Meanwhile in the world of School of Disc Golf, aka, Play DisGolf, Inc., aka, me, I was surprised to learn my book Three Paths to Better Disc Golf is only two ratings shy of 100 on Amazon. (I had no idea! You see, I’m pretty shall we say “hands off” when it comes to my social media marketing — eh-HEM, Slacker! — and not as up-to-date on these things as I should be.) If you’ve read the book, post a review and help it hit triple digits!
I want to share a few snippets from past reviews as feedback like this is extremely gratifying and humbling at the same time.
“I did not expect how many of the suggestions just clicked – reflections of things I know to be true from my work and personal life that I had simply never applied to my recreational passion – disc golf. So far my scores are trending in the right direction, but more than any of that, practicing “disc golf in a vacuum” has allowed me to enjoy my time on the course even more. Highly recommend!”
“This is an awesome read, Being new to the sport I was a little confused about some aspects of the game. The author makes great sense and is simple to understand. If you take your game seriously you owe it to yourself to check it out.”
“I’ve read several of the most popular disc golf books and this is by far my favorite. Excellent treatment of the subject and from someone who can actually write!”
Those were some of my favorites, each for a different reason. I even liked the lowest-rated review, which simply said “Be the Disc, Danny.” An association with one of the best movies ever can’t hurt, right?
I also have deep ties to Michigan Disc Golf (what’s up, WinniCrew?), and this campaign to build an epic course and honor a legend is a perfect example of why and how disc golf has come so far and ain’t slowing down! Help ‘em out if you can, especially if you’re near the Upper Peninsula.
Our private course is showing signs of a mini-super bloom, and the season for teambuilding events and group activities is getting started. Contact me directly if you’re interested in booking a date or learning more.
This week’s flashback post from the blog is a 2-Parter. Big mistakes can obviously cost you big-time, but lots of little things can add up fast. Knowing how to adjust to the vagaries of the terrain, or taking a Ground-Up Approach to Saving Strokes is key.
Part 1 focuses on up/down and left/right slopes, while Part 2 addresses varying tactics based on varying playing surfaces. Just to tie this week into a neat little bow, these are also chapters in that book I mentioned.
May your weekend include time to throw discs and enjoy their flight.
How to focus on your goals. literally. with your eyes.
Summary: Making full use of your eyes can dramatically improve the aim and consistency of your drives, your putts, and all throws in between. Read on to learn Why, Where (as in, where your eyes should be in any given situation), and How (as in, how to make any necessary changes).
Merriam-Webster defines the term eye-hand coordination as “The way that one’s hands and sight work together to be able to do things that require speed and accuracy (such as catching or hitting a ball).” Or tossing a disc at a target.
After watching my recorded analysis of his driving form, a remote client in New York replied that the issue with keeping his eyes glued to the ground throughout his drive was a habit borrowed from his days playing ball golf. In that sport keeping the head down makes sense. The spot on the ball where the club will ideally make contact is where the eyes need to be in order to do their job.
In disc golf, however, looking down makes no sense at all. Nor does directing your eyes anywhere other than the aiming target. Trying to watch the disc throughout the reach-back or trying to observe some other part of their form are both also popular practices among clients when they first come to me. In all of these cases, the eyes are not being used as they should.
It’s pretty simple, actually: Eyes locked onto a target are sending the brain information that is useful for aiming; eyes looking anywhere else are not. “Wandering eyes” contribute nothing to successful execution. Eyes focused on the wrong thing send information that conflicts with the brain’s understood objective and are often the sole reason for errant shots.
The website Cognifit.com further defines eye-hand coordination as the eyes perceiving information (visual-spatial perception) that the brain then uses to guide the hands to carry out a movement. We use our eyes to direct attention to a stimulus and help the brain understand where the body is located in space (self-perception). The broader term motor coordination refers to the “orchestrated movement of multiple body parts as required to accomplish intended actions, like walking.”
Or launching a disc golf disc at a target 400 feet away. Multiple body parts, including the eyes, must coordinate to perform even routine disc throws.
To fully grasp the significance of where our eyes are pointed during every millisecond of a disc golf throw, it helps to think of the human brain as a very powerful computer and our various body parts as software and hardware. I provide a couple of comparisons below specific to driving and putting, but the principle is the same:
Your eyes collect information required for proper aim and balance. Prolonged focus on the right thing maximizes their contribution on any given throw.
those driving eyes
For the neural phenomenon of motor coordination to work best, the eyes need to be focused where they can gather the info most useful to perform the task at hand. When driving this will usually be the basket, but not always- especially on holes with doglegs, elevation changes, or any blind shot that prevents even seeing the basket. Pick something specific, though. This amazing piece of human technology works best when you feed it specific spatial coordinates.
