Last week in the wild world of disc golf, Canadian rodeo grounds became a target for a new disc golf course. According to a story in the Penticton Herald, disc golfers in the British Columbia city helpfully pointed out that disc golf can co-exist with other park users, and also noted that disc golfers happily build and maintain our own courses. Anyone near there should let the Summerland Council know you want disc golf at the Rodeo.
Disc golfers in the village of DeForest, Wisconsin can use your help, too. Proposals by village staff to install a couple of small courses have been under attack by the NIMBY’s, and they are still requesting public comment. Take a minute to let them know how disc golf has been good to you. OK, last one on this theme- maybe things get a little tense up North this time of year, but the town council in North Vancouver is also hashing out a dispute between players and neighbors. If you play on this course, have a calm word with these “few offenders” and let them know how much the course means to you.
unique disc spotlight
One interesting perk of being a disc golf blogger for the past 20 years has been the opportunity to review some notable, ambitious disc models. A great example is one of the first offerings of Swedish manufacturer Kastaplast. Their attempt to innovate in the area of drag reduction to create a faster disc was successful. Even the meathook drivers call the Rask a meathook.
I don’t have much use for this disc in my game (I think it was intended to be Thor’s signature fundraiser disc), but it is a piece of functional art. I tried to capture it’s unique properties in these images.
The feature that makes this disc SO overstable is a raised ridge on the underside of the flight plate. Also on the underside is the disc’s branding, molded in reverse lettering. Viewed from the top of the disc the Kastaplast “K” and other writing can barely be discerned.
pro tour thoughts
The DGPT’s 2023 season opener went down in Las Vegas last weekend. Everyone I know who was there raved about the experience, and it looked great live on the Disc Golf Network- with two exceptions, two headwinds, if you will, pushing against the pro game’s steady progress as a spectator sport.
The first is the literal wind, which can make the game very hard to play- and watch. There isn’t much anyone can do about that, but if you like unpredictable twists and turns and lots of missed putts, windy golf is for you. The other is holding top-level competitions on a playing field designed (and used) for a different sport. Some mention the monotony of wide-open holes when criticizing disc golf on ball golf courses, and I know the practical reasons for using ball golf courses for disc golf events.
My issue has more to do with image and perception, and I have the same problem with disc golf events in multi-use parks. When a person who is already predisposed to not yet take disc golf seriously sees our top level pro hours broadcasting events from what looks to be a temporarily repurposed setting (even if it isn’t), they see it as a confirmation of their beliefs.
When the pro tour has enough options that avoid this issue and still meet required criteria for a strong cell signal and spectator accommodation, look for the sport to soar even higher.
new booking site
Clients have been asking us for a way to book lessons online, and we (finally) responded! Our new booking and ecommerce site, giftofdiscgolf.com, lets users find and book open dates and pay for lessons, purchase gift cards, and get started with remote coaching. Soon it will also have a curated selection of cool and unique merch, as well.
last week’s video
I realized after sending last week’s email that I mentioned but didn’t show or even link to the actual video. Here it is, a nice bit of film making that accurately captures the varied entertainment of playing a solo round of disc golf on a challenging course.
Jack Tupp’s weekly blast of disc golf stuff to read, watch, and use
Welcome to FrisbeeGolf Friday! Feel free to skim so you can get out and huck!
LAST WEEK IN THE WILD, WILD, WORLD OF DISC GOLF . . . From Moberly, MO came reports of disc-throwing robots built by students and paid for by the U.S. Army. The MMI (Moberly Monitor-Index) editorial board chose to downplay the disc golf angle of the story, but my first thought was ‘secret project to standardize flight numbers.’ Time will tell, but don’t count on MMI to break the story.
If you hadn’t heard, one of disc golf’s top manufacturers sued its 17-year-old star player, but LEGAL DRAMA IN DISC GOLF is not without “precedent.” Steady Ed sued Innova for patent infringement back in 1998 when that company copied his design of the Disc Pole Hole. The most fascinating part of that case for me was the determination that the essence of Ed’s initial design – chains hanging in a parabolic curve over a basket – could never possibly be improved upon. It was the basis of Innova’s legal argument, and the judge agreed.It’s an interesting story (podcast, anyone?) and much can be gleaned from court documents.
BUT WAIT, there’s more!
Fast forward to 2015. DGA and Innova had long since buried the hatchet* when all of a sudden lawyers for none other than Apple Computer dug it back up! They cited Disc Golf Ass’n v. Champion Discs, Inc. (9th Cir.1998) as legal precedent to back their claim that Samsung’s designers had blatantly copied the iPhone. So that’s one thing a Mach X and iPhone X have in common . . .
Udisc’s latest Disc Golf Growth report is worth a read and share. Due to the ubiquity of its popular app among disc golfers, the company is in a position to give us statistical ammunition like we’ve never had before. I posted additional thoughts on each item in this quick list of notable takeaways on the blog. Thanks, Udisc!
Two of the strongest areas of growth are schools & universities within the U.S. and lots of places outside the U.S.
