I love competing in disc golf, and regularly travel around Utah and Idaho to play tournaments. It’s great to see old friends and make new ones while playing disc golf. When I talk to people who are new to disc golf and I bring up tournaments, the most common response I hear is that they don’t want to enter because they are ‘not good enough’. We were all at that skill level at some point and can empathize.
However, even when people develop their skill and feel more comfortable entering a tournament, it can still be intimidating because of the newness of the experience. Especially if it is a sanctioned tournament. This guide will help you prepare for your first tournament so you can be a little more relaxed during your rounds. Let’ get to it!
1. Know the Rules of Disc Golf
The rules are readily available on the PDGA web site, and it’s good to know what they are. Even if you’re playing in unsanctioned tournaments, it’s good to know the rules. It’s also a good idea to read through the rules on a yearly basis, so you can learn about any rule changes. The official rules will tell you about things like where to place your foot when throwing, how to finish a hole, what to do if you go out of bounds, etc. You can check out the PDGA rules here.
There are some accessories that are necessary, such as a mini, and others that are nice to have. Here are some of the things I recommend you get before your first tournament:
- Mini Marker: a mini is how you will mark your lie and is required if you go out of bounds.
- Grip enhancer: If you have sweaty hands or prefer moist hands, grip enhancers like a Whale Sac or Sport Sack can help you get the grip that you prefer.
- Chair: Stools are common in disc golf and are nice to have in case there is a backup at a hole. Sometimes it’s just great to sit for a few minutes while you’re doing scores and watching other people tee off.
- Towel: a towel is another accessory that comes in handy if your disc or your hands get wet. Even if there isn’t water on the course, there could be dew on the grass.
- Pencil or phone: Many tournaments have changed to live scoring, which means you’ll need a smart phone to take score. You should be able to find that out in advance. It’s also nice to have a pencil with you for physical score cards.
3. Take Food and Water
Take plenty of water for your rounds. Invest in an insulated water bottle so you can carry cold water with you while you play. You can keep some cold water in a cooler or insulated water bottle in your car for your second round. Snacks will help you sustain your energy, so plan on bringing some nuts, energy bars, etc. with you for every round.
4. Weather related Items
Check the weather and take the necessary items to prepare for the conditions. Sunscreen and cooling towels are great for sunny, warm days. If rain is in the forecast, take an umbrella, extra towels in a plastic bag, rain jacket and pants, and a change of clothes between rounds. You might want a change of clothes for the drive home, too. Temperatures going to be cold? Think about gloves, a beanie, and extra layers
5. Practicing and Warming up
If you can, practice daily leading up to the tournament. If it’s a course or layout you’ve never played, try to play a practice round the day before. That way you can try different discs or lines to the basket, and get to see obstacles that might interfere with some lines. During your practice round make it a habit to turn around and look at the fairway from the basket. It gives you another perspective and might help you choose your lines better.
On the day of the tournament, get to the course early enough to warm up and practice putting and driving. Plan your route to the course in advance so you allow the time to get there, and still have time to warm up. Having multiples of your go-to putter will speed up your warm-up process. Stretch if you normally stretch before you play.
6. Get your Discs Together
Decide which discs you will be throwing and get your bag/cart ready the day before the tournament. If you have backups for your go-to discs, take them with you. Even if you don’t carry them with you, you’ll have them handy for the next round, in case one of the regular throwers gets lost.
Check the elevation of the tournament course so you can take different discs if needed. The higher the elevation, the more overstable your discs become. If the course is significantly higher or lower than where you normally play, you’ll need to take discs to accommodate the change. That is another reason why it’s good to play a practice round before the tournament, if possible.
Get Signed Up!
Showing up to a tournament prepared with knowledge and the proper disc golf items will help you feel more relaxed and prepared to play. Give tournaments a try and you might just get hooked, too!