By Andre Fredrick — Rattling Chains Staff
The sport of disc golf has grown exponentially since I first started playing. There was a time when I could play my local nine-hole course and have it all to myself. Sure, I had to be cautious of joggers, cyclists and the like, but the fairways and greens were practically all mine.
Nowadays the same course is filled players. That has meant the way the game is played, whether it be slower play or a lack of etiquette.
I suppose it’s easy to forget that we were all new to the game once. Likewise, it’s easy to forget that the sport is growing on a daily basis, bringing newcomers to it in a way that it never has before. The growing pains that stem from this surge in popularity come in various forms. Foremost, it has brought the casual player in contact with the veteran player.
Clashes arise over the protocol and etiquette of the game. Seasoned players often have unreasonably high expectations of the novice player. Sometimes, they are expected to have the same respect and reverence for the game that we have. We demand that they understand the many rules that govern the game, be they in the PDGA handbook or some otherwise unspoken rule.
The simple fact is the casual player can’t be expected to always know these things.
For those of us who have played for a while, we can sometimes forget the days when we were just finding our ways. There are various ways in which the seasoned disc golfer might handle these newcomers, and sadly it seems that the negative approach tends to win out in the majority of cases.
It seems there can be a quiet contempt for some casual players. Glares and groaning often come when casual players meet on my local course.
I try to be an ambassador to the game.
If I’m playing alone, I will often invite new players to join me. I share my love of the game and offer tips. I elaborate on the game and talk with them about rules and etiquette.
Disc golf has reached a broader audience more than ever before. I know of no better way than to embrace this popularity and try and help the casual player’s development. Why shun them? It doesn’t help in the end.
Doing this also helps the image of the game, which sometimes isn’t always great.
Much has changed. The increasing popularity of the sport has brought families to the game, as well as a younger crowd. I realize it’s not my job to be a role model, but I believe it’s a responsibility to represent disc golf in the best possible light.
I personally don’t care what people think about me, but I do care what they think of the game. So, when I’m on the course, I sincerely feel like I’m an ambassador to the game. I try and represent everything that is great about this sport.
As such, I conduct myself accordingly.
I am very conscientious of my surroundings. I exercise discretion with common courtesies, such as with drinking or something like that. I even try and keep expletives to a minimum. It’s not out of shame or self-reproach, but out of respect for others and for disc golf itself. One might ask what curbing my freedoms might gain me in the long run.
I like seeing new courses in city and state parks. The more courses, the better. And let’s face it, if the perception of disc golf is negative, it’s less likely that places will consider new courses. If disc golf is held in high regard, the chances are higher. And that is something I think we can all get behind.
Andre Fredrick is an Oregon-based disc golfer writing for RattlingChains.com. E-mail him at andre [at] rattlingchains.com.