Unless you’re playing disc golf in the second dimension then you’re going to have to deal with elevation. I talked previously about landing zones in a blog. Today we’re going to be talking about how to throw and land on a hill. I’ll cover what to do when you’re throwing from high to low, low to high, and side to side. Learn to respect hills and you’ll do just fine. They’re a great feature on any disc golf course that makes the game harder and more rewarding.
Hills are still one of the trickiest things in disc golf. When pros are playing on temporary courses set up on golf courses the TD does 1 of 2 things to make a basket tricky. They’ll either put it next to a bunker, or put it on a hill. I’m not sure which is harder honestly. Hills can lead to tough putts and bushes, bunkers may just be a single stroke penalty.
So first let’s focus on throwing downhill.
This is the trickiest shot to work with. Your disc is going to be in the air longer so it will have more time to flex and more time to fade. You’ll also naturally tilt the angle down to match the slope of the hill. Make sure that you’re throwing something a little more stable because with nose down anhyzer you won’t want it to flip.
Because overstable discs want to get down they’re perfect for not flying a million feet past the basket. That’s their goal in life, something like the Caiman, Zone, or Tactic are all about getting to the ground and staying there. If you’re looking for an overstable driver you’ll love the Champion Firebird or the Champion Thunderbird. Downhill shots will skip, and sometimes roll down the hill. So my suggestion is to aim slightly in front of your target and plan for the skip. If it’s a shorter distance say 300 feet or fewer I’m a big fan of the Innova Rat. I can throw this disc flat and know that I’ll hit short of the target. It will skip down to the basket and I can have a putt. Here’s a video of pros playing all overstable discs to show you what I’m talking about.
If you’re throwing downhill and you need max distance, say you’re on top of a mountain throwing down. You’re going to want a disc with some extra glide and some turn. Discs that would be perfect for this would be the Shryke or Tern. The other piece of advice is to keep the disc low. The higher up you go, the more the wind affects the disc. That’s how my friend Cam threw my Buzzz SS, 700 feet down a mountain and we never saw it again. Remember this advice is only if you need to throw 500+ feet and have an open field in front of you.
If you’re throwing a more controlled downhill shot be sure to release your disc with the angle of the hill. If you throw flat like a normal drive, the hill goes down and suddenly instead of the normal 10-15 foot high drive you’ve thrown a 60 foot high drive. The wind affects discs much more drastically at that height.
Here’s a great downhill hole for an example. Joe Rovere throws his Roc, an overstable mid range off the tee. You can see that the disc with nose down, it’s got a little anhyzer and the disc lands in a great position for his upshot. Players who try to throw an understable distance driver will miss their landing zone and be forced into difficult upshots.
How about throwing uphill?
I’m going to credit Uriyah Kelley in this blog for talking me through his decision making when I caddied for him at the Don’t Poke the Bear tournament. Hole 1 of the Grizzly course is a monster of an uphill shot. It’s an uphill drive followed by an uphill upshot, so it’s almost 2 drives on an open hole.
He took out his Mamba for the drive. It’s a very understable distance driver so when you’re throwing it up the hill you get the maximum glide out of the disc. You want something understable that has glide because your disc will have time to fade out if thrown properly. Understable discs will have time for a full flex, and even if they’re short they won’t be too far to the side if overturned. An overstable disc is going to want to get down too quickly and cost you lots of distance. If you’re looking for a great understable disc for uphill drives I recommend the Sidewinder or Roadrunner as both excellent options. You can use any flippy disc, or one that has lots of turn. Try out all your understandable discs to find the right one for you.
Let’s take a look at a huge uphill shot together. Here’s Hole 2 of the Toboggan course in Michigan. The first shot is all about placement in the fairway, and the second shot is the uphill approach. You can see here that Paul is throwing an understable driver that’s fighting to the right the entire time. If you want that same throw then go to a hill and practice throwing your understable discs up there.
Side to side shots.
One of the more difficult shots is to land on a hill when you’re throwing next to it. Try to make sure that your disc is landing with the bottom flat. If your disc hits the hill at a 90 degree angle, it’s going to roll. One of the most important things you can do is have your disc land softly.
Putters and mid ranges are my preferred choice with hills on the side. I try to match the slope of the hill with my shot if possible. So if the hill is sloping from high to low, and it’s on my right side, I throw a right hand backhand. My putter will hyzer and match the hill the whole way. When it finally connects the whole bottom of the disc lands together. If I throw a sidearm at the hill and my disc hits the hill on an angle it has the potential to roll.
Aim above the basket. Not height wise, but to the higher side of the basket. Discs will skip and scuttle slightly down the hill. That should give you the closest putt possible. If you’re scared of putting downhill (which is fine) aim right for the basket and have a slightly uphill putt back at it.
Here’s Paul McBeth getting a comically bad roll. His destroyer hits the hill at the exact angle you don’t want. With hard ground, it bounces and rolls for 7 seconds and a hundred feet OB. This hole challenges my earlier advice about throwing a forehand to match the slope of the hill. There isn’t much room to get a forehand that far, I’d say he got unlucky but that he also could have considered a lower and harder shot to get to the same place but have less of an angle for the disc.
I hope this helps you when you’re out there trying to figure out what a hill is going to do to your disc.
Let me know if you have any questions about hill throwing or have any great stories to share.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397