Winning When Wet: a How To Guide
Updated: Jun 24, 2020
This week, Vortica takes an in-depth look at how to excel in the rain, and cold.
In 21 years of competitive disc golf, I have played my share of wet tournaments, and one thing remains constant throughout – my performances have been better than my fine weather results.
I want to share with you what I have learned over the decades, so you might save yourself a lot of heartache and discomfort when the weather takes a nosedive. And, if it helps you beat me at an NZ NT event sometime in the future, please let me know, as it will fill my heart with a warm glow.
The first, and most important aspect of wet play is mental attitude.
The second aspect is having the right equipment, and using it correctly.
The third aspect is your routine.
The fourth aspect is strategy, and tactics.
And finally, you need to tie all these ingredients into a cohesive whole, which will work well and survive the whole tournament, and not a single throw less.
Now, no one likes to play in the rain, let alone cold rain, or even worse, cold, rain… and wind! The Deadly Three are liable to wreck your game entirely, unless you have all your ducks in a row. So, let’s hunt down some ducks!
Mental Attitude The weather is what it is. Getting upset about it doesn’t help you, or others. Try not to complain about it if you can help it. Personally, I struggle with this.
A well prepared player isn’t too worried about the weather, merely that the round is not going to be much fun, unless you play like a demon, and have fun because you are running hot.
You will need to be focused for every shot in the round, and to do that you need to give yourself a break in between shots, and while it can be hard to relax when you aren’t throwing, this is exactly what you need to do.
Being able to relax is largely down to having…
The Right Equipment And the right gear costs a lot of money. No two ways about it. But there comes a time in a disc golfer’s career when they will no longer accept being cold and wet, or the “inevitable” results those bring. You have to ask yourself; What am I prepared to pay, to take strokes off my wet weather game, and be less miserably cold and wet?
You can accumulate your equipment slowly over time, or you can go out and blow a big wad of cash on everything I have listed below, as being essential for wet weather play.
Most people turn up to tournaments woefully ill-prepared for wet weather. This puts them at a huge disadvantage, even before they begin. I travel heavy and carry all my wet weather gear which I have tried to list in order of importance, but in reality, it’s *all* important!
• 2-metre, vented storm umbrella • Three pairs of waterproof shoes • Many pairs of thick merino wool socks • Bag/Cart rain cover (read on) • Three rain shells • Properly waterproofed over-pants with sealed side zips • Lightweight low-profile insulated jacket • One Mark II Mobius Butt-Flap (read on) • At least 3 caps, one with polar-fleece ear flaps • At least 4 artificial chamois • At least 4 cotton towels • At least 6 re-usable hand warmers • 2 pairs of fleece-lined, semi-waterproof insulated trousers • Cart – OR, 19” Huklab stool • Two sets of merino wool long underwear • Several merino wool undershirts and long sleeved shirts • Two merino wool jerseys • Merino neck warmer
There is no such thing as having too much wet weather gear. Staying dry and warm is the top priority in any bad weather round. It is impossible to perform to your potential if you are cold or wet. If you are cold and wet then you are done for, and might as well pull out of the event.
Your shoes and rain shells are the most important items here, and you need to spend proper money on these items and buy high-quality gear. Because the joy of cheap price is long forgotten, while the bitterness of low quality persists for the lifetime of the item.
No matter how waterproof your shoes are, or how good your rain shell is, both are highly unlikely to leave you dry after two rounds in heavy rain. This is why you need at least two of each, and preferably a third, so you can still be dry and warm for the morning round the next day, when you don’t have adequate drying facilities available.
If you need a fourth set of wet weather gear, use the driest stuff for round 4, by which time there’s a good chance 25% of the field will have pulled out, so you should be sitting pretty. :P
Fine Merino Wool Is a miracle substance, and you would do well to obtain as much of it as you possibly can, in various types of clothing, and in various weights. And, of course, the very best fine merino wool comes from New Zealand, where we have been producing the best wool and woollen items for a hundred years. Keep your eyes open for the NZ-based Icebreaker brand – you will never regret a purchase.
If you can’t find, or afford fine merino wool, or much of it, other wools are also good, just not AS good.
Artificial Fabrics are Not Optimal Not only do they not protect you as well from cold or wet, they stink like crazy, and can cause chaffing – something wool will never do.
Wool is not Itchy or Scratchy Properly prepared wool will never irritate your skin.
