Sparking Joy: The Life-Changing Magic of Building a Bag
Have you been swept away by Netflix’s Tidying Up yet? If you haven’t, it’s a show about a Japanese home organizing wizard named Marie Kondo (who authored the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) as she goes into people’s homes and saves their lives from clutter and disorganization. Her schtick is to make people sort through every item they own and ask themselves, “does this item spark joy?” If the answer is no, to Value Village it goes.
If you were to sort through the discs in your bag one by one, which ones would honestly give you a emotional spark of joy? Do you have any discs that you hold in your hand that give you 100% confidence you know exactly what it’s going to do when you throw it? Are there spots in your bag where you have discs but none that spark joy? Are you still hanging onto that custom-dyed disc that never flies right, that sparks disappointment, sadness, and resentment, but you can’t get rid of it because the dye job is on point so it sits in your bag weighing you down physically and emotionally?
I get caught up in carrying discs I don’t like. Most of the time I do this because I like to carry multiples of the same mold and I like to simplify by minimizing how many molds I throw. Currently, I have one Eagle that’s sparking joy and one Teebird that’s sparking joy. They overlap just a bit. I know that I have to commit to either Eagles or Teebirds and live with the consequences, but that leads to carrying copies of those molds that don’t spark joy. Wait. What’s that? I should just bag the discs I like and who cares what mold they are? Um, no. I’m not an animal. Everybody knows you can’t throw both Eagles and Teebirds… that’d be like bagging both a Roc and a Buzzz or a Warden and a Judge. What’s wrong with you?
Building the Bag
Let’s put aside the joy sparking for a moment and talk about disc slots. The collection of discs you’re going to want on the course is going to depend on your level and style of play, but I think of it like this. There are 5 basic slots you need for a full game:
Neutral Putter you can putt with and throw hyzer, flat, and anhyzer.
Neutral Midrange you can throw hyzer, flat, and anhyzer.
Neutral Fairway driver you can throw hyzer, flat, and anhyzer.
Overstable Fairway driver you can throw into a headwind.
Distance driver that goes farther than all your other discs.
If you’re a beginner you only need discs in the first three slots. Also, if you’re starting out, I would add discs in the order you see above. With just a putter you can have a great time and throwing putters will help you develop good form if you’re patient. If you want to add one more disc, get a midrange. Then try a fairway driver, etc. If you want recommendations for discs in these slots, when I was starting out this was my favourite chart: Marshall Street Flight Guide. (Note: When I say “neutral” that translates to discs in the “stable” and “understable” columns of this chart).
You may be a player that never needs a distance driver because your arm speed might not require it. There are disc golfers who have played for years at an advanced level that never need a disc faster than a 9 speed. For more on arm speed and throwing slower discs, see my article on Discing Down.
To Cycle or not to Cycle
Now comes my favourite part of building a bag - deciding whether to carry a different mold for each shot, or carrying multiple copies of the same mold in different stages of wear, known as cycling. Cycling works because as discs wear from use they get more understable. Most traditionally, cycling was done with Innova Rocs in Dx or KC Pro plastic. These are the cheaper plastics that wear down quicker than premium plastics. Rocs start out on the slightly overstable side as straight flyers with a healthy fade. As the plastic gets nicked and slightly warped the fade begins to fade. Then it’s time to put a fresh one in the bag. Now you have a Roc that fades and your old trusty one that goes straight. Eventually the straight one will begin to turn, becoming understable. You keep adding fresh ones in and eventually throughout a season you have 4 or 5 that all fly slightly different. Here’s a picture of my Roc cycle. At the top are a couple new KC’s I bought this year. Below that are some used KC’s that now go straight. Below that are my old Dx Rocs that are now understable. The white one at the bottom is one of the first discs I bought four years ago and is so understable it’s starting to be used as a roller.
One of the pros that best exemplifies a simple approach to building a bag and shows one of the coolest Dx Roc cycles is Philo Brathwaite. Click here to watch his “In the Bag” video.
One advantage of cycling is that by throwing only one mold you know exactly how it feels and releases from your hand. However, when cycling discs you become very attached to your worn out discs and if you lose them it can be heartbreaking. Plus, some people don’t like bagging the cheap plastic because, well, it’s cheap. It gets nicked up and gouged quite easily. A solid tree hit can change the flight. If you regularly play courses like Canmore Nordic Center where the fairways are gravel mountain trails and the trees are overwhelmingly evil, the cycling process with base plastic might happen too quickly to be practical. Therefore, you might want to carry several different disc molds in premium plastic to achieve all these different flights and have them be durable enough to retain those flight characteristics for more than one season.
Expanding the Family
Regardless of whether or not you choose to cycle your discs, as you advance in your game, you’ll probably want to add a few discs into new slots. Here are some disc slots you might want to add (and probably in this order):
Overstable or slightly overstable midrange that fades pretty hard but still glides (best for cycling).
Overstable throwing putter or midrange that can handle wind and sidearms.
Massively overstable distance driver that can be thrown in a headwind and still go far.
Massively understable midrange, fairway, or distance driver that can be rolled or thrown far stand-still.
Greg Hearn has an eclectic approach to building his bag. I’ve played many rounds with him over the years and have always marvelled at his approach. He’s always throwing something new, his discs are never organized in a way that makes sense to me, he throws discs from almost every different manufacturer, he tends not to be overly focused on carrying copies of molds, he is constantly shifting discs in and out, and he has a story for why every disc is in his bag. I believe his approach exemplifies Marie Kondo’s principle of choosing items that spark joy.
Developing the Spark
So how does this spark of joy develop? I believe that each disc is like a person and each throw is an experience you’re having with that person. Throwing a disc for the first time is like that awkward first date or first meeting. The throw works out or intrigues you so you throw again. Now you’re starting to figure out the disc’s personality. So you start throwing it in the way it seems to want to be thrown. And then after a while sometimes something magical happens: that shot that defies all odds, that you can still see when you close your eyes, that flew through the air exactly as you imagined on the tee. That’s when the connection becomes emotional. You’ve just fallen in love.
Well, then call me crazy. I love many of my discs. I own over 200 of them and love about 50 or so. Most of the others have not worked out during the dating period. Some I hang onto for no good reason. The ones I love I can flip through, hold in my hand, and remember in vivid detail the great shots we made together. This year I’ve decided that my bag is going to center around discs that spark joy for me. If a disc doesn’t spark joy, it’s going back in a box.
So what about you? Do most of the discs in your bag spark joy for you? Is there one disc you’ve been in love with for years? Do you sometimes stand on the tee with a disc and call up images of past great shots you’ve had together?
The beveled edge discs we throw today were designed and patented in 1983 by Dave Dunipace, the founder of Innova Champion Discs. The first mold was called the Eagle, which is still in production as a very glidey putter under the name Aero. The name Eagle was repurposed in 1999 for the 7 speed driver we know today. The Roc mentioned above was one of their early molds started in 1987 and modified several times until its most common "Rancho" incarnation around 1997. If you’re a new disc golfer you’re probably more familiar with a Roc3. The “3” was a mold tweak added around 2012 to suit the needs of the rising star Paul McBeth for a flatter topped Roc. Being one of the most popular discs of all time, the Roc has a very interesting history. If you’re a Roc thrower or a disc nerd it’s worth a little read to find out how the disc came to be: click here.