Falling Putts can lower your score!

Disc golfer’s familiar with the rules of the sport recognize the term ‘falling putt’ as an infraction that occurs when the disc is within 10 meters of the target. The rules (see 803.04 C) clearly state that a player – when inside this ‘putting circle,’ must demonstrate full balance after releasing the disc before advancing to retrieve his or her disc. This is to ensure players cannot gain an advantage by shortening the distance their disc has to travel. If this rule were not in place, putting would turn into a Frisbee-long jump hybrid, with players taking 10 paces backward to get a running start before leaping toward the target.

Of course, when this rule is broken it is much more subtle than that. Usually the player inadvertently leans into the shot, and is unable to avoid falling forward. Hence the term ‘falling putt. But outside 10 meters, no such rule applies.

803.04 A makes it clear that the main restriction in this regard is that one point of contact (foot, knee, etc.) must be in contact with the ground at the time the disc is released, directly and no more than 30 centimeters behind the marker. And I’ve discovered that outside 10 meters, the Falling Putt can be a really, really good thing.

All players are different in terms of physical capabilities, of course. But generally speaking most of us can only use our putting style to a distance of somewhere between 30 and 40 feet before the need for more ‘oomph’ robs our form of its consistency and affects our aim. At this point, players will embrace one of two different strategies:

  1. Change from a putting, flip-style throw to a ‘regular’ throw, where the player stands sideways to the target and pulls the disc back behind her or his body. This method solves the need for increased power and allows the player to regain smooth form, but aim usually suffers considerably.
  2. Take advantage of the fact that the rules allow players to ‘fall’ forward outside 10 meters. When it’s legal, and done on purpose, this is usually referred to as a ‘jump putt’.

I’ll usually take the second option, but not always, depending on distance, terrain, obstacles, and situation. And like most players, I initially took the term jump putt too literally. The term implies that you’re supposed to jump into the putt, or as you putt, but I learned there are two problems with that. First, if your feet behind the marker leaves the ground before the disc leaves your hand, that is a rules violation. I know it’s often hard to tell, because it’s almost simultaneous, but it’s better to avoid disputes of this nature entirely if you can.

The other problem with trying to jump as you putt is that it doesn’t work! If your feet have left the ground before you release the disc, or they leave the ground right as the disc leaves your hand, you don’t really get the power you’re intending to get. Think of a shortstop in baseball trying to jump in the air and then throw the ball. It can be done, but without feet planted on the ground the arm has to supply all the power. The same is true in disc golf. Also, aim is much less consistent without the stability of those feet on the ground.

Enter the legal falling putt.

I’m not sure how I discovered this, but it enables me to putt from probably 70-80 feet with good control and consistency. By taking the straddle-putt stance (legs apart, facing the basket), then falling slowly toward the target, and putting at the last moment before my feet leave the ground, I get the best of both worlds. The momentum adds significant power, but my arm speed is the same as a much shorter putt. And as long as I don’t get too eager and try to jump and throw at the same time, it’s remarkably accurate.

Try it, you might like it.

disc golf vs. ball golf: each has a case

Why (ball) golf is better than disc golf, reason #17
There is something poetic and dramatic about the differences between a driver and a putter in golf. To someone that had no idea what either was used for, they would scarcely resemble implements used for the same purpose- to strike a small white ball. One is typically much longer, with a large bulbous head on the other end of what is obviously the end meant to grip with ones hands. The putter, on the other hand, is shorter, with a smaller head at the end. And as different as the clubs are, the swings they are designed for are more different still.

When one looks to ‘drive’ a golf ball, a full effort is usually employed. The big backswing, the (hopefully) audible whoosh and whack, and the dramatic follow through all contrast beautifully with a putt on a fast green in golf. The operation requires the nerves and steady hand of a bomb-diffuser. When the club strikes the ball, it makes a quiet little click and sends the ball rolling toward a hole not much bigger than itself. Certainly dramatic contrasted with blasting that same ball through a wide open space.

Disc golf possesses many of the most important attributes of golf – risk/reward chief among them – but the differences between a putter and driver are immediately discernible only to the learned eye. They are both roughly the same weight and diameter.

Although a drive in disc golf usually involves more movement of the feet and a faster arm-whip, the contrast between that and a putt is relatively minor.

The best way to sum it up is this: Ball golf players get to whack their projectiles more than twice as far as disc golfers can throw theirs, and yet completing the hole is a far more delicate operation. The contrast between driver and putter, whack and tap, is one of the things that makes golf great, and that contrast barely exists in disc golf.

Why disc golf is better than (ball) golf, Reason #33
Everyone knows that disc golf is “easy to learn, yet hard to master.” But simply saying that disc golf is better because it is easier to play than golf is painting with too broad a stroke. There are many unique advantages that fall under this umbrella, only one of which is the following:

Two things combine to make a person’s first attempt at disc golf an almost guaranteed more enjoyable, less stressful experience than playing ball golf on a course for the first time.

  • Disc golf courses are much less formal environments, with none of the rules and almost none of the social mores of even a public golf course, much less a private one.
  • Not much compares to having multiple sets of eyes on you as you swing and miss at a golf ball sitting on a tee. In disc golf, that’s guaranteed not to happen! About the only thing that would compare is throwing the disc 180 degrees in the wrong direction (which I’ve seen). But that’s rare, and in disc golf no one seems to care.

More signs of legitimacy

When I come across a news item like this one from the Augusta Chronicle in Augusta, GA, it’s easy to imagine that disc golf has finally crossed the imaginary threshold into mainstream relevance. The story is about the National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship, the existence of which is a statement in itself. But it’s also very well-written, in a straight sports reporting style rather than the novelty/human interest angle most coverage still seems to favor. It’s written with the assumption that the reader understand the sport of disc golf. That’s not the case today across the country or the world, but apparently in Augusta – at least in one newspaper’s mind – it IS there.

And I find the fact that it was published so close to the home of Bobby Jones’ Augusta National Golf Course, location of the just-completed THE MASTERS, makes the story more notable, not less. Maybe it’s an indication that those that are best-acquainted with the virtues of the game of golf understand those virtues exist in disc golf, without limiting factors such as excessive cost, time to play, and difficulty.