Way back in 2005 I walked into an amazing “leisure shop” called The Lazy Frog on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. It was a shop with a plethora of games and fun related things to help you relax properly while you enjoyed your stay on the island — as the store slogan implied, it was “Dedicated to Leisure”. It was similar (loosely) to other fun stores I have been in, but then I saw the wall of discs.
I had heard of disc golf, but have never played it and in all honesty, never respected it.
After looking over all of the discs and reading their flight ratings, and looking at the Disc Golf posters explaining what the discs do during optimum conditions, my brother and I decided to each pick one out. When we arrived at the local disc golf course, not only were we over-confident on how we thought we could easily throw a disc golf disc well, we overall treated the sport like an activity to pass the time, not a sport that it truly is.
After our naive and very pompous ignorant first throws, everything changed — we immediately realized we knew nothing about disc golf. We were officially hooked.
The world of Disc Golf is vast, and understanding it all can be a bit intimidating. Weights, flight ratings, speed, fade, turn, glide, etc. The following will be what I consider an essential guide for all the beginners out there.
There are a few things to consider when picking your first disc. Disc type (Putter, Mid Range, or Driver), Weight, Diameter (often overlooked) and flight characteristics.
I and most recommend a Mid Range for your first disc. A mid range gives you the best of both worlds — stability & predictability like a putter, and distance that can compare to a driver as a beginner.
A lot of people would jump to tell you a certain make and model disc to buy as a beginner, but I want to first explain weight and diameter. Usually a beginner does not have a lot of arm speed, so a low weight mid range, 165-170, is a good choice. There are certainly lower weight mid ranges, but low weights down to 145 will go crazy in the wind, becoming unpredictable.
Low weight has a couple of advantages for the beginner. It has the natural tendency to project more glide and distance. A good metaphor would be this: If you were to make a paper airplane and a tin-foil airplane and threw them with the same force, speed, and release, which one would go farther? The paper airplane. The lighter weight allows more glide… BUT… If you were to actually do this plane experiment, you would notice the paper would be much more sporadic in movement compared to the heavier tin-foil plane. The tin-foil most likely landed where you expected it to. That’s why you shouldn’t use minimum weight discs, and over-weighted discs as a beginner… The wind alone will overpower the advantages of discs below 154 or so grams, and without conditioned technique heavy discs may be discouraging.
Short and sweet, the majority of disc diameter is about comfort. Wide is stable, but low distance capability. Most Drivers are built low diameter for fast rotation and spin, maximizing distance; mid ranges can vary depending on it’s design for distance, and putters are close to mids for diamater, usually wider, but do vary in my experience. Since putting is all about feel and finesse, testing different putters is key to a successful round. I personally like slightly smaller diameter discs for mid-ranges and drivers, but I do not have large hands. I have been told that you should fit the size of the disc to your hand and this certainly makes sense! Small hands, smaller disc. I cannot stress enough about personal comfort. People like me can shove ideas down your throat all day long but at the end of the day, all that matters is the time you put in to find what’s most comfortable for you.
Disc Flight Characteristics
Flight characteristics are usually printed on the disc or can be easily found online or on a poster at a disc golf shop.
Speed: How fast you need to throw it for it to perform the way it was designed. As a beginner, roughly 5 is the way to go, usually the speed of a mid-range.
Glide: That beautiful soar before it loses speed and starts to fade.
Turn: Also known as high speed turn, for good reason. This is what the disc will do almost immediately after release, a lot of times going slightly to the right for right handed back handed throwers. A negative number would indicate this behavior.
Fade: Also known as low speed fade. This is how much the disc will go to the left at the end of flight for right handed back hand throwers.
A lot of disc manufactures show you a picture of the intended flight of the disc now. This is very helpful and puts all those numbers into perspective!
Putters are shaped much like Frisbees, and are designed to glide straight into the basket, and you shouldn’t worry about it turning or fading much. Mid-ranges vary, but usually go pretty straight. Drivers are a different story. You need to pay special attention to what’s printed on that disc, or what the manufacturer has provided on their website, poster, etc.
