If you’re new to the sport, you may be asking yourself, ‘how long will it take before I’m good at disc golf?’ As with all things, it really depends on a few factors, but for most players, here’s the answer:
It takes approximately 2-3 years of regular practice to get really good at disc golf. You can learn the basics of the game in an afternoon, but from there, getting good depends on how much you practice, and the quality of that practice.
Targeted practice is the key to developing your skills. You need to know what you’re doing wrong, and drill in the correct way to develop good habits moving forward. I can tell you this, it doesn’t happen overnight.
My focus has always been one small change at a time. Develop that small thing until it becomes muscle memory, then move onto the next small thing. If you try to make too many small changes at once, the focus just isn’t there and you won’t develop the muscle memory you need going forward.
The good news is that if you practice regularly, and you focus on one small change at a time, before you know it, you’ll be seeing big changes in the quality of your form, which in turn greatly enhances the quality and consistency of your throws. So how do you do it, and how long does it take?
What Do The Numbers Say?
To better answer the question of how long it takes to become a good disc golfer, it’s helpful to break down the individual skills a really good disc golfer needs to possess. The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) gives some basic standards for determining what level of player you are. There are different criteria for men and women, which are shown in the tables below.
The great thing about this information is that it gives a rough time frame for how long it takes to develop the skills listed.
|Novice||Learning||175-250 feet||3-5/10 from 20 feet||Can throw backhand with some accuracy|
|Recreational||1 to 2 years||200-300 feet||4-6/10 from 20 feet||Learning different shots|
|Intermediate||2 to 3 years||250-350 feet||5-7/10 from 20 feet||Not specified|
|Advanced||Several years and tournament experience||300-450 feet||5-7/10 from 25-30 feet||Has a few different shots|
|Professional – Average||Several years of tournament experience||325-400 feet||7-9/10 from 25-30 feet||Has a variety of shots to draw from|
|Professional – Top||Many years of tournament experience||Over 350 feet||Rarely makes a mistake and has a shot for every situation|
|Novice||Learning||Not specified||Not specified||Not specified|
|Recreational||Learning||Not specified||Not specified||Not specified|
|Intermediate||2 to 3 years||125-200 feet||3-5/10 from 20 feet||Can throw backhand with some accuracy|
|Advanced||Several years and tournament experience||200-300 feet||4-6/10 from 25-30 feet||Developing different shots|
|Professional – Average||Several years of tournament experience||250-325 feet||5-6/10 from 25-30 feet||Not specified|
|Professional – Top||Many years of tournament experience||300-375 feet||6-8/10 from 25-30 fee||Throws backhand and forehand|
There are other divisions based on age and gender. The summary above should give you a general idea of where you stand based on your skills.
Seemingly the number that players focus on the most – Drive distance has a lot to do with technique, but there is definitely a physical strength aspect to it as well. So with that said, there is a hard limit for each person depending on their strength. The PDGA divisions indicate that an advanced player can consistently drive beyond 300 feet. That 300’ mark will give you something to compare yourself to.
I’m sure you realize that most top pros can drive well beyond 300’. Some like Simon Lizotte and Drew Gibson can even reach the 600’ mark. Those are insane numbers and take years and years of practice to develop the form to achieve drives of that distance. My personal opinion is that it could take upwards of 10 years of practice to achieve consistent drive distances in the 500’ range. I’ve been playing for about 4-5 years as of 2020 and my consistent drive distance is about 400’.
Putting is a very important skill, and sometimes takes a backseat to drive distance. I would argue that putting is far more important than drive distance and if practiced and developed, good putting skills will greatly affect your score.
On the chart above, putting skills are measured by how many times out of 10, on average you can make a shot from a certain distance. The more consistently you can land a putt from farther away, the better you are. For example, a novice player with less than a year of experience makes 3-5/10 putts from 20 feet. This means that when putting from 20 feet away, a novice player makes 3 to 5 out of every 10 putts. An advanced player with several years of experience makes 5 to 7 putts out of every 10 from 25 to 30 feet away.
You can make your way through a round of disc golf throwing a simple backhand the entire time. However, there is a wide range of skills to learn if you want to be considered good. Another basic skill is being able to throw forehand, which is something a lot of players struggle with.
