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What Is A Disc Golf Upshot?

Between playing disc golf with other people, reading about disc golf, and watching disc golf videos online, you're bound to hear some terms thrown around that may sound unfamiliar.

For this reason, we dedicated an ENTIRE ARTICLE to try and cover as many as possible.

But some terms,

such as upshot,

deserve a full explanation all on their own!

Disc Golf Guy Brandon sizing up a challenging upshot through some trees

So to get things started, the question at hand:

What is an upshot in disc golf?

Simply put, an upshot is an approach shot.

Meaning, it is the shot that you take after a tee off that hopefully will put you within putting distance of the basket.

Some players may even call it an approach shot and have never heard of the term "upshot" before.

Other players may have assumed it meant a shot that is taken "up" hill.

While upshots can technically be any distance, even up to 300 ft. if the conditions are right, generally speaking, it is going to be a shot that is taken 50-200 ft. from the basket.

With that being said, at just 50-60 ft., you're going to be in Circle 2 and could attempt a jump putt to make the basket, which would technically be putting, not an upshot.

The goal of any upshot is to put you in good position for either a second upshot or to putt, ultimately to better your position after you tee off, unless of course you parked your drive or aced the basket. Then, an upshot is not needed!

Now that you know what an upshot is, it's time to discuss the different types of upshots typically used.

There are usually 3 main strategies that you can use for an upshot, but before going into these, it's important to note that you could potentially add a 4th strategy to this list, and that would be playing out.

Playing Out

Playing out is required when your drive goes into some thick vegetation or behind a large obstruction out or off the fairway, and your only safe play is to toss a disc back to the fairway to have a better look for a true approach shot.

You could try and take a shot at the basket instead of playing out, but this usually comes with a high risk of hitting another obstruction on the way out, which ultimately costs you 2 or more additional strokes, rather than the 1 it would have cost you to simply play out.

There have been times when playing out has worked extremely well for me, allowing me to park my disc by the basket, and there have been times when attempting to play out has added 3 or more strokes to that hole due to hitting trees, bushes, or anything else in my way while aggressively trying to play out.

Ultimately, it's up to you to determine if the risk of playing out is worth the reward of getting near the basket, as you know your skill set the best.

Types of Upshots

Once you have successfully played out (if needed), it's time to determine which of the 3 upshot strategies you want to use, and those 3 strategies are:

  1. True approach shots

  2. Lay Ups, and

  3. Basket Runs

Let's take a look at each strategy and discuss when or why you may or may not want to use it!

1. Approach shots

If you're in the 150'-250' range from the basket, then your best option is likely going to be a true approach shot.

This type of shot would be eyed up just as if you were taking your shot from the tee pad on a shorter hole.

Simply enough, your general goal is to use whatever shot it takes to get as close to the basket as possible, with the only change being that your lay might have a different look than what it was from the tee box.

You may also need to switch to a mid-range or putter in place of a driver depending on distance, but other than that, treat this shot as if it was a second tee off.

A tip to note is that because you're trying to play closer to the basket than what is possible from the tee box, you want to pay close attention to elevation changes, slope near the basket, wind, and any guardian objects.

These things are more important on an approach shot because you want to avoid, if at all possible, outcomes such as the disc skipping way past the basket, rolling down a hill, landing behind a large object, or even bouncing badly off an object.

All of these outcomes are easier to work with from a drive off the tee box, but the same outcome when throwing near the basket could be the difference between having a 15 foot putt or a 40 foot putt.

Some tips to keep in your back pocket for approach shots are:

  1. Premium plastics have a tendency to skip more than grippier, base plastics

  2. Faster speed discs tend to skip more than slower speed discs

  3. Higher shots, such as hyzer spikes, will be less likely to skip than discs thrown flat but are also harder to throw accurately and require a higher ceiling

  4. Understable discs fly better uphill than overstable discs, and stable discs with high glide fly better downhill than discs with high turn and high fade

  5. Discs spinning clockwise (RHBH) will have a higher tendency to roll when landing on a right to left downward slope than a counter clockwise spin (RHFH), and vice versa for left to right downward slopes

While true approach shots are great for longer shots, things get a little bit dicier when you get into the 33'-100' range from the basket, where a true dilemma unfolds and you must choose whether to lay up or make a run to the basket.

