When Should I Play My First Disc Golf Tournament?
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We meet disc golfers all the time out on the golf course who have been playing casually for years and are pretty good, yet they’ve never actually played in a disc golf tournament. Perhaps they aren’t interested in a competitive format or they just don’t know enough about how tournament play works. More often than not, the latter is true. They don’t join local disc golf clubs or sign up for PDGA-sanctioned disc golf tournaments because they don’t quite know how to get started.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of beginners out there who are already hooked on disc golf and eager to improve their games.
If you are wondering “Why should I play in my first disc golf tournament?” Well, it’s because competitive tournament play is a great way to push yourself to the next level.
The wonderful thing about local disc golf clubs and regional events are that they are designed for all levels of players. They are broken down into many different divisions. There are male and female divisions. There are amateur and pro (open) divisions. There are novice, recreational, intermediate and advanced divisions. There are even age-protected divisions for players 40+, 50+, 55+, 60+ and sometimes as high as 70+. Whatever your age, gender or skill level, there is a division that you can play in and experience competition with other players like you.
Here are some tips for playing in your first disc golf tournament:
1. Join a Local Disc Golf Club
Just about every local disc golf course around you will have its own disc golf club, and then there are other regional disc golf clubs that might travel around and play multiple courses in the area. Most of these clubs will have monthly and/or weekly tournaments. These are competitive events, but typically a bit more casual than a PDGA-sanctioned event. Joining a local disc golf club is a great way to meet more disc golf players in your area and to ease into competitive play on your local disc golf courses that you know and love. You can learn disc golf rules and etiquette by playing alongside people who have more competitive experience. You may even find a PDGA-sanctioned weekly series happening at a disc golf course that will allow you to establish a PDGA player rating, which will be more serious than a casual weekly but not quite as intimidating as a large tournament.
2. Join the PDGA
Joining the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) will help grow the game. You’ll be supporting our official competitive organization for disc golf while also growing yourself as a competitor. When you hear disc golfers talking about their player ratings, they are referring to their PDGA rating, which is based on tournament round performance. Your average rating is a way to help measure one golfer against another, and it will ultimately help you know which division you should be playing in. You may start in novice or recreational, but the ultimate goal is to move up to intermediate, advanced or even the open division when you think you are ready to take on the next level of challenge. Being a PDGA member will allow you to establish your player rating based only on scores posted in PDGA-sanctioned tournament rounds.
3. Sign Up for a Tournament
When you think you are ready for a tournament is up to you. Our advice is to take the leap and sign up for one. You can search local events and register on Disc Golf United or Disc Golf Scene. Finding an event at a disc golf course where you are most comfortable is a good way to start. If you don’t have a player rating yet, that’s fine. Your first event will help you establish one if you are a registered PDGA member. The point is you are trying something new and it will help you take your passion for the game to the next level. Most people who play in one tournament get hooked. It really is a lot of fun!
4. Choose Your Division
Selecting which division you want to play in, especially for your first tournament, can be intimidating. Where do you fall? There are a lot of options. If you don’t have a rating yet, you can choose whichever division you want. If you are rated 900 or above, you must play in intermediate or higher (including age-protected divisions). If you think you are better than a novice or recreational player, then don’t hesitate to sign up for one of the higher divisions. If you aren’t sure, then recreational is a good place to start. If you are really new to the game, then novice is just fine (if available—not every tournament will have a novice division).
Remember this is just your first tournament. You can move up or down next time if you find yourself in the wrong division. Eventually, you might move your way up to the open division with enough practice and tournament play experience. You can also reach out to the tournament director (TD) before the event and ask for a division sign-up recommendation.
5. Watch the Pro Coverage
YouTube is loaded with amazing professional disc golf coverage from production companies like Jomez Pro, Central Coast Disc Golf, GK Pro, The Disc Golf Guy, The Spin TV and the Disc Golf Network, just to name a few. Watching the pros play will help you better learn the rules and etiquette of disc golf, as well as observe top-level form and shot selection strategies on the world’s most demanding disc golf course designs. Just remember that these are the best players in the world and you have to hold yourself to your own standards. You might get on that coverage someday if you really work hard at it, but you have to start somewhere.
6. Have Fun!
Everyone is nervous for their first competitive event. It’s natural. The best thing you can do is try to relax, have fun and don’t worry about what the scorecard says. Play a practice round before tournament time, learn the course layout, enjoy every birdie you get and don’t let any bogeys get you down too much. Stay within your own game and stick to your normal routine, whether you are throwing a putter from the disc golf tee or any flying disc in your bag. You probably aren’t going to win your first tournament unless you signed up for a division way below your skill level, but you can use it as a learning experience. The bottom line is, play your own game. Don’t be too concerned with your cardmates’ scores, or if you have a rough stretch of holes, but do observe how they play. It can help you get a better feel for the flow of the game in a competitive setting and see how they handle different situations on the golf course.
You probably aren’t going to know every single disc golf rule when you play in your first tournament, and that’s okay. Ask your playing partners if you aren’t sure, and just pay attention to what they do in different rules scenarios like taking relief from an out of bounds (OB) line. Etiquette around the tee pads and when putting are also very important to learn, along with when and how to use your mini marker disc to mark your lie. Playing with disc golfers who are more experienced than you is one of the best ways to improve your own skills and knowledge.
Where Do I Find Local Disc Golf Events?
If you are looking for a local disc golf club to join, Facebook is probably your best bet. Search for your home courses in the area and odds are there will be a disc golf course page and/or a disc golf club page. You’ll be able to find out about what’s going on and when the group plays. If you are looking for PDGA-sanctioned events and you are ready to sign up for your first big tournament, then check out the DGU Events page. You can search or scroll down the list to see upcoming events, tournament details and registration links.
When it comes to playing in golf club events and sanctioned disc golf tournaments, the best advice is to simply sign up, show up to the tournament course and get ready to have the time of your life! You’ll feel more connected to the local disc golf scene than ever before and you will become a better player. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Here is a list of some major U.S. cities with disc golf club websites:
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