If you want to score well, be consistent, and throw the disc exactly where you want then I’d like to introduce you to a good friend of mine.
Meet Hyzer. If you welcome hyzer into your game, disc golf becomes a whole lot easier.
HSS, LSS, Turn, and Fade
First, a bit of background. Whenever a spinning disc-shaped object flies through the air, some really interesting physics happens (for the total nerd look up Bernoulli effect and gyroscopic stability). This results in two distinct phases of flight that can be observed and manipulated by a golfer. The first phase beginning after you release the disc is known as High Speed Stability (HSS). This is when the disc is flying using the energy from your throw. If you are throwing a disc that turns in the air at the speed you threw it, AKA an understable disc, then you will see the disc flip up or turn over in the air. If it is just a stable disc it will hold the line you threw it on. However, when the disc runs out of energy and begins to spin slower, it enters the Low Speed Stability (LSS) portion of flight. This is when the disc fades to the ground or falls out of the sky.
Every disc mold has a different shape and behaves a bit differently in the air. Therefore, Innova Discs pioneered the four digit flight number system to give consumers a chance to be able to predict what a disc will do before they buy it. HSS corresponds to the third flight number called Turn, and LSS corresponds to the fourth number called Fade.
Again, all flying disc-shaped objects go through these two predictable phases. If you took the lid off your ice cream container and tossed it down the hall, it would release from your hand, first turn over a bit, then fade back hard before crashing to the floor in a delicious mess. The harder you throw it the farther it turns and the longer it holds that turn before fading back. If a disc never really fades it is because it hit the ground before the LSS portion of flight.
What about discs with turn and fade ratings of 0 and 0 such as an Innova Nova? The Nova is a unique disc that almost seems to defy the laws of physics in its ability to fly straight forever and land without a hint of fade. But don’t be fooled. It will fade if thrown high enough or long enough. It has been designed using overmold technology pioneered by MVP discs to put a heavier material on the outer rim, which creates a higher gyroscopic stability and causes the disc to hold the HSS portion of flight longer: usually so long that the Nova has hit the ground before transitioning into LSS.
Now back to why I love hyzers so much. Through the power of Youtube I have watched a lot of the best disc golfers in the world throw a lot of discs. I have noticed that if ever given the choice, they will throw a hyzer. Even if they are throwing down a tight corridor a lot of them will find a way to hang a hyzer over to one side of the trees and have it fade back to the middle or other side of the fairway. I always used to think, “just throw it straight ya chumps.” Also, it wasn’t until I learned to throw sidearm hyzers that I understood why I didn’t see more anhyzer throws by the top players. Certainly they were highly capable of straight shots and anhyzers so what gives?
If you haven’t already noticed the power of hyzers, the video in the link above will give you a good hint as to why hyzers are the preferred throw for consistency and scoring. Also, the creator of this video has so many other great videos covering the scientific fundamentals of this great sport.
What a hyzer does is match the HSS portion of flight to the LSS portion, giving you a predictable, repeatable, even flight from release to the ground. Even if the disc flips up or turns it will land in roughly the same spot as if it didn’t. If you throw it a few degrees off or a little bit harder the disc will land in roughly the same spot. On the other hand, If you throw flat and the disc surprisingly turns, well… you already know that story. How many times have you gone OB on the right side of Thrill Hill’s hole 5?
Then one day I found this image while browsing forums. It has stuck with me ever since.
This was a forum post by John Hernlund and shows flights of the same disc thrown the same speed with only the amount of angle changing an equal amount each throw from hyzer to flat to anhyzer. You can see that the end point of all the hyzer throws, while shorter than the other throws, are all ending up much closer together. The graph shows clearly that in return for sacrificing distance, hyzer throws pay back in consistency and predictability.
I believe in science and physics. I also believe that human error is an unavoidable trait. Hyzers minimize the inconsistency in results from inevitable human error. That’s powerful. Let it soak in.
How to Throw Hyzers
Throwing hyzer angles has more to do with angling your upper body to lean over your toes a bit than with changing much else. However, you might also have to reach down lower and aim at a point in the sky or higher than you’re used to. However, you also can’t just line up to throw at the basket and fire away but rather aim off-line and trust the disc to come back on the hyzer line. However, there’s also the bit about managing the landing… okay, I guess there’s a little bit more about getting this right. We’ll leave that alone for now.
