, some kids were kicking a ball back and forth near the first basket and occasionally using the basket for their tosses of amusement. They have a right to be there, too, correct? Fortunately, they departed, but are we left only with the authority to grit our teeth, curse, stomp our feet, aim just over their heads, or the need to move on? (“Tongue in cheek”, here.)

    April 27, 2012 at 4:19 am
  • guitodd says:

    grant ridiculous request of players? Not a chance. To suggest that me saying to a thrown disc ,”miss it” or “turn” is somehow effecting the disc or your game is ridiculous. Golf is a game of comaradere and self discipline. Deal with it. If I yell “get in the hole” while disc is flying and you ace it, what then? There should be an etiquite rule suggesting not whining about how its everyone or everything elses fault that you cant putt under pressure. True story: I golf with my dog alot. She stays out of the way and is very popular for being such agood disc golf dog. now and again she will walk across the teepad or even across the fairway or basket. Most people wait or just ignore her and move on unaffected. My one buddy James always gets uptight when it happens then misses his shot and blames the dog. Sometimes even if shes 30 feet behind us chewing on a stick. It is still a park james. The rest of us parked it, same scenerio.One day in particular James asks me to harness dog more a few times and i try to keep her a little closer to me. He blamed her for 2 or 3 shots blah blah. Anyways Last hole. James aces it. My dog is 10FT in front of him walking straght at him. Not a word of thanks to my dog. Maybe if she isnt there he misses. Logic sometimes has a seedy dark side. Embrace it!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm
  • Dan Costello says:

    Guitodd — I think the concept here is that your (or your dog’s) actions shouldn’t potentially be an excuse for them, regardless of whether or not other people view it that way for themselves. If you respect the concept of etiquette on the course, it really is your responsibility to be aware of this concept.

    One thing to mention here too, especially for those new to the sport, is that etiquette guidelines for rec play and tournament play really can be a bit different. For both, it should be “common sense,” encouraging a comfortable, positive environment, etc., but during a tournament it can lead to scoring penalties, so sometimes tournament players get used to being more serious about rules and can cause some tension with strictly casual players during rec rounds.

    My solution to this is that I’ll often ask a group at the beginning of a casual round (especially w/ newbies in the group) if they intend to play by PDGA rules or not, or if they want insight about any rules as they arise during the round. If they don’t, I relax into my game, let them do their thing, and only mention something rules-specific if asked. If they DO want help, I try my best to be a diplomatic, objective information source to newer or uninformed players about the rules, and explain them as clearly as possible while keeping them within the spirit of a casual round. And I ALWAYS remind them that THEY are the ones that should care whether or not they play by the rules. (as Jack mentioned, it’s most often a self-officiated game) Why let a great round be tainted by a rules infraction you know you let yourself get away with? Play with integrity, and rejoice in your triumphs when you have a clean great round.
    Dan Costello recently posted..Album-A-Day. Easy, right? Ehrm…My Profile

    May 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm
  • steve nolff says:

    Real nice editorial Jack, thank you. It is a great game we play, but like any other, bad apples… I would point out that all types bring a few inconsiderate exceptions, young, old , experienced, new… I think my biggest concern is the mentioned jumping. In my area, this is rampant. Seemingly, large groups start where they wish on crowded course. They wish not to wait on hole 1, so preceed to hole 7 or whereever there is no wait on the tee. A small convenience to them at the expense of all others on the course. On a crowded course this is a complete wrench in play, grinding the play to a halt for them. Nobody wants to see disc golf move toward sending grandpa out on a cart to yell at us, like swat golf, but I find this trend a concern. I guess, I will continue to smile and try to teach courtesy to those who lack it.

    June 14, 2012 at 11:10 am
  • Jack Tupp says:

    Yeah, Steve, that’s a touchy one. Handled right that casual difference about disc disc golf can be a good thing. But both parties (the jumpers and the jump-ees) have to be sensitive to the exact dynamic that works. If starting on another hole than 1,first take a look and see if you’re gonna slow anyone down. If you run into a larger or slower group. Ask confidently but diplomatically if you can play through. It usually works out okay around here if done like that.
    Jack Tupp recently posted..Building blocks of basic backhand techniqueMy Profile

    June 16, 2012 at 9:50 am

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