The 2012 World Championships happened to take place in the city I then called home: Charlotte, North Carolina. That's how a friend and I ended up being part of an excited group of spectators following the tournament's lead card.
Knowing next to nothing about the professional side of the sport, we naturally joined a group of people who ran up a wooded fairway to get a much better view of the action than the one behind the tee pad. Yeah, some guy holding a sign that said "Quiet" had yelled at the group not to go past him. But this was just disc golf. Making some dudes with names we'd never heard of—McBeth, Wysocki, and Johansen were three of them—wait a little longer to chuck discs in the park we played at all the time couldn't be that big of a deal.
Of course, for that particular group of "dudes" at that particular time, it was a huge deal. Looking back with the experience I have now as both a reporter who has covered large events and a competitive player, the delay in play and general sense of chaos caused by the gallery I was a part of could have really affected those athletes at a crucial moment. It's easy to see I was simply being a lousy spectator.
With the sport growing, it's likely that more and more people will, like me in 2012, go watch large disc golf events without knowing much about the etiquette expected of them. Since one of the most spectated events in our sport—Worlds—is here, it seemed like the perfect time to put together a few basic guidelines to share with possible gallery members. With the help of a few pros who are no strangers to large crowds, I came up with the seven rules for spectators below.
1. Silence is golden
Nearly all the players I spoke with said that if someone is throwing, the crowd should be as quiet as possible. That doesn't mean just not talking, but also turning off cell phones.
Breakout Estonian star of the European Open, Albert Tamm, really emphasized this point, saying, "When you see a quiet sign, then it is there for a purpose."
2. Noise can also be golden
You know all that noise you were holding in while someone threw a shot? You can let it all out if that shot ends up in a good position. Pros absolutely love claps and cheers in the right places. Still, there is room for interpretation about what the "right place" is.
"I'd say don't be afraid to clap and cheer loudly for a shot or player you like; we appreciate it!" said 2017 United States Disc Golf Champion Nate Sexton, charging spectators only with showing approval for things that tickle their fancy.
Last year's Open Women World Champion Paige Bjerkaas went a little farther.
"Clap for any shot that isn’t bad," Bjerkaas said. "Even if it’s just a tap-in or an easy upshot that was executed right, clap! We love the gallery being hyped!"
Clearly, it's your choice, but I don't think Sexton, Bjerkaas, or any player would object to raucous applause after any of their successful attempts, no matter how small the success is.
3. Don't move unless asked
Like talking, moving in the line of sight of a player during a throw is a clear faux pas. However, even moving before a throw might not be the best idea. Sometimes spectators move because they believe they might be in a player's sightline during an important upcoming putt or throw. But, as German pro Simon Lizotte put it, it's a lot better to "only move if asked to move." Often, waiting for a person or group to finish switching spots can be more distracting than if they had just stayed put.
4. Give players space during play
It's natural to want to be as close to the action or your favorite pro as possible, but there's such a thing as "too close." Players are excited to have people there watching, but they're also doing a job and need to focus to do it. That means spectators shouldn't crowd fairways as players advance to their next shots, as Tamm pointed out.
"Whether it is on the tee pad or after a shot on the fairway, don't rush over players," Tamm said. "It is not easy to fight through the masses."
Also, as Lizotte mentioned, all requests for autographs or pictures should wait until rounds are over.
5. Be aware of what you wear
According to Bjerkaas, you'll want to be conscious "not to wear distracting colors." When asked to elaborate on what she meant by that, she added, "I know people have complained about anything super bright. But also, I’ve heard some complaints about brighter shades of red."
6. Follow the rules
A message to my former self: If there are ropes to designate spectator zones or someone on the tournament staff asks you to stay in or move from a location, respect them. Jumping or going under ropes or not doing what you're asked will only lead to trouble and likely cause distraction and frustration for players, you, and and the people running the tournament.
7. Have fun!
Though many of these rules are things not to do, it's important to emphasize that enjoying your time in the gallery is the whole point of being in it. The pros want you to have fun watching them, and by keeping the rules above in mind, you can help assure they give you the best show possible.