In my opinion, as a beginner you should not be throwing a driver. Master your mid-range first, and most mid’s don’t have a large variance in characteristics either, your first job is to just get use to throwing a disc golf disc.
Understable, Stable & Overstable
Understable when thrown flat will naturally fly to the right for right handed back handed throwers. Stable should fly straight when thrown flat. Overstable will fly left when released flat. Remember the natural flight of any disc will always have some sort of fade, even a putter, at the end of the flight. Proper accommodation is part of the game.
Anhyzer Vs. Hyzer
Anhyzer and Hyzer is how you release your disc — if you don’t release the disc flat, you are doing one of the two. If you angle the outside edge of the disc down, as if you were leaning over at the time of release, that’s a hyzer. It will create a more overstable outcome. When angling the outside edge up, that’s an anhyzer. It will create an understable flight. The outside edge, the other side of where you are gripping the disc, should not be confused with the nose — the nose is the front aim point. The only time the nose should be adjusted is with elevation shots, and that can be up for debate and a personal choice. Don’t worry about this right now! Only worry about the basics.
Now that you know the basics and beyond, the most important thing you should take away from this post is when you are beginning, master a mid-range disc. Learn and experiment, but don’t switch discs too often in the beginning or you won’t master your muscle memory and retain the dynamics of disc flight.
If you are unsure of a mid to start with, I have to recommend the most popular mid-ranges the Discraft Buzzz, or the Innova Roc. Nowadays, there are many to choose from. If you have read my posts before, I stress that Disc Golf is a personal experience, and I do not believe there are certain discs that are superior to others since there are too many variables player to player. Pay attention to their flight characteristics and make your own educated purchase.
How do I properly throw the darn thing? Well, I’ve already written too much for one post. Below is a great video from DGA for throwing off the tee. Don’t disregard this information when you are in the middle of the fairway either. The reason the video instructor spins after release is to teach momentum, and I highly recommend it as a beginner. As you progress, you won’t need a 360 degree turn after release, but I can’t stress the importance of momentum enough. I am still working on it myself!
I Hope This Helps!
Recently I had the pleasure of playing White Oak Park in Dallas, GA. A beautiful open hilly course — nice little pond that comes into to play for holes after 14 too. The air was a bit brisk, but certainly a good day to hear chains as always. After about 6 holes I noticed my go-to Sidewinder not having the same glide it usually has. This made me think…
I’m not a meteorologist or a physicist, but proper disc weight in adverse conditions, no matter the skill level, is extremely important!
Over the years I have heard that low weight discs (roughly 150-168) are easier for distance, but hard to release and control consistently, especially with wind. Heavier discs are naturally more over-stable (slightly), harder to gain distance, but consistent. I find that this is very true.
BUT… I’ve yet to read about disc weights and how to adjust them according to the weather, mainly temperature.
I found that throwing my 172g Sidewinder feels like throwing a 190g when it’s coat-wearing time. It sunk like the Titanic on my first moderate up-shot this last weekend. I bought a 154g disc today to compare, and I had a tremendous improvement.
I highly recommend adjusting your disc weight according to the outside temperature. In these low temperatures of Winter (high 40’s right now here in Georgia) my go-to weight is 160 now, but I am not a high speed thrower. The beauty of Disc Golf is you need to find what works best for YOU. Right now, for me, it seems that lighter weight cuts the cold air a bit better.
Peripheral Blood Flow
While playing at White Oak, the great J.T. of this blog made an EXCELLENT point. When the weather is cold, our hands don’t have as much blood flow and do not move and react as they normally do. So naturally when we throw the disc it may not have the same release point, usually late-whipping it way off track — to the right for right handed back handed throwers.
The way he remedied this is by using a modified fan grip on his drives as he would a long approach shot. Since the fingers aren’t tucked in the rim, they don’t need to get out of the way in time, giving you a smooth release. As long as you have grip on the disc and can still snap it, this is a fantastic modification for cold weather conditions.
As always, these points and tips are something to read, enjoy, and go by – not to live by. Disc Golf is truly amazing because it’s personal. In order to become great you have to practice A LOT and define your own game. I just hope the tips and stories we share here at Dogleg Disc Golf steer you into a happy and successful direction.