A breakthrough Disc Golf Book!

This is School of Disc Golf Headmaster Jack Tupp here, with an important message for all disc golf enthusiasts.

I’ve written my 2nd disc golf book, titled “The Disc Golf Revolution,” and I wrote it for you. Not to read so much (although I hope you do read it and am certain you’ll enjoy it), but to give and recommend to everyone who you wish knew the full story of disc golf. In other words, everyone!

I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to promote the book, and I’d greatly appreciate your support by backing the project and sharing it everyone you know. You can do both by visiting playdiscgolf.org right now.

The book is 100 percent written and now in the final stages of copyediting. The book cover designed by Juan Luis Garcia of Overstable Studios (shown below) is also complete and ready for printing. I’ve listed the chapter titles and descriptions below, but here are the primary messages the book is intended to convey:

  1. Golf is a great game, and here is why-
  2. Golf is also largely inaccessible to most people, and here is why-
  3. Disc golf offers everything substantial this is great about golf, and here is why-
  4. Disc golf eliminates all the barriers inherent to traditional golf, and here is how-
  5. Disc golf has grown in an almost entires grassroots manner, like no sport before it
  6. Disc golf brings people from all walks of life together on a level playing field, like no sport before it
  7. Disc golf – and disc flight – is much more complex and engaging than you might think-
  8. Now that we’ve got your interest, here is how and where to play
The Disc Golf Revolution kickstarter

Go to playdiscgolf.org to learn more about Jack Tupp’s new book, “The Disc Golf Revolution.”

Chapters

(Chapter titles subject to change)

  • Golf 2.0- Lists all that is great about the traditional game of golf along with the many obstacles that keep it out of reach for most of the world. Goes point-by-point to make the case that disc golf retains all the attractive elements of golf while obliterating all of the barriers
  • The History of Disc Golf- A very different take on the history of disc golf, tracing both golf and the flying disc as far back into history as possible
  • The Organic, Free-range Growth of Disc Golf- An important chapter explaining the unique growth path of a sport that seems tailor-made for the 21st century. It is broken down into the following sections: Player Growth; Course Growth: the pioneer spirit in action; Local Disc Golf Club Growth; Competition Growth; and Grassroots Growth in the News- a sampling of disc golf news stories from a random three-week period
  • Disc golf today: Who plays, where they play, and how- An examination of who plays disc golf, where they play, and the popular formats
  • Wellness Through Disc Golf- Explains why disc golf is a perfect activity for those who need exercise and/or stress release and usually find excuses (cost, time, schedule, judgment) for not getting it The
  • The Egalitarian Sport- Another chapter that delves into disc golf’s significance extending beyond the realm of sports, it explains how disc golf has been equal opportunity since its inception and why it seems destined to remain so
  • Start Playing Today!- Designed to enable readers who by this point in the book are excited to give it a try to hit the ground running, this chapter answers the following questions: How do I find the closest courses?  What do I need to get? What are the rules? How do I learn to play?
  • The finer points of the game- This chapter includes info typical to a how-to book, but with a twist consistent with the overall theme of the book. It will convince the reader how much more complex disc flight – and therefore the sport – is than they might have previously understood it to be. The idea is to fully dispel the belief that disc golf is just “tossing a Frisbee” again and again. Sections include: Tools of the Trade; Throwing techniques; The many ways to control the flight of a disc (I enlist the help of a physicist who is also a disc golfer for this section)
  • Disc Golf Lingo- A fun chapter sharing some of the lingo and even local dialects unique to disc golf
  • Disc Golf in the Context of Other Sports, Games & Hobbies- Another light chapter that shows how disc golf includes the best qualities of other more familiar and established sports & games
  • Disc Golf on the Road- A reference chapter on how to play anywhere you go
  • A Panacea for Modern Problems- A connect-the-dots chapter that matches the accessibility and broad appeal of disc golf with some of the 21st century’s most pressing social issues
  • The Future of Disc Golf- The author’s take on the future of a sport that in some ways is rapidly evolving, but in others remains true to its wholly informal beginnings

One final note: If you have found this blog useful in improving your disc golf game, one of the Kickstarter rewards is a copy of my other book, Three Paths to Better Disc Golf. Check it out!

