I was out on the course the other day playing a brutal round against the wind when it hit me: playing in the wind is really hard. And as I’ve only played for the better part of a few years, I did what any millennial would do when faced with a tough situation – hop on google. I started looking around for a simple guide to understanding the wind and only found a couple of vague resources.
Well, today, I’m here to bring you this extremely simple guide. Because, if you really want to crush your rounds against gale force winds, you need to make sure of a few things. First, you need to understand which direction the wind is blowing. Second, how a few easy tips can help you completely change your game. And third, which discs you need to have for those tough, windy rounds.
Why it sucks to play in the wind
The wind can be good and bad. So, why does it suck to play in the wind? To say the least, the wind is unpredictable. By this I mean that you really never know exactly what the wind is going to do. You can check five weather apps, weather.com, the U.S. wind map, watch the news, and throw grass up seven times to see which way the wind us blowing, but it will change when you go to throw. It happens every time.
The wind is also extremely unreliable. Like I said in the last paragraph, the wind tends to change a lot. Sometimes it’s just for a few seconds, but that can really screw up your throw. Judging the wind is like pulling teeth, so just do the best you can.
Why it’s great to play in the wind
But playing in the wind can actually be a great thing if you learn how to use it correctly. The wind can get you the win, if you know what I mean. You have to just use it to your advantage. But playing in the wind can make you better. Here’s why…
Looking at it the right way, you will see that playing in the wind is a natural thing. I’ve never played a round without at least a wind gust or two. So, you’re going to see wind when you play. That’s a given. Use the extra windy days to perfect your overstable and understable discs so that you know their flight patterns and how they fly after you throw them. Next time you play, you should be a little better. Keep practicing in the wind and you will get a lot better. Days with hardly any wind will be easy. This can also prepare you for extreme wind if you play in tournaments. Wind happens. So be prepared by playing some rounds in extremely windy weather.
The wind also works you mentally. This is because you have to think hard about which discs to use, where the wind is blowing, and how you’re going to attempt to get the disc closer to the basket. Extreme weather makes all of this very tough. But it can put your mind to work in ways other rounds won’t. The wind can keep your mind sharp. Use these rounds to perfect your mental strategy and learn about the physics of the discs you own. You never know, one day it might really come in handy.
Headwinds are probably some of the toughest winds to conquer. A headwind is a wind that is coming straight at you. Think about air flying straight at your face. That’s the direction of the wind. Headwinds are deceiving and intimidating, especially if you’re trying to throw 300 plus feet up a hill. But you can fight back against headwinds if you understand one simple thing.
Otherwise called air resistance, drag is simply the force pushing against an object in motion. So, with disc golf, the disc flies in one direction and the wind pushing against the disc in the opposite direction is causing drag. This causes friction and slows the disc down, which is why the disc may not fly as far as if there was no wind. You can read more about drag here on wikipedia.
The disc may not go as far in a headwind, but here are a couple of quick things you can do to fight the wind:
• You can try throwing the disc a little bit harder. I don’t really like giving this tip, but more velocity takes more drag to slow it down. Throw it harder and it can go farther.
• Next, throw the disc a little bit lower. With headwinds, air tends to get under the disc and push it up. Keeping the disc low can help you keep the disc from flying up out of control.
• Use a slightly heavier disc. Discs in the 175-180 gram range are better for windy conditions than 150-165 gram discs because lighter discs are more affected by the wind. Heavier discs will help you control your discs a little bit more.
• Use an overstable disc. Overstable discs in the wind resist flipping and turning over more than stable or understable discs. These more stable discs tend to be able to handle stronger headwinds so get your discs ready.
The best overstable disc for headwinds
Regarding headwinds, the best overstable disc to play with is the Innova Blizzard Champion Ape (link to Amazon). According to DiscsUnlimited.net, the Innova Ape is, “essential for windy conditions and headwind drives.”
Tailwinds, on the other side of the wind spectrum, are a little bit easier to handle. Tailwinds are winds that blow from behind you in the opposite direction of a headwind. I would much rather play with a tailwind when out on the course. You see, tailwinds don’t have drag like headwinds do. These winds work differently when you’re throwing a disc. Instead of working against a disc and causing the disc to slow down, tailwind pushes the disc forward causing it to speed up.
An awesome example of how tailwind can help a disc fly really far is David Wiggins Jr’s amazing 1,109 foot World Flying Disc Federation’s distance record throw. Wiggins used the 38 mile-per-hour tailwind to absolutely crush the previous record of 863.5 feet set by Simon Lizotte. David Wiggins threw a 154 gram Innova R Pro Boss driver. Simon Lizotte used an Innova Blizzard Boss driver.
If you want to crush your rounds in tailwinds, here are a couple of things to remember:
• Tone it down a bit. You can throw it really hard and probably get some insane distance. But you can also use great technique and a solid throw to get even more distance than normal (without the extra energy spent).
• Throw the disc a little bit higher than normal. Tailwinds tend to push the disc down towards the ground, so use a little extra height on your drives to get a perfect shot.
• Use a lighter disc. Heavier discs won’t carry as well, so use a lighter disc that will get a ton of distance from the tailwind.
• Use a stable to understable disc. These discs tend to act more stable in tailwinds, as they turn over more than normal. So, I would recommend using a very understable disc like the Innova Pro Katana (check current InfiniteDiscs.com price). Its flight pattern is awesome and its understability is perfect for windy conditions. You can also use the Innova R Pro Boss or the Innova Blizzard Boss I mentioned earlier.
