For many disc golfers, "winter" is synonymous with "offseason," and that's especially true for those who live in places where snow and freezing temperatures are the winter norm. However, there are some people in these chillier climes who can't bear to sit around and wait for a thaw to throw some plastic.
If you're someone considering crawling out from under your blanket and getting a round in on the tundra, we want to make sure you're prepared. Here we go over our top five winter disc golf tips. And if you become addicted to this corner of the sport, we've even added a bonus tip to help you find success in the snow.
1. Clear the Tee Pads or Stay Clear of Them
This is both a courtesy and safety tip.
Disc golf tee pads are very similar to your driveway or neighborhood road. Every time you walk on them, the snow gets packed down and melts ever-so-slightly. If the weather is cold enough to produce snow, it's definitely cold enough to refreeze your footprint. This creates icy and unsafe throwing conditions from the one spot on the course where players expect to have some form of traction. This leads to injuries. Furthermore, unless there is a thaw or salt is used, an icy tee pad can last for weeks or even months.
What that all adds up to is this: Clear the tee pad before you even walk on it and especially before you throw.
If you don't have the time, the energy, or the tools, you can still play. Just make sure to throw from the side of the tee pad instead. It's not a bad idea to pack a shovel (you can get lightweight, fold-up ones), just like you might pack an umbrella during the spring, summer, or fall.
2. Bag the Best Discs for the Cold & Snow
Your discs are not going to fly the same in the winter. Get used to it. What people generally experience is losing distance due to discs seeming more overstable. While this could be due to the higher density of cold air as opposed to warm air, other factors likely play an even bigger role.
First, extra layers limit range of motion. Second, cold air leads to stiffer discs which are harder to manipulate and grip. Third, your traction on the ground is going to be much worse.
So, what are the best discs for cold and snow? Understable discs in gummy and/or baseline plastics.
Understability will help counteract less-than-optimal throwing conditions, and gummy discs should stay easier to grip.
Keep in mind gummy plastic (similar to Innova's G-Star, Latitude 64's Gold, etc.) is going to be more durable as cold baseline plastic tends to crack when it meets a tree.
Disc color is also important as bright discs stand out much more prominently. So, no, you shouldn't throw your favorite white disc in the snow. Chances are you'll never see it again after it dives beneath the fluff.
3. Dress to Beat the Cold
Dressing warmly is clearly a necessity, but there is more to this than just wearing a winter coat...especially since you might not even want to wear your winter coat.
- How to keep your feet warm during winter disc golf.
Dressing properly starts from the ground up by wearing waterproof boots or shoes designed for hiking. Traction is important, but so is keeping your feet dry and warm. Tennis shoes might cut it as disc golf footwear in the summer but not when there's snow. If you know your feet are particularly prone to getting cold, consider picking up single-use foot warmers for the soles of your shoes. Some players also swear by Sealskinz waterproof socks.
- How to keep your hands warm during winter disc golf.
Once you've assured toasty toes, you'll want to think about your hands. Gloves are a must between throws and hand warmers are just as necessary to keep your fingers in top shape. Once your fingers get cold and lose feeling, your shots are going to suffer mightily. A pack of single-use hand warmers from your local convenience or outdoor store will do the trick, but electric, rechargeable hand warmers are becoming more common on the course.
- Keep the rest warm, but stay mobile.
With the rest of your body, you'll have to figure out your own comfortable balance of warmth and mobility. For example, a bulky winter coat might be the warmest option for your upper body, but it's also going to provide the most limited range of motion when throwing. Would it be better for you to layer a compression shirt under a sweater and light windproof jacket? Try on the combo to find out. Are you more nimble in long underwear or fleece-lined pants? It's a question you'll want to get an answer to (unless, of course, your normal disc golfing pants work just fine for you). Winter disc golf aficionados have started purchasing battery-powered, heated vests that spread warmth around the torso and keep mobility high.
4. Stay Hydrated
In the summer, it's hot, and fluids work as both a coolant and a hydration tool. Though you won't be needing to cool off during a winter round, the hydration part is no less important.
With the extra layers of warmth you'll be wearing, the amount of perspiration your body generates will increase. Though you might not feel it because of the cold, your body is still sweating. Participating in an athletic activity under multiple layers of clothing takes energy and staying hydrated is as important as ever.
Many players suggest lukewarm water instead of cold water since cooling your body down isn't generally the goal of a hydration break in the winter. Herbal teas are a good option, too. A fifth of Fireball, however, might feel like it's warming you up, but it's not helping you hydrate.
5. Don't Lose Your Discs in Snow
When there's snow on the ground, the fairways and the rough tend to look the same. The only resources you'll have to judge where your disc lands are landmarks like trees, lamp posts, and benches. Watch the entirety of your disc's flight and make mental notes of the objects it lands near. Playing in groups is also helpful here as more eyes and searchers is always a good idea in snowy conditions.
When searching for your disc, try to limit where you walk. Undisturbed snow can show a mark where your disc entered and slid out of view. If you walk in that area, the clue to your missing disc might disappear. It's also courteous to those playing after you.
Two common aids for finding discs in snow are chalk and ribbons.
Noah Cronin, a disc golf YouTuber out of Massachusetts, said that his preference is carpenter's chalk, which you sprinkle on a disc so that it leaves an easy-to-spot mark in the snow.
If that doesn't appeal to you, ribbons could be just the ticket. This involves taping up to a meter of thin ribbon to the bottom of the flight plate of your disc before you throw. When the disc is released, it makes a strange fluttering noise, but the actual flight is minimally affected. When that disc nestles under the snow, part of the ribbon stays visible, and you just follow it to your disc.
If you're going with ribbons, make sure to use something like Gorilla or duct tape. Scotch tape will not hold up to moisture.
Bonus Tip: Bring a Sled
If you aren't a hardcore winter player, then just roll with a bag. But for those who play consistently all winter long, try using a deep utility sled, much like something you'd see from an ice fisherman.
It functions similarly to the way a cart does in the summer, as it glides over the surface while keeping your bag and discs dry and free of snow. It removes the annoyance of a large, cold, wet spot on your back from picking up a snow-covered bag every time you throw.