Posted in disc golf, disc golf book, disc golf instruction, disc golf product reviews, frisbee golf, Jack Tupp | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Do pressure putts wind you up? “Don’t look down!”

How do you perform on pressure putts? Are they a weakness in your otherwise solid disc golf game? If the first question caused you to grind your teeth and/or break out into a cold sweat, and if you grudgingly answered ‘yes’ to the second question, this post is for you.

Let’s start with a seemingly random question: Have you ever had to walk across a rickety bridge spanning a 3,000-foot gorge? Or maybe you’ve traversed a narrow, slippery trail hugging the side of a steep mountain. Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably seen such scenes in movies and know what the cool, calm, and collected inevitably say to those with mortal fear in their eyes:

“Don’t look down!”

Image: InfinityandBeyond2

The obvious reason for this timely advice is to help an already frightened and nervous person from becoming paralyzed with fear. Looking down in such situations reminds us of the dire consequences if things don’t go right, and healthy fear is one of the traits hard-wired into all species. But alas, not all fear is healthy, nor helpful.

Take away the consequences -possibility of serious injury or death, with immense pain along the way, in this case – and that walk across the rickety bridge is really no big deal. It’s just walking, after all. But when one false step could turn into a real-life Wile E. Coyote plunge, it suddenly gets much harder. And this is true of pretty much everything. The more it means to you, the greater the likelihood that anxiety comes into play. And anxiety, needless to say, never enhances performance.

Good news, the solution is simple! However, it’s not easy, at least not in an instantaneous, problem-solved kind of way. You gotta consciously work at overcoming a tendency that, like garden weeds, can never be entirely eliminated. But if you make a sincere effort to make this change you should see some results almost immediately.

Here is the essence of the one and only true way to combat performance anxiety. Drumroll, please . . . . . .

Think about what you’re trying to do, not what you’re trying to accomplish- and definitely not why you’re trying to accomplish it.

Many believe that athletes who are known as ‘clutch performers’ must somehow thrive on the pressure that negatively affects everyone else. That’s not true. They have simply trained themselves to concentrate on the raw components of the task at hand and block out everything else.

The general idea of focusing on actions rather than results is nothing new. Instructors, trainers, and coaches have applied it to everything imaginable- far beyond the realm of athletics. I’ve written about the applications of this concept multiple times before and have included some links later in this post. There are many techniques that will help you accomplish this game-changing transformation. Adapt one of mine, or come up with your own. The purpose here is to help you understand and embrace the basic concept.

The rickety bridge/”Don’t look down!” analogy just recently occurred to me, and I think it can be instrumental in helping golfers who already realize that the primary obstacles between them and lower scores are often mental, but haven’t gotten beyond that vague realization.

Want yet another example? I bet whoever trains people to diffuse bombs stresses the fact that the mind must remain focused 100 percent on the task at hand. Thoughts of beloved family members and fear of being blown to smithereens could result in shaky hands or a momentary confusion between red and blue wires. Next thing you know, BOOM!

As we all know, some missed putts result in different kinds of explosions (or, in some cases, implosions): Exploding scores, tempers, and visions of that personal-best round that was so close you could taste it. And it’s not the miss itself that is so frustrating, but the awareness that it was due to a brain twisted into knots.

If you now believe the simple solution revealed above (think about what you’re trying to do, not what you’re trying to accomplish) has merit, and are wondering “How, exactly?” that’s an excellent question. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but I think I can get you headed in the right direction by sharing a little about my personal strategies, tactics, and tricks.

Think about what you’re trying to DO

This literally means the physical movements I (and you) need to perform in order to execute a successful putt. This isn’t a post about putting technique, so I’ll only list a few things that I try to think about right before every putt (yours may be different):

  • Start with a comfortable, balanced stance
  • Focus my eyes on the orange decal on the pole, or one particular link, and don’t release the stare until the disc arrives at the basket
  • Follow through straight at the target, feeling the stretch in my back, shoulder, arm, hand and fingers for a lingering second after the disc leaves my hand

Notice I did not list “make the putt” as something I’m trying to do.

Do NOT think about what you’re trying to accomplish, or why you’re trying to accomplish it.

The second you start thinking about making the putt, two bad things happen.

