One of the best things about recreational disc golf is its relative lack of formal etiquette. There's no dress code, no officials watching the course, and no barriers to entry. All you need is a disc and desire.
But with great freedom comes great responsibility, and in the interest of maintaining and growing the sport, there are some things we ought to avoid doing. Good etiquette keeps courses in the ground and builds the reputation of our sport as a safe, fun, and accessible activity open to all.
Disc Golf Etiquette
Don't Be a Bad Ambassador
Multi-use park facilities are where most disc golf courses are. Even with proper signs warning to "watch for flying discs," you are bound to see a random walker cross the fairway or even a group setting up a picnic next to a basket.
They are usually unaware they are on a course and possibly do not even know what disc golf is.
99% of the time, a polite conversation will allow for a smooth playthrough. Disc golf remains a niche sport, and we are all representatives of the game when we're out on the course. Make sure these folks' introduction to disc golf is a positive one.
Don't Throw a Blind Shot
Always ensure the hole is clear to avoid the nightmare scenario of hitting someone with a disc. This may require walking ahead and checking around a corner or over the hill.
All it takes is one throw gone wrong to cause permanent injury. Don't be shy if you let a shot loose and think it has a .01% chance of hitting someone. Scream "Fore!" or "Watch Out!"
Case in point, the course at Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach, California, was removed after a disc partially blinded a woman in 2014. Not only did this lead to a massive lawsuit, but community members across the country have repeatedly cited the story as a reason to block the construction of new courses.
Don't Litter, Graffiti, or Alter Terrain
Most courses are planned, built, and maintained by a volunteer labor force who donate their time and effort without expecting payment. Dropping trash, drawing graffiti, or breaking a branch in anger is essentially spitting in the face of these good people that serve as the foundation of our sport's infrastructure.
A volunteer will all need to pick up empty cans, cigarette butts, and the occasional dog poo. Defacing benches, signs, or baskets will take donated time and money to remove. Abusing trees, branches, and wildlife could lead a parks department to alter or shut down a course.
Don't Play Outside the Lines
Mandatory flight paths and out-of-bounds lines aren't just there to make for a challenging course. A mandatory is often established for safety, forcing shots away from heavily trafficked areas. Similarly, permanent out-of-bounds lines are usually there to protect plants, wildlife, or soil erosion.
Take a close look at the signs on the teepad and play the hole as the designers intended. They set up the fairway with safety and natural preservation in mind. Unlike ball golf, a well-planned Disc Golf Course can be built harmoniously with our natural surroundings, but only if designed and played properly.
Don't Make Rec Players Feel Unwelcome
While thousands of sanctioned PDGA events are happening yearly, the most competitive play still occurs in informal doubles rounds, bag tag challenges, and local club events. Depending on the size of your club, these rounds can cause a lot of unannounced traffic on the course.
Unless the facility has been formally reserved by the tournament staff and proper signage posted at the park entrance, recreational players have every right to play while a club tournament is taking place.
To represent the sport and your club, treat the casuals respectfully and let them play through if necessary for a good course flow.
Don't Give Unsolicited Advice
Unless a player asks for help, don't turn a casual round into an impromptu form clinic. It may be shocking to some, but not everyone is trying to shave strokes and improve their game. Let others play however they want.
Anecdotally, I've seen this most often when a female player is in the group. Dudes will be tripping each other trying to give her tips while being aggressively positive when she makes a good shot and overly supportive of her bad ones.
White knight syndrome is a thing in disc golf. Treat female players the same as you would a male player.
Don’t Be an Unofficial Rules Official
In a competitive tournament, by all means, enforce the rules. There is no reason to call someone out for a foot fault or a time violation in a casual round with nothing at stake.
Few things are more annoying than a weekend warrior treating a Saturday afternoon like it's the final nine at the United States Disc Golf Championships.
While we've recently seen an explosion in competitive growth, most players still play the sport to have a good time. Save the finer points of the PDGA rulebook for sanctioned events.
Don’t Play Loud Music
There's nothing wrong with playing some music on the course, but we shouldn't have to hear it three holes away. Not everyone shares the same taste in music, and many folks play the sport to escape into nature and get away from noise and distractions.
The last thing they want is System of a Down blaring while they stare down a 30-foot putt.
Keep the speakers at a reasonable volume, and maintain some awareness of others. I don't think anyone wants disc golf to share the silent, buttoned-up decorum of ball golf, but at the same time, it's a bit rude to treat a weekday afternoon round like a 4th of July barbeque.
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