Disc golf etiquette: Playing through
By Justin Weilacher

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This is the second in a series of articles about disc golf etiquette:
Playing through | Practice rounds and extra shots

We have all been there. You see a group a few holes in front of you. Maybe it is a party group. Maybe they are playing doubles. You know you are going to catch them, and you are hoping they will be cool and let you play through.


What kind of pace do you have on the course?
  • 1. Fast
  • 2. Medium
  • 3. Slow

One thing about disc golf is that it is laid back. Sometimes that means you will encounter a "mob golf" group or a group playing doubles. Maybe you encounter a family with some children or a group that has just started playing disc golf. Maybe you come across me and some of my golf buddies — we are all notoriously deliberate.

"Playing through" is a courtesy that should be extended in every possible situation. Sadly, it is a courtesy that is not offered enough on the disc golf course. I have seen some terribly rude behavior when a group wouldn't let the faster group play through. I have seen equally rude behavior when a group is playing through and the forward group is not polite while they are doing so.

Because of the frequency of misbehavior while playing through, I came up with three guidelines that, if followed, will make the act of playing through easier, more pleasant and less impactful on everyone's scores.

1. Extend the offer

Always offer to let a group play through when they catch you on the tee pad or when they have to wait for more than a minute or two while you finish a hole. We all want to play in our own rhythm, whatever that rhythm maybe. I personally prefer not to throw while there is a group watching my every move. I feel rushed. I imagine the conversation they are having. I perform poorly.

I try to play at a pace that mimics a tournament pace as much as possible. Some people want to play at a far faster pace and throw poorly when they have to wait too long. Because I play slowly, I frequently offer to let faster groups play through. A group should never have to ask to play through. Just like a car camping in the left lane on the highway without a vehicle in front of them, not letting faster groups play through is incredibly rude. This happens often and I'm not sure why.

There is one exception to this rule. If the course is so busy that everyone is waiting on every hole, playing through doesn't really help anyone. When this happens, it is best to slow your own play to reduce waits on the tee pad and to have a little more patience.
A group at Tahoe Vista in California lets Justin Weilacher play through.

2. From the start

If at all possible, let groups play through at the tee pad and not while you are on the fairway. We should all be aware enough on the course to know when a play-through situation is coming; we should all be polite enough to make that happen in between holes. Playing through a group in the middle of a hole usually requires yelling to the group waiting and is not considerate of other groups on the course. It is also more dangerous because discs will be coming down the fairway where the forward group is waiting.

The main acceptable reason for playing through a group while they are on the fairway is when the forward group is looking for a lost or treed disc. Looking for, or retrieving, a lost or hung disc can take a lot of time. The first thing a group should do in this situation is see if there is a group that should be allowed to play through. The forward group should move from the field of vision as much as possible. One of the forward group should stand guard against discs injuring players.

3. Mind your manners

Be as polite as possible while a group is playing through. There are all kinds of people playing disc golf these days, and you never know what kind of group is playing through — or inviting you to play through — so be respectful.

Maintain tournament quiet while others are on the tee or preparing to throw on the hole. Turn off any music or cellphones that had been in use. Watch your language. Don't move in someone's field of vision. Even if chatting while you throw isn't personally bothersome, it is to a lot of players.

Playing through is frequently hard on a player's score. Nothing like immediate performance anxiety in front of a group of strangers. There is added pressure because another group is now waiting on you just like you were just waiting on them. All eyes are on you. You want to look good. You want to give the forward group a good reason for having let you play through.

Following these simple guidelines will ease the pressure on your score and alleviate tension between the two groups. Playing through can be hard to do, so do it professionally.

Justin Weilacher played a few rounds of disc golf at the University of Florida but then lost touch. He earned a bachelor's degree in English literature, started managing bookstores, got married and moved to Arizona before finding disc golf again five years ago. Justin now lives in California, writes on his blog, DB Free Disc Golf, to grow the sport he loves, and fits disc golf into all the free spaces of his life.