Do Not Tumble Dry The best woollen items come pre-shrunk, and can withstand even warm washes in a top-loading washer, but you must never tumble dry wool. Do not be lazy! Fast-spin woollens and hang them up to dry. It is a tiny price to pay for the unparalleled luxury of fine merino wool directly against your skin.
Waterproof Gear has a Short Life Span I can’t stress this enough. Nothing is waterproof. Water is the ultimate solvent, and will, over time, dissolve everything. Completely.
Your expensive waterproof shell is highly unlikely to be anything like waterproof after just 20 days of wear. It might survive light showers, but serious rain will leave you wet inside it. Discard old rain shells, and replace every couple of years.
Of most interest to disc golfers is that the carrying of bags via backpack straps is the thing which most rapidly destroys water-repelling coatings, membranes and treatments. The friction, folding, and movement under pressure combine to rapidly degrade the material. Ten rounds in a shell carrying your backpack can ruin the very surface you need most; the shoulders – and from then on, the jacket is going to leak.
Disc golfers are advised to use carts in the rain, if only because it saves your very expensive rain shell from damage.
Waterproof Shoes Have a large variation in quality, price and longevity. The waterproofing membrane breaks down with use, particularly in non-insulated shoes, and so it is wise to avoid wearing your waterproof shoes unless it is actually wet or raining.
Try to wear appropriate footwear at all times for disc golf, and do not subject your feet to boiling inside a winter shoe in summer time. Toes which look like they have been in a bath for two hours is an unpleasant look and feel. Best avoided!
And if you are unlucky enough to suffer pitted Keratolysis, then damp feet will result in the bacteria eating half the skin on your feet. Not fun.
Vortica is happy to recommend the Latitude64 T-Link shoe as having excellent water resistant properties for an extended period of time, superb grip and are very warm. We do however have one caveat: the very first batch of T-Links used the wrong glue, and fall apart fairly rapidly. They can be perfectly repaired using Shoe-Goo, or you can return them to Lat64 for a new pair, which will not fall apart.
Shoes in General It may sound excessive, but I have six pairs of shoes for disc golf, and I chose which pair to wear based on the conditions. This has several advantages. Shoes which are not worn for anything other than disc golf last many, many times longer than shoes which are worn casually.
So, disc golf shoes are put on just before a round begins, and taken off as soon as it ends. Rest your feet in flip-flops or open toed sandals with good cushioning at lunch time, and at the end of the day. Let your feet dry properly. If cold, wear other socks and shoes over lunch time, and change again before the second round. I can’t stress how important it is to look after your feet during a tournament. This comes from a guy with a left ankle which is fused solid, after ripping the foot clean off his leg, taking the shortest root down a 30-metre cliff. So, do as I say, not as I did. :P
If you are a normal human, and you wear a single pair of shoes for three days, your feet will be very sore, and in poor condition. Take my advice, never miss an opportunity to put on a fresh (thick!) pair of merino wool socks, or to change into dry shoes.
When I caddied for Dave Feldberg for four days, I was shocked and horrified by his shoes, and how badly he made contact with the ground. I had to have words to him and Synthia about it, and made him promise to see his podiatrist back home, and sort his shit out.
Cheap or badly fitting shoes, with low quality foot beds are never going to be good for your disc golf game.
Proper Footbeds Unless you are a genetic freak, your feet are messed up. Somehow. You’ve got a massively wide foot, or a low instep, or collapsed arches, or bunions – or any number of diabolical problems from abusing your feet for years.
It’s the shoes you wear – and it’s your footbeds.
It has always amazed me, that I can go to a store, and spend $300 on some absolutely amazing sports shoes, but the footbeds which come with them cost about 11 cents.
I have a collection of conventional over-the-counter type footbeds, but also several pairs which were heat molded for my feet, in different levels of cushioning. When you have a frozen ankle, you need every bit of cushioning you can get.
And even when you don’t have a messed up ankle, you still need plenty of cushioning!
The great thing about having $200 footbeds, is they instantly convert every shoe you own into $200 shoes. They are quite literally worth more than their own weight in gold to you, and your game.
Levels of footbeds
Base: Comes inside shoes at purchase. Total garbage, throw out along with the box. Cost: zero.
Entry: Over-the-counter, with no conformable nature, and no advanced materials. Cost: up to $50 or so.
Proper: Sometimes heat-molded to your feet at the shoe store. Some advanced materials, depending on price. Cost: $50+
Professional: Only available from a Podiatrist after a consultation, and full video analysis of your walk and a close inspection of your feet. Often heat-molded for you. Containing advanced materials specifically to address your individual problems and needs. Individual footbeds may be built up with a range of different foams, from below, and then sanded down to provide the optimal level of support for you. Designed and produced for long term wear, in all your shoes, or specifically for a shoe and an activity like disc golf. Cost: $200+.
