I remember my first year of disc golf- 2007. I moved to Minnesota from Ohio that fall, and winter disc golf was a rude awakening to me. One of my first winter rounds, I managed to lose 3 discs on one hole, which made me so frustrated that I quit that day. I got myself a winter disc golf education from the rest of the crazy Minnesotans who will play regardless of the course conditions or temperature. The round that made me realize I may officially be a Minnesotan (and partially insane) was when it was -7 out, and my brother and I decided to go throw a round because it was a heat wave (had been -20 or worse for over a week). Anyways, check out these tips and see what works for you.
1. On fun- Focus on fun! As conditions are usually sub par for winter disc golf, try to focus on just having fun when you are on the course. Get a good group of friends together. It helps to adopt a few friends who have eagle eyes and are good disc spotters when the snow is deep.
2. On making your discs more visible- Ribbon on your discs- the thin ribbon used to package presents works great. Tape a 2-3 foot long piece to either the top or bottom of WARM discs. If you do this while the discs and tape is warm, they will stay better. I use duct tape to tie the ribbon on while others, like Don Ticknor from Wisconsin, use packaging tape. This tail of tape will save you a ton of time disc hunting when the snow is deep. Dave Pennekamp of Oklahoma suggested this technique as well. I saw this in use a ton last winter, and it definitely saved me (and others) a ton of time. Will this affect the flight of your disc? Ticknor estimates that it will reduce your speed and distance 10% or less, but also reminded me that cold air, heavy clothing, and reduced mobility due to snow on then ground also play into shorter distances in the winter.
3. On keeping your discs dry-Now that you have your discs warmed up and have ribbon on them, put them in the cold! The snow will stick to warm discs, while it won’t stick to cold ones. If I know I am going to go play a round the next day, I will put my disc bag in my car the day prior (my car doesn’t get the luxury of a garage). This allows them to cool off enough so that the snow won’t stick. Ian Goldberg, the advisor for the Ace Holes (UWSP disc golf club) suggested this as well as Alan Hansen Begg, a Pro Master from Minnesota. On keeping plastic dry, Dave Pennekamp suggested using a chamois for the bulk of the moisture. Then carry a few microfiber towels to use to get the discs bone dry.
4. On hydration- Stay hydrated! Drink more (water) than you normally would. I find this easy to forget, especially in Minnesota winters. Well, easy to forget until I get those lovely dehydration headaches. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep your beverages from freezing, unless they are of the alcoholic nature. Hydrating is something that must constantly be done. Begin making sure your body gets enough fluids the day before you are gong to head out for a winter round, and continue it in the morning before you go play. Thanks Cory Hill, a female disc golfer from Illinois, for reminding us of this important tip!
5. On clothing- You want to be warm, not hot. I remember seeing an article in Discgolfer Magazine by Scott Papa, a Discraft Pro and great teacher. He wrote a great article on this topic, but I can’t seem to find it right now. Ticknor says “Dress in layers of light weight and wicking fabrics to stay dry, and warm! Polypropylene, polyester, silk, wool, and nylon are all good. Avoid cotton! Waterproof boots and/or sealskin socks are very important to comfort in the snow. “ Cory Hill adds “it is very important to start with thin light layers of clothing allowing for mobility and warmth. Make sure to keep the toes and fingers warm and dry also with the use of toe/hand warmers, gore tex outer socks, good insulated hiking shoes or boots, and good gloves. Also don’t forget to cover your noggin! We lose heat through our heads and ears freeze easily. Sunglasses or protective eyewear is important through the winter as well as summer to help shade from blinding light and/or cold winds. Don’t layer too bulky though or you wont be able to throw well.” One other clothing suggestion would be to invest in a good pair of gators. They will keep snow out of your boots and pants.
6. On hands- Keep your hands warm! I like a pair of choppers for winter golf. They are easy to slip on and off quickly to throw, and you can use hand warmers when it gets really cold. It’s hard to throw when your hands are frozen, so invest in a quality pair of mittens or gloves to keep your hands warm.
7. On night golf- Night golf is fabulous in the winter. It is so easy to locate discs under the snow when they are lit up. I play more night golf in the winter than any other time of year.
8. On stretching- Cory says “Stretching is also very key. It should be a part of your normal routine anyway, but more so when it is cold. Our muscles need time to warm up to perform well.”
9. On footing- Consider using only a single step or no run up at all. When the footing is less than ideal (deep snow or icy pads), I try to either take only one step into the throw, or just throw from a standstill. Then I’m less focused on worrying about falling on my face. Thanks to Pete Hoover from Wisconsin for bringing up this point. Along with this, Ian Goldberg reminded us to tread lightly. When walking, try to stick to the most traveled routes. That way, it will be easier to find discs that knife into the “virgin” snow as it won’t be all trampled down. Another thing Goldberg said was to either shovel the teepad first, or stay off of it until someone can. I personally have spent many hours chipping away the ice off of a single teepad to prep for a spring tournament after a winter of neglect. It’s not fun!
10. On disc selection- I saw Will Shusterick suggest on Facebook that winter is a great time to try out different plastic. You may find something new that you like to add to your bag, or find something to replace a mold. Also, put away your favorite discs (think Out of Production plastic or that perfectly broken in driver)! Use a newer disc (same mold), so you aren’t too bummed if you lose it. Also, you will be able to beat the newer stuff in a bit during winter.
I hope these suggestions prove to be helpful as you tackle winter golf. Thank you to all of the following for their contributions to this article: Don Ticknor, Cory Hill, Dave Pennekamp, Pete Hoover, Ian Goldberg, Miranda Fulton, and Alan Hansen Begg. I’d love to hear what suggestions are new to you and if you tried them, what you thought.
Now get out there and play some winter golf!