My long-term test of the first true made-for-disc-golf shoe continues. The Idio Syncrasy has held up to some epically bad weather here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and they feel better the more times I wear them. If you didn’t already, you can check out my first impressions of these shoes here.
For this week’s disc golf-related bit of whimsy, I share a few minutes of filmmaker’s art, set on a disc golf course just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We’ve all been there (the highs and the lows), and you should go there (Stafford Lake DGC)! And if you’ve never played a full round solo, give it a try.
Udisc’s latest Disc Golf Growth report is worth a read and share. Due to the ubiquity of its popular app among disc golfers, the company is in a position to give us statistical ammunition like we’ve never had before.
I’m certain my fellow pioneer of disc golf blogging and current Udisc director of marketing Steve Hill had a hand in this report. To Steve and others who contributed, well done! In addition to all kinds of statistically significant data the report includes stories and anecdotes to provide context.
I should add that this is the kind of disc golf news that I like to share. The only social media accounts I’ve maintained even semi-regularly – my Play DiscGolf page on Facebook and a Twitter account no one follows – both focus on sharing stories of grassroots disc golf growth.
When you check out the report, I suggest skimming through at first. There’s so much there, and your favorite stat may be near the bottom. Here are a few that got me thinking:
4.3 courses were installed per day in 2022
This number represents year-over-year growth consistent with the pandemic surge and also the broader range of the past several decades. What gets me excited, though, is knowing that four times a day in 2022, a new resource popped up somewhere in the world that offers community members so much while likely requiring little or nothing in return.
Most of these courses will thrive and in a few years’ time create demand for another new course to accommodate all the new players. With disc golf, funding is never a question, so this pattern should continue unabated.
1.2 million disc golfers used UDisc in 2022
This stat is of course nice for Matt and Josh and others at Udisc, but it is huge for the sport of disc golf as well. To anyone in a position to commit funding to any disc golf project or initiative, public or private, that number indicates the sport’s true popularity much better than 100,000-plus active PDGA members.
With that many active users, the rest of Udisc’s stat’s gain credibility as well. Udisc users may still only represent a small fraction of the people playing the sport, but the sample size is easily large enough to cut across other segmentation types (geographic, economic, age, gender, etc.).
90 percent of courses are free to play
It is good to see the continuity of one of the main reasons disc golf is considered accessible. Disc golf courses in public places that are free to play which were spearheaded and sometimes funded by community members is our secret sauce.
I’d actually be happy to see the free/pay-to-play rate go down next year, as long as the overall new courses-per-day rate goes up. That would be more people are seeing disc golf as a good investment, more options for players, and less crowds at popular public courses.
Strong growth in the U.S. at schools & universities
Disc golf has demonstrated pretty impressive growth up until now by building courses in the woods and in parks where they are discovered (usually by males age 25-45) and loved and eventually replicated. A 20 percent course growth rate on the grounds of educational institutions helps keep the momentum going, but more importantly it breaks ground in two ways:
Would-be disc golf lovers will discover the sport earlier in life and have more productive years to contribute to its growth
Education systems, from preschool through college, represent an entirely new way for the sport to grow. Success at one school in a district can likely be used to start conversations at others.
strong international growth
The report points out that a number of countries posted a growth rate higher than the U.S. All except New Zealand are in Europe, but expect that to change as the Paul McBeth Foundation has recently planted courses in Mexico, Guatemala, and Columbia in an effort to introduce the sport to Latin America
We at School of Disc Golf are pretty excited to have just launched FrisbeeGolf Friday, a weekly disc golf newsletter that caters to disc golfers who love to play the game and grow the sport. You may see the occasional item about a touring pro, but that won’t be our focus.
Please check it out and subscribe. Yeah, we’ll conduct a little marketing as well, but it will be stuff we genuinely think you’ll find useful and relevant.
The look should improve over time, too. But hey, you gotta start somewhere!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.
When I first saw an ad for the Idio Syncrasy disc golf shoe during a Disc Golf Network broadcast last season, I thought the timing was sublime. I happened to be shopping for new disc golf shoes just then. After 20-plus years of searching for the perfect “shoe to use for disc golf” (a true disc golf shoe did not yet exist) the search for my most important piece of athletic equipment was once again wide open.
Although I’ve yet found the perfect disc golf shoe, I had until recently refined my personal preference to waterproof trail running shoes. Hiking books, even supposedly light ones, feel too heavy and restrictively rigid. But where I play, I genuinely need water resistance and shoes that can handle all types of surfaces. Lightness and comfort are must-haves, as well. When you add up my time teaching, practicing, and playing, these shoes will be worn for long hours at a time.
I had gone through two pairs of my most recent iteration, from Brooks, and they were okay but ultimately failed in the way so many others had. They all wear out in one place while the rest of the shoe has plenty of life. So when I watched that ad and right away noticed how they are built up in areas where so many disc golfers’ shoes always break down, the timing was right.