I cannot advise you on many actual footbed models, because most of my conformables are now out of production and from the NZ company Formthotics: http://www.formthotics.com/ - but they still make some very good footbeds.
My podiatrist supplied me with highly cushioned, yet very firm (!) heat-formed footbeds from FootBionics, another NZ company: http://www.footbionics.com/ I can’t say enough good things about them.
Walk on Pillows, or Marshmallows! Having been a shoe freak all my life, and having limped my way around disc golf courses for a full 20 years prior to my ankle arthrodesis, I know a lot about extreme foot and ankle pain, and so I can advise you with some level of authority on this subject.
If you want to look after your feet, then you will rush out and buy some shoes made by Hoka One One. I often refer to my Mafates as clown shoes, because they contain 2.7 times as much foam cushioning as a normal running shoe. My Mafate Speed casual shoes have over 2.5 times.
Walking in these shoes is like walking on pillows.
Then there are OOFOS sandals, slip-ons and flip-flops. These are marketed as “runners recovery sandals” – but you don’t need to do any running. Trust me. OOFOS are like walking on marshmallow clouds. You must try them.
Not For Disc Golf! It’s highly unlikely a modern set of Hokas would last more than a week of disc golf use, so do not be tempted to destroy a pair finding out. They are designed for running, and the twisting forces of disc golf will tear them apart because of the way the sole lugs are over-molded. But as a treat for your feet before and after rounds, you simply can’t beat Hokas or OOFOS.
Cushioning in Disc Golf Shoes The more cushioned your disc golf shoes (and footbeds) are, the worse you will perform. That’s my Catch-22. I can’t wear hard-soled shoes because they cause me agony, but balancing and driving when standing on pillows is tough; you are not connected to the ground like you should be.
Socks. OMG – SOOOOCKS! This is going to sound so utterly stupid to anyone under the age of 50 probably, but life is too short to wear anything other than high quality socks. Icebreaker now have a lifetime warranty against wearing out – so go and buy lots of them!
When I get socks for Christmas, I am overjoyed – because I actually order socks as presents. Type, colour, and size – thank you very much!
Thin socks are garbage, and will give you blisters. Do not wear thin socks. Not even in 40 degree heat! (104 Fahrenheit.)
Once again, merino wool socks are unbeatable in terms of keeping you comfortable, even in the hottest and coldest conditions.
Perhaps the most important part of any disc golf sock is the part which is just above the heel cup; at the Achilles tendon. The padded cupping part of the heel must extend up the back of the heel for at least 50mm or so. These kinds of socks are often called Hiking Socks as they are intended for use in boots.
This added cushioning above the heel cup means than if your socks move down your feet a little during play – as many socks do, to varying degrees – you are still protecting your heel with padded sock material.
Take a look at your old disc golf socks. Probably, the material above the heel cup is so thin you can see through it. That’s blister material right there. I have suffered horrendous pain due to blisters in tournament play, and I do not recommend it. It really helps to take the fun out of the game.
Layer Up for Wet Weather The rules followed by explorers 100 years ago still apply today: several thin layers are better than a couple of thick ones. Making most of them merino wool is a smart move. I typically wear a 160-gram merino t-shirt or long sleeve, with a 200-gram merino long-sleeved shirt, and in very cold conditions, a 260-gram long sleeved shirt on top of those. Then my rain shell. In extreme cold I have a very lightweight insulated jacket which fits nicely over the merino, and under my rain shell.
It is incredibly important you test out any wet weather clothing combination you will use, beforehand. Make sure layers are sized correctly, and are comfortable without restricting movement.
Buying jackets in particular, you must perform a full-power x-step in the store isle, with layers underneath, and not feel any restriction of movement at all.
You haven’t tested a wet weather setup until your have braved 18 holes at your local, in the worst weather possible. Sad fact, but true.
Dreaded Sleeve Stretch As a general rule for disc golf, you mustn’t wear any item of clothing with a loose cuff, or with stretchy arms. Having a sleeve run down your wrist and over your hand during the smash is a Bad Thing.
Items need to fit well, and/or have elastic cuffs, and in the case of rain shells, an adjustable velcro tab.
