In disc golf, self-control is paramount to success. This particular virtue comes in many forms, but the one I have in mind today is patience- with your own game, with others, and with everything else that pops up in the course of a round of golf.
Patience seems most important to me during the Winter months, because the weather is colder and the teepads and terrain are often slippery after it rains. When the air is cold discs don’t travel quite as far, which is due to a combination of the phyics of the air itself and our bodies not being quite as loose. And when we’re not properly warmed up and loose, we lose that fluid quality that is so important to throwing a disc accurately and far. Also, if the surface we’re trying to plant our feet on is wet and slick, it adds yet another element that makes executing the shots we have in mind more difficult. The natural result is a greater margin of error, and usually scores that trend upward. Because of this we must remember to be patient, and keep a few things in mind.
First of all, these tougher conditions are just a fact of playing disc golf in the Winter, so we need to adjust our expectations accordingly. For me, a -5 with the course soggy after a recent storm and a temperature? of 38 degrees at tee-off is better than a -8 with perfect sunny weather and dry teepads. Second, the conditions of the course are the same for everyone. No matter who you’re playing against, I guarantee that his or her average score goes up when it’s wet and cold.
I’ve learned to recoginize – either at the outset of a round or after a few hampered throws – when conditions will limit what I can accomplish that day. I then adjust my strategy and expectations accordingly, and try to do the best I can within the new framework of potential. If the teepads are slippery, I sacrifice some distance for the sake of more control since I’m more likely to slip if I go with 100 percent power. If my hands are cold and numb and my muscles feel stiff, I’ll be more conservative with my upshots and putts to make sure I don’t take extra strokes by giving myself unneccessarily long putts.
Maybe the weather is great, but you still start poorly. No problem! One of the great things about golf is the fact that each hole gives you a fresh chance to do something good. One of the biggest mistakes a golfer can make is to let the last shot influence the next shot (or hole). Don’t feel that you need to ‘make up for’ the bogey you took throwing OB on hole 6 by going for a risky birdie run on hole 7. Be patient, and evaluate the risk/reward of each shot based on its own merits.
Although it isn’t really what this article is about, patience with the other things you can’t control is also very important. If you find yourself getting antsy waiting for someone to make their shot, or the general pace of play on the course that day (this is especially common during tournaments, of course)? try to relax and enjoy the moment. A watched pot never boils, as they say, so let your eyes wander to something else on the course, like another group putting out, or even a bird in a tree. If you have a tricky shot coming up, use the extra time to give that shot more consideration. Most people don’t have as much trouble noticing and dealing with external issues, though. Much tougher is the ability to recognize and properly handle what’s going on in one’s own head. That’s the kind of patience that is harder to devlelop.
A good example of this was my experience at the DeLa monthly last weekend. I started on hole 1, and right away noticed that the cold weather combined with an injury I had to noticeably reduce my distance off the tee. I then realized it affected my putting touch as well. I told myself that par would be good enough as long as I felt so cold and stiff, and proceeded to get par on each of the first 11 holes. A couple birdies just sort of came to me on holes 11 and 12 (good things come to those who wait, after all), and after a double on 13 and a birdie on 15 my score was -1. I still didn’t feel right, so I remained patient and kept playing conservatively. Then my patience began to pay off.
With 18 in the long left position, I threw a great turnover drive (I ‘m a lefty) and based the hole. More importantly, though, I noticed that the temperature had risen a bit, and my stiff hip had loosened up as well. I ended up at -6, including birdies on 3 of the last 4 holes, and tied Jon Baldwin for first in the Open division. The thing I felt best about wasn’t the 1st place finish- it was the fact that I was able to recognize what I’d be able to accomplish that day, then maximize my potential within that box. That kind of round – a patient round with a happy ending – really feels good afterward. And it just happened to be good enough to win.