Well, for me, anyway. The end of the ad stated they were taking preorders with delivery months away. I needed shoes right away, so I settled on a model from a top running brand I hadn’t tried yet: Sauconys. They’re okay, so far, but if the pattern holds they’ll start to crumble under the demands of NorCal disc golf any day now.
Not long after that, as luck would have it, the opportunity arose to review the Idio Syncrasy shoes here on the blog. I of course jumped at the chance, wanting these shoes to be what I and so many others have long awaited.
That was a couple of months ago now, and a (rather understated) summary of my opinion at this point is, ‘So far, so good.’ Since durability and water resistance are important factors for me when choosing a disc golf shoe, I plan to revisit this review at least two more times to let you know how they’re holding up. However, after 15 rounds on courses with cement, turf, and natural teepads in some pretty challenging conditions I’ve already collected plenty of intel. All of it points to a recommendation to buy the Idio Syncrasy.
The price tag of $130 seemed reasonable, since that is about what I’d been paying for waterproof trail runners. But Idio justlowered the price to $103.20 for a limited time. That is quite a discount for a shoe that in my opinion is a good value at full price.
Before I go any further, I should share details about this shoe’s unique, dare I say idiosyncratic, features. Disc golf-specific things like:
Drag-on toe protection
X-flex zone in the sole for “Natural transitions for powerful drives and saucy jump-putts,”
High-rise midsole to help your plant foot hold fast
Power Plant heel
Larger toe box.
You’ll read more here in the future as each of these features carries a story of its own, but you can delve into the technical details right now at Idio’s website. For now, I can tell you this shoe was designed from scratch specifically for the sport of disc golf, as opposed to every other shoe marketed as a disc golf shoe in the past. In all those cases, the marketing was the only thing disc golf-specific about the shoes.
With that in mind, consider the features I just listed out. Each began with a blank slate and reams of information about what disc golfers want and need in a shoe. There are a variety of priorities out there, and with the Syncrasy, Idio is attempting to address them all.
I have to admit that for me, the promise of a shoe designed to resist the specific wear to the toe that teeing off can create – Idio calls it “teebox rash” – was enough to get me to bite. I remember my years as a pitcher in baseball, attaching metal plates and Shoe Goo to prevent a very similar fate. Then the shoes arrived, and it was one surprise after another.
In the ad, the look of the shoes made me think of them as specialized athletic equipment in the same way as rock climbing shoes do. Just a bit exotic, and built for a specific purpose. When I got them on my feet, though, they looked less blocky and utilitarian and more sleek and, well normal. If you end up wearing these other places besides the disc golf course, you’ll look marvelous (as long as you clean them up a bit).
Another big surprise was the combination of comfort and performance. The surprise had nothing to do with me starting out skeptical about Idio being able to deliver on both fronts. I spoke with the owner/designer and came away extremely impressed by his capabilities. Rather, it had to do with assumptions I made after I put the shoes on for the first time but before I played my first round in them.
First off, these shoes are way lighter than I expected. To look at them, I thought they were a hybrid between trail runners and light hiking boots, and that made me think they’d be heavier – “clunkier” – than I like. Not so! Every time I pick them up, I notice how light they are.
Putting them on, I was struck by the way they felt very secure at the top of the shoe but almost too roomy inside in the front (the toe box). If I was asked in general “How do those shoes feel?” I would have said right away they felt great. They did. They do. But it seemed almost certain that that comfort would come at the price of performance.
By the time I got to wear them out on the course I had forgotten about this fit issue, likely because my feet quickly acclimated to this uniquely designed shoe on the walk from the car. I received no trepidatious warning signals that my footing wasn’t to be trusted. That’s a good thing, an essential thing, because my full drive requires tons of trust as I plant my anchor foot and count on it to hold fast. If I was hesitant right from the start, the shoes would not have received a full test and any drives launched would be severely compromised.
I didn’t think about that issue again until the end of the round when I began to formulate this review. I realized that not once while playing a very rugged mountain course did I feel like I lost balance or traction due to my feet moving around inside the shoe (or for any other reason). In a future review I’ll get into shoe lingo a little (very little, probably) to explain how this is possible in more technical terms. For now, though, I can say they protect my feet and by extension the rest of my body like stout footwear designed solely for that purpose, but feel like comfortable walking shoes the rest of the time.
As to the water resistant qualities of the Idio Syncrasy: I threw LOTS of water at these shoes, and they resisted all of it. You may have read about the storms and flooding in California in January 2022. I played in steady rain a couple of times for hours at a clip. Each time, when I checked my socks afterward, they were completely dry. I even lowered one shoe as far into a deep puddle as I dared without allowing water to pour in through the top.
Time will tell more, and like all athletic shoes no one expects the water resistance to last forever. But in one of my key areas I can report: So far, so good!
At this writing, the Syncrasy has 388 ratings on the Idio website, with an average of around 4.5. That’s a decent sample size, but I find face-to-face testimonials much more useful. Right after ordering the shoes I began to notice people at my local courses wearing them, so I started asking for opinions.
