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Tournament Talk: What should I do if I have to play with somebody I don’t like?

Tournament Talk: What should I do if I have to play with somebody I don’t like?

How to improve your score and your experience.

Sunday, September 13, 2020 - 11:30

Dealing with a toxic cardmate can be a big distraction if you let it. Photo: PDGA Media / Alyssa Van Lanen

The short answer is, you must accept that you are competing in a sport and you don’t get to handpick who you get to spend all of your time with. Sometimes your competition is not somebody who you would want to go to lunch with afterwards or who you would want to marry your firstborn. That’s just the way it is.

This is not an attempt at some form of tough-love coaching; it’s actually an essential mindset to deal with this situation. If somebody on your card is a person you don’t want to be golfing with, the moment you start thinking “I wish I didn’t have to play with that person“ or “oh man, this is going to suck” you’ve already been beaten in your mind.  Acceptance is the first step to having the proper mindset when playing with someone you don’t click with.  This is going to happen from time to time and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. 

Once you’ve accepted this, there are however some practical approaches that can also help you through the round.

One is self-isolation. You are not required to interact with anyone in your group beyond sharing your score or occasionally helping to make a ruling. You can keep a bit of distance from the group, step up when it’s your turn to throw then just walk away and keep to yourself. Simply turning your back is a highly effective approach to keeping someone you don’t want to talk to you from engaging. Doing this IS NOT RUDE. You paid money to play in the event and you are allowed to do what you need to do to concentrate. This may not be ideal, especially if you desire to socialize and have a good time, but you may have to choose between a little more fun and the best possible score.

Another option is the pairing off approach. This works best for my personality because as much as I am competing to win, I also enjoy the social aspect of the game and I don’t want to give that up. I just walk down the fairway next to my chosen buddy that round, I stand with them waiting for my turn to tee off, and generally chat with that person while minimizing interactions with the other person in question. Again, doing this IS NOT RUDE. You should always do what is best for your game and if someone has a problem with doing this, it’s their problem, not yours.

Regardless of how much that player affects your fun, never forget that not one single thing they do (to your mindset) can affect the outcome of your throw. If something they did or said frustrated, annoyed, or distracted you, at the end of the day that is 100% on you. You are responsible for your own mental game and short of grabbing your arm or making noise before before you release the disc, they cannot prevent you from making successful throws.

One special note for up and coming juniors and amateurs. You should welcome this type of scenario and consider it important training for future events when the stakes are much higher. If the first time you find yourself stuck with a player you do not like happens on the lead card at the World Championships, you’d be in pretty big trouble, but if you’ve had years of opportunities to learn how to deal with this, then you’re not gonna sweat it when it happens on a bigger stage.

Scott Stokely is a former world No. 2 and the only player to hold the world distance record simultaneously for both backhand and forehand. His autobiography, Growing Up Disc Golf, is available at, and he can be reached for private disc golf lessons through his website


Wouldn't turning your back violate 812.B2 and risk being called for a courtesy violation?
(A player must Watch the other members of the group throw in order to ensure rules compliance and to help find discs.)

Scott was specifically talking about turning your back as a subtle way to discourage the player from opening up a conversation with you. Scott was not talking about turning your back from the player while they are completing a throw. Unless that player is somehow trying to make conversation directed at you in the middle of their throw, your concern doesn’t apply.

Great point! You do have a responsibility to make potential rulings and spot discs. I was referring to just not engaging in conversation if you choose not to.

Oh my gosh another shameless plug for your book, Stokely. Albeit great advice! 3140 is tops on my list of desired cardmates for sure. The conversation is always very interesting and never about dg...awesome! Feel blessed that in over 250 events over 25 years i've only encountered 1 PB-oops i mean DB. Love ya SS!!