The biggest variable in disc golf, no matter if you’re playing at a brand new course or one you’ve played hundreds of times before, is the wind. I’ve got a couple of tips and tricks that I think will help any player get a better score by better understanding how the wind will affect your throws.
Let’s start with identifying a few types of wind. Later, I’ll circle back and tell you how you can find out which type you’re facing on the course and what to throw once you identify them.
This is the kind of wind that is blowing directly into your face. When confronted with a headwind on the teepad know that all your discs will be more understable (turn more - fade less). So grab a disc that fades more than you would normally need, to throw on the hole. The disc will fight against the wind, and it will glide further than normal. When putting, a headwind will lift your disc up because you expose the underside of the disc. You can compensate by aiming a bit lower than normal and spinning the putter a little faster out of your hand.
This wind is blowing from directly behind you. This is the kind of wind that you’re looking for when you want world record distance. When you’re blessed with a tailwind use it to your advantage. When you’re driving in these conditions you can choose an understable disc to throw; it will have more glide and less turn than normal. You’ll find that a tailwind can add about 10% more distance to your throw in many cases. Putting with a tailwind is tricky, but when isn't putting tricky? The putt will drop more quickly in a tailwind because the air is pushing down onto the top of the disc. You can putt a little higher with a tailwind at your back. I like to aim at the band because I know the putt will drop and I’m less likely to miss high, so I aim high.
These are the trickiest winds because they play havoc with a disc. It all depends on which side of the disc you’re exposing to the wind. If you expose the bottom of the disc to the wind, you will find that the disc is lifted. If you’re throwing a hyzer and the wind is hitting the bottom of the disc, expect the disc to lift higher up and fade significantly more than expected. If you’re throwing an anhyzer and the wind is hitting the top of the disc, expect it to be pushed down quickly and not have time to fade. Crosswinds are the most common, I recommend warming up with a few shots to see how it’s going to affect your round before you start keeping score. Follow the same tips for putting in a crosswind. If the bottom will be exposed your putter will lift high, fade quickly, and not get as much distance. If the top is exposed your putt will drop quickly and not have time to fade.
My first tip is to test the wind off the tee. I like to take my Innova DewFly towel, that I always carry in my bag, and hold it out in front of me. Grab the towel by the top 2 corners and outstretch your arms. If you rotate the towel around you can accurately see which direction the wind is blowing, and how strong it is. I know a lot of folks like to drop a handful of grass, but in my opinion it’s more effective to have the towel because it’s continuous, and you don’t rip up grass around the teepad. You can see just how much the wind is ripping or how calm it is with the towel as well.
Holes are often so long that the wind is different at the teepad than it is at the basket. My next tip is to look around the basket for wind indicators. Treetops are a great gauge of which way the wind is blowing, so is tall grass, and blowing leaves. My favorite thing is when there are flags on top of the baskets, like we have at SDG, It shows the strength of the wind as well as the direction. If the flag is lazily moving around it’s not too windy. We put these there for players because when you’re a couple hundred feet away it’s impossible to know what the wind is doing on the green without the flags.
My next tip is to watch your cardmates throw if you don’t have the box. You can look at all the indicators but the best barometer of what’s going to happen is another disc flying down the fairway before your shot. See what disc they’re throwing, and whether they’re throwing a hyzer or anhyzer shot. Then you can see if there’s more or less wind than you originally thought. Going first is a huge disadvantage on a windy day, so if you’re 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, make sure you’re watching how other throwers’ discs react in the wind.
Also make sure that on windy days you’re throwing some heavy discs. I like to bag a PD2 from Discmania that’s 148 grams. Even though it’s overstable on normal days, when it gets breezy it flies like a leaf on the wind. Be sure you have at least one overstable mid range and driver that are 170+ for weight so that the wind doesn’t deter you from having a great time on the course. Windy days are challenging, but they shouldn’t stop you from having a good time.
The best piece of advice I can give you when it’s windy out is get close to the basket to putt. Instead of running a 40-50 foot putt on a windy day, you’ll have a better score if you get out your approach disc such as an Innova AviarX3 or a Discraft Zone. Play a low shot that sits about 10 feet away from the basket. If you run a long putt on a windy day you run the risk of something horribly spectacular happening to you, much like what happened to Derek Billings. He’s won 22 PDGA events, and was over 1000 rated so he’s no slouch; but bad putting on a windy day can happen to anyone. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all run a putt on a windy day and regretted it. It seems silly, but a 10 foot putt in the wind is sometimes a challenge, and a 30 foot putt can feel impossible in those conditions, so just go with your gut.
So those are my words of wisdom for playing in the wind. How to recognize what you’re facing, what your disc is going to do, and how to compensate for both in shot and disc selection. I hope these tips save you a couple of strokes the next time you’re playing on a windy day.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397
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I’m a sports management student at USM and for the most part I don’t like pay-to-play sports. I’d argue that they’re detrimental to the growth of the sport, target rich people, and ruin the fun nature of sports.
But disc golf is different.