Lost discs: practical, preventative steps to avoid that void in your bag


Missing Disc

Discs ain’t cheap- especially if everything you throw is premium plastic or rubber that runs $15 or more a pop. And we all own some that would fall into the category of ‘it’s not the money'; discs that are worked in just the way we want, discs that are out of production, in high demand, hard to replace, or have sentimental value. Equipment is part (albeit, in my opinion, a minor part) of what enables us to perform our best, and if our most important tool is suddenly gone, our game is likely to suffer.

For all these reasons, it makes sense to have a strategy to reduce the lost disc factor. Below is a collection of observations I’ve made over time and some changes I’ve made based on those observations.

Brand your discs like cattle

Lost Discs

This collection of discs from the author’s bag show the consistency and readability of his ‘personal branding’. Look closely, and you’ll notice that some need a fresh coat, which they received right after the photo was taken. (Photo by Jack Trageser)

There is an unwritten rule in disc golf that a person is less obligated to try to find the owner of a found disc when it is completely devoid of a name, number, or identifying mark. So it naturally follows that unmarked discs get reunited with their owners far less often than those that are marked. But lets dig a little deeper. Everyone approaches labeling their discs a little differently, so what type of markings produce the best results in terms of getting back the lost little lambs?

  • Name and Contact Info: People who find your disc that are inclined to try to contact you personally can’t do that if you don’t put down some contact info. I used to list my email address in addition to my phone number but no one ever used it, so I just stick with the phone number. That way they can call or text, hopefully right when they find it. Both name and number should be large and clear on the top or bottom of the disc (not the inside rim). Make it big enough so it won’t get erased or obscured through wear-and-tear, it’s easy to read, and also discourages finders from becoming keepers (those who may be temped to erase it or write over it). In this photo of multiple discs, the lighter orange disc was lost, and a friend noticed my faded JACKT on a photo on eBay. The perpetrator had attempted to erase it but wasn’t quite successful (I re-did it, in a more creative manner for fun). Good thing, as I got that disc from Steady Ed himself and it still serves active duty as a finesse roller.
  • Personal Branding: This one has gotten me back numerous discs I would not otherwise have seen again. The key is to make sure the way you brand your discs is very consistent, and fairly large. People I play with even occasionally remember the way I write JACKT on the underside of all my discs, and get them back to me. I’ve had them spot my discs on the course, in Lost-and-Found, and even in the hands of other players! My favorite story along these lines was when someone I don’t know approached a friend of mine (RIP, Slingshot Steve) and asked “What do you think of this disc?” Steve, quickly spotting the JACKT, replied “I THINK it belongs to a friend of mine,” and snatched it out of the guy’s hand. The key is to come up with a way of writing your name that is readable, unique, and simple enough to replicate on each disc.
  • Practical over Aesthetics- Golf discs in your bag are there to do a job, not look pretty. I know it mars the beauty of a translucent disc to write your name on it in large, bold letters, but you gotta ask yourself what’s more important- Keeping the disc pristine, or keeping the disc . . . period? It’s like not wearing a helmet riding a motorcycle because you don’t want to mess up your hair. And no, I don’t think I’m over dramatizing (much) with that analogy- we’re talking about our discs here!
Lost Discs

Even pretty see-through discs must be branded. The author writes backwards on the bottom so it reads correctly on top. (Photo by Jack Trageser)

Natural (Disc) Selection

Whereas the first point dealt with retrieving discs from others who find them, this one concerns being able to find them after an errant throw. The color of a disc significantly impacts the chance of spotting it on the course. You players who frequent wide open courses, or courses where the terrain is all manicured, regularly mowed grass might feel they can ignore this section- but read on. Disc golfers love to travel to new courses, and chances are you’ll at some point play courses like the ones I frequent in Santa Cruz and Monterey, CA. Thick bushes and ground cover, tall grass and dense, gnarly trees abound, and that’s just on the fairways!

Seriously, though, playing here has forced me to take ‘spot-ibility’ into consideration when selecting discs. Whenever possible, I choose discs in solid, bright, unnatural colors. That way I can search for the color more than the shape of the disc. Kind of like those old natural selection experiments we read about in textbooks using white and dark moths and white and dark trees- except in reverse. The discs that stand out most are the ones that will survive.

Lost Discs

Quick- how many discs do you see? Which one caught your eye first? Enlarge the picture if necessary. Especially when only the edge is showing, bright colors really make a difference. (Photo by Jack Trageser)

Black, dark green, and any discs in earth tones that blend in with the terrain are obvious loss-risks (although manufacturers still make them and people still buy ’em). Another kind of easy-to-lose color is more surprising; even if the colors are bright and unnatural, tie-dye and really any multi-colored discs are hard to spot as well. The variegated patterns help them blend into nearly any background. Tie-dye shirts jump out at you, but not tie-dye discs. Go figure.

Bad Habits

We’ve covered a couple things you can do in preparation of playing to reduce lost discs. Now let’s examine a few habits and activities that tend increase the separation of player and disc.

Sometimes when we throw a really bad shot and know it immediately, it’s hard to watch. I really do think we sometimes turn away or cover out eyes not to be dramatic, but because it’s painful to see a well-planned shot gone bad. I’m guilty of this as much as anyone, and it’s a situation that sometimes leads to a lost disc. If I don’t see exactly where it lands I have less of an idea specifically where to start searching for it.

Where I play, hiding places are numerous and discs can get lost on even the most innocuous of throws. So I try hard to watch my disc closely, no matter how ugly the result. I try to remember to commit where it lands to memory, and if it disappears from sight before it comes to rest, I try to note the trajectory and some type of nearby landmark as a reference point to begin the search. The word ‘try’ was in italics because occasionally I note those things but forget them immediately, making the whole exercise pointless. The trick is to pay attention to where your disc goes and retain that information until it’s time to look for it.