  1. You stop thinking the productive “Do This” thoughts that give you the best chance of success. You can’t simultaneously follow two trains of thought.
  2. You open the door to why you want or need to make the putt. The bigger the situation, the farther the drop from that rickety bridge. It doesn’t matter whether a really bad thing will happen if you miss (you lose the round, for instance) or a really good thing won’t happen (you don’t birdie hole 13 for the first time ever). The effect is the same.

Remember when I said the solution is simple, but not easy? That’s because thinking only about the process of putting and blocking out all thoughts related to the desired achievement is a simple enough concept- but easier said than done. That’s where the strategies, tactics, and tricks come in. I’ve shared a few that I’ve posted about in the past. Adapt them to your game, or use them as inspiration for developing your own routines to prevent yourself from “looking down.”

“Do This!”

Back in 2011, I came up with a pre-shot routine wherein I practice my putting motion several times, full speed but without the disc in my hand, right before my actual putt. I discovered several benefits in doing this, and you can read the post or watch this short video if you’re interested in the full explanation. I list it here because one of those benefits of the routine is that it allows me to think about my process keys while practicing my “stroke,” and then when it’s time to execute the actual putt, my last final thought is always the same: Do exactly what I just did on the last practice stroke. Just that one thought, and nothing else.

For me, there is no other correct final thought before I pull the trigger. The routine is now habit for me, which makes it easier to remember even in the most high-pressure moments. I’m also more likely to identify renegade “value” thoughts that try to invade my routine in time to replace them with “process” thoughts.

Assess. Choose. Execute.

Extending the routine further backward is another way to be sure I’m thinking about the right things at the right time. A successful shot starts well before I step up to my lie. In this post I discuss the proper sequence of first assessing the situation, then choosing exactly what to do, then executing. If I complete the first two steps before I step up to my lie (this post was for all shots, not just putting), I have a better chance at being able to focus on process, and only process, when it’s time to execute.

Like A Machine

Another post that touches on this subject was titled “Play Disc Golf Like a Machine. A Well-Oiled Machine.” If you need another metaphor for setting emotion and value aside and simply executing a command, you’ll find it in that post. If it helps, think of yourself emulating a robot, automaton, or even Star Trek’s Dr. Spock. If asked, he’d say “In competitive disc golf, feelings are illogical and counter-productive.”

However you get there, separating process from value on every throw will result in lower scores and less stress. Find something that works for you, and stick with it. It’ll be worth it!

Posted in DaLearning Curve, DeLaBlahg, disc golf, disc golf book, disc golf instruction, disc golf putting, Disc Golf Technique, frisbee golf, instruction, Jack Tupp, putting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf

Every week, thousands of people experience disc golf for the first time. (I have no reference for this, but it sounds about right, doesn’t it?) Whatever the actual figure, it’s growing quickly because a good number of those people fall in love with the sport. They continue to play, share their passion with others, and acquire a sudden desire to learn all they can about this wonderful thing that until recently didn’t exist for them.

Until recently, those seeking to quench this thirst in the literary world were let down in a big way, or worse, terribly misinformed. The handful of disc golf titles on the market claiming to provide ‘all you need to know’ about disc golf fell far short of the promise and likely reinforced the opinions of some that disc golf is not yet to be taken seriously.

The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf

The photo on the cover of The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf shows Paul McBeth demonstrating textbook sidearm form, which is explained in the third section of this textbook-like book.

The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf is indeed what it claims to be. The information it offers up is accurate, relevant to new players, and presented in the articulate language of a college textbook. The fact that the authors’ advanced degrees are listed along with their names (Justin Menickelli, Ph.D. and Ryan ‘Slim’ Pickens, M.A.) on the cover provide a good indication that this is the exact impression they wish to convey. In fact, I can see their book being used as the primary text for the growing number of disc golf courses on college campuses. The PDGA logo is also prominently displayed on the cover, but I could not divine the exact reason why.

The book is divided into three main parts, the first of which is titled ‘The Nature of the Game.’ It includes a section on choosing the best equipment, shoes, and clothing. Makes sense. But the rest of the chapter is mostly devoted to tournament play and PDGA membership, which I at first found odd considering a very large majority of all regular disc golfers never delve into formal competition. Then I realized that those who enjoy disc golf but consider it a fun, affordable thing to do once a week, and leave it at that, likely won’t be the ones reading this book. If you, like me, love disc golf enough to acquire The Definitive Guide, there is a good chance you will want to at least dabble in tournament play as well.

