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  • Writer's pictureChris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

Could’ve! Would’ve! Should’ve! So, why didn’t we?

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Tournament disc golf is often typified by high scores. Often far higher than players would normally throw in casual rounds. What I call Tournamentitis is responsible. There's more on quelling your Inner Asshole, too.

In this article I want to help you release what I call your Natural Game when in competition. After more than 25 years of playing in disc golf tournaments, I have found low performance in competition is caused by a variety of things.


The word itself is sometimes hard to define. I believe in disc golf you are only ever in competition with the course and the conditions – never another person – and this is one of the defining characteristics of the sport (and the game!) of disc golf. You would never jump up and down and celebrate wildly if a tennis opponent aced you on the court, but in disc golf you will happily rejoice in the ace your arch rival has just thrown.

Just as the par for a hole cannot affect your score, neither can the performance of another player. Thus, it is extremely important you do not allow the game of another person to influence your own game, unless they are acting as wind-dummy, and your wind read was wrong.

The Hobbit Hole, at the LOTR filming location, Paradise, NZ
The Hobbit Hole, at the LOTR filming location, Paradise, NZ, March 10th 2019.

What is Tournamentitis?

It can range from butterflies in the stomach, to feeling physically ill, and even throwing up for a few people. It can make you feel hot and sweaty. It can lift your heart rate, and blood pressure alarmingly. It can even cause visual disturbances - something I have experienced myself!

It fills a player's mind with FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.

Often, it is your Inner Asshole hurting you. Details later in the article.

Sadly, it's true for many people, that a player’s meeting is the kiss of death to a round. People who have inflamed tournament glands sometimes suffer from a failure to define the word “competition” correctly in their minds, and feel extreme pressure when playing “official” rounds. And yet these same players can often crush it when it’s just them and their buddies in casual play.

Unrealistic expectations often feed the rapacious disease of tournamentitis.

For those without proper preparation and expectations, tournamentitis comes as standard, and even the top pros sometimes suffer from it. For some, doing simple relaxation and concentration exercises is all it takes to avoid it. Others will naturally settle down a few holes in. And while it’s true you can’t win a tournament in the first round, you can certainly lose it – and so it’s vital to tame tournamentitis before it can hurt your score.

It's necessary to release your Natural Game, in order to do that.

Your Natural Game

Is the one played by your Inner Golfer; that's the player inside you who knows how to play disc golf quite well, who knows how to execute shots correctly, and put in putts from challenging distances. However, a major impediment to your Inner Golfer shining through is your Inner Asshole (more later), who malevolently attempts to derail your Inner Golfer .

To avoid Tournamentitis there are several things you can do

Be familiar with the layout, the rules, the holes and the course. There’s nothing so good for your mental well-being as being well prepared for a tournament. Get there a few days early, practice as much as your match fitness will allow, and rest up for at least half a day before Round one. Positively knowing where all the OB is, and knowing the rules for each hole is essential to be relaxed during play. Take time to examine exactly where the OB lines are well ahead of time, and plan your strategy appropriately.

The people who know the rules best usually win.
The people who know the rules best usually win.

Know the rules Knowing the PDGA rules is vital. Go and pay your USD10, and sit the TD’s exam at the PDGA web site, as you will need to examine the rules closely, refreshing yourself with them. The players who know the rules best are best equipped to win. It's $10 you will never regret spending, I promise you.

Have your strategy planned in advance

Having plans for each hole, depending on the wind, so you are not improvising strategy on the fly is key to avoid making bad decisions. And... Stick to your strategy!

There’s more on developing your strategy later in this article. Do not overexert yourself in practice

You should feel fresh as a daisy standing on the teepad of your first basket in Round 1 – not tired from all your practice.

A tired player tries to throw hard. Throwing hard is bad. More later.

Put in a few mental practice rounds

If you are an observant player, then after two rounds on a course, you should know it well enough so you can play mental rounds in your head. When you play your first rounds on a course, examine each hole closely throughout its length, so you have the layout and distances to various obstacles firmly in your mind.

Create your strategy while on the hole, so that it can be as accurate and as close to reality as possible. Where are your best landing areas, and what's the surface of them like? Where is the danger? Prevailing winds? Alternate shots for differing wind directions? You need to consider a lot of possible combinations and permutations when you formulate your strategy. But don't get bogged down in the process. Your strategy needs to be relatively simple and straightforward.

The nights before tournament rounds, I review my strategy for each hole, and play that strategy out in my mind. I never play better in my head, than I can in real life, but in mental games, I don’t make any mistakes, so I get all the birdies I possibly can.