Disc Golf 101: Beginners Guide To Get You Started

In this Disc Golf Beginners Guide we look at the starting steps to get you on the course and throw your first game. This step-by-step guide will give you insight to buying your first discs and being able to keep score on the course. We will wrap up with some tips to consider when on the course. 

Ready to enjoy a beautiful day outside? Read on!

Brief History of Disc Golf


Disc golf arguably started in the 1960’s, with the invention of the frisbee and several patents developed representing what we know today as a basket. However, that history is a “blurry” one and could be debated longer than what it will take you to read this getting started article (for more on the history of disc golf, check out the PDGA article here: PDGA Disc Golf History). 

What Is Disc Golf?


Disc golf is a game where players attempt to make the least amount of throws to get their frisbee disc into the basket. Similar to regular ball golf, the player will start at a tee box and drive the disc as far as possible down the course towards the green. The player with the fewest throws at the end of a 9 or 18 hole game, also known as a round, wins the game!

One of the things we love about disc golf is that it is so approachable by anyone.  With very little equipment, and the basic ability to walk the course (great exercise), any age, athletic ability, and skill set can try their hand at a round of disc golf. It’s an awesome way to spend a beautiful day with family or friends…and perfect for a semi-active date with your significant other. 

How To Get Started Disc Golfing


Disc golf requires very little to get started.  However,  discs specific for the sport should be purchased as a regular frisbee does not fly as far and will not fit in the basket (hole) as easily. Most sporting goods stores offer a limited selection of discs but they can also be purchased online. Although not necessary, it’s an ideal sport to take food and beverage, sun screen, a towel, and possibly a few other items to make the experience more enjoyable. 

Once you spend any amount of time looking into disc golf discs, you might notice that sporting goods stores are fairly expensive and offer limited selection. We offer you the solution of two options: Infinitediscs.com and of course Amazon.com  

Disc Golf Beginners Guide

Our Disc Golf Beginners Guide is a great overview of the sport.  However, articles on our site, such as 5 best disc golf discs for beginners, can offer some insight into what’s what with all the various types of discs, but for the most part when starting out you just need a Driver, Mid-range, and Putter disc. If you’re just wanting to try out the sport and need to share, say between two kids, I would recommend just picking out a couple of Mid-range discs and getting out to play.  But, if you’re inclined to visit your local course a few more times, best to purchase at least one of each type and practice getting to understand the nuances of all. 

Discs Golf Beginner Guide to Disc Types: The Basics


Here at DiscGolfDash.com we share information that will help you improve your game.  Articles such as disc golf grips and gear review for beginners, will help you get started with this awesome sport!  But, perhaps the most important starting aspect is choosing your starter disc set.  So if you’re ready to purchase your first discs, read on for a brief understanding of disc types and various factors to consider.

Three types of discs:

  1. Driver: this disc is made for speed and distance.  Typically thrown from the tee-box with the goal to make it as far on the fairway as possible, this might be the first disc you throw, but perhaps not the first you should buy.  Drivers take a little bit of practice to get used to as they need a lot of power and speed to maintain their particular flight path. 
  2. Mid-range: with the basket (hole) not too far away the mid-range is the disc of choice. This disc would be the best to start out with as it provides the most diversity in usage and is the most forgiving to new players. 
  3. Putter: green-way shots require a disc that won’t fly far and doesn’t divert from its intended flight path.  This is where the putter disc comes into play.  With little to no rim, this disc is not going to spin much and therefore will typically fly more straight but not for a far distance. 

Other factors that come to mind are the weight of the discs, plastic types, and those numbers on the front of the discs…what do those represent?

Numbers on a disc:

All discs come in different weights, typically represented in grams. The heavier the disc the harder it is to get up to speed and therefore maintain an understandable flight pattern. For a beginner, it might be best to stick to the 160-175 gram weight, until you can master your form and put a little more power behind the disc.  If you play enough, you might take notice of the difference in weight and find some work better in windy conditions or various other factors that can affect the flight.  For the most part though, weight has little to do with overall flight, and certainly should be low on the priority list for beginners.  In fact, I would argue color choice is equally as important to a beginner as is weight…being able to find your disc after you throw it is something every player will experience.