I did not hear one single negative comment, and common themes were “comfortable,” “lighter than I expected,” “great traction,” and “so far, so good.” I didn’t get down on the ground to conduct a super-close inspection, but from a few feet away I detected no visible signs of early wear or shoddy craftsmanship. Granted, none could have been older than 6 months, but I spoke to seven different people, and the consistency of their answers is noteworthy.
It seems pretty likely Idio managed to nail down good quality control right from the start. Also, if any of the company’s disc golf-specific design elements were a big swing-and-miss, I believe one of the folks I spoke to would have noticed already and called it out. The word on the street: So far, so good.
Time will tell whether the Idio Syncrasy lasts significantly longer than the parade of trail running shoes I’ve tried. We’ll know more as the months wear on. After a vigorous trial period, they’re showing no signs of distress.
Aside from the built-up toes, the other disc golf-specific features are difficult to judge. I’ll learn more as I delve into each with the shoe’s creator in future posts. It’s clear that the roomy toe box, X-flex zone in the sole, and high-rise midsole work together to create that unique combination of comfort and control. I experienced it first-hand. If you’re the type of person who loves or needs to learn exactly howandwhy, stay tuned for future updates to this review.
If you’re in a similar situation as I was last year, watching DGN and looking for my next disc golf shoe, I’d say it’s a no-brainer. The Idio Syncrasy is a genuine disc golf shoe that is well-built and designed from scratch for the sport of disc golf. (Update: I typed those words before noticing the price of the shoes has temporarily dropped from $130 to $103.20.)
If you just bought a pair of something else (like me when I saw that ad on DGN), stay tuned. I’ll be adding updates here as the test goes on and I glean more info from Idio.
They know the writing is on the wall. It may take a long time to dry, but the ink is indelible and the weight of the words heavy with undeniable fact.
The traditional game of golf, with its balls, clubs, baggage, and inconvenient truths fits the 21st century like a square peg in a round hole. And they know it.
I have been convinced of this for some time- so much so that I wrote a book to explain why the very things that are dooming the original version of golf are having an inverse effect on disc golf, helping to fuel the newer sport’s explosive growth.
My news feed today featured a story from Golf Digest titled “10 Golf Traditions that Need to Change Now.” Most of the specific items listed don’t have much of a parallel in the disc golf world, but that’s not the point. As the author points out in the first paragraph, “Some are minor inconveniences, others prolong (ball golf’s) already time-consuming sport and a few certainly don’t help (them) refute the argument that (ball golf) can, at times, be a little … stuffy.”
That one sentence mentions one major and practical reason that the median age of a regularly-playing ball golfer is now 68 (rounds take too much time), and another that is more related to a cultural shift that favors casual over ceremonial in all things.
I found it funny, though, that the first item on the list – the fact that a ball golfer who sinks a hole-in-one is obligated to buy everyone drinks – is something that is exactly the opposite in disc golf. The player who aces in disc golf usually walks away richer for their effort, but certainly no poorer.
Some of the others include the fact that changing into your golf shoes in the parking lot is frowned upon (don’t do that or Spalding Wentworth III may report you), courses being cart only and not allowing walking (a rule that would fit right in in the movie Wall-E), and waiting for whoever “has honors” (in disc golf we just say whoever is “out”) to play. That one makes sense for safety reasons, but the author is probably so obsessed with the 4 hours it takes to play a round in the busy 21st century that they forgot all about why that particular “tradition” came to be.
If you think I haven’t connected the dots strongly enough to back my claim that golf’s power brokers know their sport is irreversibly appealing to fewer and fewer people as the years go by, I have more.
My second book, The Disc Golf Revolution, was published in 2018. In it, I quoted from a New York Times article written way back in 2008 titled “More Americans are Giving Up Golf.” My favorite quote from that one was a golf club owner saying “When the ship is sinking it’s time to get creative.” I also cited another 2008 story in Golf Digest about golf and the environment. The findings of a comprehensive study made it clear that a good deal of golfers and a large majority of non-golfers considered golf courses’ need for water and pesticides to be irresponsible and obviously wrong- and that was 14 years ago!
Yes indeed, they know.
In the business world, there is a term called pivoting. It’s usually used to explain how a business will see an obvious trend that threatens its existence and change its products or service to embrace the trend. Disc golf courses popping up on existing (and inevitably foundering) golf courses with increasing frequency is one obvious example, but to me, it isn’t the most telling. In those cases, it’s about an existing golf course trying to keep its gates open.
I look instead to the emergence of TopGolf in the past decade. If you’re not familiar, Top Golf is “played” at a driving range. The player never moves from their stall, attempting to hit various targets and accrue points. Think golf-meets-Skee-Ball. For the power brokers, Top Golf solves the issues of time, environmental impact, stuffiness, and to a degree, cost.
Know what else addresses all those issues? Disc golf! And you still get to actually play the game of golf in all of its enthralling, maddening glory!
Ball golf will hang on in some form for decades longer because billion-dollar industries on the slow road to obsolescence can be like beheaded chickens that inexplicably keep running around and running around until finally, they stop.
