Disc Golf Etiquette

In the world of disc golf, many players are unfortunately not even aware of the ‘etiquette’ concept. I’d guess that most 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 shop, 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 that 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 casual nature of disc golf means that the rules of etiquette for our sport will differ as well, but we still have to 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 Blahg odds are that you treat your rounds of disc golf as more than just tossing plastic for a couple hours as well. If that is the case, please read the 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 smaller groups behind you and go out of your way to offer to let them play through.
  • If you notice that a group behind you is waiting for your group, offer to let them play through. Everyone should be able to play at the pace they desire if possible.
  • 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 (like “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 the fact that it is common for disc golfers to start on a hole other than Hole #1. This is okay, 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 7 if there is a group putting out on hole 6. That group will suddenly have to wait behind a group that just jumped on, and that ain’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 blissful 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 her/his 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 & 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.
  • Don’t talk about someone else’s game unless they bring it up.
  • Don’t talk about your 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.

21 thoughts on “Disc Golf Etiquette

  1. Here’s an easy one. Sometimes, a group on a fairway comes in close proximity to another group. The group on the higher number hole should always have the right of way. When the group on the higher hole yields to the lower hole, that can cause a backup.

    1. “One big difference between ball and disc golf is the fact that it is common for disc golfers to start on a hole other than Hole #1.”

      I don’t really think that’s true. Lots of (ball) golf tournaments have “shotgun starts” where players start on tees through the course. The same goes for casual ball golf rounds. If a group tees off on hole 1, it’s not uncommon, if the course is open enough, for a newly started group to go ahead to hole 3 or even more common, start on the back 9 instead.

      1. but you overall point is well taken – and is completely true for ball golf as well.

  2. I would have to add ask the players in your group if it’s OK to play music during the round. Some players genre of music can really make my game suck.

      1. Whoa, now you’ve passed “reasonable” behind, and according to GPS you’re somewhere between arrogant and tyrannical.

        If you ask someone in your group to turn off their music, you’re well within your rights and you don’t even necessarily owe an explanation. But someone in another group? That’s filed under N for “Nunya.”

        It happens RARELY, but sure, occasionally someone in another group is playing music so loud that it could bother others at the next hole. In that unusual event, sure, ask them to turn it down, and it would be rude of them to refuse. But ask them to turn it off, and now you’re the rude one.

  3. I was very disappointed at a recent tournament to be around so much smoking. Just because it is outdoors should not give people the right to pollute the breathing air around me or my kids.

    1. The air around you is already polluted with toxins and harmful chems. Just because you cant see or smell it doesn’t mean its not there. Maybe next time don’t hang around people who smoke. Did you know that campfire smoke is100x more toxic than cigarette smoke? Do you take your kids camping? Yourself? Don’t point fingers until you have all your facts. Does smoking smell bad? Sure it does. But don’t act like its the root of all evil. Do you complain about all the alcohol that is consumed legally by golfers at these events? How about foul language??

      1. The problem with most smokers though is not whether you “hang out with them”. They smoke where they want with little to no regard for the people around them.

        Campfires are not addictive and if you know what wood your burning it does not have near the level of toxins present in cigs. Camp smoke goes up not in your lungs. If your dumb enough to stand in the campfire smoke that’s on you.

    2. Since you’re so concerned about air quality, I presume you don’t drive a car, or live anywhere near gasoline engines in general, because the pollution they produce is orders of magnitude worse than what even a foursome of cigarette smokers exhales, regardless of whether you measure by content or by the volume of air polluted.

      Fortunately, you’re usually outside when you play disc golf, correct? Would you explain how, precisely, someone smoking outside causes any harm to you or anyone else?

      Here on Earth (or really any place where the second law of thermodynamics is in effect), all you have to do is not stand next to them, and voila, in a short distance the smoke has dissipated to concentrations well below the threshold of detectability.

      1. We were enjoying a round last weekend with our kids, and the group ahead of us stopped and took a smoking break. They were easily over 50 yards away, and the stench remained overwhelming.

        I think you drastically underestimate the effect of smoking on those in the vicinity.

  4. Another rule of etiquette should be to respect people’s property. Sometimes an errant throw may go into someone’s yard of a house adjacent to a course. Don’t just hop their fence (or climb their roof) without their permission to retrieve your disc. Take the time to go to their door, explain what happened and get their permission.

  5. If everyone is on the same page with disc golf etiquette then the game is that much more enjoyable, PLUS anyone watching gets a good impression of the sport and its players.
    Yeah you can play relaxed and still positively represent IMHO.

  6. It’d be good to mention for beginner players, the importance of calling, “fore,” when there’s a possibility of hitting someone. Also, if your disc falls into a sand bunker, to rake the sand after retrieving, to be considerate of those playing behind you.

  7. Groups should be no more than 4 imo
    And NO dogs on course period! Nothing worse than landing your disc in crap!

  8. Was playing a rare round of disc golf yesterday in Rochester Minnesota. I play a lot of golf ball golf and am aware of not hitting into the group ahead of me until the area is clear of my range of tee shot. Our group never came close to the group ahead of us, but was asked to wait till they finish the hole before we teed off. Is this a realistic rule??? We took the high road and obliged since we were not being pushed yet from behind. I know if someone feels they are being rushed in real golf they could let the group to play through.

    1. Lynn, all your points are valid, yet you did the right thing taking the high road. Since most holes in disc golf are still par 3, players on the hole ahead of you may get nervous thinking your drives can reach them – or at least get close enough to distract them – even if you know that is not the case.

      I see nothing wrong, if you’re waiting for a group for several holes and there are open holes ahead of them, to politely ask to play through.

    2. Assuming there was no one directly ahead of them, they should have just let you play through. It doesn’t really make sense for you to play through if there is a group on every hole though.

      Conversely, if it doesn’t make sense to let you play through, starting before they complete the hole doesn’t make much sense either. If everyone is waiting it’s not going to get you through faster, and it will just turn into a hurry up and wait situation.

      Personally, it really messes with my head when people start throwing before we are done putting because it makes me feel rushed. I always just let people play through, but if a group ahead of me doesn’t offer, I just ask.

  9. Hi. I play a lot of ball golf and it is common practice when not playing tournament good to play “ready golf”. That means going to your disk immediately and being ready to play when it is your turn. I find everyone standing behind current thrower is not ready golf. Now of course you don’t want to be standing in a throwers way nor should you be moving. Two people I play with hate this practice and get mad at me. I hate standing around and only moving forward after each shot. So slow!!

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