Egg Shells, Explosions and Disc Golf

By James McDonald ~

Cover art
What do you do when “that player” ends up on your card? McDonald offers straight talk on courtesy violations and strategies for dealing with them. Photos: Jesse Wright.

Throughout my 9-year career as an amateur disc golfer, I have experienced a wide variety of personalities in recreational and organized play. I would say 98 percent of the folks I meet on the tournament circuit are great people. The other 2 percent are nice folks off the field but haven’t learned to “cage the tiger.”

Disc golfers are out to have a good time and enjoy the stiff competition and tournament atmosphere. However, occasionally you get that player on your card you dread. In this article, I’m going to talk about how to approach the sensitive subject of playing with an agitated player and managing your game.

According to the PDGA, courtesy violations can be issued for a myriad of infractions. Some of the most common miscues are shouting, cursing, striking course equipment, throwing out of turn, throwing or kicking golf bags and throwing minis. Once a player is given a warning for a courtesy violation, the next violation results in a one-stroke penalty. Most players rarely want to hand out violations, but will do so to ensure the integrity of the game.

Tournament Play

Is it worth it to call a courtesy violation? In some instances, I err on the side of caution. For example, let’s say I register for a tournament where I am not familiar with the player pool and I end up with “that player.” As someone who doesn’t have a grasp of the player’s history, am I going to call them out when they lose their temper and kick their bag after a bad drive?

I weigh the options. Disc golf is a mental game and I have to stay cool to keep calm. My serenity may be hijacked if the player doesn’t respond well to being issued a courtesy violation. In the end, it may not matter if I call the player out as it’s just going to be a long round with an angry person, regardless of how I respond.

At very best, it’s going to be an awkward situation for the card if the player reacts poorly to being called. At this point, it’s survival mode and you play it out, while being held hostage by the agitated player.

By no means am I advocating for looking the other way if rules are being broken. I am simply asking whether it’s worth jeopardizing your mindset by calling a legitimate courtesy violation. I feel it is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario.

At the same time, poor sportsmanship can be used as a weapon. Whenever it seems clear that the player is using bad behavior to gain an advantage, I believe it is best to call the violation, and follow the guidelines outlined in the PDGA’s Competition Manual.

Cooling Off Period

Sometimes the situation can be diffused if handled correctly. It can be as simple as giving the player some space and letting him or her blow off some steam. Maybe crack a joke after a moment or two. Positive reinforcement isn’t always effective, but it’s worth a shot to try to de-escalate the situation.

Club Aspect  

As we all know, clubs are comprised of many different personalities, ages and backgrounds. The hodge-podge sometimes brings up disagreements, turmoil and separation of clubs if not dealt with correctly. The players with hair-trigger tempers can also bring up issues with old and new players out on weekly leagues, club tournaments and functions.

The club’s goal should be to always include everyone to the extent that it’s possible to do so. It is important to immediately address negative actions on and off the course. It is also vital for every player to be courteous on social media, as on the course.

While some players have a higher tolerance for volatile actions, others will be turned off and not return because of the fear of being placed on the card with “that player.” In the end, a player with poor etiquette gets ostracized by others, which can lead to further behavior problems and sour the mood of the group.

I would strongly suggest clubs develop and implement a code of ethics and hold every player to that standard to curb this behavior. I believe it will help everybody if these rules are enforced.

Final Thoughts

Disc golf is the sport I love and want to see grow. It is hard to grow a sport when you have individuals not adhering to the rules and respecting others. If you love the game, please show respect for the players and the game you love.

I am aware we all have bad days, but it should be your best intention as a golfer to make sure you don’t ruin everybody else’s day in the process. I have come in with bad rounds frequently, but I try not to subject others to my dumpster fire, while I am melting down.

I am not writing this piece to shame anyone. I am simply asking for players who deal with anger issues to think about what they are doing before unleashing the tiger.

Keeping an even keel on the course is imperative for everyone to succeed. You play tournaments for fun and enjoyment of the game, not to get stuck with a poor sport who can’t handle bad breaks. It’s disc golf, it happens to everyone. Be a good sport and take the bad with the good.

Don’t let the tiger out of the cage!


James McDonald


James McDonald is the PDGA State Coordinator for West Virginia, the creator and site manager of Full Metal Basket and a tireless disc golf promoter.




Parked is underwritten in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.

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