How to Play Disc Golf: What You Need to Know as a Beginner


Disc golf is a fun sport no matter your level. It’s like a walk in the woods, with a little competition thrown in (pun intended!). Courses are popping up all over the place: school campuses, city and town parks, backyards, and even ski resorts. Tahoe’s Kirkwood and Squaw Valley both have summer courses.

Snowy Disc Golf Course

We’ve compiled this disc golf “How-To” for all you novices out there looking for information on the sport. I had a couple seasoned players take me – a beginner, playing only twice before – out for a 9-hole session, and then called upon Tahoe’s veteran ace Kevin McDermott to sprinkle in some of his wisdom. Read on to learn all about disc golf and tips for play.

The Basic Disc Golf Rules

Play is simple and very similar to golf. Just follow the course’s numbered holes. Initiate your first throw from the starting pad, then wherever your disc lays is where you play from next. Each hole has a par (typically anywhere from 2 to 5), and so the lower you score the better. Some people add a little money in the mix, betting $1 per hole, with each hole’s winning player taking the cash.

To find a course near you, check out the PDGA Disc Golf Course Directory. If you’re in Truckee, there are 5 courses within a 20-30 minute drive, including the Truckee Regional Park and Sierra College Truckee. Up on Donner Summit, you’ve got the new Donner Ski Ranch Course where you can saddle up to the bar after your round and enjoy some food and drink with friends. Please make sure to sign the liability waiver in the lodge before heading out on this course. To the North East of Truckee is the Stampede Reservoir Course, designed and built in 2017/2018. It’s a gem and we highly recommend it. Finally, if you are heading over to North Lake Tahoe, the North Tahoe Regional Park is home to the Tahoe Vista course. All of the courses in the region offer something unique and a week-long vacation to Truckee just to play disc golf, won’t disappoint!

Caveat: There is absolutely NO SMOKING on any of these disc golf courses and if you are found smoking, you will be immediately asked to leave. We have HIGH fire danger in this region.

Disc Golf Gear

There are so many disc golf discs to choose from, it can be daunting at first. TMS sells Innova Discs and our sales team can help you choose the right discs for you! When I played last week with my friends, I borrowed what they considered to be the essentials: a driver for maximum distance, a mid-range disc, and a putter to use at 30 to 40 feet from the hole. Some avid disc golfers have up to 20 different discs! Similar to golf; you have a bag full of options, but some you may only use once or not at all. If you are completely new to disc sports, you can pare that down to just the three mentioned above. A lot of beginner disc packs come with these three.

You don’t need anything else but your discs, which is a great bonus to this sport. Wearing a good pair of shoes (versus flip flops) is a smart idea though.

Disc Golf Bag

Disc Golf Throwing Tips

“For the beginner, I recommend getting out there as much as possible,” McDermott recommends. “Try many different types of throws including the back hand, forearm (flick), tomahawk, etc. to see what works best. Grip the disc tightly. Keep the throws low and parallel to the ground. Have fun.” Pretty straight forward, right?!

I had a little trouble with my driver disc at first. What worked for me was to think about keeping my arm straight (not bent like in an ultimate frisbee throw) and level with the ground. You really throw with your whole body in disc golf, almost arcing it out of your hand.

Pro Tip: WATCH WHERE YOUR DISC LANDS. Pick out a landmark, follow your disc to the ground; otherwise, you’ll spend your time searching versus actually playing.

As with any sport, the more you play, the easier the throws become. They might seem impossible at first, but don’t give up. “The best way to learn is by spending time playing,” advises McDermott. “Follow the advice of more seasoned players is also very helpful. Practice time putting, driving, and mid range shots will make you a better player as well.”

Disc Golf Putter

Why Should You Play Disc Golf?

Take it from McDermott: “Disc golf is an awesome sport as it can be played by nearly everyone. I have played with my 6-year-old neighbor as well as my 86-year-old grandmother. It uses the natural environment in a nearly undisturbed way and promotes dispersed recreation. It has all of the challenge of regular golf without the expense of pricey green fees, collared shirts, clubs, etc. It is a great way to experience nature with friends, and my dogs love it.”

Can’t beat that. Happy kids, happy dogs, happy life! When I played last week, we took my friend’s two-year-old along and she had fun helping us carry our discs. If your dogs love fetch as mine does, be aware they will probably bring your discs back to you with teeth marks in them. Good boy…?! Just make sure everyone on the course playing is on the same page about that.

“Anyone who gives disc golf a shot will find that they will want to stick with it because it is so much fun, and as we all believe we can do better,” McDermott adds. “It is the kind of sport where you compete against yourself and the course more than against others. Competing in disc golf tournaments is also great fun.”

Now get out there and play! If you have any disc golf how-to tips to share, post them in our comments.

Forest Disc Golf

Click here to read about playing the Lake of the Sky Disc Golf course in Tahoe Vista.

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