Like any other outdoor sport, disc golf is at the mercy of the elements, and when you feel ready for the perfect round, Mother Nature may decide it's time for the perfect storm.
With help from professional players Nate Sexton (winner of the 2017 U.S. Disc Golf Championship) and Kristin Tattar (one of the world's top-rated women and 2019 winner of the U.S. Women's Disc Golf Championship), we fill you in on what it takes to keep those discs soaring even if it's pouring.
Gear to Help You Disc Golf in the Rain
Most players find that their inability to hold onto discs is the worst part of rain rounds. Tattar, a native of Estonia who has experienced plenty of wet disc golf at home and on tour, shares those sentiments.
“For me, the biggest issue is wet discs,” said Tattar. “I don’t feel comfortable throwing when I don’t have a good grip."
One way to help with this issue is to keep your discs out of direct contact with rain, which is the job disc golf bag rainflies are made for. Sexton, based in the very rainy northwestern United States, believes the disc golf bag company that sponsors him is peerless when it comes to rain protection.
“Pound Disc Golf bags make the best rainfly in the business in my opinion,” recommended Sexton.
Pound’s rainfly is quite an advanced piece of equipment. Crafted out of a durable waterproof nylon fabric and neodymium magnets, the rainfly attaches over the front of the bag to create a reliably dry place for your discs. There are other high-quality rainflies available from Dynamic, ZÜCA, and MVP, among others, but not all are interchangeable, so make sure to get one that will fit your bag. Also, most bag rainflies need to be bought as separate accessories though, notably, Upper Park Designs includes rainflies with its bags.
No matter how good your rainfly is, though, your discs will still get wet when you take them out and throw them. That's why having a few excellent towels on hand is a must.
In our article on the best disc golf accessories, we touched on the FlighTowel, a microfiber cloth combined with a practice disc fob. Microfiber is great for drying discs as it is a dense, highly-absorbent material that can even last a full wet round if it's not coming down too hard. PVA, or polyvinyl acetate, is another material used for towels that stays nearly dry to the touch even when saturated.
But let's not forget that discs are just part of the grip equation. You also need to make sure your hands are dry. Of course towels can help with this, but there are other tools that will make you less reliant on them.
The most obvious of these is an umbrella. But for the best results, you'll want to make sure you buy the right umbrella. "Golf umbrella" is actually a category you can search through on most retail sites. These umbrellas tend to be wider and taller than typical ones, and their sides often go lower, better protecting what's under them from precipitation. Disc golf equipment manufacturers like Innova, Dynamic Discs, Prodigy, and quite a few others also make their own branded umbrellas for brand-loyal players who want both function and style.
Something else to know is that there are disc golf bags, like some Pound and Grip models, that have sleeves made to hold open or closed umbrellas so players don't have to worry about wearing out their arms holding them up or leaving them behind if weather improves. If you want to walk with an open umbrella held by your pack, make sure you purchase an umbrella with a pretty long shaft so it doesn't hit your head as you walk.
Tattar additionally mentioned that having the right clothing can make a big difference in wet conditions.
“I also have a good rain jacket and pants,” said Tattar.
Having clothing made to keep you dry can also help with keeping your body heat up, which, as Sexton pointed out, is important for performance.
"You need to make sure that your hands stay warm enough to perform well so your release—especially on the putting green—is consistent,” Sexton said.
It can be difficult to find a rain jacket that works well with disc golf since you need complete upper body range-of-motion—something many water-repellent fabrics simply aren't stretchy enough to allow.
One of the best rain jacket options for disc golf comes from DUDE, an Australian company that creates apparel specifically for disc golf. Made of 100% stretch twill, their Bailey caddy jacket moves with you as you throw, and its water-resistant lamination should keep you dry during the wettest rounds. There are even pockets large enough to hold three discs per side, so no more having your putter under your shirt while you wait for your cardmates. There are other great rain jackets from manufacturers like L.L. Bean, Patagonia, and several disc golf companies, as well.
