Disc Golf BasicsThe game of disc golf is said to be the fastest growing sport in the world today. There are some very obvious reasons why. It’s free (apart from a few bucks for a disc or two). It’s outdoors. It’s pretty easy on the body (can play it for years and years). It’s social meaning that it’s intended to be played with friends. It’s everywhere…meaning it’s a true international sport.

Side Note: Here’s a quick demographic put together by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) that shows just how much the sport has grown from 2009 – 2011 outside the US.

Probably the most exciting aspect of disc golf and the reason I believe it is attracting so many new players is that it is a relatively easy sport to learn, but difficult to master. The allure of a better round seems to always bring you back.

For those that are new to sport, the object of the game is to get a disc (see post on discs) from point A (the tee) to the bottom of the basket located at point B in the fewest number of throws.

Disc golf basket

(© Dan Hornseth 2008. The basket in this photo looks huge, but it’s actually just under 5 feet tall.)

The method and route by which a player completes this task is governed by the rules of play as decided by the PDGA. It covers things like what you do if the disc gets caught in a tree or picked up by another player or comes to rest on top of the basket. In the end, the player who takes the fewest number of throws to complete the course wins.

Each course has it’s own personality – just like in ball golf. Some are harder than others either because the holes are longer or there are more obstacles (trees mostly). Each hole is typically set up to be completed in three throws (par 3), but you might find a par 4 or a par 5 on occasion.


The number of ways to throw a disc vary almost as much as the discs themselves. Here is a list of the possibilities:

  • Backhand | This is the most common throwing method. It involves curling the disc inside your arm and wrist and releasing it by uncurling the arm and wrist.
  • Forehand | This throw, also called a ‘flick’ or a ‘flip’, involves cocking your wrist to the outside of your body and pivoting your arm at the elbow toward the target.
  • Overhead | This is also known as a ‘tomahawk’, ‘hammer throw’, or ‘thumber’ and involves throwing the disc over your head and releasing it in a vertical orientation.
  • Roller | There are times when low obstructions prevent a shot to be taken in the air. In these cases, a player might choose to roll their disc. This can be achieved by either an overhead throw that is aimed at the ground or an aggressively angled backhand. Regardless of the method, the disc hits the ground and rolls to the target. Obviously this type of throw cannot result in the disc landing in the basket and is therefore reserved for tee shots and/or very specific mid-range shots.

Two other terms you will typically hear very quickly are “hyzer” and “anhyzer.” These terms refer to a flight characteristic of a disc. A disc is said to Hyzer is when it travels in an arc that is opposite to the rotation of the disc. The Anhyzer is just the opposite.

For example: a right handed player throwing a backhand or a left-handed person throwing a forehand (disc spinning clockwise) will have a hyzer shot that arcs to the left (or counterclockwise) in relation to direction thrown, which means the anhyzer would fall to the right (clockwise). A left handed player throwing a backhand or a right-handed person throwing a forehand (disc spinning counterclockwise) would be the opposite.

Additionally, the speed (typically how hard you throw it) will determine how the disc flies. For example: a disc that will tend to hyzer thrown hard may fly straight for a period of time before it starts to fade (dive left or right). As a rule, the slower a disc spins, the more accentuated the fade will be. So, when you start out, you will typically not throw very hard and your disc will follow the patterns outlined above in a more accentuated manner. You can compensate for this by aiming left or right of the target depending on which way your throw fades.

If you’re confused, that’s OK. It will become quite clear the first time you throw a disc and the reason this is so important is that each disc has a tendency to hyzer or anhyzer at a given speed and when combined with the various throwing methods, equals a very wide variety of shots that can be made with just a few discs. The more discs you have…the more shot possibilities you have, and on some courses, you’ll need every one of them.

Mastering the throwing methods and learning your discs’ flight characteristics are the keys to success. The good news is that while you learn this stuff, you’ll still be having a great time outdoors with your friends. Pay attention, ask questions and log some time on the course. Once you’re hooked, disc golf will forever be in your blood.