Watch Out For That Tree! The Mobius Buttflap Due to the amount of time disc golfers spend bent overexposed to rain, water shed from the back of your rain shell runs directly onto your butt. Also, if you carry a bag against your lower back, or butt, then all the water from your bag finds its way to your butt as well.
A cold wet ass crack is undesirable. And a rain shell which extends below your butt is not a solution as it will restrict your movement in the x-step. So, I have invented the Mobius Buttflap in response.
It is just a sheet of thick polythene with a curved base with loops taped at the top which engage with the belt of my pants, outside them (see above). It sits across my butt and also shields the top part of the backs of my thighs. Because it is attached below the rain shell, it sheds everything onto the ground, and keeps my butt dry. It’s made from the same heavy duty clear polythene my cart shield is made from, which keeps everything in the cart dry. It looks daft, but it works.
I only use the Butt Flap if I am NOT wearing my full-on waterproof pants shell. The extreme pants are for extreme weather only. The Butt-Flap is for normally wet conditions, rather than OMFG-We’re-Going-To-Drown conditions.
Routine – Stay Dry,
and Stay Legal As a tournament player, you must have a wet routine which never exceeds the 30-second shot clock. This is arguably the single most important aspect of wet weather play, as card mates are required to call time violations, regardless of conditions.
To avoid the stress of a time warning and then penalties, which is a real possibility in a wet round, your routine should be 20 seconds and no more.
In the wet, you must move many parts of your routine ahead of when you reach your disc because that is when the 30-second timer starts for your shot.
If it is at all possible, you should get to your disc well before it is your turn to throw, but only if you can get to it, or behind it to check your lie, without interfering with the throw of an away player.
If you cannot, then you will need to move some parts of your normal routine so that you perform them before you arrive at your disc. You should have dried at least one or two discs you may use for the shot, and have them tucked up under your arm inside your jacket, and done whatever you can to assess the wind and your lie prior to arrival.
Remember, you are also obligated by the rules to enforce them, and so you must call other players on time violations when they make them. It is, after all, a big advantage to extend the shot clock, and you mustn’t allow an ill-prepared player to take an advantage over you by breaking the time limit.
Warn them once, and then call penalties, and have them seconded.
Your routine should include the time it takes you to put down your umbrella, dry your hands, choose a disc, dry the gripping part of it, check your shot selection, and make your throw.
Cotton dries Skin, but only Skin can dry Plastic You will carry at least two cotton towels per wet round, with the backups in a plastic bag. Towels can dry your hands, but they can’t dry a disc. All they can do is push water around the surface.
A genuine chamois, made from skin, is not appropriate for disc golf, as you will inevitably leave it in your bag when damp, and next time you go golfing, your bag will smell like a dead rabbit’s burrow. So, get good quality artificial chamois – at least 4 of them in total, and keep three in plastic bags.
Typically, the best artificial chamois are sold at auto-parts stores for drying cars after cleaning. Get a big one. 40cm x 60cm is ideal.
Dry Hands and Dry Discs Separates the Field If your hand and disc is dry on any throw on any hole during a wet round, then you already have a significant advantage over much of the field. You will do everything possible to ensure that this situation continues throughout the round.
And while you can wring out a chamois, a wet one is not *quite* as effective as a dry one, for removing moisture completely from a disc.
If I am running low on dry chamois, I will wipe the disc quickly using a damp one, and use a dry one to polish a small portion of the disc where I will grip it.
When It All Gets Wet You might have the best wet weather routine and equipment in the world, and yet by hole 14, you have exhausted your towels and chamois, and be somewhat wet, and starting to get cold, and now have no way to properly dry your hands or discs.
This is when you can once again separate yourself from the field, by doing this one simple thing: Never throw harder than 70%. Not once. Not for any reason.
If your hand or disc is wet, and you are driving with full power, then the disc *will* slip out of your hand before you intend it to. That will result in a shot which goes badly left if you are a normal human being, and round somewhat during your pull.
Or, you will hang on too tight, as a result of fearing premature ejection and grip lock it crazily to the right.
Never Belittle a Shot Up The Middle! When everyone else is falling apart around you, and their shoes are like aquariums, and their crappy umbrellas have broken in the wind, and their hands are frozen, and their discs are wet – and are being sprayed left and right, you will do well to keep your cool, accept that your hand and disc are wet, and throw gently, and with perfect form, concentrating on a perfect straight pull, down the Line Of Play – so your disc will fly straight up the middle of the fairway. That is all you want.
