• Chris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

The Worst Invention in Disc Golf: The Disc Retriever

Updated: Jun 24

Covid-19 Lockdown Day #1

Back at the turn of the century, when I moved back to Christchurch I was not the golfer I am today. There were no Internet resources, and we forget YouTube started up in 2006, in all it’s 144p glory.

The only way you could get good at disc golf in NZ, was to take your crappy form and polish that turd until it shone like the sun.

And so for the later part of the 2,000s I worked on perfecting some truly awful form. This was forced on me by the terrible number of times I ended up in the dreaded “Jellie Trench”, where the water was chest deep, and the weed and muck was pretty disgusting. Let me explain.

Early in the year 2001, I built the device you see in the photo below. It is just a fishing line, with the largest triple hook available, and a sinker. The tips of the hooks are bent outward, and the barbs removed so that it is slightly less dangerous in use.

The marginally dangerous Twirlymajig.

I’d twirl 1-metre of the line and sinker vertically, and release it so that the hook and sinker flew over and slightly past the disc, and landed with the line draped over the flight plate.

I could lift the line a little, and move left or right and pull the hook onto the center of the back of the disc, and give it a sharp pull to flip it onto its back, to make hooking the rim easy.

If the disc was flightplate down, I’d have no trouble hooking it, and often hooked it with the very first cast. I carried this thing for several years, and made hundreds of successful retrievals, not just for myself, but for other players too. And I got lots of praise for my ability to get discs out of the water quickly.

But this was not the sort of praise I wanted on the disc golf course. And that is why I stopped carrying it all together, after I had a startling realisation:


“I’d rather get better at disc golf than get better at getting discs out of water.”

I finally worked out carrying a disc retriever of any kind is bad for your mental game of disc golf. It is a crutch you lean on, and it’s also a constant reminder that you suck!

By making a conscious decision to NOT carry a disc retriever, you put extra pressure on yourself to throw correctly over water, and it is this pressure which should enable you to become better at it.

From that point on, I punished myself for throwing in the water, by either going straight in after it, or abandoning it, and hoping someone would return it to me at a later date – an expensive option as premium discs cost around $40 each at the time! (It wasn't until several years later that Vortica forced the prices down across NZ by radically cutting prices.)

You should actually pay a penalty for going in water, and I don’t just mean the penalty stroke you get. Because putting one in the water shows a failure to execute a shot which you should normally be able to achieve.

The water-carry minor panic attack

Many non-experts have a minor panic attack when they come to a water-carry hole, and that is one reason I have never designed one for any of my courses to date. You need a lot of experts in a region before you can justify designing holes which involve anything but a trivial and inconsequential water carry. They are not inappropriate for beginner and intermediate courses in my opinion.

But despite how you may feel, you mustn’t treat a water-carry differently to an ordinary fairway shot. The fact there is water to carry is a psychological problem, not a physical one.

Why shots over water fail

Because players often fail to properly see a water-carry as a normal throw, they allow their fears to alter their throwing motion. Players tend to throw up rather than out, and often the nose angle will be too high. The combined effect is a shorter, higher throw which slows quickly, and fades harder and earlier than normal.

Players often fail to commit to the front foot completely, and this also aids in creating a shot which goes higher than intended. This coupled with a failure to commit to a nose-flat or even nose-down throw, often causes poor outcomes over water.

Players often do not concentrate correctly on their form when throwing over water, and may make simple errors as a result, especially in the critical footwork.

It’s important on any drive, to not complete the throwing motion – or to clamp down on the disc and not release it, if anything in your x-step does not feel completely normal. This extends from footwork all the way to your grip. If you have any unexpected feelings during your throwing motion, don’t throw the disc!

Why form is important for water-carries

Without good form, you won’t achieve your intended line. So, concentrate intently upon it. Line up your shot as you normally would, but pay extra attention to the Line of Play, and do everything in your power to avoid rounding on a shot you don’t need full power on.

For full power shots, where a rounded smash is required to make the distance, the release timing is critical, and early or late releases will usually be punished with OB. So, concentrate intently on your release point.

Stay calm

This is great advice at all times, especially when planning your supermarket visit over the next 30 days – but it is equally important on the DGC. If you feel fear ahead of a water-carry, reassure yourself with the following reasoning:

  1. It’s simply a normal throw.

  2. You are a competent disc golfer with decent form.

  3. You’re committed to the shot.

  4. You know the right disc and right flight shape to make.

  5. You know the power needed to make the shot, and

  6. Your form supports that power without problem.

Bullshit Bravado vs. Deep Confidence

I’ve discussed this before, and one is not a substitute for the other! One gets you OB most of the time, while the other sees you land safely in your target landing area.

If you want to mentally improve your ability to carry water, then you will need to build up a mental bank account filled with the currency of success, not overdrawn with a lot of failures.

The way to achieve this is to find a place where you can simulate the same shot but without the water carry. Practice the shot until you are confident you can make it. This will begin to develop the Deep Confidence you need when facing scary-looking shots.

Take this new-found Deep Confidence to the water-carry, and you will most likely be successful.

So, if you have a disc retriever – get rid of it! Or at least stop carrying it. Leave it in your car, maybe – or give it to a rival of yours, perhaps. :P

And if you’re thinking about getting a disc retriever – think again!

COVID-19 Lockdown Day #1:

Vortica is sadly NOT classified as an Essential Business

We don't understand why, but there it is! The store is still officially open for business, but we can't ship anything, so effectively we are open only for advice, questions, and conversations. And we are extremely happy to offer, answer and have these with you at virtually any time!

We have plenty of time to share with you, and will be delighted to talk with you. We have unlimited minutes, so text us and we'll call YOU!

Call Chris in Christchurch on 0210-69-58-69

Call Martin in Wanaka on 027-226-5343

Take care, everyone, and stay healthy!

#discretrievers #mentalgame

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