The Local newsletter is your free, daily guide to life in Colorado. For locals, by locals. Sign up today!
If anyone knows what it takes to navigate a quintessential Colorado disc golf course—which is, of course, one set on a mountain—it’s Eagle McMahon. Growing up in Boulder, McMahon honed his technique on local city courses like nine-hole Harlow Platts, but for a challenge, he often headed for the hills. “I have fond memories of traveling up to Conifer and playing courses like Beaver Ranch and Bailey,” the 24-year-old says. The high-elevation training paid off: Today, a decade and a half after he first picked up a disc, the full-time professional disc golfer, sponsored by Discmania, has seven elite series Disc Golf Pro Tour wins, third-most in the history of the sport, and he took first place in the 2022 European Open in July. We asked McMahon what players need to do when taking their games above 8,000 feet.
The higher you go, the lower the air pressure—and the harder you’ll have to throw a disc to achieve the same flight path. “The easiest way to describe it is that the disc is going to act more overstable [fading harder at the end] than it would at a lower elevation,” McMahon says. Thus, he recommends bringing discs that are more understable than ones you would use at lower elevations. Going with lighter models can help, too. “It’ll be a little bit easier to throw,” he says. “A lot of players will notice more distance, right off the bat, with a lighter weight disc.” Lastly, the mountains are not the place to skimp on quality. “A lot of the time, you’re throwing into rocks. Cheaper discs are gonna get really beat up, and the integrity will be lost very quickly,” McMahon says. Look for discs made with premium plastics, which are pricier (around $16 to $25) but more durable.
Dress for Success
At urban courses, you’ll see disc golfers dragging carts, but for rougher terrain McMahon likes to use his sponsor GRIPeq’s backpacks. Be sure to leave space for water, snacks, and a rain jacket; after all, this is basically a hike. As such, trail running shoes—which are sturdy but still allow players to feel the ground—are popular with many disc golfers. For his part, McMahon favors minimalist kicks with very thin soles from Vivobarefoot (another sponsor). “A lot of players are adopting them, because with a barefoot shoe, it’s very difficult to roll your ankle,” McMahon says, “and you feel a little bit more control on the tee pad.”
Play the Angles
When throwing uphill or downhill, McMahon says, “match the angle of the slope. You’re going to generate more distance, more accuracy.” Conversely, if you throw high over a valley, fighting gravity, the disc will stall and you’ll lose momentum; if you throw low going into a slope, your disc is in for a short ride. Consider the tilt of the terrain you’re trying to drop your disc into, as well. “Landing your disc flat, if you’re encountering a steep drop-off slope, can help the disc from rolling,” he says. “And don’t come in too fast. Easing up, trying to land a bit softer—that will help alleviate any potential roll-aways.” Lastly, while those evergreens along your line are beautiful, they’re known disc eaters: “Compared to trees elsewhere, discs can stay in the trees here a lot easier,” McMahon says. “So, if you don’t want that, maybe throw low.”