I find it helps to think of eye-body coordination while launching drives in disc golf as if I’m a jet pilot firing guided missiles at another jet- at least as depicted in movies. I first”acquire” the target in my sights, meaning I start by locking my gaze on my aiming point- forward, level with the horizon. As I start my footwork, I remember to “lock on” to the target using the motor coordination connection between my eyes and other body parts. The better I can maintain that connection, the better my aim will be.
At this point, I trust the technology and”fire,” doing my best to keep the target in my sights as continuously as possible throughout the throw. On a full-power throw it is usually necessary to momentarily pull the eyes away from the acquired target. That’s okay, if the extra distance you’ll get justifies the broken eye-body connection. Just remember that having your eyes focused on the target 85 percent of the time is way better than 15 percent of the time, and still much better than 50 percent of the time.
I grabbed the below images from a video of Paul McBeth posted a year ago by Tom Manuel. I agree with Bro Heme who in the video’s comment section said that McBeth is the “best combo of power and accuracy in the game.” He (Paul, not Bro) knows exactly when and how to sacrifice a little aim to get the needed power.
Image 1 shows McBeth already locked onto his target. That’s the default, and his eyes won’t leave until Image 4, when turning his hips and shoulders away from the target makes it impossible for them to maintain contact. Note that even then, though, his chin touches his throwing shoulder rather than pointing back in the same direction as his shoulders. If you could see his eyes, you’d see they are rolled to the right in their sockets, straining to re-establish the eye-body neural connection as soon as possible.
By Image 5 – before the disc has left his hand – McBeth’s head is back in position for his eyes to gather and transmit fresh data critical to shot execution. In Images 6 and 7 we see him making an effort to keep his eyes locked onto the target through the release of the disc. This ensures that the contribution of the eyes is maximized and has the additional benefit of helping prevent him from pulling the disc off his line due to imbalance.
Standing at the front of the teepad and focusing your eyes hard on the target before beginning your throw won’t accomplish the same thing— even if you extend the disc dramatically while staring. If you do that, then stare at the ground next to you throughout your throw, or let your eyes passively drift wherever the alignment of your shoulders takes them, the target is no longer acquired, much less locked on.
If you are learning or re-learning the footwork that most like to pair with a full-effort backhand drive, first of all, ask yourself whether that’s a good idea at this point. Assuming the answer is yes (and even if it’s not, yet), you have a couple of much better options than trying to watch your feet or the disc to confirm whether you’re doing things correctly.
You can film yourself and then self-analyze and/or get help from a pro. If you must use your eyes to learn, this is the way to do it. Your eyes already have an important job to do during the throw, and unless you are a chameleon or a four-eyed fish, your eyes can’t multitask.
Learn by feel. Pay attention in detail to what it feels like to keep your eyes straining and neck craning toward the target as you twist your torso away. Learn to stay center-balanced through any footwork, then check the video to see how you did. How does it feel when you do it right? Simply focusing on the feeling of success and failure during and after your throw will help you refine and repeat.
Note: As you see in Figure 5 above, a full-turn drive requires momentarily breaking eye contact with the target. When this is the case, it is important that you don’t wait until your eyes reacquire the target to begin your throw as that would waste the large muscle power of your reach-back and screw up your timing. Instead, learn to treat that fraction of a second when your eyes are forced to come off the target as a blip of static, with the picture returned before you know it. During that blip, the “feeling” you’ve learned will bridge the gap.
the putting trance
Everything I’ve written so far about using the eyes to “throw” a flying disc applies to putting as well. In fact, it’s all magnified! The margin of error on putts is thinner and sharper, and that makes a difference in two ways.
Putting requires exacting precision. Miss by a few inches and you miss the putt
Putting is an unambiguous pass/fail proposition that invites extra mental baggage
Be The Tripod
If the challenge of keeping eyes on the target while driving is like locking onto a 500-mph target while traveling 500 mph yourself, proper eye discipline while putting is like photography with a tripod. The goal is to focus on the exact best place for you to aim (a link of chain, the orange tape) and retain that perfect visual connection through the release of the disc.
Physically this is easier than the eye discipline required when driving. There is way less movement going on (jet vs. tripod), and at no point are you forced to rotate your neck away from the target.