Forget distance. Forget being creative. Forget you can throw 120 metres. Dial it down to 70%, or even less. Throw like your arm is super sore, and you really don’t want to hurt it.
Because if you can keep sending discs up the middle, and dropping them close to the basket for par, then you will be soaring up the order as players explode all over the course.
Warm Hands Nothing makes for bad disc golf like cold hands. Yours need to stay warm throughout a round. If you have to carry 8 re-useable hand-warmers, then do so. I usually carry three, but don’t usually need them as New Zealand has a benign island climate.
Re-useable hand warmers are available in New Zealand from Kathmandu, and cost $20 for a pack of two.
The Long Haul The worst thing about a truly wet round is that they take so long. Every shot requires the full amount of time, and just getting around a wet course can be tricky. It feels like it takes forever, and frustration levels can easily rise, along with tempers and the volume and number of anguished cries.
Yep – you are probably miserable, but if you have followed my advice, you will – very importantly – be very much less miserable than the vast majority of players who are poorly prepared for the weather.
Tough it out! Don’t dwell on the cold and wet. Accept it. You are playing disc golf! No one is hunting you down with a machete, and you have a warm dry place to rest after the round, and a warm bed to climb into at night! Life’s pretty good if you are competing in a disc golf tournament, isn’t it?
The Stool Is not for you to sit on, but rather, your bag, if you do not have a cart. Unless you have treated the bottom of your bag liberally with some sort of rubber paint, to completely seal it against water, your bag will acquire a litre of water from resting on the wet ground and grass all day.
A part of your routine is placing the stool so you can sling the bag onto it, balanced nicely. Your umbrella can be draped over them for your throw, if it is not too windy.
Because of the 30-second shot clock, you must put your stool and bag (or cart) down some distance from your disc, so that placing it, and taking off your bag is not counted as a part of your shot clock.
Make sure that distance is at least 5-metres, so that no one can call you on it. On sloped ground, this is an important part of your routine; making sure the bag doesn’t go tumbling down the hill, spewing your bag’s contents everywhere, while you putt. Ask me how I know that!
It also helps to prep your discs before walking over to your lie, so that you have maximum time to observe and play your shot.
This may be seen as a way to side-step the 30-second rule, but at least you are obeying the letter of the law. While others flout the rule, you can feel good that you are trying to follow the rules. And you should not feel ashamed to call someone on a time violation. Really – you shouldn’t. The rules are the rules, and breaking them can yield a real advantage. That’s why they are there; to attempt to create a level playing field.
The Rain Cover It’s essential to keep your bag, and its contents dry. Normal rain covers are pretty much useless if the rain is anything like constant, or heavy, and I have played in the kind of Rain that other rains talk about in excited whispers around the water cooler, saying things like “Did you see that Rain???”, “He da Rain!”, and “Those droplets bounced a foot in the air!”
I have found that a cheap waterproof gardening heavy duty re-useable waste bag, with four handles around the top makes an ideal rain bag for most bags and many backpacks. I put the entire bag into the err, bag, and then tie the front and sides together over the bag, and tie it with bungy cord, and then fold the top one down over the whole arrangement, so that it is totally waterproof. See below.
Photos show my totally stuffed Latitude64 ProBag, containing 26 discs and all the wet weather stuff I need for a round.
It can sit on the wet ground all day and not leak. And the wide mouth of the bag allows access to all parts of your bag, while leaving space for the backpack straps to come out.
Choose a very deep bag, as the back flap needs to go the over the top, to protect your gear from water (bottom right, above). Carrying the bag results in a small opening at the very top, which will be protected by your umbrella, while you walk.
Ziplock Plastic Bags Put your phone in one, and your wallet in another! Put your spare towels in one, and your spare chamois in another. Also, you probably want a large one in your jacket pocket, so that you can put your currently damp chamois in a bag in your pocket, instead of it wetting the inside of the jacket. Typically, the pockets of rain shells are not very watertight.
Keep another plastic bag to put your wet towels and chamois in, too.
Strategy In Rain There are several key points in wet play: footing is often compromised, discs and hands are often wet, and there is often a strong temptation to rush the shot.
Not even players like World Champion Ricky Wysocki are immune to bad strategic play. You would think he is water-soluble with the speed at which he races from his umbrella to the teepad, to throw his disc!
But you mustn’t rush in the rain. That will cause you to break your routine, and if you have not practiced rushed play, then you can’t play rushed. Play like you practice – and give yourself enough time to execute your wet throwing routine.
Wet hands or discs require powering down radically to throw, and preferentially choosing discs