Pinto Lake and The Other Side of Disc Selection

Usually when you hear disc selection, you think in terms of which disc in your bag is best suited to execute your next shot. Today I’m talking about something else, a concept that could maybe be called ‘disc selection for disc preservation’. It results from one of the major distinctions between disc golf and ball golf- the fact that our discs are the equivalent to their clubs and balls combined.

If you’re a ball golf enthusiast heading off to play a challenging course you’ve never played before, you might put another sleeve or two of balls in your bag in anticipation of hitting some shots into unfamiliar OB. It makes sense, especially if it is any kind of official competition. Remember the movie Tin Cup? In it the point was raised that if a player runs out of balls he or she is disqualified. So extra balls in the bag is a pretty simple insurance policy. For us disc golfers, not so simple.

When we lose a disc, in essence, we lose the equivalent of a club. And when you lose a key disc in your bag, you usually don’t have one exactly like it waiting in the wings. Most key discs have been broken in to a point that they can’t be replaced right away with another one off the shelf, even if you happen to be carrying it with you. And if you’re like me, there is always the chance you’ll lose that one, too!

Such was the case recently when I played Pinto Lake in Watsonville for only the second time since the long upper holes were added. Most of the holes on the top area are wide open, with fairways mowed out of waist-high wild grass and weeds. Standing on the tee of the 1,280 foot par 5 hole eleven (I think), I pulled out a valued Star Destroyer. Even though I had brought along several ‘red-shirt‘ (expendable) discs, I reasoned that there wasn’t much risk in not placing my disc in the very wide, completely open fairway. Bad reasoning. As players will do sometimes when confronted with a hole several times longer than they can possible throw, I tried to be the first person ever to throw 1,000 feet and promptly chucked it into hopelessly high rough. That was disc selection (for preservation) error number one. I took a 7 on the hole, and it started a slide that had me completely off my game by the time we descended from the upper holes. Disc selection (for preservation) error number two came on hole #15, where I decided to throw my other Star Destroyer. In that case I got stubbornly defiant about disc selection, turned it over, and destroyed my inventory of Destroyers.

In the first case, my mistake was deciding to use a valuable disc based on the likelihood that I’d hit the fairway, instead of the likelihood that I’d lose the disc if I didn’t. Kind of a Murphy’s Law thing. In the second case I allowed my focus to slip enough that I made a decision I wouldn’t make otherwise. I equate lazy-mindedness and stubborn defiance with lack of focus.

Here are a few guidelines to consider when it comes to this type of disc selection:

  • Have one set of discs for the course you regularly play and know the best. You likely know exactly where to look for errant shots on each hole, and even if you happen to lose one chances are decent that you’ll get it back eventually through the lost and found or from a fellow player who knows you (assuming you didn’t recently beat him on the last hole and do a 30-second victory dance around the basket). This would be your ‘main’ bag, but you may still want to carry an expendable disc for a particularly risky hole. A hole with a water hazard, for instance. A specific example is hole 12 at DeLa when you have to throw across the overgrown ravine (Fridge-Land). One early deflection and your odds are 50-50 of finding the disc.
  • Have another set of discs for each of the other area courses you play. If a course has plenty of trees, bushes, high grass, steep slopes, and/or water, plan accordingly. If you have a favorite disc and you don’t trust yourself not to throw it at the wrong time, don’t bring it.
  • I like this next point as a general rule, but especially at courses that have the aforementioned features, or courses I’m not familiar with: Throw neon-bright discs of one single color. Don’t throw tie-dye (high cost plus quickly lost), and avoid anything dark green or black. My favorite color since childhood is also my favorite disc color: orange!
  • When you go on a road trip, stock your bag with plenty of your 2nd and 3rd-tier plastic. You’re likely playing courses for the first time, and if you lose one your chances of ever seeing it again are close to zero. This practice actually has a great side benefit as well. I like to think of my discs as a baseball organization, with my main bag being the major leagues. When I go out of town and throw 2nd and 3rd tier discs almost exclusively, it’s like giving the minor league players a shot to show what they can do. I get familiar with discs I don’t normally throw, and sometimes they ‘crack the lineup’ on the Big Team and earn their way into the main bag.

Hopefully reading this will save you some discs, if not some strokes. And if you happen to come across my Star Destroyers at Pinto, call me!

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