With putting it’s often the mental part that is more challenging, because of the pass/fail thing. It’s easier to get ensnared in anxious thoughts about the results of the putt when there is no gray area. Letting the eyes drift away from the target to the disc is common in this case, sometimes before the disc even leaves the hand.
Breaking visual contact with the target even a fraction of a second too soon can cause a bad miss. To prevent this, lock your eyes onto your aiming point and try to keep them there until the disc reaches the target. As much as possible, keep your head still as well. Think of a picture taken right as the camera gets jolted. Blurry, out of focus. It’s why tripods exist.
The next time you practice your putting (today, right?), focus on your “eye-work.” Are you aiming at something small and specific? When I am in a period of poor mental focus I will sometimes realize I’m aiming at the target in general. Be intentional about your aiming point, on every putt.
Do your eyes stay locked on that aiming point, or do they “unlock” as the disc leaves your hand so you can track the progress of your attempt? I struggle with this in particular, and I’m not sure whether it is due to being emotionally attached to the results or my ADHD. Maybe my eyes get drawn to the movement.
Whatever the reason, I know it’s something that requires constant monitoring, and I know it’ll be worth the effort. Science tells me that keeping my eyes focused on the right thing improves motor coordination. My own empirical evidence backs it up.
The takeaway here could not be simpler. Watch where you’re throwing!
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.
Talking Pod People and chatting with Hall of Famers
Good morning. As in, Sunday morning. Day two of the Santa Cruz Masters Cup is in the books and I had plenty of stuff to write about after wandering the course, following the women’s lead card for a long spell, and chatting with spectators, volunteers, Disc Golf Hall of Fame members and should-be member* and other old friends.
I also have a take on a bit of background drama going on this weekend. You might not think it’s a particularly bold take, but, whatever. “You do you,” as my two woke daughters like to say.
First, though, I would like to give you an inside look at the way the whole spectator thing has worked at the Masters Cup. Up until only a month or so ago the Delaveaga Disc Golf Club didn’t know if the county would allow spectators at all, or on what level. The final arrangement was a system of paid admission tickets that enabled patrons to either watch from one of three “pods” located around the course, or follow a particular lead card. I spent some time with both, and also talked with the volunteers tasked with maintaining order.
Given the fact that the PDGA and the club were giving a set of constraints in terms of how many spectators would be allowed into the event, I’d say things have run smoothly so far. The paying spectators I spoke with, most of whom seem to be very new to the sport, by the way — take note disc golf marketers — were enjoying themselves. They felt their tickets to be well worth the $35 to $75 they paid.
As I stood chatting with the Pod People of Pod no. 1, whose vantage point provides views of at least five different holes including “Top of the World,” a drive approached at speed from that very same famous tee pad. The Pod People all scuttled to the far end of their pen1 as the disc thunked into the dirt where we had been standing. With my media badge I was on the other side of the rope; outside the pen, if you will. So I didn’t have to scuttle.
When the player came to play her shot the Pod People remained at the far end of Pod no. 1. Sorry, I didn’t get the player’s name. But she threw a fairly decent upshot and nailed her putt for par.
My interesting volunteer spotlight falls on three people who drove all the way from Fresno to help out with the tournament. They also feel like they got a great deal. They get to spend the day watching top-level disc golf up close, in 70 degree weather rather than the 90+ they left back home. But they definitely had to work for their suppers, so to speak.
Two of them were tasked with spotting on event hole number 3. This hole plays along the spine of a ridge that leads out to the tee pad for “Top of the World.” The fairway is narrow, and the terrain drops off sharply on both sides. Craig and Maya had to scurry up and down these slopes to spot discs all day. But that’s not all. They also had to enforce the park’s closure for all but disc golf, which meant telling walkers and bikers intent on finishing the climb and gazing out from “Top of the World” at the ocean that it wasn’t gonna happen.
Let me tell you, Maya and Craig are tough cookies! Matt Beatty,2 send them a gift basket! I didn’t come across any volunteers doing a better job enforcing rules. I did hear a little about non-paying spectators slipping onto the course, but the grumbling came from a volunteer rather than a paying spectator.
All in all I think the spectator side of things has gone well so far, and all of the ticket revenue has been added to the purse. So, yeah. Good. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the new norm, after Covid.
I mentioned in my previous entry to this series that I was looking forward to following the women’s lead card on Saturday. Well, I did, and they did not disappoint. And not just them, but the several cards ahead of them of which I caught glimpses. I love watching players who are world class in their execution but play lines I myself would play — because I can’t throw 600 feet.