Along with weight there are four numbers seen on a disc that will represent the flight ratings of that particular model. These numbers come from the manufacturer and give you an overall idea of the typical flight path. The flight path changes with faster spin rates, because of the centripetal force exerted. As a new player, you should start with a “slow” disc. 

Disc Golf Beginners Guide

Speed: the first number on a disc represents how hard the disc needs to be thrown to fly as expected. This number is scaled from 1-14 with 14 being discs that require a lot of power to fly correctly. Beginners should look for something between 4-9.

Glide: the second number represents the disc’s ability to stay afloat in the air or also known as the loft. Glide is scaled from 1-7. Beginners should look for a higher loft in the 4-7 range.

Turn: the third number (easy to remember because “T” for third = “T” for turn), could be considered the stability of the disc or how hard the disc will turn given the players hand used to throw.  Right handed players have a tendency to turn towards the right during the initial part of the flight. This number is scaled from a 1 to a -5. Beginner’s should look for a lower number, 0 to -3.

Fade: finally there is fade. Where turn represents the beginning of the throw, fade represents the end…at the end of the flight what will the disc do. For a right hand backhand thrower the throw will typically hook left at the end of its flight. Fade is scaled from 0-5. Beginners should look for a disc that flies straight, so from 0-2.

So while this is a quick summary of the characteristics for disc golf discs, in short, beginners want to start with discs that have a low speed, high glide, high turn, and low fade.  

At the end of the day, when starting out, don’t overthink it.  You probably won’t be able to tell much of a difference in the characteristics of discs as opposed to the actual feel in your hand.  Which brings us to the important point of trying out a few discs.  The way it feels in your hand and you being comfortable in throwing it will greatly improve your confidence and enjoyment of the game.  Don’t get us wrong, you might get a bit frustrated if your throws keep fading to the right when you want it to go straight. But, I always say the best new experiences are the ones that have little expectation and are more just for fun. You’ll get hooked and soon enough be “geeking” out on the discs flight patterns. 

To get you a quick start check out these 3 options from our article: 5 best discs for beginners:

Driver: Innova Leopard (6, 5, -2, 1)

✔ Low Speed : ✔ High Glide : ✔ High Turn : ✔ Low Fade

The Innova Leopard has a predictable flight path and little fade.  These are great discs to have more than one for practice purposes.  Check out the Leopard here: Innova Leopard

Mid-range: Discraft Buzz (5, 5, -1, 1)

✔ Low Speed : ✔ Mid Glide : ✔ High Turn : ✔ Low Fade

The Buzz is consistent, reliable, and stable…exactly what you want when starting out and trying to improve.  This is a great disc to share with others due to its ease of flight.  Start with this disc here: Discraft Buzzz

Putter: Latitude 64 Ruby(3, 5, -3, 1)

✔ Low Speed : ✔ Mid Glide: ✔ High Turn : ✔ Low Fade

The Ruby is herald as one of the easiest discs to throw and stems from Latitude 64’s line of “Easy-to-Use”.  With a small grip and low weight, this disc will have a neutral flight pattern.  Pick one up to add as an approach or putter here: InfiniteDiscs.com

Disc Color

One final note on disc types, or disclaimer of sorts…chose a color that is not natural. This will allow the disc to stick out from the ground, bush, or tree (ha, hopefully not an often occurrence).  With every throw comes the inevitable search for the disc.  And since you paid money for that disc, it would be a shame to lose it.  You might think this doesn’t happen often, you would be wrong.  Even to experienced disc golfers this happens more often than anyone wants to admit. 

Disc Golf Beginners Guide to Attire


Shirts

When you go out to play, it’s important to dress appropriately. As far as your outfit goes, make sure it’s comfortable and allows you to move around easily. If you feel like you can do the same things in that outfit that you would when working out at the gym, then go ahead and wear it! It’s important to dress appropriately for the weather. If it’s cold, wear layers because most courses have a degree of hiking involved, and you will get warmed up soon enough. If it’s hot, try to dress with less clothes.  We have some awesome Disc golf shirt designs here: DiscGolfDash Etsy Store.

