Must Know Disc Golf Rules for Beginners

Have you ever tried explaining the rules of football to someone who has never watched a game in their life? If you haven’t, I can tell you it’s not easy. Disc golf on the other hand is so easy that you can probably explain it to someone that doesn’t even speak the same language as you. However, if you’re just starting out, you’re probably wondering if there are rules you don’t know about. I certainly did. In this post, I’ll be covering some of those rules so you can start playing the right way like a pro! Or not:

Not everyone wants to follow the rules

Must Know Rule #1: Throwing Order

So who goes first? According to the PDGA the first hole is determined by order that players are listed on the scorecard. So I guess alphabetical order? Or to borrow an ultimate term, rosham? After the first hole, the order is determined by the previous hole’s scores. The player that had the best score goes first and down the line you go.

If two players tied the previous hole, contrary to popular belief (and new to me as of researching this just now), you don’t default to best overall score, you default to whatever the order was on the previous hole.

For all subsequent shots after the first shot, the player that is furthest from the basket throws. Unless, the furthest player allows a closer player to go first, or if throwing will not impact the next player (so like if you get the disc to land right under the basket and just want to pick it up and put it in that’s okay, but before you do that you should read rule #3 about marking the lie).

So yeah, just don’t be an asshole about it and use common sense!

Must Know Rule #2: Driving from the Tee

When you begin a hole in disc golf you usually throw from a tee pad. Unless you are playing at a shitty course, there is usually a designated tee pad to throw your first shot from. If you’re lucky, it’s cement or brick, making it way easier to throw from.

When throwing off the tee, you must release the disc while still maintaining contact with the tee pad. You can certainly reach over the front plane of the tee, but you cannot have a point of support (leg) anywhere except the tee before you release the disc. After you release it, you can follow through and land to the front or side of the tee-pad. Easy enough!

Must Know Rule #3: Marking the Lie

After throwing of the tee pad, you must mark your lie where the disc landed to set-up your next throw. A lie is a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 in) box which you must have contact with when throwing any shot after the initial tee shot. Legally, you can mark your lie in two different ways:

  1. Leave the disc you just threw on the ground, and throw your next shot with a different disc.
  2. Before picking up the disc you just threw, place a marker mini-disc [Infinite] in the line between your previous disc and the basket touching your previous disc rim-to-rim.
marking your lie visual
An example of marking the lie with a marker mini-disc

Once you mark your lie, you can throw any shot you like as long as you aren’t within ten meters of the basket. This includes run up throws, stand still throws, and putts, as long as you have a point of support (plant foot) touching the lie. You don’t have to have your whole foot inside the lie, but you do have to make sure that no point of contact crosses over the front plane of the lie before releasing the disc (see image below).

Legal vs. illegal contact with the lie visual.
Image from discstore.com

Must Know Rule #4: Putting

When your disc is within ten meters of the basket, it isin circle one, and the rules of putting apply. You still mark your lie in the same way, except, inside circle one you cannot make contact with the ground in front of the lie after releasing the disc until you establish your balance. So basically you can’t release the disc and then fall forward or take a step forward. This is called a falling putt and is a stance violation which results in a stroke added to your score.

Falling putts also include the situation where you might be putting from a knee, release the disc, and then fall forward on your hand to catch yourself.

Technically this was an illegal shot because his hand went to the ground in front of the lie before he established balance.

Must Know Rule #5: Out of Bounds

If a hole has an out of bounds area, it will usually be marked on a sign at the tee. The sign will also tell you where to play the out-of-bounds from. Usually, you play it one meter inbound from where the disc went out. However, sometimes the hole will have a second tee for you to throw from if your shot goes out of bounds. Again, the sign at the beginning of the hole will usually make this clear.

Not every disc golf course is well maintained. Thus, sometimes there are no signs at holes and you don’t know what the out of bounds area is. In these situations, I say its up to your and your group to decide. If your disc is really out of the way because you thought you were sick and threw it as hard as you can in the wrong direction, then if your group agrees you can bring the disc back to the fairway and assess yourself a +1 stroke penalty. If your disc lands in the water or somewhere it is impossible to get like the white house lawn, then obviously it’s out of bounds, and you need to buy yourself another disc [Infinite].

Less good real golf on the White House lawn.
Give it a few years and there will be disc golf cages on the white house lawn. Mark my words!

Not-So-Must-Know Bonus Rule: What happens if the disc lands directly on top of the basket?

Believe it or not, it depends. If it just lands on top and sits there then it does not count as being in the basket. However, if it somehow goes through the chains and then bounces up to rest on top of the basket, then it does count. Instead of explaining this further, I encourage you to watch video below which does a great job explaining the scoring rules!

Anything else?

There are plenty of more rules you can check out on the PDGA website. We’ll make sure to do a more in depth rules post in the future. For now, can start implementing the rules above when playing with your friends. This might make you “that guy” like me, but at least you won’t develop any bad habits. Need any clarifications? Got any more rule questions? Let us know in the comments section below!

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