An Easy to Understand Guide to the Rules of Disc Golf

Disc golf is a lot of fun, but the sport has become so popular that it’s being added to hundreds of parks each year. There are even official rules and federations that help players understand all of the rules that the game most be played by.

But a lot of players don’t know these rules.

You can feel free to play by your own rules, but if you plan to play competitively, you’ll need to have a grasp on all of the rules of the game.

Who Controls the Rules of Disc Golf?

The Professional Disc Golf Association – yes that’s a thing – is in charge of the official rules and regulations of Disc Golf. There are two main sets of rules offered, and this include:

Tour standards also exist, but if you need to know all of the tour standards, you’ll already be a professional that has a good grasp on the game and its rules.

“Steady” Ed Headrick, widely considered the Father of Disc Golf, is the man responsible for the PDGA. Ed holds dozens of patents, and he is also the inventor of the Frisbee. Ed then he went on to patent the Disc Golf Pole Hole.

The history of disc golf starts to get complicated over time.

But Ed, even if he wasn’t the first to play the game, is responsible for a few things:

  • Patents for many of the game’s necessary pieces of equipment
  • Fathered the Disc Golf Association

In 1976, Ed founded the Disc Golf Association (or DGA) to help put rules on the game. Ed started a company and invented a disc golf basket, which led up to his founding of the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA).

The association was modeled after the International Frisbee Association, also associated with Ed.

So, the “father” of  the game also founded the PDGA, which is responsible for the rules and regulations of disc golf.

What are the Basic Rules of Disc Golf?

EHowSports provides a great video explaining the basic rules of the game, but it’s best to look at all of the official rules as they’re laid out in the official manual. The rules are outlined as follows.

  1. Introduction

The introduction starts with a brief description of the game and then goes on to explain the definitions in the game. The objective is to traverse a course with as few throws as possible. Definitions, which can be read here, are a must-read.

  1. General

General rules start with the application of the rules, which explains that the rules allow for:

  • Fair play
  • Players to call a violation
  • Players being able to consult an official
  • Warnings can be called by any player in the group

The rules also state that: all discs must meet PDGA standards, cracked or perforated discs are illegal, questioned discs are deemed illegal unless approved by the Director, and all discs must be uniquely marked when in play.

Courtesy rules state that players should not engage in:

  • Distracting behavior to other plyers
  • The refusal of an action set out by the rules
  • Littering

Players must also abide by basic order of play rules as follows:

  • Teeing ordered for the first hole is dictated by the order on the scorecard
  • Teeing for subsequent holes is based on the previous rounds’ scores
  • Throwing out of order is considered a violation

These are the general  rules of the game, but now it’s time to get into the basic rules of play, which are most important.

  1. Basic Rules of Play

The basic rules of play are what most people must learn and know. These rules are outlined into a few categories:

  1. Teeing off
  2. Establishing position
  3. Marking the lie
  4. Throwing from a stance
  5. Holing out

And the rules, which can be found here, state the following:

  • Play begins with a player throwing from inside the teeing area.
  • Upon disc release, the player is granted a point where contact is made with the surface of the teeing area.
  • Stance violations are given when supporting point contact is made outside of the teeing area.

Position rules dictate that the disc position is established where it comes to rest. Discs that enter the water are deemed at rest when the momentum from the throw is no longer propelling the disc. Discs that move after it comes to rest must be replaced at the approximate position.

Marking the lie is complicated and states:

  • The lie is marked when the thrown disc is in-bounds of the playing surface.
  • Mini marker discs may be used to mark the lie.
  • Obstacles preventing a legal stance are allowed to be moved behind the obstacle that’s in the line of play.
  • Marking violations will result in a warning.

Throwing from a stance requires the player to throw from a stance with the least obstacle movement needed. The rules are complex for stances and can be found in their entirety here.

I encourage you to read the entirety of the basic rules of play on the PDGA website if you want to play the game exactly as the rules state.

You’ll also find a lot of information on tournament rules, discretionary rules and experimental rules of play on the official rules page listed above.

  1. The Lie

The Lie rules are very important to know, and they’re broken down into three sections. We’ll do our best to outline the rules below so that you can easily understand them.

  • Players are not allowed to move an obstacle on the course.
  • Park equipment is considered part of the course.
  • People and their belongings can be requested to be moved.
  • Relief can be granted for some obstacles that are behind or on the lie, including automobiles, people, equipment, loose leaves and other items.
  • One penalty throw is granted for a violation of the course’s relief rule.
  • Optional relief may be provided.
  • Optional re-throw may also be granted.
  • Players have a responsibility to play the course correctly.
  • Special conditions can be learned at the players’ meeting.
  • Misplays occur when a player doesn’t complete all holes on the course correctly.
  • Misplays are not stance violations.
  • Misplays are not practice throws.
  1. The Throw

Throw rules, or some of them, are often ignored, but not in a professional capacity. The rules fall under section 804, and they’re numerous. You’ll find that the basic rules include:

  • Players have a maximum of 30 seconds to make a throw.
  • Excessive throw times will result in a violation.
  • Mandatories are in place to dictate the path of the disc to the target.
  • Court designers or directors are responsible for marking mandatories.
  • A one-throw penalty is assessed for any throw that has missed the mandatory.
  • Interference calls can occur when a person or animal is struck before the disc comes to rest.
  • Discs moved from their rest will be replaced.
  • Re-throw options are available if intentional interference occurs.
  • Players are responsible for ensuring that their gear or themselves are not causing interference.
  • Out of bounds rules apply when the disc is clearly outside of the out of bounds area.
  • Discs that cannot be found are out of bounds.
  • One penalty throw is granted to players when their disc is out of bounds.

The throw plays an important part in the game, and if players do not adhere to the throw rules, they may be penalized as a result.

Should I Know All the Rules When Playing?

Official rules are in place for players who want to play at a professional level. If you’re just having fun with disc golf, you might not need to know all of the rules. A few of the rule sections that I recommend you don’t follow if you’re not playing in a professional capacity, include:

  1. Tournament rules
  2. Discretionary rules
  3. Experimental rules

The rest of the rules, primarily those found in the basic rules of play, are highly recommended. The rules allow you to play the game how it’s intended. Even if you play casually, the rules allow you to play better with others.

And it seems like there are a lot of rules to follow, and there are, but there are a lot of great options for learning the rules. YouTube has a lot of great resources to teach you how to play, including:

Again, have fun when playing, but make sure that you’re playing the game with some sort of consistency. A lot of leagues will discard some of the rules, but in tournaments, you should start to learn the rules.

If you ever think you’ll play outside of general recreation play, I recommend reading through the entire rulebook a few times to familiarize yourself with the rules. This will allow you to do your best to stay within the guidelines of the rules and play at a tournament-level if you wish.

Are There Variations of Disc Golf Rules to Know?

Not really. Don’t get me wrong, leagues and playing with friends will have a few variations to the rules. You’ll need to consult with your league or friends on which rules they want to follow. Oftentimes, the rules will be rather consistent.

Some leagues will not enforce the rules as strictly as seen in tournaments.

Disc golf rules are like most sports where the rules may be in place, but they’re almost always less stringent when playing in a non-professional capacity. The rules are updated every few years with the most recent rule changes occurring between 2011 and 2012.

Experimental rules are often added to the game, so if you familiarize yourself with these rules, you’ll have a much easier time adjusting to any rule additions which might occur in the future.