What are the rules of disc golf?

Disc golf is a sport that’s easy to learn, hard to master, but fun for everyone. Are you just starting out? Here are the basic rules of disc golf you should know.

The main rules of disc golf

Disc golf, in short, is played like regular golf. The goal of the game is to throw your discs from the tee pad to the basket in as few shots as possible. Most holes are “Par 3,” meaning the aim is to get in the basket within three shots. All of the holes on the course have a set par, and you’ll tally up your score to compare it to course par by the end of the game.

Each hole begins with a shot from the tee pad. This is usually a concrete pad, but can also be grass or dirt or really anything else. But, regardless of what it is, you need to take your shot from that pad and you can’t step past it. From the tee shot, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. Some holes will have additional obstacles or penalties if you land somewhere you shouldn’t.

These include:

  • OB: “Out of bounds” areas are typically marked by a white line and mean you have to bring your disc back to the fairway where it first went out of bounds before continuing. You’ll also add one stroke to your score.
  • Hazard: Similar to out-of-bounds, these areas will add an extra stroke to your score, but you’ll play from where the disc lies.
  • Mando: Lines marked as “mando” mean you’ll need to throw your disc through or past a certain area. This is usually a tree, and it will be marked whether you have to go to the left or right of that spot.

Another thing to keep in mind with these is a “drop zone,” where if you get a penalty, you might throw from a designated area and take your shot (with the added stoke) from there.

But, let’s say your first shot went off without a hitch. What’s next? Your second shot will be taken from where the disc lies. Your forward foot can touch the back of the disc (you can also flip the disc forward for a few extra inches). You can stand still or run up, but you can’t pass that line. Don’t stand to the side of the disc either. But whatever works here is fine. You can “straddle” to get around an obstacle, take a knee to get under a branch, etc.

If you’re playing in a group, you’ll also want to keep in mind the throwing order. The person furthest from the basket goes first until everyone is finished up.

That process continues until you’re ready to putt. Once you’re close enough, take a shot into the basket. There are a few rules to keep in mind with putting. Like with your second shots, you can’t go past the front of the disc. This includes after you let go of the disc. “Foot fault” results in a penalty stroke if you’re within 30ft of the basket.

And then there’s the all-important final shot. When you get into the basket, there’s one main rule to keep in mind. The disc has to make it into the basket and come to rest. If it’s supported by the basket or the chains, you’re good to go, but it doesn’t count if it lands up on top or falls out.

On to the next hole! There, if you’re in a group, the person with the best score on the previous hole tees off first.

You can view the full, official rules of disc golf over at the PDGA website, but above is what you’ll mainly need to know to get started.

The Disc Golfer’s Code

The PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) sets three primary rules that everyone should play by, whether they’re in a professional tournament or just playing a casual round at their favorite course. Those rules are:

Play Smart: Never throw into a blind area or when players, spectators, pedestrians, or other facility users are within range. Use a spotter.

Basically, be smart in your game. Don’t throw if someone is still playing the hole you’re on. If there’s a walking path nearby, wait until the person on it passes. Discs hurt, a lot, so try not to hit anyone! And, if it’s a particularly dangerous hole layout, have someone in your group walk ahead and keep an eye out. Don’t forget, if you’re ever caught in a situation where you might hit someone, yell “FORE!”

Respect the Course: Observe all posted rules. No littering, graffiti, or abuse of the equipment or flora.

In other words, be nice! If there’s a building on the course and your disc gets stuck, don’t start throwing rocks up there to get it down. Ask a facility manager, they’re probably more than willing to help. And, with them in mind, don’t make their jobs harder! Leaving behind bottles, stickers, or anything else just ruins the game for everyone. Hang on to trash and put it in a trash can when appropriate. Similarly, be careful with the course itself. Don’t rip out plants or make big piles of leaves. Keep things as you’d want to find them.

And if you’re lucky enough to get an ace, please don’t sign the basket. If everyone did that, it’d be a mess, and your ace wasn’t good enough to be an exception to the rule.

Represent the Sport: Be positive and responsible. Teach others.

Grow the sport. It’s the motto of so many disc golfers. But you’ve got to be nice to newcomers to do that, which might include giving a tip if you get the chance.

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