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.

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