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Disc Golf Scoring 101

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Keeping score in disc golf can be a little confusing at first, especially when it comes to tournament play. If you’ve played regular ball golf before, then many of the scoring terms in disc golf will seem very familiar. However, there are some different disc golf rules and standards that you will need to know before playing competitive rounds in leagues, clubs and PDGA-sanctioned events.

Basic Scoring Rules in Disc Golf

The goal of disc golf is to complete the course in the fewest number of throws as possibly. Each throw counts as a stroke. Tally all of your throws for all of the holes in play, then subtract any penalty strokes to get your total score. The player with the lowest score (least number of throws) is the winner.

How Par Is Determined in Disc Golf

Understanding disc golf scoring starts with knowing the basic concept of par. The ‘Par’ of a hole is an assigned number that represents the number of strokes a proficient player should need on average to complete the hole. Most disc golf holes have a par of three (3), meaning it should take three throws (or “strokes”) or better to get your disc from the tee pad and into the target basket. There are also some par 4 holes and par 5 holes. Some short “pitch and putt” courses may even have par 2s, but this is not common. Traditional pars typically include 2 strokes for putting.

Generally, par in disc golf is based largely on distance. Most holes up to 350 feet long or less will be considered a par 3. Longer holes which would typically require more than 1 drive to reach the basket would be considered par 4s or par 5s. The par for a hole can also be affected by overall difficulty. A heavily wooded hole with lots of OB or a sharp dogleg turn may be relatively short from tee to green, but its difficulty might classify it as a par 4. By contrast, some longer holes that are downhill or easier to reach in one throw could be considered a par 3. There are no set guidelines for how par is determined in disc golf. It is usually up to the course designer or a TD to set the par for each hole and course. 

Disc Golf Scoring Terminology

The following scoring terms refer to your score on each hole relative to par:

  • Par: The standard score set for the hole
  • Birdie: One stroke/throw less than par
  • Eagle: Two strokes less than par
  • Albatross or Double Eagle (very, very rare): Three strokes less than par
  • Ace: Completing the hole in one throw (aka “hole in one”)
  • Bogey: One stroke over par
  • Double Bogey: Two strokes over par
  • Triple Bogey (and so on): Three strokes over par (quadruple = 4, quintuple = 5, etc.)

What Score Should I Try to Get?

It depends on your skill level, the difficulty of the course, weather conditions and other factors. Better disc golfers will generally be aiming to shoot as far under par as possible. New players may be happy to break par or shoot their personal best on a given course, whatever that number may be. Weather conditions and course difficulty can also factor into your personal goals. Wind or rain may make the average scores for a course higher than on a calm, sunny day—even though the course par will stay the same.

Total Score for a Disc Golf Round

Each course will have a total par for all the holes put together. For example, let’s say a course has 18 holes and all holes are par 3s. The total par for the course would be 54 (18×3). If there are some par 4 holes or more than 18 holes in the layout, then obviously that total par would be higher. Your total score for your round is the total amount of throws it takes for you to complete all the holes. You can also reference your score relative to par. If you shot a total of 55, then you would be considered 1 over par (or 1 up). If you shot a total of 53, then you would be considered 1 under (or 1 down). 

Penalty Strokes in Disc Golf

Just like in ball golf, you can incur penalty strokes when playing disc golf. These are extra strokes added to your total score for a hole, generally because of a mistake you made (or sometimes a little bad luck). Here are some of the most common reasons for penalty strokes:

  • OB (water or OB Lines: If your disc goes out of bounds (OB) on a hole—an area designated by the course designer or Tournament Director (TD)—you will get a penalty stroke.
  • Mandos: Some trees, buildings or other objects may be marked as a “mandatory” (aka “mando”). Your disc must go past the designated side of the obstacle to be considered a legal throw. If you miss the mando, you will get a penalty stroke and usually have to go to a drop zone (DZ) for your next throw.
  • Unplayable Lie (Abandoned Lie): If you find yourself in a really difficult spot where that is impossible or unsafe to play from, you can take an unplayable lie penalty. This means abandoning your shot and rethrowing from your previous lie with 1 one penalty stroke.
  • Lost Disc: If you lose your disc and can’t find it within 3 minutes of searching with your group, you will take a lost disc penalty stroke and must rethrow from your previous lie.

How to Keep Score in Disc Golf

There are multiple ways you can keep score during a round of disc golf. In a casual event, you may be responsible for keeping score for your card of players. All PDGA-sanctioned events utilize digital scoring through the PDGA Live app or on their website. Per official rules from the PDGA, every player must keep score for the entire group. Tournament directors must also provide paper scorecards for those unable or unwilling to use digital scoring. In casual rounds, there are several easy ways to keep your score:

  • Paper Scorecard: Some course may offer a paper scorecard, or you can print  your own.
  • UDisc: The UDisc app is by far the most popular platform for keeping score, finding local courses and accessing a variety of other features. A basic account is free, or you can pay more for advanced options.
  • In Your Head: Many casual disc golfers will just keep score in their own head. They know how many birdies and bogeys they’ve had, and it’s not too hard to figure out where they stand at the end of the round.

Who Makes the Rules in Disc Golf?

