New info on old rules- I wonder what else I don’t know?

The PDGA website has an item on marking your lie, disc golf style, in its homepage rotation right now. I’m familiar with the rules discussed but the wrinkles they mention – and how they’d
come into play at courses in and around Santa Cruz – are new to me.

The first point they make is sensible, and I think I’ve instinctively done it before without even thinking about it. Basically, if you need to throw your shot in a direction other than straight toward the hole (playing a dogleg par 4, for instance) you can mark your lie with a mini in line with the direction you are throwing. It’s a small difference of degrees in terms of where the marker is placed, but it also affects where the thrower’s supporting point is placed. I can see this one coming up at Pinto Lake, on the last par 4 (I think it is #13 now?) It plays up a fire road fairway that curls to the left, with the basket above the road on the left. Many times players get half-way up the road, can barely see the basket from their lie, but are compelled to continue along the fire road to the right because the woods are too dense to take a direct route.

The they address something that comes up often at DeLa and Black Mouse: a disc is enough under a large fallen tree or log that the player is compelled to throw from either behind or on top of said tree or log. The player can throw from on top of the object, but they must mark their disc first. And speaking of that the story mentions that it has been legal to simply throw behind the disc used on your last shot, provided you don’t move it, since the 1999 Worlds. The other instances when you MUST use a mini in tournament golf:

  • after throwing out-of-bounds
  • when your disc is above the playing surface
  • when your previous throw is a lost disc
  • when you’re declaring your lie unplayable
  • when you’re lie is relocated for relief
  • interference
  • repositioning the lie within 1 meter of the out-of-bounds line.

Here’s the link if you didn’t catch it above: It’s worth it to see the diagrams.

The disc golf double-whammy

I’m not talking about the ‘adding insult to injury’ kind of double whammy, like a putt cutting through the chains, spitting out the back, then landing on an edge and rolling 50 feet away. That sucks, to be sure, but when it happens, it happens. I’m talking about shot making strategy, where you plot out exactly what kind of shot you’re planning to throw, with which disc, and how hard/soft/low/high, etc.

Sometimes, when we’re thinking about our upcoming shot, we come up with an imperative that rises above everything else in our minds. For instance, we think “I need to do this to make sure I turn my disc over on this shot,” or “I need to do this to make sure I clear that hazard.” This kind of analysis is good, but when it isn’t organized thought where a clear and detailed plan emerges, problems arise. Sometimes, instead of having a concrete idea of what we want to do, we let vague ideas marinate together right up until the disc is released. The result is what I call the disc golf double-whammy. Here’s a good example that I’ve experienced many times:

I’m on the tee of a hole that is slightly uphill, with a dogleg to the left. Think DeLa hole 18 in the short left position. Being left-handed, I want to throw a backhand shot that turns over nearly the entire time. I consider the fact that uphill throws are harder to turn over, how long the hole is, and the placement of the trees. I know I have several ways to make a disc turn over more; I can throw it harder, put more spin on the disc, make the angle of release more exaggerated, make the flight path lower, or any combination of the four. The problem arises when I don’t have a clear idea of which of these elements I want to use to craft my shot.

If my only notion is “I gotta turn this over” and I allow those four possibilities to mull in my mind right up until I release the disc, I may overcompensate to accomplish my imperative (in this case, “gotta turn it over”). So I might throw it much harder than normal AND exaggerate the angle AND, for good measure, my body might instinctively aim more to the left, resulting in a disc that turns over too much. Double (or in that case, I guess, Triple) Whammy.

Another good example I can think of is a classic. You have a disc you know is hard to throw straight very far before it begins to hyzer out, so you think of how to offset that tendency. So you end up aiming it wide AND putting turnover angle and power on it, then exclaim to your friends “I can’t believe I just turned over that Excalibur!” or something like that. Classic double whammy.

The best way I can think of to combat double-whammy tendencies is to have a pre-shot routine that allows you to plan your shot in detail every time. Make sure your mind is nowhere but in that place, at that time, playing disc golf in a vacuum.

For beginners, golf is the key to enjoying disc golf

It occurs to me that many first-time players get hung up in how different golf discs are than regular ol’ Frisbees. They simply try to propel the disc forward as instructed by their well-meaning friends, note the marked difference between their effort and that of their more seasoned counterparts, and listen to the next set of instruction.

When they’ve zig-zagged across the fairway several times with errant throws and finally find themselves within tossing distance of the basket, they’re probably thinking of the brief respite they’ll get before teeing off on the next hole. Or maybe the more competitive among them see the next hole as a chance to start fresh- which it is, sort of.

But for most new players, the golf aspect of disc golf doesn’t really register until they get much better at controlling their disc, or enter some type of competition, or both. To me this is a shame, since it was the golf aspect of the the game that had me addicted from the first time I played.

That first time was at UCSC, where the targets were 4 x 4 posts and other objects. I remember quickly realizing that if I threw a disc at a target only caring about that throw, I’d likely end up with another tough putt if I missed that throw. So I started to putt in such a way that enabled the disc to hit the target but not go zipping past if it didn’t.

I’m amazed at how many competitive players I see – players that really want to beat their PB and their friends and adversaries – that still haven’t made this adjustment. These players are also likely to make the same stroke-costing mistakes repeatedly, like throwing a driver on a tricky hole simply because it flies the farthest or fastest. I can’t help but wonder if this has something to do with not embracing the golf aspect of the sport from Day One.

For anyone that has fallen into this trap, the good news is twofold: Focusing on the golf part of disc golf is really about stepping up the mental game, and when you do that you’ll discover that disc golf now offers you twice the enjoyment you experienced before. You’ll find yourself replaying rounds in your head, analyzing each decision and using the experience to do better next time. And when you do this, of course, your play and score will inevitably improve.

So the next time you’re bringing someone out for the first time, make sure they understand they are playing the great game of golf. The discs just make it . . . greater.