On The Approach: Evaluating Greens

December 2, 2016

Other than watching in mild horror, there is not much you can do when your well thrown approach shot ricochets off of the ground by the pin then comes to rest outside of the circle. The only way to avoid it is to evaluate your green before you’ve thrown. Once you have gotten a handle on determining a workable distance of the approach shot, what’s your next move? Taking a quick second to observe the conditions of your landing zone by the basket could help avoid the above situation.

Approach shots typically fall into one, of two, categories. First, a disc golfer has thrown a less than favorable shot off of the tee pad. In this case the approach shot is being used as par recovery. Second, the player finds themselves in a unique opportunity to shoot for a birdie on a follow up shot. This case relies on longer holes. How can you optimize the outcome of this shot? For starters, knowing what kind(s) of greens you’re throwing at can begin to help. All you need to do is take some off-the-cuff observations, and use your own experience as foresight to what will happen when your disc finally comes to rest.

Evaluating Greens

The general rule of thumb for disc golf is that the area surrounding the basket, 10 meters in any direction, is the ‘green’. These areas are not as outwardly visible like their ball golf counterpart, but a disc spends most of it’s time in the air even when on the green. Ball golf greens are for rolling into the cup. Crucial time is spent relying on a smooth rolling surface, so in ball golf turf quality is paramount. For this reason a more dense grass is used, and is visibly different. Should you throw on a red polo, squat on your heels, and analyze the disc golf ‘green’ like Tiger Woods iconically did come Sundays? Probably not, but there are a few simple observations that can be helpful to keep in mind during your next round.

Ground Shape

Honestly saying ‘ground shape’ feels weird, but stay with me. Knowing whether or not the ground around the basket is relatively flat, or has any directional incline/decline can do wonders for pre-shot game plan. If you throw RHBH a slope downward from right to left means giving your disc a wide berth (depending on obstacles) so when it fades out you aren’t at the bottom of some ravine. Trading in that backhand for a forehand could be your best option depending on circumstances. Knowing the ground can be key no matter the direction of slope.


Hole 17 at Peter Pan Park is located on a slight hillside moving downward to the right (when looking from the tee pad). Other obstacles keep you from an obvious RHBH hyzer, and rolling down this incline is very common. This angle is behind the hole as the sun was particularly irritating for photos that afternoon.

Turf Quality

This one can either surprisingly helpful, or detrimental depending on the level of grooming at whatever course you’re playing. Here in Emporia 3 of the 4 main courses are located on public park grounds. All three of these courses are fairly well maintained as far as the cutting of grass is concerned. Depending on recent weather I can bank on them being reasonably tidy. One course is populated with trees to such a degree that on some, tree-dense, holes grass cannot grow well around the hole. ECC is different level entirely. Country Club courses are notoriously well groomed year round. The grass on fairways, and greens at a country club will be consistently cleaner kept than most courses. This makes greens play quicker, or discs skipping off of them more likely depending on angle of impact. Customarily speaking, a softer landing zone = less skip.


Hole 9 at Peter Pan Park is located within a group of 4 trees, and has very little grass on the green. Skips off of dirt or mulch are unavoidable, and being tucked behind a big tree can cause putting problems.

OB lines

This one is so obvious that it is easy to overlook…until it’s too late. Island holes, and peninsula holes are no-brainers with built-in boundaries. I’m talking about those holes whose baskets are near painted OB lines, or by casual OB areas. Knowing where those are located prior to your throw can make a world of difference in a potential 2-stroke swing. These kinds of OB can vary depending on event, and even time of year. There’s no rule that says you cannot walk up and mentally dissect what you have to work with going forward.


Hole 18 at Peter Pan Park is down a tight tunnel with a creek bed behind and to the right. To the back left is typically casual OB with rough foliage ground cover, and downed branches. It is usually painted as official OB during tournaments. Add this to an almost bare green, and you have a recipe for skipping into a bogey.

Disc Type/Shape

This one breaks down to disc profile. It’s simple physics that a fairway driver with a more sleek profile will skip at a higher percentage than a traditional midrange, and especially a putter. Midrange discs, and putters tend to be carried at heavier weights. This makes them hit the turf harder leading to less impact movement. Be aware that midranges, and putters have thicker rims. This feature won’t affect skipping much, but a disc finding a thick rim on a tumble can roll all the way down a hill in a moments notice.


On the left is a Westside discs VIP Harp, and on the right a Dynamic Discs Lucid Felon. From this view of these disc profiles it’s easy to see why a Felon will skip more often, and further, than a Harp will.

Err on the side of caution

If everything goes right there can still be problems on the green. Obstacles are always an issue on any throw, and many courses have foliage of some kind near the basket. In these cases you must decide to take those into account. That group of saplings might be 10 feet short of the basket. A long throw might be your only option at an open putt. No round is perfect, and taking what the course gives you is your best option. What kinds of steps do you take when deciding how to execute a good approach shot?



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One comment on “On The Approach: Evaluating Greens

  1. That’s true. I agree with you entirely. That’s just what I was thinking.