The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) is the global governing body of disc golf and is responsible for creating the rules of the sport. The PDGA’s board of directors reviews and updates the rules and competition manual each year based on recommendations from their rules and competition committees. These committees are largely volunteer and rely on member feedback, staff input, and their own expertise.

Advanced Scoring Rules for Tournament Play

Disc golf tournaments sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) and many club/league event will have additional rules that you typically wouldn’t use in a casual round with your friends. Here are a few examples:

  • Disagreements and Group Decisions—Many rulings in a competitive round (such as if a disc is considered out of bounds or not) come down to a group decision. Your entire card must agree on a ruling. This can sometimes lead to disagreements. If a rule is unclear or the group cannot come to a consensus, you have the option to call a “provisional” and play out the hole as if both potential rulings are enacted. Then, the TD or a sanctioned rules official can make the call for your group later and the correct score can be noted.
  • Courtesy Violations—Etiquette is an important part of disc golf. Players taking too much time, talking during other players’ throws or causing disruptions in other ways could be assessed an official warning. Further infractions could incur a “courtesy violation” penalty stroke for continued bad behavior.
  • Misplay (https://www.pdga.com/rules/official-rules-disc-golf/811)—If you misplay a hole based on the posted rules or layout, you will incur penalty strokes.
  • Incorrect Scorecard—If you fail to submit a scorecard or you submit an incorrect card in a tournament, you could earn as many as two (2) penalty strokes. It is important to review your scorecard with your cardmates before submitting o ensure nobody gets penalized.

It’s important to understand the rules of disc golf to avoid problems and penalty strokes that could cost you a tournament win.

pdga rulebook official rule

Other Scoring Formats in Disc Golf

Other than traditional individual stroke play (total amount of throws for each player), there are a variety of other formats you might play in a competitive or casual round of disc golf.

  • Doubles—Doubles (dubs) is a very popular option where you play in teams of two. There are best-shot doubles, worst-shot doubles, alternate shot, and other ways to play dubs.
  • Handicapping—Some disc golf leagues and groups will use a handicap system based on your PDGA player rating, average scores at a particular course or other factors. Each player is assigned a handicap (plus or minus strokes added to your total round score) to help even out the playing field when a wide range of skill levels are playing together.
  • Match Play—Match play is another fun format where you play head-to-head against another player (or team). Instead of total score, you are playing one hole at a time. If you score better than the other player on a hole, then you win that hole. The player with the most holes won by the end of the round will win the match.
  • Skins—This is similar to match play, except tied holes roll over until someone wins a hole outright. Skins is often played for money or other prizes earned based on how many skins you win.

How to Improve Your Score in Disc Golf

Improving your score in disc golf usually comes with time and practice. As you become a better player, your average score should go down over time. You may have a bad round from time to time, but your potential becomes greater. This is why there are different divisions in competitive disc golf tournaments. A PDGA event may offer everything from top professional level (MPO – Mixed Pro Open) to novice beginner level (MA4 – Mixed Amateur 4 or FA4 Female Amateur 4) for both women and men. There are also various age-protected divisions for players 40+ and junior divisions for players under the age of 18.

Advanced Scoring Stats

As you progress in your disc golf game, there may be some other scores, stats and terms that you will want to know:

  • PDGA Ratings—PDGA members earn a rating for each sanctioned round they play, based on the difficulty of the course and the relative score to other players in the field. Your total PDGA player rating is one measure of your overall skill level compared to everyone else.
  • High-Level Stats—You may track your own stats or hear stats when watching professional disc golf events. These may include greens in regulation (GIR), Circle 1 putting (C1x), Circle 2 putting (C2) total fairways hit, and more. The more you play, the more these terms will make sense—and the more impressive the pros’ skills will seem. Follow this link for more in depth definitions of these advanced stats: https://udisc.com/blog/post/stats-definitions
  • Overall Standing Points—PDGA and DGPT events will earn players points based on how they finish relative to their division. Standing reflect the total points for a year or season. For pros, they are trying to earn their way into playoff events. For amateurs, these points can earn you an invite into US and World Championship events.

People Also Ask:

Do I Have to Keep Score in Disc Golf?

If you are playing in a tournament or competitive round, then yes. If you are playing a casual round of disc golf, then no. You don’t have to keep score if you just want to play for fun. This is actually a good idea when you are just getting started. Don’t measure yourself based on par or other players. Just go out and play your best. Eventually, the score will likely matter more to you, but don’t worry about that just yet.

Should I Be Expected to Know All Scoring Rules When Playing My First Tournament?

The more you know about the rules, scoring and terminology for disc golf, the better off you will be when playing a competitive round—especially a PDGA-sanctioned event. It’s a good idea to play in some local leagues with weekly, monthly or other events. This will help you learn the rules and etiquette more before getting into a serious tournament. Even then, don’t be too intimidated to play in a bigger event. Ask the TD and your cardmates questions and you will pick up the rules and terminology quickly.

Is Disc Golf Scored the Same as Ball Golf?

Though some rules are very different in disc golf, the basic concept and terminology borrow heavily from traditional ball golf. Keeping score relative to an established par is the basic scoring method for all forms of golf. You will hear many of the same terms like birdie and bogey. Even words like tee, hole and stroke are much more applicable to regular golf, but have been carried over into disc golf and are just part of sometimes silly lingo we use.

Published: June, 2024
Updated: June, 2024

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