For most beginners, they feel pretty confident the first time that they go and play a round of disc golf. They typically have the mindset of, "Hey, I've thrown frisbees my whole life! How hard can it be?" The night before, they might even go to YouTube and watch some Jomez Pro coverage of the most recent Pro Tour tournament. They arrive at the course the next day ready to throw 500 feet with Paul McBeth's latest driver.
But... After they tee off on hole #1, they quickly realize just how wrong they were. Instead of their brand new Zeus flying 500+ feet through the air like Paul's did, it goes high into the air and crashes hard to the ground roughly 100 feet in front of them. Sound familiar??
Let's talk expectations... realistic expectations!
How far should you be able to throw?
There isn't a great answer for this question. While there are many common mistakes made by beginners, everyone has a different athletic background. If you come from an Ultimate Frisbee background, you will generally start out with above average arm speed but your form will need some work to be able to throw a disc correctly (e.i. Brodie Smith). There are valuable lessons, such as hand/eye coordination and using your hips, that can be transferred over from a variety of sports.
With that being said, you should not expect to be able to throw like the pros. We recommend that you go to a course (or field) with no expectations. Just go out there and throw the discs! If they go far... great! If they crash and hit the first tree... great! Welcome to disc golf!
From there, it's all about learning proper form. If you are throwing a neutral disc, did it go fairly straight? If not, work on your form until it is flying the way it is designed to fly. Consistent, accurate shots are better than distance any day! While the top level pros can typically throw 500+ft drives, you should expect a much shorter distance. Without good form, your distance isn't worth much because it will be inconsistent and all over the place, but once you get the basics of form down, you should be throwing somewhere in these ranges....
Putters: 100-150 feet
Mid-Ranges: 125-175 feet
Drivers: 160-230 feet
How good should your score be?
Much like our advice for distance expectations, we recommend that you don't put too much pressure on yourself to shoot a great score. Don't be worried about getting birdies or bogeys. Approach each and every hole separate from the last. Here are some good tips for beginners...
1) Split the holes in half - Is the hole 284 feet but you can only throw 170 feet on a good day? No problem! If you split the hole in half, now you only need two accurate throws of around 140 feet to reach the basket for a par. This will allow you to really work on your form and accuracy without the stress of throwing as hard as you can on every throw. This strategy will help you improve over time and help you stay on the fairway.
2) Set your own par - If you are playing a 400+ feet par 3 and you don't have a chance to make it in 3 throws, then just treat it like a par 4. You aren't a sponsored professional, there is no shame in adding a stroke to a hole to make it more manageable for yourself. If not, you will find yourself getting discouraged when you bogey or double-bogey a longer par 3 just because you don't have the arm speed to get it there... yet! Obviously, you won't be able to do this for a scored round or a tournament, but when you are learning, it's important to set realistic goals for yourself that stay motivated.
So, how good should your score be? Who cares?? When you are starting out, don't worry about the score, focus on improving your form and getting better. Personally, we I first started, I treated bogeys like pars and I celebrated pars like birdies. This simple mind trick helped me improve and stay motivated for the next hole!