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How To Play Disc Golf Doubles: Formats & Tips
Alex WilliamsonWriter, Editor
Jun 11, 2020 • 9 min read
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A team at the 2019 Amateur World Doubles Championships. Credit: PDGA

For many, much of the attraction of disc golf is other people, whether that means regular meetups with old pals or the numerous chances the sport creates to make new friends. This affinity for playing with company is probably a big reason why many disc golfers love doubles—a format where teams of two face off against each other.

But there isn’t just one set way to play disc golf doubles. In this article, we cover how various doubles formats work as well as how to pick teams, play with odd-numbered groups, and avoid common beginner mistakes.

Did You Know UDisc Has a “Teams” Option?

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You can now create teams in the UDisc app.

Disc golfers’ passion for doubles and other team matchups has been clear to us at UDisc for quite a while. Giving players the ability to create scorecards with teams was one of the most-requested additions to the app for years.

Just last week, that update arrived, and it’s already been utilized thousands of times. You’ll see the “Teams” option any time you create a scorecard with multiple people. To learn more, read all about how to use this new tool in our Support article about it.

Picking Teams

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At some leagues, teams are decided with playing cards.

At Leagues

At a doubles league that isn’t bring-your-own partner, there’s no set way of picking teams.

Playing cards are one possibility, with players who draw matching colors and numbers/face cards teaming up (e.g., spade King and club King would be teammates). There could also be a digital team generator, an organizer blindly drawing players’ minis from a box or bag, or any number of other options.

If you’re confused at a league about what’s going on when teams are getting picked, just ask someone.

Let UDisc Choose

One way to pick teams when playing with friends is to let UDisc do it for you.

When you hit the "Teams" option while creating your scorecard, the players you've chosen are automatically sorted at random into teams of two. If you want to pick your teams another way, it's very easy to move around which players are on what team or create teams larger than two.

Flipping Discs

The most popular low-tech option for picking doubles teams when playing in small groups is likely flipping discs. How this works is all players take a disc from their bag and flip it in the air at the same time. Players whose discs land with the same side facing up become teammates.

If this worked out on the first flip, a result could look like this:

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Four players flipped, teams were decided by who landed with the same disc sides facing up.

Sometimes, only one person’s disc lands with a different side up. In this case, this first odd person out (OP1) doesn’t flip again, and the others do. The next time there’s an odd person out, they join OP1 and become their teammate. Here’s a basic example of how this process could go:

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Note: If Flip 2 had resulted in "bottom, bottom, top," the person who landed top-up would have been the odd person out and joined OP1.

The same ideas apply when there are more than four people, with smaller and smaller groups breaking off based on how their discs land. Any time there are just two people with the same side up in these groups, they become a team and stop flipping.

Do What's Fair

If you’re part of a group in which everyone’s abilities are well known but vary widely, it’s normal to just make teams everyone agrees are fair.

Popular Formats

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A team at the 2019 Amateur World Doubles Championships. Credit: PDGA

Below we explain how the most commonly-used doubles formats work.

Note that our focus here is on relatively casual doubles, and there are formats we don't cover. If you're looking to dive into the more technical rules of formal doubles competition or to learn how to play less common formats, this PDGA page is the place to go.

Best Throw

When most disc golfer's hear "doubles," Best Throw (sometimes called Captain's Choice) is what first comes to mind. As the name suggests, it's when a team always picks the best throw from one of the team members as its lie.

This format is a great way for beginners to enjoy rounds more and learn from players with more experience. The ability to always choose the best throw is likely to yield far better results than newer players are used to. And if they're teamed up with a player with more skill and knowledge, they could get advice and tips for improvement or learn just by watching.

Here's how this format could work on a par 3:

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The Xs indicate disregarded throws.

1. Teammates 1 and 2 (T1 and T2) throw from the tee.
2. T1 lands not too far from the basket. T2 lands out of bounds (OB).
3. The players choose to play from the lie near the basket. (stroke 1)
4. T1 misses the putt. T2 makes it. 
5. The team chooses to take the made putt. (stroke 2: birdie)

If T1 had made the putt in this example, T2 wouldn't have needed to putt.

There is no rule about who has to throw first from any lie in this format, and strategic thinkers often take advantage of that.