Other subjects covered in the Part I include the history of the game, course design, and an excellent treatment of rules and basic etiquette. Information that is useful for the here and now is blended well with interesting facts that will add depth to a new disc golfer’s appreciation for the game.

Part II is called The Science of the Game, and it ranges from 10 lessons on mental training to disc golf-specific exercises to a college level examination of the physics of disc golf flight. I mentioned that disc golf classes would use this book as a text, but it’s not a stretch to think that a creative physics professor might use it as well. Menickelli’s Ph.D. in Kinesiology is on display in this detailed discussion of vectors, form drag, surface drag, and dynamic fluid force. Those who can follow the explanation will end up with an excellent understanding and appreciation of the many factors affecting disc flight.

With diagrams such as these, this book will serve equally well as a text for college courses and physics.

With diagrams such as these, this book will serve equally well as a text for college courses and physics.

Part III is devoted to providing instructions on every type of grip, throw, putt, and shot known in the disc golf universe. As the owner of School of Disc Golf, I teach beginners and also coach tournament players, and I didn’t come across anything with which I disagreed or thought inaccurate. Superb photos and illustrations are used liberally, and there is so much information crammed into the short treatment allotted to each technique they act like the water competitive eaters gulp down with each bite, enabling the reader to digest beefy concepts.

In the preface, the authors state a goal of writing a book that would be ‘read cover to cover, and to provide readers with a helpful resource that warrants keeping a copy close by to reference.’ The wide range of material covered guarantees they’ll accomplish the second part of that goal, if not the first. I can confidently say that anyone who plays disc golf on a regular basis, or plans to, would do well to get themselves a copy of The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf. It’ll end up looking as used as the rule book in the side pocket of your bag. If only it would fit!

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Do Live Broadcasts Grow the Sport of Disc Golf?

The Disc Golf World Tour debuted last weekend and for the most part, it delivered on Jussi Meresmaa’s promises. But whether it can deliver on his long-term vision of disc golf as a spectator sport- well, that’s another matter. As is the question of whether his and the other new tours’ efforts will ultimately help or hinder the sport’s growth.

He said his new high-profile tour series would be broadcast live with better production quality- a slicker, more polished presentation if you will – and it was. In that sense, SpinTV delivered, and then some.

Open courses can be picturesque, but do they really show off disc golf's best features?

Open courses can be picturesque, but do they really show off disc golf’s best features?

The on-screen graphics and animation during live coverage of the inaugural La Mirada Open represented a huge leap forward. Little details like on-course sponsor signage, the pads wrapped around the basket pole colored the same yellow as the Innova DisCatcher band, and even the DGWT branding on handheld microphones added to the overall effect. On Saturday, when we couldn’t see residential streets and chain link fences in the shot, La Mirada looked like Augusta National. Even the commercials looked to be more professionally done.

Announcers Jamie Thomas and Avery Jenkins (who both performed fairly well and will certainly get even better) made much ado of the next-level ‘metrics’, Greens in Regulation, Putts Inside the Circle Ratio, Putts Outside the Circle Ratio. Sports fans definitely love their stats and having these on-screen graphics available at any time is a big step in that direction.

Speaking of the announcers, did you know Avery starred in another disc golf TV show five years ago? Discmasters, a show featuring Avery, Nate Doss, Valarie Jenkins and your truly (Jack Tupp) was filmed for local TV in Santa Cruz and made the rounds on YouTube. Hopefully, he’ll get to show his lighter side on SpinTV as well.

One last big positive to point out: the player profiles mixed into the broadcast. Media experts have understood that the more insight viewers get about what makes the players tick, the stronger their connection to the action.

As an avid disc golfer, I have an appetite for live disc golf action and I can appreciate the strides that have been made by  DiscGolfPlanetTV, Smashboxx, and now SpinTV. It’s definitely getting better and better. But I have two major concerns about the direction things are headed.Logo-web

The first is the fact that with the current course and camera configurations these broadcasts don’t come close to conveying the essence of disc golf. Even with two cameras, the angles are almost always from behind the thrower and behind the basket. In both cases, the disc remains fairly static on the screen and so does the backdrop. Ball golf uses at least six cameras to properly film a hole, and that’s just not feasible for disc golf yet. Disc golfers who are viewing can convert what they are seeing into the majestic S-turn we know the shot required and appreciate the amazing skill. To a non-disc golfer, it’s just people throwing Frisbees again and again.

