Disc golf and ball golf have in common game parameters, scoring mechanism, and competition formats. We also share the self-regulated nature of a “gentleman’s game,” gentle-person’s game anyway. The players have the responsibility of scoring and policing the game. If an indiscretion occurs, it is part of the group’s responsibility to help inform, regulate, and penalize players.
The PDGA Official Rules of Disc Golf states that “Players should watch the other members of their group throw in order to aid in locating errant throws and to ensure compliance with the rules” (Pg. 5). One of the most stressful things a player deals with is talking to another player about what he or she is doing wrong on the course. It is even more complicated when there are rules violations or scoring errors occurring during an event of any kind.
The first time I issued a warning in an event it was very unpleasant. Another player kept his ear buds in so we couldn’t interact with him for the 1st 9 holes. He was unintentionally standing in other golfer’s lies, not marking his disc, and playing out of turn. By the time I made him take off the ear buds, I was upset and felt he was hurting my game. He argued about the warning despite that the whole group agreed.
We both had several bad holes and tense moments in the last 9 holes. Thanks to that situation, I learned to address those issues a lot sooner. Letting a concern build to the point where it interferes with my game is my fault. While I ultimately cannot control someone else’s behavior, I do have control over how I react to that behavior.
It is stated in the rules that I am responsible for other golfer’s behavior. Addressing concerns is my responsibility. It is all of our responsibility. It protects the integrity of the game or event. Doing so professionally can sometimes be difficult but necessary. It is everyone’s responsibility to play this game seriously and professionally. We are all responsible for increasing the level of play and the level of professionalism on the disc golf course.
My first key to addressing a golfer’s misunderstanding of the rules or proper procedure is to do so very early. I always try to have my first interaction happen well before the indiscretion is bothering my mental game. A quiet word about improper language or volume at the first occurrence can keep the issue from ever being a concern. Quick instruction about marking lies, play order, or out of bounds rulings can save a lot of trouble down the road.
If I feeling like giving a warning, I make one last statement giving the individual a chance to correct their behavior. I always make this last statement in such a way that the whole group can hear. Do this right after taking score by announcing that there is an issue you need to address. Making sure that the entire group is present can save a lot of trouble. The entire group can weigh in on the issue. Maybe the concerned individual misunderstood the situation and the correct procedure was followed. Maybe the offender disagrees, in which case, having the entire group state their perspectives will always support proper golf.
We also need to keep in mind that someone else may need to have one of these conversations with us. We need to listen to the other player’s point of view without emotion, logically process the information, and then take part in the conversation professionally until the matter is understood. There may not always be agreement but there doesn’t need to be discord.
I recently played the San Francisco Safari and saw a couple instances of proper expressions of professional concern. The best example was on a temp hole that played off the sidewalk adjacent to Marx Meadow. There were pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists everywhere and finding a time to tee off was difficult. At one point, a couple was checking out the disc golf but was standing right on the tee area. The couple were tourists that did not speak English nor did they understand what they were looking at. They did not respond to a couple comments by the group; instead, they remained standing on the tee area.
One of the golfers went to the tee area and started to go through his pre-tee routine. While doing so, his follow through was coming close to the unsuspecting tourists. A second golfer in the group stopped him with a perfectly appropriate, “Hey man, that’s not cool.” There was a short discussion. The offender said that he would never have actually teed and would not have hit them. The concerned golfer said that it didn’t matter if he would have thrown or not, that at the very least, it looked bad. A little grumbling occurred for a minute then accord was reached.
I made sure to let the concerned golfer know that I not only appreciated that he corrected the behavior but that he did so in a professional manner. The concerned golfer, in a professional tone and manner, corrected someone’s behavior and kept his concern from becoming an issue.
Address the concern early. Do so professionally. Do so in front of the entire group. Allow for feedback. Make a group decision. Improve the game. Move on.