Learning to Play Disc Golf in Austin

By Chad Dyer – May 1, 2022
Shannon Mullan

Disc golf has grown to be a popular sport to the point where communities are referring to today as the golden era of disc golf.

The sport can be as simple as throwing a disc around with your friends or as complex as advanced physics and choreography and this range of complexity is why the sport has grown so much in popularity. In fact, the sport has seen over a 55% increase in new players in 2021. 

Whether you want something to do while walking your dog or a new hobby to invest time into, this young sport has something for you.

Shannon Mullan

Shannon Mullan, owner of Austin-based disc golf store Disc Nation and former disc golf professional, shares how she first got into disc golf.

“When I first started, I had no idea what I was doing. I played for a year without being educated on disc golf because, either way, it’s fun,” Mullan says. “Once I educated myself about the discs and what they did, my love for the sport just took off.”

Seventeen years later and Mullan still enjoys playing!  

How to Play

Disc golf rules are similar to normal golf. The objective is to throw the disc into the basket in as few throws (strokes) as possible. You start by throwing your disc from a tee, and your next throw will be from where your disc landed. You will repeat this until you successfully make the disc in the basket. 

Each hole is graded in par, like golf, meaning if you’re on a par three, then you have three shots to get the disc in the basket before your shots start adding against your score. Make it in three, and your score doesn’t change; make it in under three, and your score lowers. The lower the score, the better! 

Breaking the Bank

Disc golf can be a relatively cheap sport to get into. Technically speaking, you can play disc golf with a single disc, but many people suggest having at least three when learning the sport. A disc can cost anywhere between $5 to $30. 

If you’re interested in buying any discs, great stores include Disc Nation, Play it Again Sports in North and South Austin, Academy, DICK’S Sporting Goods and even Live Oak Brewing, a brewery that sells locally made discs from Mint Discs

Types of Discs 

Similar to golf, different types of discs do different things. Some discs are drivers for long throws and putters for short precise shots. A glaring difference from golf, however, is that each disc requires arm speed from the player to achieve its optimal flight. 

“Start low and slow… start with a putter and mid-range and work up to a fairway driver,” Mullan says. “A big mistake I always see new players make is getting a disc that requires too much speed for a beginner, like a driver.” 

Though a driver typically has the most distance, for a beginner, it won’t go as far or as accurately as a mid-range or fairway driver. Mullan recommends the Roc from Innova or Freetail from Mint Discs.

Disc golfing.

Learning Discs

Understanding how a disc flies is vital when learning the sport. Most discs will have a set of four numbers on the disc’s face referred to as flight numbers. These numbers suggest how the disc should fly and are labeled as speed, glide, turn and fade. Innova Discs created a guide, which explains the more complicated terminology and advanced mechanics of discs in relation to these numbers.

The main thing to know is that most discs are divided into two categories: overstable and understable. Understable discs are typically more beginner-friendly and will give you more distance, whereas overstable discs will be harder to throw but can fly straighter. Fortunately, most discs are labeled either overstable or understable. Of course, you can always ask the store employees for recommendations and further explanations.

Where to Play

Austin has numerous beautiful courses, and the best part is that almost all are free to play. Great courses to check out would be Circle C Metro Park, Zilker Park, Searight Park/Mary Moore Disc Golf Course, Live Oak Brewery and Met Center

Zilker Park will be more beginner-friendly and great for families, Mary Moore will be for those looking for more of a challenge and Circle C is great for learning as it’s more of an open course.

Disc map

Tips and Tricks

Before heading to the nearest course, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you prepare. I highly recommend downloading the app called UDisc. This free app allows you to create easy-to-use scorecards and navigate courses using GPS! 

Beyond purchasing discs, you may want to invest in a bag. There are bags specifically made for holding numerous discs and your belongings. 

“You can pick up a nice bag for 20 dollars,” Mullan says. “It makes the sport easier on your back and arms.” 

Lastly, remember that disc golf is best played with a smile! 

“There will always be some frustration in a sport,” Mullan says. “Trust your technique, have fun and smile — it’s just a game.” 


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