I used to over-simplify my approach to putting tempo, using the logic that the disc should have just enough on it to run out of gas and fall into the chains with just enough power left to slip into the cage. But on further examination, it’s clear that different situations require different tempos. Here’s a quick breakdown of when it makes sense to try to keep the disc on a straight line and hit the chains firmly, and when it doesn’t:
Drill that putt!
- First of all, I don’t mean to suggest ever cranking a rocket into the chains that make them explode apart like billiard balls at the break or bowling pins on their way to a strike. Anyone who putts that hard inevitably gets more than their share of spit-outs. The kind of firm putt I’m talking about is thrown just hard enough to fly on a straight line rather than curling and/or falling into the basket (see ‘True Golf Putt ‘ below).
- The premise is simply that if you thrust a putter at the target on a straight line from that distance and release directly toward the pole (do an exaggerated follow through to be sure), it doesn’t have time to veer away and will almost always go in. In this case, the firmer putt works in your favor because it minimizes the effects of wind and elevation changes. In addition, if your approach on short putts is to always be firm and follow through, you’ll come close to eliminating those times when you sleepwalk from 13 feet and come up short. Did that today, in fact. D’oh!
- Speaking of elevation changes, downhill putts deserve special attention here. Once you’ve decided to go for a downhill putt (as opposed to laying up), you should drill it if it’s within 10 meters (or a little more, if you usually shoot under par). The main reason for this is a disc’s tendency to turn into a roller when it falls off to the weak side. It almost always lands on it’s edge with spin left. Depending on the severity of the slope and hazards that await below the target the better option may be simply to lay up. But if you go for a downhill putt, drill it.
- Low ceiling putts (those with low-hanging foliage between you and the target) usually also require a putt that flies on a straight line. In this case, however, the reason you’re putting harder is to keep the disc low while still maintaining its height all the way to the basket. The lower you need to keep the disc, the harder it must be thrown to counter the effects of gravity.
The ‘True Golf’ Putt
- If you watch much ball golf on TV, you know what a lag putt is. As putts get further and further away, golfers are more concerned with leaving it close enough to the cup than making the putt. That’s because it makes sense to hedge your bets for the next shot as the odds get lower and lower for this one.
- In disc golf, we have it bother better and worse than ball golfers when it comes to putting. On the one hand, it’s much easier to nail a 15-foot put in disc golf than in ball golf. But we’re aiming at an elevated target, not a hole in the ground so we can’t really lag putt the way they do. But we can come close.
- Regular putting practice is bound to improve your accuracy and consistency in terms of percentage of putts that end up in the cage. But if you pay attention to the ones you miss and where they end up, it’ll help you get better at putting in such a way that your ‘comeback’ putts after missing are usually 15 or less.
- You want a disc that is close to perpendicular to the chains when it arrives at the target, losing elevation and moving at an angle roughly 45 degrees off the line between you and the pole. It should be losing speed when it arrives, not accelerating.
- The great thing about working on this kind of touch is that it has two benefits. You’ll generally see more borderline go in that on line-drive putts, and those come-backers will be shorter on the occasions when they miss the target altogether.