With men’s lead cards I’ll get to see the seemingly superhuman shots, and that’s cool, too.The men also provide more stupid mistakes through hubris, which is good entertainment. But I just find it so much more engaging watching someone play the same shots I’d play, and executing at a very high level. And on this particular day, the foursome had it all! Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen, who I like to think of as arch rivals even if they don’t think of it that way themselves, the young phenom in Hailey King, and Juliana Korver, the legendary world champion and cagey veteran.
My point with all this is that if you aren’t watching the women with as much interest and investment as the men, you ought to consider my reasoning and give ‘em a try.
Speaking with a PDGA person who is also a friend,3 I learned of some salvos being tossed back and forth on social media about the number of camera teams covering female lead cards vs. male lead cards. One player demanded the PDGA insist on equal coverage in this regard. Once you learn the facts you understand that that is not realistic since coverage is determined by market demand. But until the coverage is equal, we’re all missing out. We just need to address the issue by increasing demand, not by manipulating supply.
One more thing I love about the pro women, since I can’t seem to let it go quite yet: They make great form models that I frequently use as a disc golf coach. Some of our best players are small, like 5’ or 5’ 4” tall — and they can still crush drives 400 feet. To do this they must get every ounce of bodily leverage they can while maintaining proper timing and balance. Watch Catrina Allen do this time after time. It’s truly something to see.
Well, I need to head out there and see how this thing winds up. Paige Pierce has to stay ahead of Kona Panis, and on the MPO side the lead card should be full of dramatics.4 Don’t rule out Ricky Wysocki and Paul Mcbeth, eight strokes out. Just sayin’.
Before I sign off, here is a picture of another of DeLaveaga’s Hall of Famers, Marty Hapner, along with a guy whose induction is overdue in my opinion. Stevie Rico is part of the history of the sport, has (I think) the longest streak of years (20?!) winning at least one A-tier event, and is a hardworking SOB.
Sorry, that’s just really what it looked like, and I thought it was funny. ↩
Nearly all disc golfers, from touring pros to those brand new to the game, use some type of run-up as part of their backhand drives. Most shouldn’t, though- at least not until they master the fundamental basics crucial to both power and consistency.
I see too many players who try to incorporate a throw into their run-up rather than the other way around. In other words, they seem to be approaching it as “How can I throw a disc while walking (or galloping)?” Crazy.
Why is this mistake so common? Because we tend to imitate what we see the majority of others do, for one thing. Add to that the way most teepads look like little runways, encouraging the player to start at the back, gain some momentum, and launch the disc near the front. Also, most new players crave more distance and it seems like getting a running start is a good way to get it.
The assumption is that the run-up is a crucial part of the drive, but in reality it is not. In fact, for players who don’t yet have a good grasp of proper weight transfer, timing, balance, and the use of larger muscles (rather than just their throwing arm), using a run-up hurts more than it helps. This is true in the short term as well as the long term.
Let’s talk short term first. You’re on the tee on a hole that requires a full-powered drive. Naturally you employ a run-up because that’s what any player would do when needing to achieve their max distance, right? Wrong. First of all, a perfectly executed backhand drive that includes a run-up adds 15 to 20 percent of distance compared to the same throw without the footwork. That’s the best case scenario.
Think of it as a math equation. That little bit of forward momentum you get by striding or even galloping into your throw adds slightly to the speed of the disc as it’s thrown- but ONLY if you’ve figured out how to keep your weight back even as your feet are taking steps forward. On top of that you need to time it perfectly so your launch occurs just after your plant foot hits the ground. If you’re off, even by a little, you won’t get the extra power (might even lose power) and your release point is apt to be off as well, causing the disc to fly in the wrong direction.
I see too many players who try to incorporate a throw into their run-up rather than the other way around.
As for the long-term damage of using a run-up off the tee (or in the fairway) before learning proper basics, it’s simple. Adding that extra layer of complication often means a player will never learn the basics. At the risk of being both trite and corny, you really do have to learn to walk before you can run. Or in this case, throw properly before you can walk or run (up).
I have one more thing for you to consider on this subject. The surest way to throw with accuracy is to keep things as simple as possible. Even a full-power standing drive requires the thrower to take their eyes off the target for a brief second. We accept this trade-off when necessary, but shouldn’t turn away from the target when it is not. A proper run-up using the x-step/scissor step footwork requires the thrower to turn away from the target and synchronize that footwork with the timing of the throw. If an upshot can be executed confidently with only your arm and without turning your head, that’s what you should do. