August 29th, a Saturday. I had planned on playing a round with a fellow disc golfer that morning, but unforeseen circumstances prevented that round from happening. As a result, I ended up going to the park with one of my daughters and my son while my oldest daughter worked on a science project. My youngest niece joined us at the park after we had been there for a while. Having been there for well over an hour, I figured they’d want to go home and cool off but was surprised when they wanted to go play disc golf. So back to the SUV to grab my bag it was, and across the bridge over the river to the course we went.
I gave each a disc to use as we got to the first tee. My daughter got a tournament stamped Buzz, my niece started with a DX Dart, and my son started with a DX Rhyno. At first, it was a free for all. They were running ahead and throwing with abandon, regardless of where anybody else was standing in any direction. I had to holler a few times to stop running ahead and wait for the others to throw and to watch out for each other when they threw. By the time the first couple of holes were done, I had them sort of playing with some courtesy and going to the right basket on each hole. I did have to swat my son’s bottom after he kept running and picking up my daughter’s disc. Besides that one disciplinary action, it was a very fun 7 holes. I taught them about the sport and its rules and etiquette and they enjoyed playing, saying they wanted to come play some more another day. Below is a video I took of them throwing on hole #4.
This whole experience got me to thinking about what should be taught to a new player about the sport of disc golf. I think what you’re about to read applies best to anybody 13 or younger, but it can be used with any new player. I’ve seen some arguments on Facebook pages about how to grow the sport the right way. The truth is, there is no right way to do it. But I’ll give you a few key things when you take somebody new out to the course.
1 – Show the new player the general form of a backhand throw.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, just enough that they can get some distance from a standstill throw.
2 – Don’t Keep Score!!
Keeping score is the worst thing you can do with a new player. When I have my kids out on the course with me, they don’t care about their score. With them, it’s all about who threw the farthest, or just getting as close as they can
3 – Start them with no more than two(2) discs. And make those two discs a mid-range and a putter.
Repeatedly I hear on the Disc Golf Answer Man, Zen Disc Golf, and other podcasts, along with reading it on blogs, the one mistake almost all new players make is to go out and buy the fastest, most overstable distance driver they can. They want to throw it like the pros. Start them slow, because their arm speed is slow.
4 – Instill courtesy in their play from the beginning.
This one is really targeted at kids. Most teenagers and adults already know this aspect from either playing or watching other sports that are similar, namely ball golf. I have to remind my kids each time we go out to not run ahead to throw, and to not pick up somebody else’s disc. That is a persistent battle with them, but they’ll learn…eventually.
5 – Compliment the new player often
My wife doesn’t like disc golf. She doesn’t want to play, thinking she’ll look stupid or clumsy on the course with others who have been playing for a long time. I keep telling her that everybody starts out that way. Nobody is perfect in the beginning. So when you have a new player with you, affirm their efforts as often as you can.
We can all do our part to #growthesport. I try when I take my kids out to the course. They’re growing more fond of it as time goes by. Maybe it will help when I get that practice basket in the back yard……..