Although it’s growing like crazy, I still think of the disc golf community as one big family. Because of that I turn down product review requests when there is a good chance that my evaluation won’t be favorable. If I publish a review, readers need to be able to trust that it’s an honest assessment. And, quite frankly, I’d rather skip a review rather than possibly hurt another disc golf small business.
When I was contacted by Aaron at Reaper Disc Supply, I shared that disclaimer with him for a couple of reasons: The whole skull, bones, and death motif isn’t really my thing, and with few exceptions I could care less about the imagery that decorate the discs I throw. (Reaper sells shirts, hoodies, tanks and socks with their original art as well as a great selection of discs.) To his credit, Aaron quickly replied that if I didn’t like his stuff he wanted me to say so.
Fair enough. I admired the confidence and agreed to do it, and not just because the company owner understood my position. I know that plenty of disc golfers don’t share my artistic tastes, and it seems clear that I’m in the minority in my preference for bright, solid-colored discs (although it’s hard to argue with my practical logic).
One more bit of background that I think is worth mentioning: I’m really into disc golf apparel. So much so that I’ve created numerous designs myself, as an officer of the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club (membership shirts) and as a disc golf business owner. When I produced shirts they had to meet my own personal criteria in selecting shirts I’d wear myself. I have to like the design, but comfort and fit matter just as much. Over the years I’ve accumulated enough disc golf shirts that didn’t make my “wear worthy” cut to make five t-shirt quilts. I didn’t want to just toss ’em, but never wore them.
All of this is to say I think my take on t-shirts is, if nothing else, fairly informed and discerning.
Rather than just send me a number of random garments, Aaron asked me to check out the apparel section of his website and pick a few things I liked. Given the grim reaper theme I didn’t think I would find much, but I was wrong! The Arrow Wolf design on white reminded me of my days going to hardcore punk shows (turns out this is something Aaron and I have in common).
Big Disc Energy got me to laugh, and I instantly looked forward to others seeing it on the course and sharing the play on words joke. It has even inspired me to write a song of the same name that describes disc golfers who are convinced they’re the next Drew Gibson.
I even found myself loving one of the designs featuring reaper himself. Respect the Course shares a message every true disc golf lover should support. Maybe I can get Reaper Disc Supply to sponsor a hole at Black Mouse DGC, which sits on school grounds, when it reopens. We’ve had some issues with littering.
When the package arrived, I spotted a cool sticker that had me smiling before I even opened the box. It had a reaper image and a warning to Handle with Care. Nice! It reminded me that most disc golf small businesses share my passion for the sport and the people who love it.
The garments themselves were top quality. I couldn’t spot a single printing imperfection on any of them. The colors were all vibrant and the images vivid and clear, exactly as represented on the website. The t-shirts are Premium Bella Canvas, 100 percent soft ring spun cotton for the solid colors and a 52 cotton/48 polyester blend for the heather tees. The hoodies are a medium weight 50/50 cotton-polyester blend.
After several wash cycles everything still looks and fits great. The shirts fit as I expected, the 100 percent cotton is indeed soft, and the heather shirts, with the 52/48 blend, has that combination of softness and stretch that I particularly love to wear while throwing.
I mentioned that Reaper also sells discs. Until recently their inventory included “whatever we could get, given the shortages everywhere,” according to Aaron. That just changed! He also now sells popular molds with his artwork on them. They are all limited edition and hand numbered. The plan is to release at least one per month until they’re able to order bigger quantities. The first one, an R-pro Pig with the “Chained Hog” image, sold out quickly, but I bet they do another run of those as that’s a slam dunk disc/image combo. They just released a Star Destroyer with the Reaper Gorilla art. If you like it, better act fast. I think the black-on-white looks sharp.
In summary, I’ve found Reaper Disc Supply to be great to deal with, and the product seems to be top quality. Check out their stuff. You’ll probably find something you like, and even if you don’t there’s always the death metal disc golfer in your life, right?
MC Flow was not a hip-hop artist, nor a pioneering disc golfer from the early ’80s. He was a psychologist, and no one has ever referred to him by that name except me, in this post.
While researching my book, Three Paths to Better Disc Golf, I learned that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the person credited with the concept of Flow. In the context of athletic performance and contemporary language, “In the Zone” may be the more familiar term for this state of being.
I read yesterday that Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chik-sent-mee-hai-ee) died on October 20th, a great loss to the academic community. After learning some new things about his teaching and having had a few years to reflect since mentioning him in the book, I decided to once again bring him to the attention of disc golfers who seek the elusive but wholly available nexus of optimized performance and enriched experience on the course.
Csikszentmihalyi was best known to academics who study psychology for his larger body of work exploring happiness and creativity. His codification of the ideal state of productivity, production, and engagement (flow) was his greatest contribution to the larger world’s understanding of the human experience.
Although the concept of flow applies to any long term endeavor that a person wishes to undertake and ultimately master, athletic competition provides the ideal vessel to understand, witness, and hopefully experience this elusive state.
