Professional disc golfer James Conrad putts a PDGA rule book into a steel trash can.

What Are The Unwritten Rules Of Disc Golf?

This week I’d like to take a look at some of the unwritten rules of the sport of disc golf. As sports start they have rulebooks that define some of the more important things in the sport. Things like 11 players on the field in soccer, or the regulation size of a goal in field hockey. If you’re interested in checking out the PDGA rulebook it’s actually kind of short. This blog will explore the unwritten rules of the sport as I understand them. You’re not going to find these things in the rule book (for the most part) but they’re kind of an understanding that many disc golfers share.

I’m a baseball fan (Go Red Sox) so I understand those unwritten rules the best. There are dozens of them, some are superstitious, and others are silly. Here are a couple that I think most people know and can agree upon.

  • You don’t talk to a pitcher who is throwing a no hitter. 
  • Don’t steal if your team is up by too many runs.
  • If your guy gets intentionally hit, then your pitcher hits the other team's guy.

Baseball has been around for over a hundred years. These rules have developed over hundreds of thousands of games that have been played. Breaking one is a major faux pas that often results in yelling or brawls. 

Disc golf has been organized since the late 70’s and there’s been far fewer elite rounds played. But here’s a list of unwritten rules I think that we can all agree on.

  • Offer to help folks find lost discs, even if you’re not in their group. If a group offers to let you play through because they’re looking for a lost disc, ask the color and offer to help. We all know how a lost disc makes us feel.
  • Clear the basket. If your putter is in it, you add an element of danger to the next player's putt. If you pull it out and the chains are twisted or swaying, take a second to make them correct or hold them still.
  • When you’re warming up on a basket, 2 putters. It’s great you have 5 of your putters with you to practice, but you’re not alone on the basket. If everyone has 2 putters it goes much quicker in between when everyone putts and then collects their makes/misses. 3 may be acceptable but you’re just getting your feel right today, not doing a big practice.
  • Hold your noises while someone is throwing/putting. Don’t crack that seltzer, open that bag of Double G beef jerky, or show your friend that video of James Conrad throwing “The Shot” while someone else is concentrating on their shot. It’s a courtesy violation, so I guess this is a written rule as well. But it still happens far too frequently when people are playing.
  • If you lend your disc to a friend to try it out and they ace with it, that disc is now theirs. As a lesson instructor I’m sure this will happen to me someday when I let people use my discs. I also let friends and family try out different discs if I think it will benefit them. If they ace it, it’s theirs.
  • Let the faster groups through. This one is another rule that’s written in places, but it’s sometimes ignored. Nothing stops a good round like waiting for a large group in front of you. And faster groups play the hole pretty quickly so the large/slow group doesn’t miss much. Take a breather and let those folks through, it’ll only kill a couple minutes I promise.
  • Make an honest effort to return lost discs. When I started writing blogs I found some advice that said returning lost discs is controversial. It’s not. If there’s a name and number give it a call. Some people still have home phones not cell phones, so a text doesn’t do any good there. I call hundreds of discs each year and I still don’t manage to reach everyone. If you can’t get a hold of someone, it happens.
  • Don’t bring glass. It doesn’t matter if you’re careful and place it at the bottom of the trash barrel, or plan to bag it out. Accidents happen and bottles slip and break. Glass is something that just doesn’t belong where you might accidentally break it and step on it.
  • No littering. At Sabattus we’ve got trash cans located at every hole on each course. But there are other courses without them. If you bring it with you, plan on bringing it home with you.
  • Offer to help spot. On blind shot holes you may have a great drive, but it will still take a long time to find it. If you’re the first player to tee off, after you drive you can offer to go stand somewhere (out of the fairway) to spot drives. This saves minutes of looking for everyone.
  • Golf is a honorable game. This game is self-governing and if you’re off in the woods don’t kick your disc 3 inches over so you get a better lie. Winning by cheating isn’t winning at all.
  • Fist bumps on Hole 18 before you tee off. Honestly a cool one in my book. We’ve all played 17 holes together and regardless of if you’re up 5 or down 17, or even tied, you fist bump all your cardmates. I try to make sure I get the caddies as well.
  • Have an extra towel in your bag. I don’t know how many times I’ve played a round with someone and they’ve forgotten a towel. Whether it’s the morning dew, water, mud, rain, or dust, your disc will get unthrowable without a towel at some point. Having an extra one to let someone borrow is courteous.

I think those are the ones I have so far. Do you think that there are any that I’ve missed? Maybe you don’t agree with one of them at all! Let me know in the comments.

May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397

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1 comment

I think with the influx of so many new players to the game (which is a great thing and a topic on its own) these unwritten rules need to be highlighted and put out there more. solid piece!

Michael Yahner

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