How to Play Disc Golf in the Wind
Ok, I certainly do not prefer throwing in the wind. There are certain times when a favorable wind is welcome of course, but I have rarely, nay probably never, said I like putting into a headwind with a water hazard 10 feet behind the pin.
Depending on where you are from, will depend on what “really windy” means to you. Having played a number of times in Oklahoma in the Spring, I can say that the nearly constant erratic, and strong winds of March are the real deal there. Here, in Minnesota, we have some pretty blustery days, and to be fair, some very windy days. But thankfully, the degree and frequency is less than our friends in the southern part of the Midwest. To my knowledge, there isn’t a single type of best way to throw in the wind, but there are definitely a few things that help.
Disc Golf Tee Shots in the Wind
Keep the Disc Flat
The first thing is that I’ve found is to keep the disc flat. I realize that isn’t a revolutionary statement, but making sure that the disc has the smallest surface area to catch the wind is the best way to keep it straight. Of course, depending on the shape needed for any particular hole this may change your needs, but throwing straight is the best thing to be able to execute in any condition. I find it is easiest to play with a slightly more stable disc than I’m used to, and throw it flat, hard, and low. Again, the main goal is to keep the shape of the shot straight - that is more important than distance. And making sure you don’t have to throw a fancy recovery shot out of the woods is the real goal above all else.
Take Advantage of the Wind
There are times you can take advantage of the direction of the wind. This is primarily useful on a hyzer release, and unless the options are limited, I think subtlety is the key for “utilizing” the wind assist. There are times where it is fun to try and make a heroic play that would not be possible without the elements, but my guess is that wouldn’t be more than 1-2 holes per 18. Giving yourself a 10 foot putt is more valuable than a risky drive to get within 30.
I firmly believe that reducing “testers” primarily in putting, but also in approaches will give great peace of mind, and help to keep your score in a range you can accept. Since a great majority of the sport is played “between the ears,” it is important when you have unpredictable elements to mitigate the risk. Basically, if the shot you are choosing to make gives you any pause, it is likely not a good decision to throw it. Throwing and acting with confidence is essential, however understanding that you are still subject to outside elements is just smart golf. If you want to use the wind to your advantage, don’t get greedy and keep your disc in the fairway.
Throwing a Disc Golf Approach Shot in the Wind
Throwing the approach shot is the same principle as throwing the tee shot. The only thing to bear in mind is that certain techniques for throwing approach shots have to be modified. For instance, some like to throw the same type of rhythm, release, and velocity of a tee shot on longer approach shots and simply keep the nose up. It likely goes without saying that this is not a great strategy for almost any type of wind. Generally, I like to keep the approach shot low with a small amount of hyzer, and try to avoid any big skips.
Disc Golf Putting into the Wind
The other primary consideration is what type of wind you want make your putt in. As a rule, I prefer a tailwind putt if I can get it - those putts allow you to putt with the most authority. Headwind and crosswind putts are a little less predictable in their effect on the disc at putting speeds, and as such I think the tailwind putt has the most predictable flight.
Best Disc Golf Discs for the Wind
Regarding disc selection, I favor throwing discs that are slightly overstable. I know it is popular to throw grossly overstable stable discs into the wind, but of course every scenario requires some adjustment. Remember I am not officially affiliated with any disc manufacturer, but I am using Innova examples as they have the molds that people are most familiar with, for reference. Any disc you are comfortable throwing that fits the type of flight these discs offer is a great choice. It all comes down to personal preference!
Disc Golf Discs for Tailwind
In a tailwind, your disc will fly with more overstable characteristics, and generally will get pushed down towards the ground. Tee shots in tailwind conditions I like to throw understable discs such as a Valkyrie, or Shryke if you have the arm speed. On holes under 375’ or so I go with a Leopard or Wombat3.
Disc Golf Discs for Headwind
Into a headwind, I like to throw more overstable discs. For 375 feet and over, I like both the Destroyer, and the Thunderbird. For shots under that distance, I like the Teebird3, or the Roc3. The headwind will tend to push your disc up, and will exaggerate both turnover shots and hyzers. I try to keep the disc low, and flat as the headwind will make it appear to fly slightly less stable.
Disc Golf Discs for Crosswind
For a crosswind either direction, I throw the same discs I would into a headwind. There is one exception: if you are on a wide open hole and have a left to right tailwind you may be in luck (as a right-handed, backhand thrower). Throwing a high anhyzer with an understable disc in these conditions can lead to tremendous distances. Controlling the left to right is difficult, but if you just want to generate raw distance, that is the most favorable condition I have thrown in.
Disc Golfing in the Wind and Your Mental Game
There is one other thing to consider about throwing into a strong wind, and it is the mental game. I have played some of my best rounds in very unfavorable wind conditions, and I liken that success to the focus and type of game I am trying to play. When I focus on throwing a conservative shot and landing it in a place I am comfortable making my next throw from, good things happen. The difficult thing about doing this all the time is that when conditions are favorable, it is difficult to resist the temptation to throw more aggressive shots and lines. In light wind, I find the same challenges, but when the wind makes executing super aggressive lines next to impossible, throwing smart golf suddenly becomes much easier.
I encourage everyone to get out there when the conditions are worst and practice executing shots they are comfortable with and seeing how their scores end up. My guess is that if your putting isn’t compromised too much by the conditions, you will be surprised by the results. Getting yourself in a position to succeed is most of the battle.
Manage your mentality, make good disc choices, and have fun. Look at it like a fun challenge and don’t be focused on scores, and you’ll be surprised by the results.
Until next time, keep them low, and I’ll see you on the course!