When you think of an athlete being “In the Zone,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? For me it’s a basketball player who is making the right decision at every juncture, making every shot no matter how difficult. When this is happening, we’ll also hear phrases like “automatic,” “unconscious,” and “out of her mind.”
As I have come to understand it, though, flow isn’t a trance-like state where we’re either in it or we’re not- a plane of existence we may be lucky to stumble into once or twice in our lives. It is a target at which to aim, and much like aiming for one center link of a basket, even coming close usually produces positive results.
Csikszentmihalyi (aka MC Flow) used flow to describe a person being in a state of complete absorption with whatever they are doing, of being so involved in an activity that nothing else exists. In an interview with Wired magazine he explained it as “”being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away,” he said. “Time flies.”
If he had stopped there, this insight would still have been fascinating, but not very useful to those of us obsessed with optimizing performance. But thankfully he didn’t stop there.
The actionable crux of MC Flow’s hypothesis is a roadmap on how to get there. To achieve a flow state, he said, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If the task is too easy or too difficult, flow cannot occur as both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results. If the challenge level is high and the skill level is low, the result is anxiety.
This brings me to the main new thing I learned about MC Flow’s hypotheses yesterday, and how it supports my concept of Disc Golf in a Vacuum.
Csikszentmihalyi believed that autotelic personality – in which a person performs acts because they are intrinsically rewarding, rather than to achieve external goals – is a trait possessed by individuals who can learn to enjoy situations that most other people would find miserable. According to the Wikipedia entry on the man and his work, “Research has shown that aspects associated with the autotelic personality include curiosity, persistence, and humility.”
When I had the mountaintop (Top of the World at DeLaveaga DGC, to be specific) epiphany that led to me formulating my own hypothesis on optimizing both enjoyment and performance in disc golf, I was zeroing in on some of the same general ideas as MC Flow. My big personal discovery had three parts:
Immersing myself in the selection, planning, execution, and then evaluation of a shot, solely for the sake of doing so (the intrinsic reward) rather than as a step to achieving a low score on my round that day (an external goal) is the richest, most gratifying way to experience disc golf
Remaining in or close to this state for an entire round almost always results in optimized execution and therefore optimized scoring
Despite being wholly absorbed in each shot as it happens, I’ve found I am much better equipped to go back after the round, often many hours later, and relive the whole round
Csikszentmihalyi listed several conditions for flow, and others have taken it upon themselves to flesh out his hypothesis even further. If you’re interested in the broader topic I encourage you to hop onto Google and dig in. As it pertains to athletic endeavors, and specifically disc golf, I’ll focus on just one: You must be at the balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and your own perceived skills.
The first chart in this post may make it seem like you need to be at the far end of both the challenge and skill side of the equation in order to experience flow, but this is not the case. The two simply need to be in balance. Other charts illustrating flow reference the term flow channel, and indicate that we merely needs to be redirecting ourselves into this ideal mix of challenge and skill. It’s not the only condition needed to achieve flow, but it’s seemingly the most important one.
In disc golf terms, this presents different directives depending on who you are and where you’re at with your game.
Less experienced and less skilled players can usually move toward the flow channel by simply being realistic about their capabilities and acting accordingly. When presented with a hole that “requires” a drive you don’t have – whether in terms of distance or shot shape – don’t take the bait. Figure out an alternative you CAN execute that gets you closer to the hole, even if it is unconventional. Remember, it’s all about finding that equal ratio of skill and challenge so you can stay balanced on the line between boredom and anxiety.
If you’re a skilled player wanting to get into the flow more, ask yourself if you’re at least on some subconscious level experiencing boredom. Maybe you’ve already determined what you can and can’t do on the course and have stuck to your comfort zone for too long. According to Csikszentmihalyi, you can’t remain in both the comfort zone and the flow channel for very long.
For example, even the most backhand-dominant players admit that certain upshots call for a forehand. If you’re in such a situation, consider upping the challenge part of the equation. It’ll probably cause you to veer quickly from boredom to anxiety – as the curvy line on the diagram indicates – but it’ll keep you moving toward your maximum mix of challenge and skill, Stay mindful of this mix and you’ll stay in or near the flow state most of the time. Any hey, that’s what practice is for, right? Working on skills in a less pressurized environment.
I started writing today to pay tribute to the man who explained being “in the zone” in scientific terms. When I returned home after that horrible USDGC performance in 2009 and discovered the transformative experience of truly focusing on abstract execution for its own sake, I knew I couldn’t have been the first to put it into words.
While I still think that in the highly-charged atmosphere of competitive sports the “focus on what you’re trying to do, not what you’re hoping to achieve” maxim is the key, MC Flow gave us much more. He gifted us with an excellent blueprint for using psychological tools to maximize our potential.
I am a sucker for novelty, and compared to all the other disc golf bags on the market the Shift bag by Upper Park Disc Golf is certainly novel. When the company asked me if I’d like to check one out and write a review my answer was an emphatic yes as I’ve admired them from afar for years and relished the opportunity to experience such a unique take on the disc golf bag.