The other nit I’m gonna pick today is with the decision – or rather the necessity – to feature mostly wide open holes. The logic that open holes film better is sound, at least as long as the technology is limited to two camera angles at ground level. But it’s regrettable because another essential aspect of disc golf’s mystique is the wooded hole. In terms of how the games plays, two important elements of disc golf that distinguish it from ball golf in a positive way are missing in coverage of wide open courses; The holes with multiple obstacles players must navigate on a single shot, and the fact that disc golf can be played on very rugged terrain. Forest? Jungle? No problem! That needs to be part of the elevator pitch- which five minutes of live coverage seen by a non-disc golfer amounts to.

Once again, if the aim is to use the broadcasts to introduce potential new players and fans to the sport I don’t think it’ll work. In fact, seeing guys throw Frisbees in what appears to be, and usually is, a city or county park probably just confirms their misguided preconceptions.

What’s the real goal here? If it’s to entertain disc golf enthusiasts, then fine. Well done (Although your typical disc golfer likes to be outside on a Saturday afternoon, so even that market gets diluted somewhat). But if the goal is to ‘#growthesport’ of disc golf, we need players, and we need even more courses. For now, the best solution is still the one that got us where we are today. Support your local club. Volunteer, become a dues-paying member. Sponsor a hole.

Then take a break and watch some live Disc Golf World Tour coverage. If you’re already a disc golf nut, it’s a treat to stream the best players in the world onto a big screen TV.

Posted in Avery Jenkins, DeLaBlahg, disc golf, frisbee golf, Jack Tupp, media, USDGC | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Paths to Better Disc Golf- A School of Disc Golf Book!

Disc Golf is a simple yet complex and multifaceted game. It’s one of the reasons we can play for decades – primarily on the same local courses – without losing interest. We can always do better, and most avid golfers continually strive to shoot lower scores. The good news is that a disc golfer can improve his or her game in so many different ways. It’s not just about distance and accuracy (although both are important).disc golf book

In one of my first sessions with a new, particularly enthusiastic and eager client, I was seeking for a clearer way to drive home the ‘so many ways to improve besides technique’ point. I sought a way to categorize all the lessons I’ve learned and taught besides ‘physical’ and ‘mental’. It then occurred to me that all of the techniques, tips, tricks, and unwritten rules I’ve written about in this blog can be found along one of three different paths that each lead to better disc golf:

  • The philosophical approach to better disc golf, which encourages players to examine the big picture. Why do you play? What are you thinking about, really, as you prepare for each throw?
  • The strategic approach to better disc golf, comprised primarily of the principles of game management and playing ‘smarter’ by identifying and eliminating chronic mental errors.
  • The tactical approach to better disc golf, where a player improves mostly by learning new types of throws and refining and strengthening existing ones.

As a means of demonstrating the differences between these aspects of golf and why players of all skill levels can still improve in at least one of them, I’ve written a new book. It’s called Three Paths to Better Disc Golf and you can preview it now for free. Disc golf is fun no matter what, but reaching new scoring plateaus is also extremely rewarding. With nearly 30 chapters that span all aspects of disc golf there are bound to be at least a few that help even the most seasoned player gain new insights.

If you’re shopping for a gift for a disc golf fanatic and want a great alternative to discs or a gift certificate, here y’go.

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Wocket Golf Pants

Golfers need towels, sometimes almost constantly. And we usually need pants as well- or at least shorts. So it should come as no surprise that someone decided to save us all the small hassles of remembering the towel, and retrieving the towel, and stowing the towel, by combining them into one. If you also have trouble remembering your pants, you’ve got bigger issues.

