Player safety is the single most important thing in disc golf.
I shut down access to the course when thunder and lightning are around. And folks will laugh on Facebook when we close for high winds. We do these things in the name of player safety. We’d taken the practice baskets down because the state said we had to and just put them up this weekend when it was determined to be okay. I’m proud to work at a place that cares about the safety of the folks who play disc golf.
Today’s blog is going to focus on the first point of the disc golfers code. Here’s a picture of it if you’re not familiar.
We throw pointy pieces of hard plastic at incredible speeds. Central Coast Disc Golf measures professional players drive speeds and they see 70 miles per hour off the tee. Simon Lizotte hit 89.5 mph once!
Now let’s get to why I had to write this blog.
I got thrown on today when I was giving a lesson. As I stood in the middle of a field having a 20 second talk about whether or not we should throw a forehand upshot or jump-putt, a purple driver missed my left knee by about two feet and hit the grass with a solid thud.
No “Fore!”, no “Watch out”, “Heads up.” Just silence.
I turned around and saw the duo 150-175 feet behind me. Waiting to walk up after their disc that was now in front of me.
I don’t care about it being disrespectful. It’s dangerous to throw when you have the chance of hitting people.
Here’s a story of someone getting hit in the face with a disc from the news last week. Naomi Cooke was just walking along and got hit in the head by someone who should have waited. She got hit in the face and got a golf ball sized lump under the eye.
If your response to this is “ShE sHoUlD hAvE bEeN pAyInG aTtEnTiOn.” Take a deeeeeeeep breath and think about this.
You are the one throwing the plastic.
You are the one responsible for others safety when you do this.
I’m not going to list the disc golf accidents that make the news here. Then this blog would be used by people to block new courses being put in public parks. That’s not my intention at all. I want disc golfers to consider the safety of others.
If you’re thinking, Andrew you’re blowing this out of proportion. Everyone knows it’s wrong to throw when there are other people nearby. This is a virtue signalling blog. Here’s some screenshots of people posting in a disc golf humor group with about 40,000 members.
“Champ Emp to the skull might have ended him.” Laughing reaction.
“He was so pissed rather than being grateful he’s still alive (lol emoji).”
Hurting people by being reckless isn’t funny. Don’t be an idiot.
Here’s FPO player Leah Tsinajinnie who talks about disc golfers throwing on her and the card she was following in tournament play! It’s unacceptable and I’m not suggesting these guys be disqualified, but they should be stroked in tournament play for their reckless endangerment of others.
It has even happened at the elite level. I wanted to use Elaine King’s throw at the 2003 world championships in my blog about throwing down hills. But I resisted because she almost hit Juliana Korver with the throw. So I’m not going to link the video, it should be seen as a low moment rather than a highlight.
I am proactive when I’m playing or walking in a park with disc golf.
Last week I went on a fiddlehead hunting expedition in a group. It was on a farm that also has 2 disc golf courses. Our walk took us through the courses, and we had to cross through a disc golf green. I’ve played the course before, so I know it’s a blind shot from the tee. I put my hands up and ran up to where I could see the teepad. No one was teeing off, but if someone had been, the other 12 people in my group would have been in danger of getting hit.
Taking a quick look in blind areas will reduce the number of potential accidents. It took me an additional 8 seconds to ensure we weren’t being hit.
What’s that first rule? Play Smart.
Don’t throw when there’s a chance to hit folks.
There’s always been backups at holes, it’s not a new phenomenon from increased people playing during the pandemic. I understand that waiting can throw the rhythm off during a round. Sometimes you have to wait 5-10 minutes at a hole before you can drive (shines flashlight under chin and makes “woooo” noises). It’s a minor inconvenience though. Like looking for a lost disc or letting a group play through and they’re a little slower than you thought.
You know what is going to take a wicked long time? Waiting for an ambulance and giving the police witness statements about what happened for insurance. You won’t be finishing your round that day.
There are of course accidents. A tree kick that sends the disc in the wrong direction, freak wind, or an act of God that may alter your disc's flight path. But you shouldn’t throw the disc if people are in front of you and you think there’s a chance you’ll hit them.
I throw about 425 feet max distance. So basically any hole that’s 450 feet and shorter I can’t throw if someone is there. A tail wind could take it or I could get a hold of it and then I’d hit someone. Even worse than being a hypocrite, I could hurt someone.
I let people play through all the time if I’m in a slow group. When I get to the next hole, we can let you through. If the group in front of you is slow then when you catch up to them ask if you can play through. Don’t throw on them to let them know you’re better/faster than them.
I’ve been a hothead before. When I’d been thrown on in the past I would throw the disc back at the group over their heads. That’s just as dangerous and a bad attitude to boot. It doesn’t solve anything, just makes me and them madder at each other.
Take the moment to educate people, don’t throw on them. That’s point number 3 of the disc golf code. Educate people about disc golf. That’s not just telling them about understable vs overstable. It includes when they make bad choices like throwing on you. It’s tough to swallow that quick anger, but if you can manage it. You’re going to be helping the sport in a big way.
A disc to the back of my leg might give me a bruise or a cut. A disc to my elbow could break it, or split the back of my head open where I’d need stitches.
Disc golf is incredibly fun, and doesn’t have to be dangerous. It’s really simple.
If you think you could hit someone, don’t throw. Wait until the area is clear.
If your disc is travelling in the air towards them, yell “Fore!” It’s pretty universally recognized by people. “Watch out!” also works to ensure the safety of others. Drew Gibson did a great job yelling before it was going to hit a crowd. Be like Drew here if your disc is making its way toward someone.
May your discs miss all the trees and more importantly, other people,
Andrew Streeter #70397