A beautifully long flying anhyzer suddenly hit by a rogue gust of wind, your foot sliding off the edge of an elevated tee pad in mid rotation, or just a strong grip-lock from excitedly trying to crush your drive. If you haven’t spent time looking for a lost disc golf disc after one of these occurrences then you’re probably not a disc golfer, but if you’re reading this then you most likely know that dreadful feeling of estimating which pile of brush you’ll be trekking through.
Trust me when I say that I know this feeling as well as any disc golfer and that my determination has kept me in the woods and weeds far longer than the average disc golfer would spend. I once spent a full hour searching for a Champion TeeBird… only to lose it a couple weeks later. I’ve climbed well over 40 feet into trees to retrieve down right horrible drives and I’ve even spent an hour in swamp looking for my Kastaplast Kaxe.
I’ve spent countless hours searching for lost disc golf discs that myself and others have lost and I’ve learned a few techniques in the process. The recent Chain Cutters quarterly box (search and rescue) inspired me to share my empirical knowledge of finding lost disc golf discs.
The occasional errant throw is inevitable but you can take a few measures to minimize search time. Above all else, watch your disc! I’ve been guilty of walking off the tee pad after an awful throw with my head down, and that’s one of the best ways to lose a disc. Ask other members of your group to also watch, especially from a vantage point down the fairway with a better view. Finally, don’t throw multiple discs (at least only throw a manageable amount and keep count!). Yeah, I’ve had occasion to hurl 10 discs on hole #17 of Burchfield trying to hit chains, but it’s difficult to keep track of 10 different landing zones which can lead to a forgotten disc.
After Realizing A Disc Search Is Inevitable
Your disc is in the air and no matter how much you lean and wave, your disc is still going into the brush. Go ahead and run up the fairway if you need a better view, but think beyond line of sight.
- Find a landmark. Note which trees, branches or bushes are near the flight path and estimate how close the disc passes by.
- Pick your line. Use the landmarks to estimate the landing zone and get there on a straight line, weaving or curling can cause you to lose your bearings.
- Listen for the landing. I learned this one from Rodney, what does the landing sound like? Rodney once threw a Nuke and he was sure he heard it hit branches. That narrowed a large landing zone to just a small area near a tree and we found the Nuke buried under loose sticks where we wouldn’t have normally looked. A solid thud may suggest a landing zone in an opening or if you hear no noise you may consider looking up into trees or in areas with thick grass.
As You Are Searching for Your Disc
- Go immediately to the estimated landing area. The longer you wait the more details you’ll forget.
- Circle outward or divide the area into a grid. This will allow you search the maximum amount of area in a shorter time and can help avoid searching the same area twice. If you have to revisit an area, go the opposite direction to see the environment from another view point.
- Consider the disc angle. Estimating the angle of the disc can help predict what happened after the disc landed. If the disc was at a steep angle it may have rolled, or possibly stuck in the same angle making it difficult to see from the back.
- Consider other obstacles. Where could the disc have bounced if it hit a tree? When a disc lands on water sometimes it skips, other times a current can drag it.
- Sweep tall brush. Discs can weasel their way deep into tall grass and weeds. Preferably use a stick, or your legs if necessary, to sweep tall brush aside but trampling the brush down may bury your disc.
- Put yourself at different levels. Getting low will give you a better perspective to see below brush. Climbing high will give you another view, that can especially help when looking into water with a reflective glare.
- Look up. Discs get stuck in trees even when you’re not expecting it. Bermuda the Tree is the worst.
- Throw another disc. No, not for fun as I warned you against earlier. Throw a disc with similar characteristics so that you can estimate distance of your lost disc and judge how the wind or other variables may have affected flight path. Just make sure someone is watching this one closely.
Stuck In A Tree?
- Don’t throw another disc!! It can, and will, get stuck with the original disc. Instead take a look at this video:
Did You Find Your Disc?
I’ve lost countless discs over my 13 year disc golf career but I’ve found countless many more. I typically call when a name and number are present, but there have been many times when the person never called back or the disc was unmarked. I won’t go into the ethics of searching for other’s lost discs in water (people doing this are often called squids) or if it’s acceptable to keep found discs, that’s another discussion entirely. I’ll leave you with this short anecdote though.
A few weeks back Rodney handed me his GStar Boss to test on a 500 ft hole. It was much more stable than I had anticipated which lead to an hour long search in head high weeds as seen in the featured image. Between the two of us we came out with 13 other discs before we finally found his Boss and we used every technique listed above.
If all else fails and you lose your disc, at least replacements are usually affordable. We frequent Infinite Discs which has a great selection of disc golf discs, as well as X-out and misprint discs at a discount.
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A little dissappointed that the video won’t play past 13 seconds for me.
Also, put a baseball in your bag for throwing at discs in trees. Mine has helped remove many-a-disc from tree limbs. A baseball is easy to throw and can fit through small branches much better than a stick.
Hi Michael, I agree that’s very disappointing, I had thought it was just my network but I’ll work on getting that video hosted on YouTube so it works better.
Carrying something to throw at discs is a great idea, we’ve carried golf balls because they’re small but sometimes they don’t have enough momentum to make enough difference.
I’ve only found three discs over the past two years, two returned and one unclaimed. I do however have a good story about losing and finding my own disc. On hole 9 of the only course in my town, I threw my Champ Tern with a forehand. Trees “line” the left side of the fairway, and that’s in quotes b/c the trees are large, there’s no underbrush, and the trees are 50-75 ft apart, but in a straight line. My drive went left of that first tree in that line, and I turned around disgusted with my throw. I looked on #s 1,2 and 6’s fairways, to no avail. After 20 minutes, I walk farther down the hole and find my disc hole high 80-100 ft to the left, on a 340 ft hole. Most frustrating and satisfying drive I’ve had on that course.
When you throw as many discs in the weeds as I do you end up finding a lot!
I’ve done that a couple times, it’s frustrating to spend that time search but it’s an awesome feeling when you realize that a poor throw sets up up nicely in the end.
I never write me name or phone number on discs. They are way too affordable and easily replaceable to worry about getting one back that youve lost cuz like the guys commenting before me you will more than likely find one while your searching anyways. If i find a disc thats blank, finders keepers. If it has a name and number i normally place it on top of the basket of whatever hole i found it on . If someone else sees it and wants to take it or call thats cool or possibly whoever lost it will return and find it sitting on the basket.
I’ve found a neat way is to take a picture on the tee pad. That way if i think it went near a certain tree but i can’t pinpoint it easily near it looking at where i teed off is easier. I’m also fat so walking back to the tee pad multiple times is a hassle it’s easier for me to look at the picture.
This is a great idea! Those landmarks always look different as you get closer to the disc.