The hyzer shot was the first term I learned when starting out in disc golf. Its probably the most common term I hear people use. Similarly, it is probably the most common throw used in the sport so it’s a good place to start if you’re just beginning. I’m a right handed player, so I’m going to do my best to explain this from the perspective of left and right handed individuals.
I feel most of what I’m going to share with you in this post is going to feel intuitive. However, it will be nice to put a term behind your intuition so the next time you’re talking with someone you’ll be using the same vocabulary.
Also, at the end of this post I go over the origins of the word itself to provide context for how it is used in the game as we know it today.
Backhand Hyzer in Disc Golf
In short, if you’re a right handed player a hyzer in disc golf is when the disc is thrown with the left side of the disc pointed toward the ground upon release. If you’re a left handed player, a hyzer is when the disc is thrown with the right side of the disc pointed toward the ground upon release. While holding the disc with either hand simply angle the opposite side toward the ground.
Here’s what this looks like using both my left and right hand in the backhand position (my dog, Lady, decided to make an guest appearance in this photo):
Hyzer in Disc Golf Further Explained
Okay, so I just tilt the opposite side of the disc toward the ground and hope for the best? Let’s take a closer look at what happens after releasing the disc. For ease, I’m going to leave out some of the aerodynamics terminology that can get confusing. We’ll save that for another post.
When a disc is thrown, there is a natural angle and fade the disc will take in flight. As a right handed player, if I were to throw a disc on a hyzer angle the disc would naturally hook left. A hyzer thrown with my left hand will naturally hook to the right. Therefore, backhand hyzer throws will tend to hook toward the opposite hand the disc is released from.
Put another way, if the disc is spinning clockwise (released from the right hand) it will hook left. If the disc is spinning counter-clockwise (released from the left hand) it will hook right.
Here’s a quick graphic:
Forehand Hyzer in Disc Golf
In the foregoing description, I was just focusing on backhand throws. Now that I’ve gone over the hyzer throw while using a backhand, I’ll briefly review it while using a forehand.
Everything gets flipped around here. To execute a hyzer with a right handed forehand, I need to point the disc at the ground away from my body to the right. Also, to perform a hyzer with a left handed forehand, I am pointing the disc at the ground away from my body to the left.
After releasing the throw with my right hand, the disc will naturally hook to the right. When I release the throw from my left hand, the disc will naturally hook to the left.
Here’s what this looks like using both my left and right hand in the forehand position (Lady decided she had enough of me pointing discs at her):
Throwing the disc flat and straight isn’t always going to work. Oftentimes, when you’re on the course you’re going to be presented with obstacles between the starting pad and the basket. One of the tools available to you now is the hyzer throw.
Of course, if the basket was always directly in front of you there wouldn’t be much fun in that. Part of what makes the game of disc golf exciting for me is the variability on the courses I play on. Part of this variability is when a course designer places a basket that is obscured by trees or some other obstacle, so as to not allow a straight approach. In these cases, the only way to access the green is by throwing a shot that hooks around the obstacle.
Not only does this sort of setup increase the skill cap of the game, but it also increases the amount of strategies you need to have in your disc golf arsenal. And if you’re just starting out, you’ll likely be throwing hyzers more than anything as you get used to the game.
When I first heard the term hyzer used in conversation I was completely confused at what was being referenced. I thought it was an odd word. What the etymology of the word? Is it an empirical term used in aerodynamic sciences?
I did some research and this is what I found.
There was a book published in 1975 by a man named Stancil Johnson (also the 9th member of the PDGA, see here) called ‘Frisbee: A practitioner’s manual and definitive treatise’. This book contains what is thought to be the first instance of the word hyzer in print. I’m not sure if that is true or not, but we’ll go with it.
In the book, Johnson discusses hyzer as meaning the amount of angle a disc is released on in comparison to the horizon. Most of what I found in my research seemed apocryphal at best. From countless forums to Wikipedia articles, the story was generally consistent that Johnson coined the term in his book. I decided to go directly to the source.
I tried very hard to find an online version of his book that I could simply download so I could verify the story, but unfortunately it was only in paperback on Amazon. It was only $0.49 (plus $4.95 shipping)! So, I decided to pick up a copy.
When the book finally arrived on my doorstep I opened it up and found on page 57 a story about a man named H.R. “Fling” Hyzer. In the book, I was able to confirm that Johnson coin the term after this man. In particular, there was an instance in 1967 involving Mr. Hyzer when he was on a particular team there was a rule that the disc must be on a particular angle.
And Now You Know
It seems that the term hyzer has taken on new meanings since 1975 since you’ll hear different variations used by players:
- Throw the disc on hyzer
- The disc is hyzering
- Spike hyzer
- Hyzer flip
- Hyzer Putt
I believe Johnson’s usage of the term was ‘a disc is thrown with hyzer’. However, as the sport of disc golf continues to evolves, and grow more nuanced and complex, so does the vocabulary we’ll use to describe it.
In summary, a hyzer in disc golf simply refers to the angle you release the disc from your hand when the disc takes it natural flight. You can always changed the degree of your angle with either your backhand or forehand throws. The larger the angle, the more of a hook you’re going to get out of your disc. Now go ahead and experiment with what works best for your game.