Shoes

It goes without saying that your shoes are the most important part of your disc golf attire.

The terrain on a disc golf course is usually hilly and rough.  Perhaps a bit muddy or wet in areas. Even when it’s not, you want to have a good grip.  As you progress, the power and torque you put behind your throws will increase and this can lead to some funny albeit slightly dangerous moments if you slip. I personally wear the Evolv approach shoes.  Although these do not have anything to do with Disc golf, and the grip wouldn’t be considered aggressive.  I find they work well on the cement tee-boxes, and I wear them for climbing and mountain biking as well.  A low profile hiking shoe should work fine. 

Bags

The topic of disc golf bags and which to choose is a whole article in itself.  You’re going to want something to carry all of your discs, towel, beverages, etc.  However, as a beginner, I went a long time without a bag and still go out to the course occasionally with a minimal load that doesn’t require a disc (see our article on the “3 disc method”).  This may be one of the best gifts for a disc golfer and below are a few of our favorites:

Disc Golf Beginner Guide: Extra Gear


Below are some optional suggestions to make your disc golf experience a little more enjoyable.  I don’t always take a full bag of stuff, but if I am going to be out on the course for a round or two, or do any type of drills and practice, I usually like to grab a few of these items and have them on hand. 

  • Foam Knee Pad: this one might seem silly, but when the ground has a bit of moisture in it and you’re kneeling down to get that perfect putting angle, you’ll thank yourself for having this cheap and compact little knee pad. 
  • Towel or Two: the ability to wipe off your hands before making the next throw is key to having confidence in your grip. Regardless of using something fancy like the purposeful MVP towel or just buying a pack of microfiber cloth (what I do), this is one “extra” I never leave at home, even on colder days.
  • Sunscreen: Being married to an esthetician, someone who is certified in skin care, and having had a little bit of skin cancer removed from years of being a lifeguard, trust me, no matter your age or skin type, you need some sunscreen.  Not all are made equal, we like this brand the best.

A few other items worth thinking about…

  • Water
  • Chap Stick
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks

Finding A Disc Golf Course


At this point you should have just about everything needed to hit the course.  Which brings us to the next step of finding a course.  Not all courses are made the same.  Some are more advanced than others and some don’t necessarily even have a full round (18 baskets/holes). Luckily for us we live in a time when technology can quickly and easily help us find what we are looking for.  Be sure to read the reviews on a course, especially if you have never been there. Start local and find your “go-to” spot for some quick practice or quiet relaxation. Remember, disc golf isn’t just about competing, it’s about getting outside and enjoying nature.

Google: 

If this isn’t obvious by now you’re living under a rock.  But, what you might not realize is that you can search Google for nearby courses…tailor your search as: “disc golf courses near me”, and see what comes up.

Udisc App

I would be amiss to not mention this app.  It has a lot of good information and has quickly become the app for disc golfers around the world. Even if you don’t want another app on your phone, you can still visit the site for a ton of information.  They boast nearly 13,000 course records and even have a quick “near me” search ready to go.

DG Course Review:

Exactly as the name says.  This site is a bit old-school but has one of the largest collections of courses available and a ton of reviews to cover your needs.  I usually start with Google or Udisc but don’t feel confident in traveling to a new location without first checking in on what the dedicated have to say, and DG Course Review is the place for that kind of information.

PDGA Course Finder:

If you don’t know who or what the PDGA is but are thinking about getting competitive in the sport, then this is the site to become familiar with.  Not only do they have a respectable course finder, but you can get information on their events and competition along with pro rankings. 

Disc Golf Scene: 

Wanting to get into your first tournament? This is the stop for you.  Besides having multiple tournaments to choose from, discgolfscene.com has courses listed by location. This is a standard resource in the community and a great place to start your exploring.

