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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.