Change the Bag, Not Your Throw
by Mark Pryor
We have all been in the situation when the boards become sticky and your trusty bags just aren’t trusty anymore. Your bags start to hang a hard left off the board. Your slide shot turns into a mid-board block. You throw your arm out trying to push. As a last ditch effort, you resort to your crappy airmail game. Stop the madness and switch to the X.
For those who know cornhole, bag speed is everything and we all know how much it can change from sun up to sun down. Bag speed is dependent not only on the bag material but more importantly on varying factors such as board coating, temperature and moisture. If you are playing in dry heat like Las Vegas with a fast board, then sticky side, or the suede side of a bag, has reasonable slide characteristics. You can even push your blockers into the hole. But in the evening when it cools off and there is some humidity, bags can become super sticky.
Many Pro players like a sticky bag as it lets them throw the bag with more conviction. Hard throwers like this rarely go to the fast side unless they have to. Like when the stick side becomes too sticky. But switching to the fast side just because the stick side is too sticky will limit the player’s options. The better move is to switch bags to accommodate the conditions and give the player better control of the situation.
Right Bag For the Different Conditions
Ultra bags remedy this situation by offering two different slow sides for each bag series. There is a regular suede which is traditional and referred to as “Max Stick” and a medium suede which is referred to as “Medium Stick”. Ultra bags with medium stick suede will be denoted by an “-X” at the end of the bag name. For example, the King Cobra series of Ultra bags will either have the name “Cobra” (see Figure 1 max stick slow side) or “Cobra-X” (see Figure 2 medium stick slow side) printed on the bag.
Speed is Everything
Although the medium stick suede is faster than the max stick suede, it is still considerably slower than the fast side of the King Cobra series bag. So in essence, there are three speeds for the King Cobra Ultras which are: the fast side, the medium stick and the regular stick. Of course, you can only have two of these per bag to choose from. You might be asking yourself, “well, what if I want the Max Stick and the Medium Stick on the same bag”. You can. That bag is called the Regulator. It is it’s own bag and can be pretty useful for some players. But in terms of ultimate utility, it’s better to have a push/slide side that can move bags on the board if need be.
Review the Ultra bag Speed Scale chart (Figure 3) to see how the different fabrics rank in terms of speed across varying conditions. It is clear to see that players often deal with extreme speed variations. Take for example an all-day, outside tournament where bags are supplied such as Spencer McKenzie’s in Ventura, California. In the morning, the sticky side is playing at 1.5, by the afternoon it’s a 3.5 and by evening it’s back below a 1.0. When the stick side is behaving in the 1.0 – 1.5 range, the player will likely switch to the fast side which is likely to be playing in a range of 6.0-7.0. That is quite the jump if the player is looking for a 3.0-4.0 speed. If the player had the option of switching to a -X bag, they would likely be in that 3.0-4.0 range giving the player a better chance at making a good bag.
So the idea is to have both versions (max and medium stick) and choose the right bag based on the conditions. Just like in golf, pick the right club, don’t change your swing. This is a rather new way to look at cornhole that players don’t quite understand yet. But once they start to get it, it will improve their game. Change the bag, not your throw.