We’ve all dealt with being deep in the trees, behind a bush, perpendicular to a mando, on the bad side of a rock wall, or in some kind of disc golf “jail”. And it leads to one of three things happening. The hero shot (uncommon), the failed hero shot (more common), and the pitch out (the safe/smart play).
At some point we have to “take your medicine” as Big Jerm says. This week the blog is going to be about pitching out from the disc golf rough. When to pitch out, how to effectively pitch out, and what discs are the ones to pick when you’re pitching out of a bad spot.
Touring pros are excellent at pitching out of the rough. They’re trying to avoid big numbers, and the easiest way to avoid a double or triple bogey is to add one stroke to your score playing safe, instead of trying to make big shots all the time. Big numbers are the way you turn a good round into a mediocre one.
I found a really great example of having to pitch out that all Sabattus players can empathize with.
Here’s hole #9 on our Hawk Course.
There’s a tight tunnel after about 125 feet. The fairway stays pretty much 10-12 feet apart for another 300 feet. The wood chips lead to big skips around the basket if you throw something fast, and just outside C1 all around the basket is a hill.
This hole is always the hardest according to UDisc stats that I get for being a course ambassador. It averages somewhere between .5 and .75 strokes above par.
Paige Pierce in the 2016 United States Women’s Disc Golf Tournament had an unfortunate early release and a bad kick on a tight tunnel shot. Instead of trying a hero shot with a hyzer flip high glide disc at an impossible angle, she took the safe route and pitched out to the middle of the fairway.
Sometimes you don’t really have much of an option. Here’s Charlie Goodpasture at the 2022 Maine State Disc Golf Championships at Pineland Farms. He’s in a playoff with Josh DiBattista on hole 2 of the Patriot Course. His drive clips the wrong side of a tree and he lands in the deep brush with almost no shot to get out.
In Paige’s case she’s able to save par in the second round of the tournament. Charlie is unfortunate to come to a spot where he has to then make a 100 foot downhill putt to continue.
Taking the conservative pitch out has been a play I recommend to many players. Hero shots are incredible when they work. But unless it’s do or die, you’re often better off taking a pitch out and giving yourself a chance later in the round.
One thing that I want to point out about both of their shots was that they chose stable discs in a premium plastic blend with low glide. When you are pitching out you want to know which way the disc is going to go. Focus all your energy on hitting that little gap with something that’s reliable and going to fade.
What to Throw When You Pitch Out
I recommend trying something like the Aviar3 in star plastic. It’s slow enough so that you don’t need to be a pro to throw it. It’s durable enough for when you do use it for short approaches. And with a flat top it handles if you need to punch it through a gap with a little forehand.
You can use many utility discs to get yourself a pitch out. But I think it’s important you use something stable and with almost no glide. You want to throw it as far as you want it to go, gliding past the landing zone will just put you in jail on the other side of the fairway.
If you’re looking for a driver that can take care of your pitch outs I recommend trying out the Thought Space Omen. It’s beefy and I love using it for touch flex shots. It’s got almost no glide so I can punch it through short gaps and not worry about it doing too much. I think it’s a slightly over overstable Innova Firebird.
Take your time.
Walk out your landing zone and pick somewhere you’d like to land. Find a spot you’d like to have your disc land. I usually aim for the middle of the fairway because if I get a little to the side it’s not as big of a deal. But you might find that you need to go past a tree or stump to have a shot.
It’s very tempting to be mad at yourself for having to pitch out. You might think “I can’t believe I hit that tree.” or “This is ruining my great round.” You might just get to your lie, drop your mini, pick up the same disc and throw it back towards the fairway.
Take a breath. Everyone misses and hits a tree sometimes. That pitch out is important because it’s setting you up to make your next shot. James Conrad pitched out at worlds 2021 on the last hole. It’s not the end of your round if you pitch out.
One thing I want to point out in the Charlie Goodpasture clip is how long he’s figuring out his shot. While it may be a 10 foot pitch out, it’s still a shot that you’re going to throw. It may be one that you’re not really practicing very often. Take your time, the PDGA gives you 30 seconds for every shot to line it up and throw. If you’re looking for tips on pitching out to get a better spot, try this video from Andrew Fish and Gatekeeper Media. This teaches you about the basics of laying up, and while we’re trying to get back onto the fairway, the principles are pretty similar.
But I want to take the hero shot, I don’t want to lose a stroke.
It’s worth weighing out how much better your next shot is going to be if you make a hero shot. Will you save a stroke or will your upshot just be easier? If you’re just out here to make your upshot easier, take the high percentage upshot.
I define the hero shot as hitting that one gap 40 feet away that’s 2 discs wide. Sure you could do it, but realistically you’d hit it maybe 1 time in 10, or 1 in 20. It may be over some trees that you might be able to throw over. There’s lots of hero shots, but they’re something we see on Jomez, not on our home courses each week.
Paul doesn’t pitch up to the corner for an easier upshot and instead gets the 3. It’s a great example of a hero shot and you can hear Jerm and Ulibarri impressed by that shot. Paul goes on to win the tournament by 3 strokes. It was a calculated gamble by the best player in the world who has a 400 foot forehand.
There are 3 things that can happen when you decide to go for a risky/hero shot.
- You make the gap just like you planned. You have now improved your lie to where it’s like you never had a bad shot. This is the rarest outcome, but
- You miss and now you’re in a bad spot. (You waste 1 shot, and have to pitch out)
- You miss and now you’re in an okay spot but basically you’re not able to advance much further. (Basically a wasted shot)
Now think about what happens when you pitch out.
- You get to the fairway and get a good look at the basket for your next shot.
- You miss your pitch out and hit a tree (you probably would have missed the hero shot if you can’t execute a pitch out.)
If you’re looking to get better at disc golf consistently I recommend practicing your pitch out. Get a good couple of stable, premium, low glide discs. The Aviar3 and Omen are great for this. Take them to places that are a bad tree kick off the fairway and practice getting back onto the fairway for your next shot.
Take your time and focus on that shot. Missing a pitch out because you’re not concentrating is a bad feeling, I promise you.
The pitch out is a shot in disc golf that everyone has to do sometimes. It’s a skill, and practicing it will make you a more consistent disc golfer.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397
On a personal note, this is blog #150 for me. I’d like to thank you for reading any and or all of my disc golf blogs. I’m really fortunate to work at a job that lets me write about anything disc golf related that I like. Thanks for being a part of my journey with me.