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  • Writer's pictureChris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

How should we behave at PDGA events?

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

This week, Vortica takes a deep dive into the (apparently!) controversial world of obeying the rules in PDGA tournament play and offers advice about how to enjoy a tournament, how to avoid being penalised or disqualified, and how to be a pleasure to play with.

At Vortica, Martin and I share over 35 years of tournament play experience, have hosted, TDed or helped organise over 30 tournaments including three national championships, and played in well over 100 events. We’re not perfect at any of it yet, but we think we do OK – and we are always striving to improve as competitors and as Tournament Directors.

As both, we’ve witnessed the sport develop in New Zealand over the decades, to the stage we are at now, where some tournaments are becoming so well-supported that to ensure your place at these events, early registration will soon become necessary.

And so it is with this ever-increasing participation, along with the ever-increasing numbers of PDGA members and PDGA-sanctioned events being held here, that we turn our attention to the important subject of adherence to the PDGA tournament rules.

And, as cash prizes start to become the more common for NZ National Tour Events, this subject will become even more relevant.

Playing PDGA-sanctioned disc golf is not the same as a weekend round with your fiercely competitive buddies. While you can get away with just about anything with your buddies, there are myriad ways to go wrong at a PDGA event, and get penalised heavily, or even possibly DQed -- without realising the consequences of your actions ahead of time. This article is designed to prevent these things happening to you.

How to avoid disqualification

There are several ways to get yourself penalised at, or potentially chucked out of a PDGA event, whether it be C, B or even an A-tier event. Each level has stricter rules, with C-tiers being the most relaxed, or the least-strict, depending on your viewpoint.

It’s helpful for players to remember TDs often have no options available when players break the rules, and the penalties are laid out in black and white, in the competition manual:


In the PDGA rules, the words “may” and “shall” are often used, when describing what a TD is supposed to do in certain situations. Whenever “may” appears, the TD has a choice in the matter. Where “shall” is found, there is no choice, whatsoever. TDs who fail to follow the “shalls” can be sanctioned by the PDGA, and lose their status as an official.


If you swear repeatedly or are rude to any person at any time, you can be DQed. This rule extends to cover all competitors, tournament officials, spectators, by-standers and park users.

The Disc Golfer's Code
The Disc Golfer's Code

So, leave the profanity in the parking lot, along with your beers, and never ever be anything except extremely polite in your dealings with people at an event. This can be a real problem for some, whose lives are a never-ending stream of profanities. Such language during a tournament is to be avoided at all costs, lest the misconduct rule be applied against you.

I will be the first to admit, I have been prone to outbursts of bad language in the past – long before NZ started regularly hosting PDGA events – but these days I purposely use some especially non-threatening, socially-acceptable epithets as expletives. You’ll often hear me say “Buggery Bollocks” or “Billions of Bilious Blue Blistering Barnacles”, or even, “D’OH!”


The always alliterative phrase “Billions of Bilious Blue Blistering Barnacles” comes from the salty-but-family-friendly Captain Haddock, in the Tintin comic books.


Homer Simpson’s “D’OH” comes from the early days of talking cinema, when even the word “damn” was considered swearing, and the expression comes someone famous starting to say “Damn”, but catching himself after the very first letter, and adding “Oh” to create an inoffensive expletive. There was a distinct gap between the D and the OH – which is why you often see it written as “D’OH”.


Physical confrontations

These are the very worst kind of situations at a disc golf event, and the PDGA has in recent years shown it has no hesitation in handing down year-long bans to players who make even the smallest of errors in this section of the rules.

Don’t even think about brushing past someone the wrong way, lest the action be interpreted the wrong way. That could lead to a DQ and/or a ban. High-ranked pro-player Bradley Williams has just returned from a year-long suspension after just such an incident.

Taking alcohol or drugs during a round

The author getting his pink on, in the greenery.
The author getting his pink on, in the greenery.

Alcohol and drugs are banned at PDGA events, regardless of local laws, and the rules are extremely clear for all tiers of events. Any time you drink at a C-Tier event you are risking an official warning, and subsequently compulsory disqualification. At B and A-tier events, you should be DQed the instant the TD is made aware of your actions.

Historically, New Zealand TDs have maintained “Plausible Deniability” regarding drinking during rounds, but things are changing rapidly, as the sport grows, and tolerance of flagrant breaches of these rules is rapidly declining.

The Process of Continual Refinement and Improvement by all Parties

There is a clear trend developing in NZ Disc Golf; more and more National Tour events are becoming PDGA C-Tiers, and occasionally the odd B-tier, and as this happens, the standard of courses, TDs, players, and adherence to the rules is improving over time.

Initially in this process, TDs and players inevitably made many and varied mistakes. This is to be expected. But as time goes by, TDs are learning and improving, and so are players’ knowledge of the rules.

So over time, fewer mistakes are made at tournaments. This is certainly Vortica’s experience, with both of us always trying to lift the bar a little higher each time we host an event. It’s worth noting we’ve both made some whopping mistakes as TDs, and as players in the past, too. Please don't hold those against us.