Watch some ball golf of TV, and pay attention to the players’ pre-shot routines on the putting green. After lining up their putts and going through any other particular aspect of his or her routine, each and every player will stand next to the ball but not close quite close enough to strike it. They then practice their putting strokes several times by swinging the club back and forth like a pendulum, coming as close to actually hitting the ball as they dare. When they’re ready to execute the actual putt, they take a small last step up to the ball, then usually go for it pretty quickly after that so as not to lose the elusive ‘touch’ required for that particular putt which the practice strokes hopefully provided.
While watching a player go through this one day and realizing the likely purpose for it (lock in the tempo and line, and establish a rhythm) I began to ponder how this exercise could be best translated to disc golf. Doing so would be huge for me personally, as most of my missed putts seem to come from a lack of ‘feel’ for the required power and tempo.
And then it hit me. Disc golfers try to emulate this practice, but because of the primary difference between our sports – ball golfers hit a ball with clubs, while we throw discs - it is rarely done in such a way that enables us to reap the same benefits.
In disc golf, it’s common to see a player hold a putter out in front of them at eye level, ostensibly to determine the line and release point he wants. Many players will also go through a few practice ‘strokes’ as well, but most often they make two common mistakes that make the exercise pointless:
- Holding the disc during practice strokes means you can’t simulate one of the most important aspects- the complete follow-through. Stretching your entire arm and even fingertips toward the basket as the disc is released is crucial to good form (just look at a picture of any top pro to see what I mean), and you can’t do this while still holding on to your disc. This previous post describes a practice routine specifically designed to improve follow-through.
- Unless your practice strokes simulate the exact speed and motion you intend to use for your actual putt, they won’t do anything to help you establish the correct power and tempo. Once again, if you’re holding onto your disc during practice strokes this is near impossible, as well as very risky since it counts as a stroke if the disc slips out of your hand.
With all this in mind, I developed a method for disc golf putting practice strokes that borrows as much as possible from ball golf, in order to preserve the benefits of establishing the needed tempo and touch – as well as line and release point – right before the putt. Since this kind of stuff is hard to describe with words alone, I threw together a quick video tutorial demonstrating what I mean. Go ahead and watch it now, or read my description of the process first then watch it afterward. Either way, give it a try. Since putting this routine into practice, my putting is much, much more consistent. It’s been especially effective at eliminating those frustrating misses where the disc falls just short on putts inside the circle, when in the past I simply failed to use enough armspeed, and those where the line was off-target. Here’s the routine:
- Address your lie as you normally would, taking your normal comfortable stance.
- Transfer your putter to your non-throwing hand.
- Pick a specific link of chain in the basket to aim at, and lock your eyes on that link.
- While visualizing the putt you intend to make, and with an empty throwing hand, go through the exact motion required to make that putt. Pay particular attention to your armspeed, your line, the involvement of the rest of your body, and your follow-through. I exhale through my mouth at the end of each stroke just as I do on my actual putt, as this helps me exaggerate my follow-through.
- After whatever number of these practice strokes it takes for me to feel all elements are firmly established into a rhythm, I quickly transfer the disc to my throwing hand and execute the putt. As I transfer the disc to my throwing hand I’m only thinking two things: keep my eyes focused on my target link, and replicate the motion I established during the practice strokes.
You may be thinking that the difference of practicing your stroke without a disc in your hand and executing the actual shot would throw you off, due to the weight of the disc, but it really doesn’t. Try it, and see for yourself. As with anything else, it may take a little time to become a comfortable part of your game, but it should not take long. I noticed the benefits of establishing my line and tempo almost immediately. And after awhile I noticed an additional benefit for my mental game as well: By reducing the thoughts I want in my head right before releasing the disc to only two – focus eyes on the target link and replicate the established line sand tempo – it’s easier to keep distracting thoughts out of my head.
If you didn’t click the earlier link to watch the video tutorial that illustrates this technique, here it is. Let me know if this technique for preparing to putt works for you as well as it works for me.