Paul Dorn, the inventor of the Wocket(TM) golf pants, launched a Kickstarter campaign to promote his creation and fund early production runs. Support the campaign and you can be one of the first to get your hands on this most functional piece of golf apparel.Feature Image

When someone at Wocket Apparel contacted me asking me to help spread the word to disc golfers, the first thing that came to mind was the well-established fact that disc golfers like gadgets and paraphernalia related to their sport just as much as ball golfers. And towels are possibly more important to us than our stick-wielding progenitors. But I wondered how this golf-focused company arrived at the decision to reach out to disc golfers. So I sent the following three questions to Paul:

  1. How did you discover the growing disc golf market as a possible market for your product? As a kid, I used to play disc golf at Chastain Park, here in Atlanta.  I played ultimate frisbee in college.  And I’ve watched a group of guys grow old together while playing their self-made course through the park and woods in my neighborhood.  And my love for throwing discs is the same as it was when I was a kid.  So, you would think that making the connection between disc golf and Wocket™ would be a natural, but it wasn’t.  I discovered it using some Google Adwords tools.  It was like I needed to be hit in the head with a 200g disc.  When I saw “disc golf” in the search terms recommendations, I got really excited, because I understand the sport, have always enjoyed it and appreciate how much skill it requires.  So, it was kinda like running into an old friend.  I also had the realization that our pants, as they are now, would work really well for disc golf players.
  2. With golf slowly declining as a recreational sport and disc golf seeing strong growth, where do you see the two sports in 20 years? Well, I would hope that they would both continue to grow.  But, I don’t see golf growing much, unless they deal with the pace of play problem and make it more accessible to young people.  Golf has lost 5 million players in the last six years, while the pace of the average round has increased by one hour.  It’s just too long and unreasonable to play often.  Disc Golf, an equally challenging sport, is more affordable and accessible and doesn’t require a course, if you use your imagination.  So, I see disc golf growing steadily over the next 20 years.  At the moment, they are trending in opposite directions and I would expect that to continue, unless golf addresses its issues.
  3. Have you considered designing products with disc golf specifically in mind, in terms of fashion, utility, or both? Yes, after participating in a few disc golf discussion groups, we are looking into designing pants for the market.  Our current pants, shorts and skorts will work great, as is, and truly help disc golfers, but the cultures and styles are obviously different.  I am an avid golfer and am very passionate about the game, but culturally, I would probably fit in better with the disc community.  So, it would be fun and exciting to really tap into the mindset and specific needs of disc golfers’ play and experience.  We’d love to make disc golf specific pants and will continue to explore the opportunity and look to the community for insights and guidance, as we do so.  It’s a great sport.  And if the market is viable, we will make apparel to meet it.  In the meantime, we have launched and will continue through the summer and fall with very universal/casual-styled pants with performance fabrics and utility that will serve both types of avid shot shapers!

I believe the idea behind Wocket is a great one, and plan to review a pair when they become available. After checking out the site and looking at the various models or shorts, skorts, and pants, I think they look great as well. There are plenty of disc golfers who would proudly wear them. That being said, I really liked Paul’s answer to the last question and believe that a model or pants and shorts designed specifically for disc golfers would be a huge hit. Style-wise these might be a bit more casual. Function-wise, what would you like to see in addition to the towel? I’m sure Paul and co. would love to hear your ideas.

In the meantime, you can help them have a successful launch by supporting the Kickstarter campaign here:

 

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Learning by Feel in Disc Golf: Why, and How

Companies that market formal clothing love to tell us how their garments lead directly to success in business.

“If you look good, you’ll feel good”. Heard that one before?

The idea is that men wearing chic, expertly-tailored suits and women wearing designer labels gain extra confidence. There may be a kernel of truth buried beneath the B.S., but that’s beside the point. What matters is we can use it to communicate some useful info to disc golfers wanting to improve skills and consistency. It’ll take a bit of ‘splainin’ to get to the meat of the lesson, though, so hang in there. It’ll be worth the 10-minute read.

First off, this tip flips those ad slogans around. Feeling comes first. Also, I am using the word ‘feel’ in a totally different way than them. We’re not talking about the touchy-feely emotional kind of feel (as in, ‘you hurt my feelings’). More like the physiological use for the word, as in ‘that toilet paper feels like sandpaper!’ (Cringe-worthy mental image, but it got the point across, didn’t it?) Finally, since we’re talking about a different kind of ‘feel’, the word good doesn’t work as well. So if we had to have a pithy slogan similar to theirs to sum up the lesson, it would be more along the lines of “Feeling right leads to playing better, and (for those who care about such things) playing better makes you look good.

Ok, we’re done laying out our tortured analogy. Onto the actual message.

