How do I pick the right disc for a shot?
This question is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of the sport, but is still commonly overlooked by new players.
Rather than engaging with the many factors that can impact this decision, it can feel easier to just use the same disc or same throw you always use. However, every situation is different and requires a different strategy and equipment to be conquered.
Let's talk about the 5 major elements that should be considered when trying to pick the right disc for a shot.
1. How far is the shot?
Easily found on Udisc, the hole sign, or estimated using your own eyes, a shot’s distance is one of the first things to consider when picking a disc because it will quickly help you narrow down to putter, midrange, fairway or distance driver.
Although this consideration takes players in different directions based on how far they throw, the end result is always the same: pick a disc that gives you a reliable option of making it within putting range.
Doing some homework on your own skill set will help in this decision: Do you need a driver to make it 275 ft or can you make it there with a midrange or even a putter?
Every player is different, and there’s no shame in discing up or down based on what works for you.
Judging distance from the tee can be easy if found on Udisc or the hole sign, but it can be a little trickier once on the fairway.
Experience can help you a lot in these situations, but use of a Disc Golf Rangefinder can be a significant help as well!
2. What is the shot shape?
Once you’ve decided on the category of disc based on the shot’s distance, it's time to consider the shape the shot needs to be.
Can you go straight or do you need to turn to the left or right? Is the turn gradual or sharp? Are you throwing uphill, downhill, or flat? These are just some of the factors that will influence the shot shape.
For a straight shot, throwing a stable to overstable disc on a flat angle should result in success.
Shots that turn left or right are a bit more difficult to approach.
At this point you’d have to weigh between going backhand or forehand. Everyone’s got a preference and this is where you have to decide between choosing an easier shot with your weaker throw or forcing yourself to do a more difficult line with your primary throw.
Either way, the decision should be easy because in this scenario you’re only turning the disc one way, either right or left.
A stable to overstable disc put on the right hyzer or anhyzer angle will get you to the basket. If the turn requires a sharper hyzer line, choose a disc with more overstability. If the turn requires a sharper anhyzer line, choose a disc with a more neutral, stable flight path.
This holds true for backhand and forehand throws, so it will largely come down to personal preference.
More difficult still are shots that require you to turn the disc in multiple directions. Often because of the shape of the hole or due to trees and other obstacles, you’ll be forced to swing the disc out one direction and then have it fade back the other.
These shots require more technical throws like an s-shot or hyzer flip. These shots consist of throwing the disc on an angle opposite of the way they want to fly, so that they will bank in one direction and then the other.
An s-shot happens by putting your most overstable disc on an anhyzer angle, so that it flies on that line until fighting out of it and fading the other way.
Similarly, a hyzer flip happens by putting an understable disc on a hyzer angle, so that it flies on that line until fighting out of it and “flipping up” flat, and then gently fades the opposite way. These shots can be difficult to achieve because there are a lot of things to manage, but sometimes they are what a shot calls for.
The best way to approach these decisions is to consider the other properties of the disc like the glide, turn, and fade. Just like speed impacts a shot's distance, these factors influence other directions like height, flight path, and landing angle.
Knowing your bag well and what each disc you carry is good for is key in this decision. Ideally, every disc you bag is bagged for a specific shot or 2 and can make this process even easier.
3. What is the wind direction?
You should also consider weather conditions when picking a disc to throw, with the wind’s direction being on the top of the list.
While headwinds will make your discs much more understable, tailwind makes them slightly more overstable and easier to throw farther distances.
Crosswinds also have major effects. Not only can crosswinds push the disc in the direction they are blowing, but they also affect its altitude.
If the top of the disc is exposed to the direction the wind is coming from (for example, a right hand backhand hyzer in left to right winds) then the disc will get pushed down. Alternatively, if the bottom of the disc is exposed to the direction the wind is coming from (right hand backhand hyzer in right to left wind) then it will get lifted up.
With this in mind, there are a few things to consider.
In a headwind, pick a more overstable disc than you normally would.
In a tailwind, it might be wise to disc down because the wind will do some of the distance work for you.
Lastly, in a crosswind, you need to decide if you want the disc to be lifted up or pushed down, which might affect the shot shape you go for.
If you need more help understanding the wind, be sure to check out THIS ARTICLE.
4. What is on the way to, near, and beyond the basket or landing zone?
Up to this point we’ve discussed how to get within putting range, but our decision making is not done yet.
Making it within putting range is only half the battle as oftentimes there are still trees, other obstacles, and hazards nearby that can stop you from making your putt. Sometimes you need to land in a certain location within putting range to have a look at the basket.
This is where more subtle, but just as important, decisions come into play.
For example,faster discs and firmer plastics create more skip when they land, while slower discs and softer plastics often absorb more of the impact and will stay put better. This is something to keep in mind and use to your advantage.
Similarly If there are hazards on one side of the hole, changing the stability of the disc is a good way to ensure you avoid that area.
The angle or slope of the ground near the basket can also be a factor in some situations. If the ground is sloping down from right to left for instance, a RHBH player should choose a forehand shot rather than a backhand to prevent the disc from rolling away when it hits the hillside.
At this point, you’ve hopefully narrowed it down to just a couple of options. Now it is time to consider your own skill set and play style.
Out of the few remaining options, which do you feel most confident in? What has been working for you recently? Sure there is the traditional “right throw” for each hole, but if that throw isn’t in your skillset, then it's not really the right throw.
It's important to play to your own skill set instead of trying to do a shot that everyone claims is the right choice.
You may have 2 shot options to choose from, but ultimately you should go with your gut and throw the shot you have the best chance at executing.
If this means choosing a turnover back hand rather than a forehand, then you know you need to choose an understable disc rather than an overstable one.
Picking the right disc for a shot is the bread and butter of disc golf.
It's not enough to just have a strong arm. It's important to know your equipment and what each disc is capable of.
Expanding your understanding of different discs and practicing the variety of shots common to the sport will make it easier for you to hit that line, part that gap, and shave off those strokes.
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Sam is a contributing writer for Disc Golf Guys who we are glad to have on board! He has been playing disc golf for a little over a year after a decade of competitive Ultimate and is eager to learn as much as possible about the sport. He Lives in Jackson, Mississippi with his fiancé and their dog, Dexter.
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