There’s so much more to disc golf than just counting how many throws it takes to get your disc in the basket. There are many different game formats and ideas you can implement to make competition more interesting, whether you are enjoying a casual round with friends or running a local disc golf league.
Here are some of the key terms, games and formats you should know:
Disc Golf Club—This is a group of disc golfers who get together on a regular basis to play organized rounds and events. Most disc golf courses in the country have at least one club, or sometimes they are regional groups who travel around to different courses. If you don’t have a local disc golf club, you should look into starting one!
Weekly—Most disc golf clubs will hold some sort of weekly event at the local disc golf course. It’s a chance to get together, meet other disc golfers and have some fun. It’s also a good way to ease yourself into competitive play with formats that are usually much more casual than PDGA-sanctioned events.
Monthly—Many disc golf clubs and traveling groups will also have monthly tournaments. These might be bigger than the weekly events, but still another way to gain some competitive experience that will benefit you when you start playing in PDGA tournaments.
PDGA-Sanctioned Event—Certain tournaments are sanctioned by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). These rounds are officially submitted and rated by the PDGA, which is how you earn your player rating.
Player Rating—A calculated number based on your posted PDGA-sanctioned rounds. Most of the world’s top disc golfers are rated over 1000. That number is usually considered a significant benchmark in a disc golfer’s career.
Tournament Director (TD)—The TD is the official in charge of a particular disc golf event. They are there to run the event, set the course layout and rules, and oversee any scoring and rules decisions. To run a sanctioned PDGA event (or to be named an “Assistant TD”), you must be a certified rules official through the PDGA.
Safari Layout—A safari layout does not follow the traditional disc golf course layout. It may feature a combination of holes or completely different angles and distances to various baskets. Some safari layouts can be made up on the spot and others are pre-determined by Tournament Directors for special events or tiebreakers.
Final 9—Though not as common in tournaments as they used to be, a final 9 is when the top four players in a division will play an additional nine holes to determine the official tournament winner.
If you play in a PDGA-sanctioned tournament, you will see a number of different divisions you can sign up for. Divisions are designed to group players of similar skill and experience levels and allow for fair competition throughout the field. There are typically professional divisions playing for cash payouts and amateur divisions playing for trophies or other non-cash prizes. Here are the standard divisions and terms to know.
Open (MPO or FPO)—This is the top professional level that is “open” to any player who thinks they can compete among the best players in the field. MPO stands for Male Professional Open and FPO stands for Female Professional Open.
Advanced (MA1 or FA1)—This is the top amateur division for players with excellent disc golf skills.
Intermediate (MA2 or FA2)—This is the intermediate-level amateur division for players with average disc golf skills.
Recreational (MA3 or FA3)—This is a lower-level amateur division for players with below average disc golf skills. PDGA tournaments require a player rating of 899 or less to play recreational.
Novice (MA4 or FA4)—This is the lowest-level amateur division, usually for beginners.
Age-Protected—There are also age-protected divisions for both professional and amateur players. There are usually divisions for 40+, 50+, 60+ and sometimes higher. These divisions will be denoted by abbreviations like MP40, FP40, MP50, etc. for professionals and MA40, FA40, MA50, etc. for amateurs.
Juniors—Some events will also have divisions specified for junior players under the age of 18, sometimes broken down even further based on youth age ranges.
Baggers—Short for “sandbaggers” who are playing in a lower division than they probably should be based on their skills. Don’t be a bagger!
There are many different ways that events can be structured, but a vast majority of PDGA-sanctioned tournaments will be singles stroke play. However, there are many different games and formats you can play for club events and in casual rounds with friends to make things more interesting. Let’s look at some of the different disc golf game formats.
Stroke Play—This is the most common form of disc golf, where your final score is determined by the total amount of strokes it takes you to complete every hole on a disc golf course.
Match Play—This is a head-to-head format, where you essentially earn a point for each hole you win over your competitor (whoever has the lowest score on each hole). You can also “halve” holes with tying scores. The goal is to win more holes than your competitor.
Singles—This is the traditional tournament format where each player plays his or her own stroke play round(s) and the winners are determined by who has the lowest score at the end of the tournament.
Doubles (Dubs)—This is a team format, where you and a partner will play together to create a combined score. There are different types of dubs formats you can play.
Random Dubs—A doubles format where you are paired randomly with a partner, usually determined by everyone flipping their discs before the round and pairing up based on heads or tails.
Best-Shot Dubs—Similar to a scramble format in ball golf, each player will throw his or her shot from the tee. You choose the better of the two shots and then both throw your next shots from there. You continue until one player has made their disc in the basket. This format produces lower scores, and can also be played with teams of three (trips) or four (quads) for really low scores!
Worst-Shot Dubs—This follows the same format as best-shot. However, instead of playing your best shots all the way through a hole, you play your worst shot. This is a fun game format that can also be frustrating (in a good way) because most good shots are nullified.
Alternate-Shot Dubs—In this format, you and your partner will alternate shots until each hole is completed.
Skins Game—This is usually played with a foursome with money on the line. Each hole is worth a “skin” and the goal is to win the most skins. The player with the lowest score on each hole will win the skin. If the low score on a hole is a tie between any two players on the card, the skin will be carried over to the next hole. The following hole will then be worth two skins, and skins can keep carrying over until someone wins a hole outright.
Casual Game Formats
The game formats listed above are common for bigger groups and club events, though you can play any of them in a casual round with friends, as well. Then, there are some games that are really fun to try with your disc golf buddies when you want to mix things up. Here are a few:
Bag Raid—This is mostly a head-to-head game, where the player with the lowest score on each hole is able to “steal” an opponent’s disc for the rest of the round, or they can choose to steal back one of their discs that was previously stolen on an earlier hole.
Disc Steal—Similar to bag raid, this format has every player starting with the same number of discs and is fun with a small group. The player with the lowest score on each hole can steal a disc from any other player’s bag, and it cannot be returned the rest of the round. Once a player loses all their discs, they are eliminated. It’s a game of attrition and survival!
Bingo, Bango, Bongo—In this format, each hole is worth up to 3 points. There are some variations on how the three points are earned, and it may depend on the type of course (if there are a lot of par-4s or if it is only par-3 holes). A common version will give the player who is closest to the basket off the drive (or second shot on a par-4) one point (“Bingo”). The player who finishes the hole first will also earn a point (“Bango”)—assuming you are playing traditional rules with the furthest player out throwing first on each shot. Lastly, the third point is earned by the player with the lowest score on the hole (“Bongo”). Again, there are different variations of this format in golf and disc golf, so figure out what works best for you and your friends.
Bizarro Golf (Randomizer)—There are many different ways to randomize your round of disc golf. They make special dice, playing cards, spinners and wheels that can determine unique types of shots that players must throw on certain holes. This is a true test of your skills and versatility, as you may find yourself forced to throw a thumber when you might not normally throw one, or using a distance driver to putt from 30 feet. It’s all about being random and having a blast trying different shot styles and discs!
Ript Revenge—This is a great card game created specifically for disc golf. It can be played head-to-head or with a small group. Each player draws challenge cards and can use them against other players as they see fit. They can nullify shots or force someone to throw the next shot with their off-hand. It can be quite cruel, yet highly fun and entertaining.
Shootout—Whoever has the worst score on each hole is eliminated. The last player standing is the winner.
We’re really just scratching the surface with different games, but you get the idea. There are many different ways you can spice up your casual round or club events with a variety of formats.