A Beginner’s Guide to Disc Golf

Disc Golf is a very popular hobby and sport! You’ve probably seen some of those weird-looking metal baskets while driving around. There are dozens of courses all over Michigan, with one of the highest-rated courses here on the West side of the state. I’ve been disc golfing since I was probably 14, but it feels like I’ve known how to throw a frisbee since I could walk. When I first started playing, we were throwing “pie plate” frisbees at wooden posts at a local park. Now I have a bag of discs and am snobby about cement tee pads and metal baskets. I’m not a pro by any means, but I love this sport and have seen it grow immensely over the past 2 decades. If you’ve ever been curious about it or want to start playing, here’s a basic guide and a few helpful tips to get you started!

  1. What is disc golf?
    Its name kind of implies what it is-a form of golf with discs. Some people call it frisbee golf as well, but the technical name for what you are throwing are discs. They aren’t like your normal frisbees, and you don’t throw them quite the same way either. The majority of holes are par 3s (there is the occasional par 4) and hole lengths can vary from just over 100 feet to over 400 feet for a hole. Most courses have cement tee pads and high-quality metal baskets. You can find just about every terrain on a disc golf course because many of them are built as part of the current environment. Trees, hills, sand, water, grassy fields, all of it is possible on a disc golf course, and that’s the fun of it! Courses are usually well-marked with signs and maps of the holes, but it won’t feel as refined as a normal golf course. Fairways are distinguishable, but many times you can choose your own path (or a tree might choose it for you) to the basket.
  2. Why disc golf?
    There are many reasons that I could give, but I think the top two are ease of access and community. Disc golf is so much fun to play and doesn’t take a high level of athleticism to play. Discs are relatively cheap with the most expensive discs being around $30 and the cheapest discs being $10. There are usually no course fees because there isn’t much maintenance that goes into these courses. I’ve rarely even seen donation boxes for courses. The community is pretty great too. Yes, there is drinking and smoking that happens quite frequently, but the people that I’ve met on the course are usually there just to have a good time and will cheer you on the same as they would their buddies.
  3. Finding the Right Discs
    Let’s talk about the main tool for disc golf. The discs! There are several different things to consider when researching or buying discs. Finding the right discs is a mix of purpose, material, manufacturer, and trial and error.

      1. The 4 types of discs are almost the same as golf clubs-Distance Drivers, Fairway Drivers, Mid-ranges, and Putters. Distance drivers are the discs that will go the longest distance, but they take a lot more power to get to fly the way they are meant to. They have the narrowest edges to make them more aerodynamic. There are different speeds of drivers and the higher the speed rating the more power you need to get the flight pattern you want. Fairway drivers have a bit wider of an edge, but are still fairly narrow. They will still fly a long distance but don’t need as much power behind the throw to get a good flight pattern. Mid-range discs are again less narrow on the edge and are highly controllable with not as much power. Depending on the player, mid-ranges are thrown anywhere from 60-100ft out from the basket, but they are also really good to use as a beginner because of ease of use. Putters are used within 50ft or less of the basket, and they are shaped closer to a normal frisbee. They have thicker edges and are typically made out of a more “tacky” plastic so that they can grip the chains.
      2. Besides types of discs there are a myriad of plastics or rubbers the discs are made with. The plastics can range from hard to fairly malleable and smooth and slippery to more tacky. These can help with your grip, release, flight, and even landing of the discs. I love having a more malleable, tacky plastic for my putters because they won’t roll far if they don’t go in the basket and they grip the chains better. For a driver something that’s a little more rigid and smoother is helpful as it cuts through the air better, releases smoother off the fingers, and likely won’t dent as bad if thrown into a tree. Material is the biggest factor in determining the price as well. These plastics can also play into the weight of the discs, another factor for finding the right discs for you.
      3. When I first started disc golfing there were really only two big disc manufacturers in the game: Innova and DiscCraft. Now there are numerous manufacturers! Each company has their different plastic formulas and lingo in regards to disc flight patterns. I’ve mostly thrown Innova discs, but my dad and brother have discs from Vibram, MVP, and others in their bags. Like in the world of golf, you can create a bag with whatever works for you!
      4. And that brings me to the final point in talking about discs-finding the right discs for you ultimately comes down to trial and error. The more you play and the more variety in course you play, the more you’ll understand your throwing power and style which helps knowing what discs you want in your bag. When you are just starting out, I recommend not going higher than a fairway driver until you increase your power enough to throw a distance driver. As a woman who isn’t as strong as my dad or brother, I can throw a fairway driver with good control and go the distance of my dad’s throws quite often. It’s often more about control than distance-especially when dealing with trees.
  4. A few throwing tips
    The BIGGEST learning curve when starting out in disc golf is throwing. Even if you’ve been throwing a frisbee for a long time, the mechanics of throwing a disc are very different. In disc golf it’s all about the release and the power driving into that release from your lower and upper body as well as the snap out of your fingers. Throwing a frisbee is more about the spin you put on it. While spin is involved in disc golf, it’s not THE factor for getting the discs to fly well. If you’re playing for the first time, I recommend going with someone who has played for years and can let you try a variety of discs, get used to the feel of them, and give you some pointers on throwing. There are also hundreds of videos on YouTube to help you learn how to throw a disc, like the one I’ve linked below. Be patient when learning. It took me years to get more consistent in my throws!
  5. Resources
    Some of my favorite resources for disc golf are Udisc and PDGA. Udisc is a fantastic app you can use to track your rounds, and it will even measure your throws! You can find different courses near you, read ratings, and see upcoming events at local courses! It’s very user friendly and one of my favorite apps on my phone. PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association-yes there are professionals in this sport), is another great source for finding courses, finding rules of the game, tournament results, and latest news in the sport. If you’re looking for places to buy discs, there are numerous retailers all over West Michigan! One of the best ones is The Sweet Spot in Muskegon. They have a huge selection of discs!

Once you get started disc golfing, you’ll discover a huge community and love for the sport. Some of my best memories are from disc golfing with friends and introducing others to disc golf. I have a friend who started disc golfing with us in the beginning and is now a pro and playing in big tournaments! It’s a great way to spend an hour outside with family or friends, shoot the breeze, have some fun, and enjoy nature without going broke. Once you start though, I guarantee you’ll be looking for baskets wherever you and always having your discs on hand.

Katy Wolffis

When I’m not out disc golfing, hiking, traveling, or having adventures, I’m a marketing manager for The Deering Team of RE/MAX. If you’re looking for a place to call home close to your favorite adventure spots in West Michigan, our team can help! We’ve been selling real estate in the West Michigan market since 1997! Contact our team to get started on your real estate journey!