And, finally, don't forget your feet.
Having dry, warm feet and solid traction are key to performing well in the wet. In our article with recommendations for disc golf footwear, waterproofing and great grip were some of the main things to look for in a good disc golf shoe. Having shoes with GoreTex or other waterproof materials is perfect both when it rains and during early-morning rounds when dew covers grass and tee pads. Some of the outdoor shoes from Adidas Terrex, Salomon, Merrell, and Keen are made with waterproof material and have enough grip and sturdiness to meet a disc golfer's needs.
Tactics for Beating the Rain During Disc Golf
Even with the right gear, not all the challenges of a rainy round disappear. For one, no matter how well your shoes grip, tee pad surfaces will often still be more treacherous during and after rain.
To mitigate the risk of taking a big spill, Sexton suggested simply slowing down on the tee.
"Certainly some tee surfaces are better than others in the rain, but the main thing you need to do is slow down your footwork and only be quick and explosive when you need to be," said Sexton.
Another strategy some players use is putting a towel down on the tee in the spot they plan to plant their foot when they throw. This is perfectly legal and can help combat traction issues.
Something else to consider is that even with a rainfly and umbrella keeping your discs dry, grip can often still be affected. The fact that many plastics are hygroscopic—meaning they can absorb water out of the air—is one reason for this, but it's also impossible to avoid wet discs and hands while throwing in heavy rain. Tattar brought up one way to combat these issues.
"When I feel really uncomfortable then I switch to more rubbery plastic for touchy upshots,” Tattar said.
Like Tattar pointed out, some discs allow for better grip in the rain. For many, discs made of baseline plastics like DX from Innova fit that bill. Still, you should test out what discs feel best to you when wet and make sure to have some in your bag if rain is in the forecast.
Sexton also mentioned a disc selection tactic he uses when grip is an issue.
“I am likely to throw a more beat-in disc when it is very wet as I know my power will be slightly lower without being able to fully trust my grip or footing,” explained Sexton.
With poor grip Sexton can’t transfer speed to the disc as efficiently as he normally can, and therefore his discs fly with more overstability. Well-worn discs tend to be less overstable than newer ones, so if you have a more beat-in version of what you're planning to throw, choosing it could help counterbalance the effects of weaker grip and less trust in putting your full power behind a shot.
You could also take this advice one step further and think about throwing a disc of a different mold that is a little less overstable than your typical disc choice for a hole would be.
One Last Tip for Rainy Disc Golf
Though it's not fun to play badly, the worst thing that could possibly happen during a rainy round is injury. Both Sexton and Tattar talked about the importance tee pads play in keeping players healthy during wet rounds.
“I guess it all starts with the tee pad,” Tattar added. “I'm no expert, but in my opinion when a course is made then there should go a lot of effort into making tee pads safe. It would be smart to ask around how it can be done. I'm sure everyone knows a course where there are really good tee pads and it would be nice to ask what did [those courses] do differently, or what materials [they use] and how they used them.”
Sexton also mentioned that course designers should be forward-thinking when it comes to tee pads and safety in wet conditions.
“As we install new tournament-level courses or update existing ones, it is important to have large tee pads and safe areas to follow through,” said Sexton. “Rain will always add to the risk of having a fall, but proper shoes and tee pads are the best way to minimize that risk.”
Many disc golf courses are created and maintained on shoestring budgets, so it can often be difficult to make big improvements to teeing surfaces. That said, we highly recommend that, if it's damp, casual players avoid courses with teeing surfaces that are dangerously slick when wet. Getting in one round isn't worth possibly losing your chance to ever play another due to injury.
Wishing You Dry Feet and Lots of Birdies
And those are all our best tips, for now, on the things to have and do to stay comfortable, play well, and be safe during rainy rounds of disc golf. If you think we missed some very useful piece of equipment or advice, let us know! You can reach our editor, Alex Williamson, at email@example.com.