School of Disc GolfHere’s another one. Ever thrown a drive – maybe just before dark, or warming up for a tournament right before it’s about to start – and get the impulse, because of the unsatisfactory results, to throw one more? A little voice warns ‘Don’t do it!’ but you ignore the warning, launch the disc, and almost immediately regret it. A disc golf version of ‘one too many’, it seems the odds of losing the disc in situations like this for some reason dramatically increase. The only advice here is to listen to that little voice, and remember that as Shakespeare wrote in Henry IV, ‘discretion is the better part of valor’. Let that disc live to fly another day.

A variation of this affliction is known as ‘throwing the bag’, in which one is impelled to throw every disc in one’s quiver- usually on a particularly awe-inspiring hole. Two things can go wrong here: Either you throw so many discs that you forget one in the search-and-rescue effort, or you throw so many that the odds that at least one gets lost increases. If you can’t resist throwing multiple discs on an irresistible hole, try to note and remember the location of each disc you throw. The odds that one of your babies gets lost on its own won’t go down, but at least you won’t arrive at the landing zone with that ‘uh-oh’ feeling.

The subject of playing new courses while traveling was mentioned above, but is worth revisiting. If you’re playing a course you’ve never played before – especially if you’re just passing through and likely not to return any time soon, and especially especially if you’re playing solo – consider leaving your most precious discs out of the bag. When you don’t know the course it’s much easier to lose a disc, and when you’re solo the odds of finding it go down. Having a local as a guide helps quite a bit, but if you do lose a disc on that faraway course, odds of having it returned are not great. Instead, bring some ‘stunt doubles’ that won’t hurt as much to lose. Your score may suffer a little, but that sting is temporary compared to the loss of a key disc.

As a side note, it should also go without saying that being in an altered state of mind is often a contributing factor to lost – or forgotten – discs. To each his or her own, but play straight-edge and you’ll be amazed at how many fewer discs you ‘lose’. Disc golf should be enough in and of itself, anyway.

Golfers can easily get attached ( and that’s an understatement) to their equipment. The difference is, ball golfers bond with clubs but it’s the balls that go flying away into the horizon. In disc golf, there is only the disc- and us disc golfers can bond with one mighty quick. If I can prevent just one separation of player and disc, then this post was worth the effort.




  1. You might want to mention that when watching a disc fly away, distance can be deceiving, while the disc is in the air it’s hard to tell how far it is until it hits ground

  2. I use bright colors if its thick woods, pink, red, orange. If its in snow never use white and tape a ribbon to the disc if its really deep. If you can’t find the disc go back to the teepad and look from there to figure what tree it could have hit. A golden retriever can pick discs out of water holes. keep an eye out for sideways disc hiding in the grass and ones stuck high in trees. Sometimes it ends up past the hole farther than it looked. And always look in the most obvious spots if your having a tough time.

  3. nawanda37 on

    I draw the same pinwheel design on the bottom of all my discs, to go along with my name/cell# and as of recently, my email address. I was playing by myself up at Black Mouse and a pair of guys let me throw through. I pulled out a disc, and went through my release a few times before throwing. Behind me, they leaned in close to each other and talked under their breath, shaking their heads. This gave me pause. I threw, and very nearly parked it. Then, one rolled his eyes and they started laughing, which made no sense given my throw. He said, “So, we saw your disc and…” He reaches into his bag and pulls out a disc I lost a few weeks back, “…is this your disc, bro?” I had forgotten to write my info on the disc, but the design was unmistakable. Makes all that sharpie work worth it.

    In a tangentially related story, I later lost the same disc I threw off that tee, on that same hole. That was the worst loss I’ve ever had as it was my go-to mid.

  4. i have go fast stickers on most of my discs. i lost one of my most loved discs , a Fat Tire Flyer Blizzard Wraith, at that the Copper Mountain course in Colorado. well, a couple weeks later, i was back at copper caught up to a group, the first disc i pulled out had the go fast sticker. immediately one of the group asked if i lost a disc. yep…i described it and he pulled it out of his bag. needless to say after the round, all drinks were on me.

  5. Loved this article. Loved the section on wooded areas and open ones. I play plenty of wooded courses and its funny because when i go to open area courses i lose discs due to not paying attention on bad throws. We have one course where i swear it swallows discs and yes it’s wide open, but it does not matter if its a pink yellow, white. its gone. Unfortunately i have never received a disc back when i lost them with name number and email on them. Thought all my returns would send good karma. oo well i just keep attempting to return the lost discs. Cheers

  6. i have been often heard to comment– ” i had 4 woodland camouflage pattern discs, i threw each one once!”

  7. Do you think that having too big of a disc golf bag can actually hurt you? It seems that they are getting bigger and bigger.

  8. If you find a disc turn it in to thepark office! OR leave it on hole – there is usually a bulletin board around to place in on . Some club member is usually nearby so you could leave it with them.
    TAKING a found disc is against the law in Florida. The police here will tell you that if there is a name on the disc it is not abandoned.

  9. Good article. With regards to throwing extra discs…I would highly recommend listening to that little voice especially when your first shot was ugly. I’ve seen friends lose discs that way during a practice/casual round by teeing off again instead of just working on their recovery shots. Being able to get out of a bad lie is equally important to work on.

  10. I play in heavily wooded courses for the most part, getting discs stuck in trees is something common not just for myself and people I play with but players you come across on the course… I carry a sling-shot in my bag, $10 has saved over hundreds in discs. Best investment ever!

  11. Mitchell on

    I also find it helpful after every other hole to count my discs and count before the round never lost a disc sense! unless i the lake

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