Why putting is even more important than you think

My goal with this entry? To convince you how much your entire disc golf game is affected by your putting ability and consistency.

I’m sure even non-golfers have heard the saying “Drive for show, putt for dough.” Well-know cliches are usually well-known because they are so completely true, and this one is no exception. If you need a translation of what the clever one-liner means (or even if you don’t), I’ll tell you- using disc golf terminology: People love to see someone crush a long drive. But if you throw a disc 430 feet on a par 3, 450-foot hole, then miss your 20-footer birdie putt, your impressive drive gives you no advantage over my 370-foot drive and routine 75-foot upshot. As we all know, disc golf scores are comprised of total number of throws, and gimme drop-ins count just as much as hurculean hucks. So that’s the essence of the saying, and it’s very true. But like most homespun homilies, it’s also over-simplfied. Simply put, it doesn’t come close to painting the complete picture of the importance of putting.

How’s this for a picture? Imagine an inverted (upside-down) pyramid. At the top, you’ve got the big, broad end that normally is the foundation of the pyramid. This is your driving game, the throw on each hole that hopefully gets you most of the way to the basket (hence it’s occupation of the broadest part of the pyramid). In the middle you’ll find your upshot/approach shots, and at the bottom – the small, pointy “foundation” upon which the rest of your inverted pyramid is balanced – you’ll find your putting game. Many people will want to flip the pyramid over, seeing their driving game as the base of a good score, since it does the most work in terms of distance travelled between teepad and basket. But you need to see your complete game as building upon a solid foundation of putting. To show why, let’s look at a hole in true inverted fashion- backwards.

If you consistently make almost all your putts inside, say, 25 feet, and a majority inside 30 feet, you are indeed putting for dough, but you’re also doing something just as important: You’re taking a great deal of pressure off yourself on the shots before the putt. For instance:

  • You’ll have more confidence in agressively running for long putts if you know you can hit the comeback putt.
  • When you do rip that killer drive on the long hole and have 30 feet left for a rare, envy-causing birdie, you’ll step up with a positive frame of mind, as opposed to thinking “If I don’t make this putt my killer drive will be going to waste!”
  • On the holes where you find yourself with a challenging upshot, hoping to just get close enough get a look at par, a consistent putting game will help immensely. You’ll be able to imagine a 30-foot radius around the basket and know that if you can get your second shot anywhere within that radius, you can par the hole. This usually provides several alternative routes you can visualize, and takes away that familiar pressure of thinking you gotta base every shot because you have no confidence in your putting game
  • The common thread to all three previous bullet points is confidence vs. pressure, anxiety, negative imagery, and forced conservative play

If you’re now convinced like never before that a better putting game is the key to finally finsihing in the cash in tourneys, taking your friend’s bag-tag, or maybe just breaking par, here are a few obvious but useful tips for getting better:

  • Practice. You hear it all the time, and like anything else, if you don’t devote some regular time each week to improve your disc golf putting, you won’t. It takes a little as 10 minutes a day for a few weeks to see significant gains
  • Use the inverted pyramid concept in practice to build up your putting game. First work on those short putts (15 feet and in) that just kill you when you miss ’em. Practice those until you get to the point that when you have them in a round, you approach them knowing you’ll make ’em, and you do. After that, slowly work your way outward until you’re feeling good about those 30-footers that right now cause your heart to flutter during a round.
  • Watch the players that not only hit most of their putts but seem to do so with confidence and calm. Instead of picking one person’s style and trying to copy it, try to see the basic balance and fluid form that most good putters have in common. Then, during practice, incorporate that good form into your own unique physical abilities

If you use these tips to beat me someday, make sure to let me know. It’ll make me feel a little better as I hand you my tag. Really.

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