Let’s start with this bag’s primary differentiator. The design element of having numerous disc slots that can each hold one, two, and even three discs securely has always seems very cool to me.
I dislike the quandary with the main storage section of most bags; if it isn’t full or nearly so, the discs fall onto their side like books without bookends to keep them upright. This often leaves a less than desirable choice. Carry more discs than I want or need that day, deal with having to dig around a cavernous area to find the disc I need (discs in half-full bags inevitably settle into a semi-vertical stack), or having a separate, smaller bag just for those days when I want to carry far less discs than normal. The latter option has been my move for years, but sometimes that other bag isn’t handy.
I loaded discs into my new Shift with what I thought was a good plan. Putters in the top slot, mids and utility discs in the internal slot below that, and drivers in the four elasticized side pockets (2 pockets/sleeves on each side).
Everything was up front and visible, but over the course of the round I realized that my organization strategy wasn’t detailed enough. With the outside sleeves allocated for drivers in general, I found myself having to scan all of them to find a disc when I wanted it. Were the Shift my go-to bag, I would assign a specific slot to each disc and be sure to return it to that specific slot.
The other feature that sets the Shift apart from other bags is its similarity to a daypack for a serious all-day hike. Let’s say you are playing a course that is long, with lots of trekking and climbing between holes. By the back nine you’ll be glad your bag is a Shift. It feels significantly lighter than other bags, and the ergonomics are amazing.
It has a latch to connect the shoulder straps in front, which some other bags have as well, but it also features a nicely padded belt-like strap at the bottom. Connect both of these, and you can barely feel any drag on your shoulders at all. But wait, there’s more! Both sides of the belt strap have small zippered pockets which would really come in handy if you used this bag to caddy for someone else since you can access them without taking the bag off your shoulders. The extra straps work great for what they are designed to do, but in a typical round, I can’t see myself connecting and undoing them between throws.
But here’s the thing: I don’t own a serious daypack. The next time the need for one arises, I will simply empty this bag of everything but a disc or two (my hike will likely include at least a couple spots that scream for a majestic throw) and Shift it into hiking mode. I assume the name has something to do with this double use, but Upper Park’s marketing doesn’t mention it. I’d consider playing this up, were I them. A disc golf bag that doubles as a daypack brings with it many selling points.
You can check out the Shift page on Upper Park’s website to see the full list of features and benefits. The material and construction seems top quality, and the company is clearly dedicated to a superior customer service experience.
I only identified two drawbacks, and one of them has more to do with me than Upper Park or the Shift’s design. I use a Rovic cart most of the time and had already set the cart up for my round when I remembered that I had planned to use my new Shift. Something about the two designs didn’t mesh, making it hard to get it all connected and secure and equally difficult to unhook. But unless you plan to use this bag with a cart (which is not it’s targeted use) this is a non-issue.
The only little annoyance was the bag’s stability when I set it down before each throw. Most backpack disc golf bags store the bulk of your discs at the bottom, giving them the advantage of a weighted base regardless of other aspects of design. Since the Shift spreads the weight out evenly, it tips over much more easily on less than flat holes. If you’ve played my home course, DeLaveaga, you know flat is not the norm. This is a clear tradeoff for the superior lightness and comfort, and under the right circumstances I’d happily make the trade. In fact, my Shift will see regular use when I’m giving on-course lessons. I can load it up and keep it on my back for long periods at a time and not feel back fatigue after a couple hours.
Is the Shift the right bag for you? Consider my quick rundown below.
Reasons to get a Shift
You want to lighten your load
You typically play with 15 or less discs but still want a “top line” bag
You like standing apart from the masses and love the cool factor
You like being organized- very organized
You often play extreme disc golf
You love the idea of a disc golf bag that can double as a serious daypack
Reasons to just the admire the Shift from afar
You’re looking for the most disc capacity on a tight budget
You play with 20+ discs
You don’t need the extra comfort straps
You plan to attach your bag to a cart a good deal of the time
You don’t like being extra-organized
Your home course is the opposite of flat
Before wrapping up, I’ll add caveats to a couple of the limitations I mentioned. If you love the idea of ultra-accessible disc storage slots, and/or admire Upper Park’s refined aesthetic but simply must have more disc capacity than the Shift is designed to provide, consider the Rebel. It may be the perfect combination what you want and what you need. Also, if you’re like me, you justify buying disc golf goodies with the knowledge that the sport is in most cases free to play. Even if it isn’t a perfect fit as your One Bag, The Shift is a great extra bag with singular versatility. I listed several reasons, and you might come up with a couple of your own.
The 2021 Masters Cup is over. The stuff I wrote the last three days about spectators and volunteers and the course and the weather… Sunday was more of the same. 72 degrees with puffs of wind bringing faint whiffs of the Pacific ocean. The spectators were, like, totally chill. So chill, in fact, that they were almost rowdy.