Inside 33', you're within Circle 1 and will likely be putting, but if you're not quite comfortable with that distance, then our suggestions for laying up vs. making a run to the basket would still apply.

Let's take a look.

2. Lay Ups

To define the term, a lay up is when a player opts to make an easy throw to well-within his comfortable putting range.

This type of play has very little risk but also very little reward, as your odds of making a basket when you're simply trying to get within 20' or less are extremely low.

Layups can be performed in with a traditional putting motion, with a jump putt, or even with a gentle, very low power backhand or forehand throw.

Reasons why you would opt for a lay up could include but are not limited to:

  1. Risk of missing a putt and the disc going down a steep embankment or into water

  2. High winds

  3. Being outside your comfortable putting range

  4. Score situation: for example, having a one stroke lead and only needing to make par to win the match. No need here to make the birdie and risk rolling to outside your comfortable putting range; you're better off to lay up to take the par and the victory.

As a tip, putting more loft on your throw or jump putt will allow you to play a tad more aggressively than a simple lay up while maintaining the low risk from having a disc roll and/or bounce away.

Throwing with less speed or pace on the disc is also going to help prevent the disc from rolling, skipping, or bouncing too far away from a safe putting distance.

When you're within 100' of the basket, laying up will be your safest play 99% of the time.

However, if you're chasing birdies or eagles, or even par sometimes, then you can't just simply lay up to the basket on every hole.

At some point you're going to need to take a little risk.

3. Making a Run to the Basket

While laying up to a basket is going to be the safest, lowest risk, and lowest reward strategy,

making a run to the basket to chase chains is going to be the highest risk, but it offers the highest reward for doing so in the form of a birdie, par, par save, or even an eagle.

You won't often see players run the basket at longer distances of 70-100 feet, but that's not to say that they don't. In fact I see pros attempt and make these shots at nearly every pro event throughout the year.

From longer distances of 70+ feet, a lay up will still probably be your best option, as it's a very challenging shot to pull off.

Things get a little more interesting, however, when you get to the 40-50 foot range from the basket.

From here, you'll have to put a little more pace on the disc to make sure it gets there, but with the extra pace comes the possibility that it will miss chains, skip away, and result in a putt longer than the one you were previously faced with.

To determine if you should make a run for the basket,

First, decide if it's a putt you feel comfortable making based on distance and elevation.

Once you figure that out, it's time to size up the consequences for not making it and simply go for it!

If the wind is whipping around and making things difficult, if you're faced with a death putt (a putt with a high risk of not making it and then ending up in water, on a severe elevation change, or near/behind other obstacles), or if the scoring doesn't warrant the extra stroke you may take from missing, then the obvious choice is to lay up to the basket and move onto the next one.

If you don't think your disc will skip away, the terrain features are predictable enough, you feel confident in the distance, or you need to make up a stroke late in the game to have a shot at winning, then it might be time to make a run at the basket and hope for the best!

Just be warned that while you could miss the basket and the disc only ends up 10 feet away for an easy follow up putt, you could also have a disc miss and roll 60 feet or more farther away after an attempt from 20 feet.

That's all part of the risk assessment, and I've seem both scenarios happen!


Now that you know the 3 main approach strategies, it's time to get out there and give them all a shot!

You'll find that they all have their own time and place, but also that what suits one player may not suit another, since everyone's skill level is completely different.

It's up to you to play around with different discs and shot selection and to figure out when you need to approach the basket, when you need to lay up, and when you need to just go for it!

As always, Happy Disc Golfing!

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