Driving Home The Point

By Bob Carver
Photo Courtesy of Bob and Charm Carver

Disc golf has grown exponentially in recent years, with hundreds of new courses being constructed and thousands of new players added. In addition to offering disc-golf programs for casual players, parks and recreation departments can do even more to attract new clientele to their parks.


One of the first items in expanding events is to contact a local disc-golf club. This club might represent a local course, perhaps a community club involving several courses, or a county-wide club. These groups provide the volunteers necessary to make events possible, removing the burden from park staff. Meanwhile, the park benefits as more people (players and fans) visit, which in turn, when done properly, draws media attention.

A disc-golf program can be expanded in four ways:

Events are either sanctioned by the PDGA (Professional Disc Golf Association) or they are not. A non-sanctioned event, which may or may not have the appearance of a sanctioned event, is put on by local organizations or parks departments. This tournament can be led by anyone who knows about disc golf, but having experience in multiple tournaments as a player is helpful. A sanctioned event, on the other hand, is one that follows guidelines set by the PDGA and pays fees to the sanctioning body. This type of event must be led by a certified PDGA official, who runs the tournament and reports scores and other pertinent information for posting on the PDGA website.

Whether sanctioned or not, most tournaments last for one day and are divided into two rounds of play. If a course has 18 holes, then there might be two rounds of 18. A typical schedule involves players starting around 9:30 a.m., playing 18 holes, breaking around noon for an hour (usually for lunch), then playing 18 more holes in the afternoon, followed by an awards ceremony. Some larger tournaments might last for more than one day and include four to six rounds of play.

Tournaments usually have three divisions, according to player abilities:

  • Novice or beginner . This division is for new players or those who play occasionally. Players will have an average score on an 18-hole course considerably over par.

  • Intermediate . For players who have been playing a while, but perhaps have not developed the skills of advanced players. Intermediate players will have an average score slightly below par to slightly over par.

  • Advanced . These players have considerably more experience, and shoot consistently below par.

If a tournament continues to grow, more divisions can be added that might include juniors, women, seniors, etc.

Registered players are often given a player’s pack, which might include a simple mini disc, while more elaborate packs include custom-imprinted discs.

Most tournaments have a shotgun start in which players in groups of three or four start at various holes around the course. A two-minute warning is given with an air horn, and then a start blast

begins play. Scores are accumulated for the entire event, with the lowest scores in each division winning. Awards include disc-golf trophies, cash, or scrip (certificates for a certain value that can be redeemed for discs or other merchandise).

Many disc-golf courses offer various leagues during the year, usually for a single season (spring or summer). These are normally operated by local disc-golf clubs or other groups. Sometimes members pay a small fee that helps pay for prizes and awards.

  • Singles leagues are made up of players who compete against each other “head-to-head.”

  • Doubles leagues comprise pairs who play another team and may involve playing a best shot or total score. Some doubles are paired for the season, while others are assigned randomly each time.

  • Mixed doubles play the same as regular doubles, but must include a male and female in each pairing.

  • Teams, which may or may not be mixed sexes, usually play a best shot, but sometimes will include total score.

If local clubs have been established, there may be a “bag tag” program in which each club member has a numbered tag starting with number one. A player who defeats another person in the club with a bag tag then takes the lower number. Bag-tag programs are usually redone each year.

Ace Races
Sometimes a commercial disc-golf company sponsors ace races and provides the players’ packs. The host agency charges players about $8 more than the packs cost, and the profit funds the club activities, etc. Included in the pack are two prototype discs that are not yet on the market. For this type of event, tees are moved 200 feet or less from the basket. In two rounds of play, each player gets one shot per hole in each round; the goal is to make a hole-in-one using a prototype disc. At the end of the day, the player with the most “aces” wins an award package provided by the company. These events are typically fundraisers. Players usually receive almost twice the value in a player’s pack as paid in registration fees.

Special Events
Other events can also be held to create more interest in a course. These might include activities for children where special imprinted discs are given to schools or children’s community groups. Better disc golf players or even pros might be on hand to give tips and lessons. The same can be done for senior groups, church groups, or other community groups. A disc-golf clinic can be sponsored by a local park as a one-day event as well.

For Assistance
Contact one or more of the local disc-golf clubs. Usually, they will be more than happy to sponsor an event in a park. If no clubs are available in the area, visit www.dgcoursereview.com . For more in-depth information about this subject, visit pdga.com.

Bob Carver spent more than 35 years as executive director of two different camps. He currently works part-time for CampAllendale overseeing the challenge-course events, camp store, and disc-golf program. Also a member of the PDGA and a certified PDGA official, Carver owns and operates “Par Excellence,” which designs disc-golf courses for parks and other organizations. Having played disc golf at more than 90 courses in 18 different states, he has also served as tournament director for 24 different disc-golf tournaments over the last 9 years.