Starting Your First Disc Golf Game


Ok, you’ve got your gear, picked out a course, and called your friends for a fun day out in the sun.  Now for a quick tutorial on how to play the game.  I won’t dive too deep into the rules and such (who needs rules, just have fun!), but as you progress you might want to dig into the nuances of the official rules at some point.  For now, enjoy the 2 minute read below and get your game on!

How to play your first game 

Much like regular ball golf you’ll start your game at a tee-pad/box.  Ideally this will be the first hole on the course and often is the one nearest the parking area.  If the course is designed well the holes or baskets will progress in an obvious manner all the way to the final 18 basket.

From the tee, pull out your driver disc and let ‘er rip. Try to not step beyond the tee area with this throw as the official rules have a lot of details regarding this foul.  But for now, give it a good throw and then go to the spot it landed.  Your next throw will be from this spot, on and on until you make it into the basket.

Some quick FAQ’s:

  • Order of Throwing: whoever’s disc is the furthest away from the basket throws next
  • Out of Bounds Disc: you add a penalty stroke to your score and spot the disc near the in bounds area, throwing from there.
  • Disc landed on Basket: yep, it happens, just throw it again from the same spot, no penalty
  • Slow Players: while not a rule per se, if you are slower than the group behind you, be courteous and let them play through.

Scoring

Each hole should have some sign or map telling you the number of throws to get a “par”.  This represents the typical amount of throws it should take the average player to make it into the basket.  One throw less than par is known as a “birdie”, two is an “eagle”, three is a “double eagle” and then you have the ace shot or “hole-in-one”. Going over the par number has it’s unique names as well, bogey and double-bogey  Regardless of what its called, just keep track of the number of throws it takes you and your friends to finish each hole and add them up at the end.  The person with the lowest score wins!

Scoring TermWhat It Means
AceHole in one
Albatross/double eagleThree throws under par on a hole
EagleTwo throws under par on a hole
BirdieOne throw under par on a hole
ParScore a good player would expect to make on a hole or round
BogeyOne throw over par on a hole
Double bogeyTwo throw over par on a hole

While a scorecard may not be necessary, this little notebook of tips, tricks, rules, and score sheets might make for a nice gift: Disc Golf Scorecard Notebook

Etiquette

The final piece to playing your first game is something I hold dear to my heart.  No matter the sport of choice there are certain etiquettes and good sportsmanship that should be adhered to.  I am not talking about anything extreme here, some simple tips to not be “that-guy” on the course goes a long way. 

  • First, always check the rules of the area.  Look for these on the main course signage or map.  Some areas don’t allow alcoholic beverages or smoking. Some areas will denote what is out of bounds or where the course could meet up with private property.
  • Second, and probably the most important aspect to me as a player, BE QUIET!  Or at least a bit courteous when playing.  Yes your outside, and yes you should whoop out loud if you make a great shot.  But most courses share space with a public park or our next to private property.  I do not go outside and into nature to hear more noises than at the mall.  Too many of us are caught up in our own lives these days and don’t seem to understand that others exist…ok rant ended.  Enjoy yourself, just allow others to do it as well in a manner that we all can.
  • Finally, pick up after yourself.  Can’t believe anyone these days is too lazy to walk over to one of the billions of trash receptacles located throughout our parks.  Food might be fine to ditch in the woods if it doesn’t have a wrapper (I throw apples and bananas into the wild).  But most courses will have a trash bin around and it shouldn’t take much to carry your waste out.

That’s (not) All Folks!


The purpose of this article and Disc Golf Dash is to get you out on the course and quickly play your first game.  As a comprehensive guide tailored to the beginner player, we may at times add a few tips and tricks, update links to gear, and include details from our reader’s feedback. Leave us a comment if this guide helped you get into the sport.  I hope to see you out on the course soon!

Take Care,

Corey

Corey
I am an avid rock climber, mountain biker, and disc golfer, who loves nothing more than a beautiful day to go play outside like a kid. I love to read and learn new things in order to gain a better understanding of our amazing world, and feel honored to share some with you. If you don’t find me at my computer typing away, you will find me outside exploring. I wrote this article because I am enthusiastic about helping you improve your disc golf skills and find a passion for getting outside!