For beginners, golf is the key to enjoying disc golf

It occurs to me that many first-time players get hung up in how different golf discs are than regular ol’ Frisbees. They simply try to propel the disc forward as instructed by their well-meaning friends, note the marked difference between their effort and that of their more seasoned counterparts, and listen to the next set of instruction.

When they’ve zig-zagged across the fairway several times with errant throws and finally find themselves within tossing distance of the basket, they’re probably thinking of the brief respite they’ll get before teeing off on the next hole. Or maybe the more competitive among them see the next hole as a chance to start fresh- which it is, sort of.

But for most new players, the golf aspect of disc golf doesn’t really register until they get much better at controlling their disc, or enter some type of competition, or both. To me this is a shame, since it was the golf aspect of the the game that had me addicted from the first time I played.

That first time was at UCSC, where the targets were 4 x 4 posts and other objects. I remember quickly realizing that if I threw a disc at a target only caring about that throw, I’d likely end up with another tough putt if I missed that throw. So I started to putt in such a way that enabled the disc to hit the target but not go zipping past if it didn’t.

I’m amazed at how many competitive players I see – players that really want to beat their PB and their friends and adversaries – that still haven’t made this adjustment. These players are also likely to make the same stroke-costing mistakes repeatedly, like throwing a driver on a tricky hole simply because it flies the farthest or fastest. I can’t help but wonder if this has something to do with not embracing the golf aspect of the sport from Day One.

For anyone that has fallen into this trap, the good news is twofold: Focusing on the golf part of disc golf is really about stepping up the mental game, and when you do that you’ll discover that disc golf now offers you twice the enjoyment you experienced before. You’ll find yourself replaying rounds in your head, analyzing each decision and using the experience to do better next time. And when you do this, of course, your play and score will inevitably improve.

So the next time you’re bringing someone out for the first time, make sure they understand they are playing the great game of golf. The discs just make it . . . greater.

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