Check out Danny Lindahl’s videos for some good form advice. Here’s one about throwing hyzer, flat, and anhyzer angles.
So how do you harness this power of hyzer science to get better scores? Throw a hyzer on every shot, that’s how.
Let’s look at Thrill Hill’s hole 10 and how you can purposefully set yourself up to throw hyzers for every shot.
Off the tee you have two jobs to do: 1) get right around the trees into the landing zone to give you a chance at an open second shot and 2) don’t go OB left.
However, not all spots on the wide landing zone are created equal.
If you get too close to the trees on the right those same trees will block hyzers and you’ll be forced into a straight shot through the narrow tunnel with a mando on the left. Difficult and risky. Even if you get way up the fairway into the mouth of the gap you might be in scramble mode with no good hyzer shot guaranteed. Sometimes you're forced to pitch out.
The sweet spot in my opinion is to place your first throw in this zone.
Yes, it’s farther away from the pin than getting right in the tunnel but it sets up for the easiest backhand hyzer around the mando to the pin.
So what do I think is the best way to get to this sweet spot? I’m going to make you guess: backhand roller? Nope. Panning backhand anhyzer out over OB? Nope. Overhand? God no, c’mon people. Sidearm hyzer? That's the one (But you gotta have that shot first). You'll also notice that the sweet spot is shaped just like the natural fade of a sidearm hyzer, making it that much easier to hit.
Hole 10: Sidearm hyzer, backhand hyzer, chains. Count it.
If you read other articles you might have picked up that it’s my opinion that having a full game requires much more than hyzers and that work needs to be put into learning straight and anhyzer shots. I believe that’s true. So why am I now saying to throw hyzers at all costs?
Just as a disc flies through two distinct phases, a disc golfer has to play the sport through two distinct phases. I call these Scoring and Developing. Scoring takes place during competitive play or when you want to see how well you can score. This is where you take the high percentage shot every time, and mostly, that’s going to be the easy hyzer if it’s at all available. However, your game will get stale if that’s all you do. You’ll eventually get into a scrape on the course with no hyzer available and if you’ve never taken the time to develop the rest of your game you’ll be hooped in the long run. Therefore, don’t neglect the Developing portion of your game. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a month of good scores while you work on lower percentage shots you’re less confident throwing.
When myself and other club members were working on the design of South Bear Creek course we wanted to make it our more challenging course. One of the methods to increase challenge I focused on was trying to prevent easy hyzers off the tee. You’ll see many tees are tucked in little tunnels or butted up against trees on the right. That was on purpose to force people into throwing straight and executing more control over the flight of their discs.
One last thing
It takes more power to throw a hyzer the same distance as a straight shot. This is one big reason why the most powerful throwers in the world are consistently near the top of every event they attend (as long as they can also putt). If you have one player who can throw 400 feet but has to do a full power flex shot to get there and another that can throw 400 feet with an 80% power hyzer, I’ll put my money on the hyzer thrower every day. Gaining distance is a real advantage in this sport.
A good local example of this is Thrill Hill’s hole 5. It is 300 feet long with trees on the left and OB on the right. Many players in our club can barely reach it with a full flex straight shot. Throwing straight on this hole is risky and difficult because a slight missed angle can send the disc out over OB never to come back. For low power players hole 5 can be a bit of a nightmare. However, some of the more advanced players have the power to throw a high easy hyzer with an overstable disc all the way to the pin. All of a sudden hole 5 becomes one of the top five easiest holes on the course and is considered a “must get”.
The true origin of the word hyzer appears to be a little murky. It seems to have been used for years in flying disc sports before being adopted by disc golf and subsequently becoming synonymous with the sport itself. Some sources on the interwebs say it was first seen in print in 1975 by Dr. Stancil E.D. Johnson to describe a disc's “angle of roll at whelm”, or in normal words, the angle of the disc at release. The hyzer angle was named after H.R. “Fling” Hyzer, who was a disc sports guru back when disc golf was in its infancy. Now in disc golf we call a shot that flies opposite to the arm swing a “hyzer shot” which is a bit of a misnomer as hyzer was intended to only mean the angle at release rather than the whole shot.
Luckily, we didn’t adopt all of Stancil Johnson’s lexicon. While he used the word hyzer to describe the angle of the wing relative to the horizon, the word he used to describe the front to back (nose to tail) angle was “mung”. I don't know about you, but I feel like I’d rather say “dangit, nose up” rather than, “dangit, too much mung.”