Since Sunday was the final round, and final rounds are about results, so that’s what I’m a-gonna write about.I got some good pictures and videos, too, so stick with me. I watched most of the lead card’s final round, and will explain why I think Adam Hammes won the Masters Cup by demonstrating some quick thinking, quicker feet, and a skill necessary for a good score at DeLa.
First up, though, is a look at two good friends of mine who competed in MP50, because this series is all about what I saw!
Flynn Carrol is a regular playing partner at DeLa and much better than his record in past professional Masters Cups (he won the event as an Advanced player) would indicate. I saw a good amount of his Friday and Saturday holes, and he battled! Didn’t let the inevitable bad breaks get him unraveled.1
This year, Flynn had the modest goal of throwing three rounds above his current 939 rating. His rounds went 951, 989, 945. Good job, Flynn! And no more strokes for you! Seriously, no more.
Jon Baldwin is another local friend who did well. Jon is no stranger to winning here and on the Worlds stage,2 but as easy to root for as ever. He ended up tied for first with Robert Bainbridge, and they were told to play holes 1-4 (the hill) in rotation, sudden death format, until someone won a hole. They both had outside circle putts, and Bainbridge insisted Jon was out. I couldn’t tell.
Someone nearby whispered “Gamesmanship,” assuming Bainbridge wanted to see if Baldwin’s attempt might possibly miss and roll back down the hill.
Jon stepped up first, nailed his putt, and the modest crowd whelped with glee. Bainbridge’s putt to match Jon’s birdie came up short, no metal, and it was over except Baldwin thanking Innova.
Hammes Shows How to Win at DeLa; Pierce’s Game Continues to Evolve
I am admittedly something between a die hard and casual pro disc golf consumer. I know most of the names and watch a good deal of coverage. My take on Paige Pierce — aside from the Captain Obvious observation that she is singularly talented in all aspects of disc golf — is that she combines those superior skills with a 100% aggressive, 100%-of-the-time game plan. The result is a mess of runaway victories, and a few that probably got away only due to her pedal-to-the-metal approach. On Sunday with a three-stroke lead to begin the final round, I saw an approach that was more Bobby Fischer than Mike Tyson. She seemed content to play some defense and see what the rest of the field might do. Sure enough, her lead grew simply through the faltering of others, and Paige Pierce cruised to victory.
Adam Hammes went wire to wire, shooting a 14-under par 61 in the first round, then 11-down in the second round, and 8-down Sunday. With the 24-hole Masters Cup layout and three rounds, that is 33-under par for 72 holes. That rate seems right about where the PDGA wants it.
Hammes had his ups and downs over the final round, but successfully avoided the big mistakes that enable one to cough up a lead quickly. As we walked down the short fairway on hole 20 — AKA the Gravity Hole, AKA The Lady — I checked scores on my phone while trying not to trip over a gnarled root and tumble into the ravine that makes this hole so potentially treacherous.
UDisc Live showed James Proctor on the last two holes, trailing Hammes by one stroke. Proctor had saved his best round for last, posting a -13 par 62. He had trailed Hammes by six strokes at the start of the round. I wondered how up-to-date UDisc was at that moment. Maybe Proctor was already in at -33, or even -34.
I looked up to see Adam Hammes gauging an uphill putt, the basket 35 feet in front of and above him and a deep, vegetation-clogged ravine below. His putt was just short of money. It hit the front rim and the hard dirt in front of it in quick succession, then did that thing so many would-be roll-aways do, pausing on its edge as if contemplating whether to flop to the side or go for a ride.
This one opted to roll, and it headed for the ravine, picking up speed as gravity pulled from the depths below. Then Hammes’ disc hit some tree debris and things took another turn, literally and figuratively. The still-rolling disc turned right and began rolling back toward Hammes rather than plunging deeper into the ravine.
Hammes, as he watched all this unfold, might have had about a half-second to appreciate the good break turn at the end of that bad-break roller before realizing the disc was now heading straight toward him (and he’s not standing in the safest place to hit the deck). As you can see in the video I captured, he showed quick thinking and nimble movement to dodge the disc and the one-stroke penalty that would have come with any contact between him and it.
Hammes watched the disc roll another 10 feet or so down the hill before coming to rest in a rare flat spot on that hole. He picked up his bag and walked down to his disc with zero body language. Nothing to indicate that he was inwardly screaming about having just been “DeLa’d.” He set up again, fired with full commitment, and nailed the putt in dead center chains.
DeLaveaga throws adversity at players, and offers them plenty of tempting (jenky!) excuses (jenky!) when things don’t go well. The players who win here all understand three things:
DeLa needs to be played differently, and she can be managed when played correctly
Bad things will happen no matter what
Must remain calm
Hammes ended up winning, four holes later, by one stroke. But if the rolling disc hits him or he misses the comeback putt, he ties or loses. It was all in the balance there on the Gravity Hole, and Adam Hammes made three championship-caliber moves for the win.
He reacted quickly to avoid making contact with his rolling disc (thinking and acting nimbly)
He did not react outwardly at all to display frustration at the bad break
He focused on and made the next shot
I believe all three were needed for Adam Hammes to become the 2021 Masters champion.