Playing in the crosswind is tricky because you have to know which direction the wind is blowing in order to know what to throw. Crosswind is wind that blows from left to right or right to left. As a general example, we will use a right hand back hand thrower. If the wind is pushing left to right, you need a more overstable disc to balance out the direction of the wind. If the wind is pushing right to left, use a more understable disc. Obviously, you can tweak this. But the rule of thumb is this: whatever direction the wind is going, you need something that will fly in the opposite direction. This kind of wind is tough, so use your best judgment.
What to do if it’s windy – 6 quick tips for playing in the wind
1. Keep the disc low(ish): we already talked about how you should throw a disc a little higher for tailwinds and a little lower for headwinds. Yes, but always keep the disc fairly low. No matter what condition you are in, the wind can still get up under a disc and destroy your shot if you throw it too high. Try to be easy with these shots and approach them with a low-shot mentality.
2. Don’t freak out: try to keep your sanity when playing in the wind. This means attempting to keep yourself from freaking out on every bad shot or wind malfunction. I know, this is hard for me too. But remember that every single person is going to go through the wind struggle and, at some point, be in the same place you are. I hate when the wind messes up my shots, but if you plan correctly and shrug off the bad shots, you will surely be okay for the next hole or round. Just be cool.
3. Always know the direction of the wind: this is critically important for each and every shot. You don’t want to be throwing an understable disc into a headwind or an overstable disc into a tailwind. That doesn’t make sense and it will kill your shots. Understanding how to judge your shots in comparison to the wind will help you do much better on your windy weather rounds.
4. Don’t get greedy and sacrifice your par: this happens regardless of wind, but I still see a ton of people try to make ridiculous shots in the wind and miss horribly. I’d much rather lay up an easy shot right next to the basket and make the par putt. I’ve seen a few throws go way past the basket and then the person will miss the par putt, too. Some people get too greedy, especially when dealing with the wind. I’ll say that the wind is extremely unforgiving and will make you suffer if you don’t make smart decisions. Don’t sacrifice your par.
5. Try to keep the disc straight (or your shots in the right direction): this goes along the same lines as the last tip, but is a little different. An exorbitant amount of people look to try to conquer the wind by throwing for distance. But almost all soon realize that they forgot to think about where they’re going to end up on the course. You need to try to keep your disc somewhat straight, or at least in the right direction of the hole. This will save you a ton of strokes overall if you can strategize around the wind.
6. Always play smart: if I were to give you just one tip for the wind, this would be it. Always, always, always play smart when it comes to rounds in windy conditions. I can’t help thinking about my friends who sometimes think that distance, speed, and crazy drivers will help them crush their windy round. Those things won’t do anything but cause you pain and suffering. So make sure you always play smart in the wind.
Approach in the wind
Up to this point, hopefully you’ve had a successful drive and are well on your way to sinking at least a par on the hole. The tips provided in the previous paragraphs are all dedicated to helping you solidify a great drive in all types of crazy wind conditions. But now you’re slowly coming up on the hole and need some advice on your approach shots.
So what do you need to do?
If you’re playing in wind, make sure you play your approach shots similar to your drives. Play headwind and tailwind approach shots like we explained earlier. If you forgot, go back up and check out what we wrote. Do everything similar to those paragraphs and you’ll be fine. Just make sure you’re using a mid-range or approach putter instead of your driver.
Caution – don’t do this!
Don’t try to sink shots from more than 40-50 feet out. Because the wind plays such a factor in longer shots, your approach shot may carry longer or catch air, flip up, and roll away from the basket. Always try to lay your shot up and get it close enough for an easy par. This will save you the heartache of not making your par.
Putting into the wind
Putting in the headwind
Attempting to putt into the headwind can be very tough. There are two things to take note of when you putt this way: keeping the disc flat and trying to aim a little lower on the basket as the wind will push the disc up. Up to about 15 feet, the wind will not affect the disc as much. After 15 feet, the disc will get carried more by the wind so make sure you take a minute to think about your shot and what it will take to make the putt.
Putting in the tailwind
Putting in the tailwind is a little bit easier than putting against the headwind. If you’re putting with the wind, there are two things to keep note of: keeping the disc flat when you putt and trying to aim a little higher on the basket as the wind will push the disc down. Once you get within about 15 feet, the disc won’t be affected as much by the wind. Outside of 15 feet, just like with headwind putting, the wind will start to affect the disc in the air. Play it safe and play it smart.
Putting in the crosswind
Play it smart when you putt this way. Take note of which direction the wind is going. It may push the disc in that direction, so you might try throwing the disc ever so slightly in one direction or another. If the wind is going left to right, throw it toward the left side of the basket and it will be pushed right. If there are right to left winds, throw it to the right so that it will be pushed to the left.
Playing in the wind is no joke. By now, you and I both know that. The wind is a force of mother nature determined to exponentially screw up every disc golf round you and I could ever play. But that’s neither here nor there. The wind isn’t just a threat to our rounds, but occasionally a force for good. Sometimes the wind is a great way to learn about more than just our downfalls with disc golf. Sometimes the wind can help us and make us better. Those are the rounds that I like. Even though disc golf can be the most frustrating game in the world sometimes, I still love everything about it…even the wind.