Be the Blowfly: Adventures in Discing Down
Updated: Apr 21, 2019
So you caught the disc golf bug did you? How long ago was it? For me it was the summer of 2015. I owned a set of Aerobie Sharpshooters #'s 1-3 and a weird floppy thing I found on Thrill Hill's hole 1 called a Blowfly. I vividly remember trying to make the darn things fly and the glorious but all-too-rare feeling of getting one to glide a hundred feet. It was the Blowfly that gave me the fastest initial success. I could toss it straight and it would fly where I tried to throw it. It would take a while but I made my way around Thrill Hill tossing that Blowfly about 100 times from patch of grass to patch of grass. But you know what, tossing a disc 100 times started to suck after a while. That's a lot of bending over and it's difficult to count that high. I could put up with those downsides though; I was having so much fun. Then I met Joe Johnson. He's been a part of the club since the early days and has been throwing Ultimate Frisbees long before disc golf came to town. I had no idea who he was but I vividly remember watching this cool, sort-of-older guy step onto hole 1's tee and effortlessly crank a disc down the hill. It flew perfectly straight and landed soft and flat near the mouth of the gap. He picked up his bag and casually took off after his beautifully thrown disc. Okay, I wanted to do that. Really badly. I looked down at my dirty Blowfly flopping sadly in my hand and said, "why can't you do that?" I didn't know it yet but that would be the last time I threw the Blowfly. Suddenly I wanted to be a real disc golfer and real disc golfers like Joe Johnson probably didn't throw weird floppy rubber things named after insects. As it turns out, in a sad twist of irony, Joe did and still does throw a Blowfly, quite proudly I must say. If I'd've known that, would the next two painful years have happened like it did? (Unfortunately, yeah probably). It is human nature to want more isn't it? Moar distance! Must crush disc! So confess: what was your first high speed driver? How quickly did you race to Ernie's or Playfair and buy a Destroyer, Boss, Nuke, or Katana? For me, it was immediately and it was a Blizzard Boss. It said speed 13, so that means it's fast and goes far, right? Unfortunately, wrong. I embarked on a journey of hurting my body trying to throw fast discs I had no business throwing. When they didn't immediately fly 400 feet I bought new discs that would surely work better. It was costly, frustrating, oddly enjoyable, and sometimes painful times. If I was to do my first two years over again, how would I do it differently?
Disc Down, Son!
Discing down is the idea of throwing slower, straighter flying discs that actually glide rather than relying on fast overstable drivers. You will 100% speed up your disc golf progress if you follow this advice. Discing down is the idea of focusing on developing your form and learning to control the flight and angles of a flying disc. It is about learning to make a single neutral-flying disc fly many different ways rather than relying on different discs to achieve different flights.
Fun fact: each person releases a disc at a different speed, known as "arm speed". The wider a disc golf disc’s rim (AKA the disc's "speed"), the more arm speed is required to make it fly as it was designed to fly. The now defunct disc manufacturer Vibram was unique for adding as a flight number the arm speed in mph required to make the discs fly properly. Key takeaway: you should throw discs that match your arm speed. If you don't know your arm speed, think about the fastest disc you own that you can make fly like the flight numbers say it should fly. If that disc is a speed 7, you should throw more 7 speed discs.
In my opinion nobody in our club exemplifies the spirit of discing down more than Dylan Bressey. Dylan is the club's founding member and past president. More importantly, Dylan is a proud owner and thrower of a Blowfly. Each spring, just as the snow begins to melt, Dylan slips on his rubber boots, dusts off a small stack of putters, and heads to Thrill Hill. His first month of the year is always spent playing putter-only rounds. His scores suffer and he gets made fun of but he is stubborn. And it's worth it. Dylan has one of the smoothest, straightest throws in our club. Because he figured out how to throw putters straight, he can throw midranges straight. Because he figured out how to throw midranges straight, he can throw fairway drivers straight. And you guessed it, he can throw distance drivers straight. Actually, come to think of it, the fastest disc Dylan throws is a Dynamic Discs Renegade (understable speed 11). His bag is built around ultra straight molds like Cobras, Stingrays, Atlases, Timberwolves, Teebirds, and of course the Blowfly. I've played many rounds with Dylan and have always been jealous of how he can make a disc fly straight. Straight throws are the most difficult throws in the game and he makes it look easy.
If you’re wondering how far a putter can be thrown, check out this video.
Another club member that occasionally discs down is Jeremy Sproule. He's a sidearm-dominant player who leans on his Firebirds like they're going out of style (He also buys them like they're going out of style. Ask him how many he owns. If you can’t find any in town to buy it’s probably because of him). However, he recognizes that it's also important to develop as a player because, believe it or not, a sidearmed Firebird can't solve every problem you'll face on a disc golf course (Although Nate Sexton's 2017 USDGC winning performance might prove me wrong). So Jeremy occasionally trades in his Firebirds for some understable Sidewinders. Sidearming an understable fairway driver is another one of the hardest throws in the game that requires your form to be ultra smooth. Is the pain worth it? Well, if you've played with Jeremy you'll know that he is rapidly developing one of the best sidearms in the club, so you be the judge. You know, I still have that Blowfly sitting in a box in my garage. Perhaps someday soon it will get to flip flat and fly straight down hole 1's fairway as is its destiny. Perhaps I'll return it to the grassy depths of Thrill Hill from whence it came, hoping for another lucky soul to pluck it out and give it the love it deserves.
Whaddya think? Have you ever tried discing down? Will you challenge your friends to a few putter-only rounds? Are you somebody that already likes throwing understable plastic? Are you going to try throwing a straight-flying mid where you usually throw a driver? How close do you think you could get to your average score on Thrill Hill without throwing a driver? Let me know in the comments your experiences or thoughts about discing down.
The Blowfly is made by Disc Golf Association (DGA), the first disc golf company. DGA was founded in 1976 by “Steady” Ed Headrick, who was also one of the founders of the sport of disc golf. Ed invented the modern frisbee and the “Flying Disc Entrapment Devices” we now call baskets. He also formed the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) to formalize the past-time of throwing frisbees at targets in a park into the legitimate sport we play today. His PDGA number is 001. Fun fact: the baskets installed at Thrill Hill are Mach V's, which were the 5th version of Headrick's original design. The Mach V was unique for incorporating "sliding links" which allowed the outer ring of chains to slide inward when hit. This helped to prevent spit outs.
Tinking (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ed_Headrick's_Flying_Disc_Entrapment_Device_Patent_4039189.tif), „Ed Headrick's Flying Disc Entrapment Device Patent 4039189“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)