Disc Golf Basics

As disc golf is a sport, there are competitions that legitimize it as such. A tournament allows each of us the opportunity to see just how our game stacks up against others of similar skill levels.

As a beginner, I played in several tournaments and didn’t give much thought to preparation. I was young and just showed up and threw. Now, staring 40 in the mouth, I’m taking some additional time to prepare for my first tournament in over 15 years.

The first thing is to get some serious time on the courses to be played. I’m using these rounds to accomplish several things:

  • Determine the best line | I primarily throw a backhand (explained in THIS POST), so I have to select a line that suits that throw and the discs I have in my bag.
  • Determine the best disc | Once I have the line, I then try to find the best disc for that line. I’ll take extra time to throw a couple of different options and even replay a hole to get a hole-by-hole disc selection going.
  • Practice scrambling | Getting into trouble in the rough is inevitable and recovery from an errant throw is typically what separates the leaders from others. This might be one of the most underrated parts of the game. You have to be very smart and keep your emotions in check or you can go from bad to worse. Once you’ve lost the mental edge, the round is going to take a downward turn.
  • Observe others | Thinking that you know the best line or the best disc or even the best way to get out of trouble can stunt your development as a player. Watching what others do and asking questions about their equipment and thought processes can open your eyes to new possibilities and make you a better player.
  • Stock up | There are certain discs that you rely on more than others for a given course/round. It’s always a good idea to have extra discs of those types to ensure that a lost disc doesn’t leave you having to make an uncomfortable shot with another disc. It’s a good idea to play with these other discs to provide a proper break-in period and build confidence. Additionally, if you don’t have a marker disc or a good bag towel, get these items too.

Remember to take notes as you’ll forget what you found to be the right combination during these preliminary rounds. Just put a notebook in your bag and when something comes together, jot it down. Then be diligent to refer back to it before stepping on the tee pad.

As with any other sport, you need to pay attention to your body to ensure that you are in peak form when it counts. To that end, here’s my strategy for the week before a tournament:

  • Stagger practice rounds | I like to sandwich in a day of rest between days of play. Again, I’m looking at 40 this year, so my body doesn’t recover like it used to when I could play 36 holes every day.
  • Hydrate appropriately | The human body is over 75% water and when you play in the summer, you sweat. But your hydration strategy should start well before you start sweating. You never want to be in a deficit when it comes to water. So, drink up to an hour before your round and carry water with you. If you find yourself really thirsty during a round, it’s time to stop and get some serious fluids. Dehydration can be serious and when coupled with summer heat, it can be deadly.
  • Eat smart | Making good choices about the food you eat before, during and after a round is important. Choose foods that are going to give you long-lasting energy like fibrous fruit, complex carbs and protein. Sugar and excess salt can leave you drained during the round. I’ll be carrying with me some trail mix to help keep things going during the round.
  • Sleep | Getting plenty of rest in the nights leading up to a tournament set you up not just physically, but mentally as well. There are a lot of factors to consider when competing in a tournament – wind, stance, grip, rules, etc. – that all require mental focus to execute properly. The last thing you want is to make a shot that you wish you could have back because you didn’t think it all the way through.

When thinking about the day of the event, there are things that I need to start planning for in advance. Here’s a list of things you should consider taking to the course that day:

  • Ice chest | Fill it with water and some sort of sports drink. Put in some snacks too as you may not like the lunch options. I’ll be packing some apples and probably some sandwiches in there too.
  • Discs with extras | Clean and sort your discs the night before. Find your extra discs and get them ready too as you might be forced to grab a replacement should you lose one. BE SURE TO PUT YOUR NAME AND PHONE NUMBER ON EVERY DISC. This is a requirement for PDA-sanctioned play.
  • Accessories | A marker disc, clean towel, sharpened/mechanical pencil, Sharpie (for marking discs), PDGA rulebook and maybe a micro-fiber towel to dry your face are all good things to have when you start your round.
  • Clothing | Dress comfortably and appropriately for the weather. There is a dress code for PDA-sanctioned events as found in rule 3.4 in the handbook. In addition to meeting those guidelines, I suggest packing an extra change of clothes. Having a dry shirt or pair of socks to put on can make a vast improvement in how you feel and consequently perform in later rounds.

Disc golf is about having fun and a tournament can be one of the most fun times. Being well-prepared can allow you to make the experience one you’ll remember for years to come. If you come prepared, you can focus on building relationships that could last a lifetime and put yourself in a great position to win.