The School of Disc Golf has previously mentioned the concept of ‘muscle memory’ no less than six times, with good reason. It’s a scientific explanation of why and how practice makes us better. On Wikipedia, it is summarized as “a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort.”

By that definition, muscle memory is something that happens automatically, behind the curtain of your conscious thoughts. It’s one of the benefits of repetitive practice. I’d like to believe that as disc golfers (or any athlete working to perfect a craft) we can take it further than that. We can try to consciously maximize the process and benefits. I’ll explain using a couple commonly accepted tips.

Putting

Whether you prefer the spin putt or the push putt, the in-line or straddle stance, following through, dramatically, should be a constant. We talk about it in detail in this post and even include a video tutorial of an exercise to practice follow through and better develop the key muscles used in this particular way. Every putt should end with a rigid throwing arm stretched directly toward the link of chain you’re aiming at. Your elbow should be locked, arm and even fingers perfectly straight, with your thumb pointed straight up at the sky.

Now, as you read this, don’t focus on what that description of following through looks like. Focus on what it feels like. If I was giving you an in-person lesson right now, I’d explain follow through, much as I just did in writing above, and show you what it looks like. Hopefully after seeing me do it you’d make your best effort to replicate what you just saw me do. Assuming you did it correctly, I’d tell you so, and you’d accept that you just did it correctly based on my positive feedback. But here’s the thing: I can’t follow you around for all your practice sessions and rounds of disc golf. My lessons are reasonably priced, I think, but that would get costly quickly! And even if that were feasible, the key to the lesson (that follow through is a key to good putting) would not penetrate beyond your logical mind. In other words, it won’t be carved into your muscle memory. That kind of learning requires feel.

Let’s go back to the word picture I offered:

Every putt should end with a rigid throwing arm and hand stretched directly toward the link of chain you’re aiming at. Your elbow should be locked, arm and even fingers perfectly straight, with your thumb pointed straight up at the sky.

As you read the words, stretch your throwing arm toward a focal point across the room. It doesn’t matter what it is, but keep your eyes locked onto it. Now zero in on the key words and phrases, “rigid throwing arm and hand”, “stretched”, “elbow . . . locked”, “arm and even fingers perfectly straight”. Rather than thinking about these descriptions look like, or what you should look like emulating them, let your mind dwell on what each of these things feels like. An arm stretched straight ahead to its extremity feels very different than one that is dangling at your side, or resting on the arm of a chair. Get that feeling locked into your long-term memory and recall it before every putt. Remind yourself that unless you feel that sensation of stretching and straining directly toward your target, you’re not doing it right.

This post is meant to be more about the importance of learning and recalling by feel than a putting lesson, but we’ll make one more point. At the end of your putt, just before, during and after you release the disc, the feeling should also include a quick, sharp burst of movement. Don’t misunderstand all the talk of stretching toward the target and conjure up thoughts of slow motion Tai Chi. For more on that check out the follow through post referenced above.

Backhand Drive

Since we went into pretty good detail about the importance of ‘feel’ in the putting example, this one will be short and sweet. It should help drive (no pun intended) the point home using a different type of scenario. We’ll focus on one particular aspect of good, consistent driving: Balance.

One of the key points in our comprehensive post ‘Building Blocks of Basic Backhand Technique‘ is the relationship between balance and weight transfer. When it comes to throwing a golf disc properly the two are intertwined, and the difference can definitely be felt when done correctly vs. incorrectly.

First off, when you’re setting up to throw, make sure you begin with good posture (knees still slightly bent, but back mostly straight and body not ‘hunched over’) and weight evenly distributed between front and back foot. As you execute the throw, remember the goal of keeping that weight centered as much as possible. Yes,  you need to transfer weight to the back foot as you reach your disc all the way back and transfer it forward in sync with the disc as you throw. But to retain the most consistent control of where your disc goes, you must remain well balanced. If you feel yourself falling off to one side or, more commonly, falling forward upon disc release, your balance is off and likely so is your aim.

This is why, in the backhand post cited above as well as all lessons I give on the subject, I urge players to begin by learning proper backhand technique without a run-up. It’s important to lock in the feel of proper balance and weight transfer so you can recall it when needed, and identify flaws when they arise.

This post doesn’t include any images, for a good reason. Visual aids do have a place in learning. But when it comes to muscle memory it’s all about learning through feel, and realizing that feeling is the best way to learn.

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