Disc Golf for Beginners

Disc golf, commonly called Frisbee golf, is a fun way to spend time outdoors with family or friends. It is challenging as well as rewarding.

This series will discuss many aspects of disc golf. This article covers the game basics, course information, kids and disc golf, and health concerns.

About disc golf

The game is somewhat similar to regular golf, in that you have a target some distance away that you’re aiming for. But instead of hitting a ball with a club, you’re throwing a disc. And instead of aiming for a cup, you try to throw your disc into a metal basket.

There are dedicated disc golf courses throughout the world, which have permanent tee pads (pads that you throw from, made from cement or other material) and baskets.

The layout of a course is also similar to regular golf. There are usually nine or 18 ‘holes’ spread out in a way which allows you to finish one hole, then walk a short ways to the next tee pad. Some courses have maps at the beginning, and then have markers at the end of one hole to direct you to the next. If there aren’t any markers you may have to look around to find the next tee pad. Or ask another disc golfer, they’re usually friendly. If it’s a local course, you’ll get to know your way around after a round or two of disc golf.

Finding a course

Most disc golf courses are well-known so they’re not difficult to find. Type ‘disc golf course’ and the state or city you live in, into any search engine and you’ll find most courses.

Searching the Internet for disc golf organizations or clubs in your area is also a good way to find courses. People who play disc golf like to try new courses, so they’re likely to know about every course in the area, including newer ones that might not be on a web site yet.

What to expect at a disc golf course

Courses range in popularity, so there might be a lot of people there, or it might be empty. If there are a lot of people, and you have to wait to tee off, take advantage of the time to learn about the course from other golfers.

Always keep in mind course etiquette. If  you’re playing slow, let others play through. Typically beginners can’t throw as far or accurate as a seasoned disc golfer, so they take a little longer to play. Some people just play fast: they throw hard, they walk fast, and they throw accurately so they don’t have to look for lost discs. Either way, it’s courteous to let faster players play through.

It’s a good idea to take a pencil and paper to keep track of your scores. It’s a great way to see your progress. Some courses have score cards available, complete with distances and pars for each hole. There are course score cards and generic scores cards available online, too.

Before you make your first throw, check to see if there are multiple tee pads for the same hole. Many courses have tee pads at various distances, according to your skill level. Pros can throw a lot farther than beginners, so their tee boxes are typically farther away from the basket. It’s okay to start at a closer tee pad. It will speed up the game for you ¬ and others, if the course if busy. Some courses only have one tee pad per hole.
There will be more information about course hazards in a later article.

Kids and disc golf

Typically a disc golf course has some holes that are pretty far (over 500 feet), and others that are relatively short (under 200 feet). For a younger child (under 10) even the short holes are going to take several throws. The long ones could take more than ten throws. If the course isn’t crowded, and they have the patience, taking a young child to a disc golf course is a fun way to play together.

If they seem to be losing patience with repeated throws, or if the course is crowded and you don’t want to slow everyone else’s game, you can always make your own “course”.
Find a park or open space, and choose a target to hit. Count how many throws it takes to hit the target, then pick another one to aim for. Then you can control how far the targets are and adjust the lengths, if necessary, on later holes.

Health and strength requirements

There are a couple of things to think about when considering trying disc golf. First, there is a lot of walking involved in a round of disc golf. Some courses have a lot of elevation change, so you’ll be walking up and down hills. It’s rarely strenuous, though. It’s just a lot of walking.

Second, to throw a disc you are using most muscle groups in your body. Legs, back, shoulders, and arms all aid in tossing the disc. Warm up before you begin. If you have problem areas, like a bad back, you may want to check with your doctor. It’s still possible to play, but you may need to adjust your throw.

To get a really long throw you need to put a good amount muscle in to the effort. You can modify your throw to compensate for injuries, but just remember disc golf requires you to have reasonably healthy muscles and joints.

Walking around in the weather brings to mind the usual cautions. Take water to drink. A hat will protect you from the sun. Take some sunscreen, if the weather dictates. Some courses that have mosquito issues, so if you know the area or have heard about the pesky insects, take some repellant.

Another article will address hazards, such as trees and bushes, but from a health standpoint, if you’ll be walking through bushes or climbing trees (to retrieve discs), take precautions for tics. Wearing clothing to cover your body and/or using repellant will help reduce the chances of getting a tick.

In the next article in the series we'll discuss disc selection, equipment, and practicing.


Click here for Part 2