From there, it gets more complicated with variations on these throws. There are techniques like hyzer and anhyzer that require throwing a disc at a specific angle. There’s also advanced shots like an s-shot that involve combining skills.
Also, there are more unusual shots like rollers, thumbers, tomahawks and many more.
Mastering these skills requires understanding a variety of different aspects of a disc golf throw from footwork to grip. The more of these you master, the better you will become. A lot of this comes with time. The longer you play, the more of these skills you’ll decide to try out, and the more you’ll start to practice and gain experience.
As you can see in the list of skills by division in the PDGA guidelines, there isn’t much direction on what skills to have to be considered good, other than having at least the two basic types of throws down. There are too many different skills to work on and learn to say which ones you need to know. What a player chooses to focus on will also be a matter of personal preference.
What Does the PDGA Say?
The Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) provides some generalizations for ranking player skill to help players decide what divisions to go into. These division descriptions can give us an indication of how good someone is expected to be based on how long they have been playing for. This includes novice, recreational, intermediate, and advanced players.
A novice is someone who is still learning the sport. A recreational player is someone with one to two years of experience playing. An intermediate player is someone with two to three years of experience playing. An advanced player is someone with several years of experience and who has tournament experience. The professional divisions describe players with several years of tournament experience.
This gives us an indication of how long it will take to get good. Approximately 3 years if you consider intermediate/advanced good. What you do with those three years will determine how good you actually are.
Putting It All Together
For the sake of having a simple answer of what to consider a good disc golf player, based on what we’ve just gone over, we propose the following:
- Can drive 300 feet
- Makes 30 foot putts half of the time
- Can throw backhand and forehand well
- Has developed some other skills
Based on this, you should be able to become a good player with around 3 years of experience, which includes practicing and playing regularly.
“I Practice a Lot, But I’m Not Seeing Improvement!”
If you’re reading this and you’ve got 2 to 3 years of experience and you still feel like you’re not playing as well as you should be, the missing element might be targeted practice. At a baseline, you should be playing/practicing at least once per week to develop your skills. If you want to become better faster, simply practice more. But what exactly should you be practicing?
One of the best things you can do is become a great putter. Practice your putting and make sure your form is correct. I’ve linked a video below that should help put you on the right track.
Next is to practice your form. Make sure your X Step is dialed in. Check that you’re reaching back correctly and driving your hips through. Make sure you’re keeping the disc in nice and close to your chest as you pull through and make sure you’re following through. There seems to be 100 more little things like that to learn, which is why at the top of this article I said to focus on one small thing at a time. There’s far too many to learn all at once. I’m developing a Form Fundamentals course that should help out a ton, but in the meantime you can read these articles which should also help:
- Grip Guide
- How To Throw
- Throwing Styles
- How to Throw Anhyzer
- Tips for Beginners
- Tips for Intermediate Players
- How to Fix Rounding
- Here’s a video that will help point you in the right direction.
Getting lessons or asking friends for advice is also a great idea. Having someone who knows proper technique can go a long way in helping you improve your game one on one. Try getting a few lessons early on to avoid developing bad habits that are hard to break. This could save you a lot of time in the long-run.
Disc golf is a social sport and, in most places, a friendly community. If you can’t afford lessons or don’t know where to get them, talk to people. Many communities have disc golf clubs that are happy to teach new players and often run clinics.
You can also try meeting people on the course. Look for more advanced players and ask to play a round with them or to get some tips. You can usually spot more serious players by their disc bag filled with a lot of different discs, compared to someone who is just out for fun with three or four discs.
There are also a ton of resources online including written guides and videos. Try watching some videos on new techniques then go out and practice them. It will also help to ask a friend to watch your form and technique. It may be hard to tell what you’re doing wrong while you’re throwing, but it could be obvious to someone watching you.
Wrapping Things Up
Any disc golf player can find areas of their game to improve no matter how long they’ve been playing. Deciding whether someone is a good disc golf player is highly subjective. I provided some guidelines in here so you have something to compare yourself to for the sake of personal improvement. Don’t let obsessing over numbers or being ‘good’ keep you from enjoying the sport.