For example, sometimes teams consist of a highly skilled player and another who's more unpredictable. Letting the unpredictable player to go first in some cases would let the more skilled player know whether they have license to go for high-risk, high-reward shots or need to play it safe.

One other thing about this format is it shouldn't be confused with Best Score. In this format, both team members complete a hole as normal and take whichever teammate's score is lowest.

Alternate Shot (Pure & Alternating Tee)

For those looking to add a little more unpredictability to their doubles rounds, Alternate Shot is a great way to do it. In this format, teammates take turns throwing from where the other throws until one teammate gets the disc in the basket.

Here's how this format could work on a par 3:

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1. Teammate 1 (T1) throws from the tee. (stroke 1)
2. Teammate 2 (T2) throws the team's next shot from where T1's shot landed. T2's shot lands near the basket. (stroke 2)
3. T1 putts from the lie and misses but lands near the basket. (stroke 3)
4. T2 makes the putt from where T1 landed. (stroke 4: bogey)
5. T1 throws the team's drive from the next tee.

Another version of Alternate Shot is one where it's predetermined which teammate will take which tee shot no matter who finishes the previous hole. T1 could tee on all odd holes and T2 all even or vice versa.

Worst Throw/Opponent’s Choice

The most challenging form of doubles out there is Worst Throw. When playing this, the opposing team gets to pick which of your team's shots you have to take. Also both teammates have to make a putt before the hole is complete (if you waive this rule, you're playing Tough Throw).

Here's how this format could work on a par 3:

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1. The Xs indicate disregarded throws. 
2. The discs on top of the basket indicate made putts.

1. Teammates 1 and 2 (T1 and T2) throw from the tee. One lands in the fairway, the other OB. 
2. The team's opponents choose the disc that landed OB. (stroke 1 + 2 with OB penalty)
3. T1 and T2 players throw from the chosen lie. T1 lands near the basket and T2 lands in the basket.
4. The team's opponents choose the disc that isn't in the basket. (stroke 3)
5. Both players make the putt from the chosen lie. (stroke 4: bogey)

Like we said: challenging.

Also, if anything about how we dealt with OB in this example didn't make sense, check out our article explaining OB rules here.

Playing With an Odd Number of Players

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Though you could make odd numbers work in other formats, it's most often done with Best Throw. Generally, you deal with an odd number of players in that format by having one person play alone and allowing them one extra throw per hole. For example, if their first tee shot lands OB, they could opt to re-throw the tee shot, but then they couldn't take any extra throws for the rest of the hole.

Three important things:

1. The lone player can finish holes without ever taking their extra shot.

2. When the lone player opts to throw twice from the same lie, they can still choose their first or second throw.

3. Whether it's a par 3, 4, or 5, the lone player always gets just one extra throw.

It might seem unfair at first that everyone else gets two cracks at every throw, but the logic is that it's far easier to correct your own mistakes than react to someone else's. If you don't like that logic and are playing casually, just make some rules up that your group does find fair.

The player who has to play by themselves is called many things throughout the disc golfing world. "Cali" is likely the most common. We admit we're not sure where that name comes from.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

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The last thing we'll touch on are a few tips about mistakes to avoid during your first few doubles rounds. These tips apply pretty much exclusively to Best Throw.

1. Don't pick up any disc from your team until you know for sure which lie you want to take. Once a disc is picked up, you have to take the other lie.

2. Resist the urge to pick up your marker disc after your shot if you go first.

3. Don't play safe when there's no need to. If your partner's throw lands in a great position, try to do something even better no matter how risky it is (barring if you're worried about losing a disc). There's no need for lay-ups or safe shots if your team already has one good shot.

4. Don't forget to strategize. If you're playing with someone willing to talk strategy, do it. Learn each others strengths and weaknesses and think a little about how best to attack each shot.

Enjoy Your Next Doubles Date!

We hope this post has made you feel ready to take on your first doubles round or helped you discover a new way to enjoy rounds with friends.

Undoubtedly you'll encounter variations to the norms we talked about, or maybe even create some yourself in time. If you encounter something you have questions about or think we left out something big, feel free to drop our editor, Alex Williamson, a line at alex@udisc.com.

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