A secret ingredient of putting power

Notice that the title of this post is not ‘The Secret of Putting’. There are simply too many mental and physical aspects to good, consistent putting for there to be some ‘secret’ that once discovered instantly turns a weak putter into a good or great one. If anything, the best advice is the one players often like to hear the least: practice.

But we’re not talking about flour and water here. Those are major components to making bread, but the secret ingredient is yeast. Without the yeast the bread won’t rise, and if it doesn’t rise, well, it’s not really bread, is it? Secret ingredient.

The same goes for putting in disc golf. You can propel a disc toward the basket any number of ways, and it’ll even land in the basket once in awhile. But if you want a putt that seems to zip out of your hand, go further and hang in the air a little longer than your effort warranted, you need some nice tight spin. And believe it or not, there’s a pretty simple modification you can make that will help you get it.

Illustration A: This is a standard fan grip viewed from above. If your hand is on the side of your disc - like this - when you are putting, you're wasting a good deal of potential snap. Photo by Jack Trageser
Illustration A: This is a standard fan grip viewed from above. If your hand is on the side of your disc – like this – when you are putting, you’re wasting a good deal of potential snap. Photo by Jack Trageser

Illustration A shows a player holding a putter with a typical fan grip. But notice where the hand is located in relation to the disc, and pay particular attention to the straight wrist. Now grab a putter and simulate your own putting form. Look down at your hand, wrist and the disc. If your hand is alongside the disc, as it is in Illustration A, and your wrist is mostly or completely straight, the good news is that your putting game is about to get better.

Now check out Illustration B, paying attention to the same elements examined in the first picture. What do you see? (I’ll give you a few minutes to make the discovery on your own. People supposedly learn better that way) . . . . . . . . . . .

Illustration B: The wrist is cocked here, meaning that it is bent. Also, the hand is in front of the disc, creating much more natural spin upon release. Photo by Jack Trageser.
Illustration B: The wrist is cocked here, meaning that it is bent. Also, the hand is in front of the disc, creating much more natural spin upon release. Photo by Jack Trageser.

Okay, time’s up. Do you see the difference? In Illustration B, the hand is holding the front of the disc as opposed to the side, and the wrist is cocked so that it is actually in front of the hand.

This simple adjustment, assuming that you keep the wrist cocked the entire time and follow through properly on your putts, will add a significant amount of spin to your putt. The disc will fly smoother (due to a tighter spin) and farther (due to more spin) with the same amount of effort.

The best part about this technique is that you don’t have to think about ‘snapping’ your wrist during the throw. As long as you keep your wrist cocked and follow through after the release, the snap happens automatically. Come to think of it, that is probably where the term ‘cock your wrist’ came from. It’s obviously an analogy borrowed from firearms (as in cocking the gun), where the striking hammer is pulled back and set in a poised position, so that a trigger-pull makes firing almost instantaneous.

If you cock your wrist properly, you should see the difference in spin and power right away. Like anything else, this may feel weird at first, but practice will take care of that. If it’s affecting your aim and causing you to ‘pull’ your putts (to the right of the target for RHBH, and to the left for lefties), there are two probable causes: either you are thinking about trying to snap your wrist as you putt (which, remember, is not necessary if you cock your wrist properly), or you are not following through correctly- or both. That’s an entirely different issue which is addressed in detail in a past post, but it’s an essential component of this overall wrist-cocking technique.

If you like things boiled down to a few main points to remember, here they are:

  • Cock your wrist so that your wrist is bent and your hand is in front of the disc
  • Keep your wrist cocked throughout the putting motion
  • Follow through straight at the target, finishing with a straight arm, straight wrist, and even stretched out, straight fingers

Try this out, and let me know if it works for you. Like any secret ingredient you have to ‘mix thoroughly’ into the main components- and in this case that means, yes, practice. But before you know it you’ll get to the point where cocking your wrist comes automatically, without thinking about it.

Disc Golf Unchained video game coming soon- and you can help

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Someone announces the development of a breakthrough disc golf video game and claims it will be far better than the paltry offerings available today. Maybe they even forge a partnership with a major disc golf entity. Then either the excitement fades away as quickly as it sprouted up, or the game does get released but falls short of all the hype.

We’re hearing this once again, and this time I have a hunch it’ll turn out differently. And I can point to a few specific reasons why I feel this way.

Local Route Labs in the enclave of Madison, Wisconsin has announced its plans to release a disc golf video game for the Android and iOS platforms mid-year 2014. The company – which at this point consists of two avid disc golfers with full-time jobs outside of this project – launched a Kickstarter campaign that provides plenty of evidence of the work they’ve done thus far. It also leaves one with the impression that their game, Disc Golf Unchained, is definitely gonna happen.

For one thing, developing the game for Android and iOS first is a great decision. Far more people have access to devices on these platforms than the various consoles. And those who are not normally ‘gamers’ can easily make an exception by downloading the game to their phone or tablets in minutes.

When I asked co-founder Tyler Krucas why he and business partner Adam Heier decided to invest thousands of hours and a not insignificant amount of personal funds in a disc golf video game, he said it had to do with the “lack of disc golf video game options on the market,” adding that “the options that are currently out there also seem to leave something to be desired.”

Frankly, that is a familiar refrain from would-be developers and frustrated gamers alike. But then he began to expand on that answer, and the more I heard the more I became convinced that assuming it makes it to the market and is stable this will truly be a breakthrough game.

It wasn’t just the detailed shortcomings of previous disc golf games that Krucas recounted and pledged to address: taking the shortcut of building the flight engine on that of a ball golf game, producing flight not realistic for a flying disc; throwing disc golf as an add-on to a game that includes a collection of sports, more as a novelty than anything else.

Others have made similar claims before along the same general lines. But I hadn’t heard details like I do from Local Route Labs, and more importantly, seen proof of how they are addressing those details.

It became obvious pretty quickly that these guys are familiar with the nuances of disc golf. They understand the desire of advanced players to have a large selection of discs from which to choose that perform as they should. Disc golfers want to be able to throw backhand, forehand, and tomahawks, and they agree. They’re even trying to figure out how to add rollers! When you throw a big anhyzer with a stable disc the right way, they want you to be rewarded with a sweet S-turn.

As far as courses go, the plan is to have some real, familiar ones built in, and also some created just for the game located on terrain disc golfers dream of tackling. From the screenshots and video clips on the Kickstarter page both the foliage and the undulations of the playing surface look pretty good. And one feature they are particularly excited about is a built-in course engine and editor. “We think the inclusion of real world courses will be a big draw,”explains Krucas. “and allowing players to create their own based off their favorites will add another level of engagement. We definitely look forward to seeing what our users create with the Course Editor and hope to eventually make them available for everyone.”

If you’re someone who is into both video games and disc golf, are eager to see ‘real’ disc golf take another step in its inexorable climb to relevance as a sport of the future, or both, I encourage you to do two things:

  1. Check out their Kickstarter campaign. The funding period ends December 3rd and they provide participation options as low as $1 and opportunities for cool things like being able to sponsor a hole on a permanent course in the game- complete with signage.
  2. Spread the word through social media, and encourage your disc golf friends to do likewise. In particular, post on Facebook pages for disc golf clubs where the highest concentration of disc golfers will see it.

I’ll post on this game again with a full review when I’m able to test it out. If I had to bet, I’d say this game is gonna happen next year, and it’s gonna be good.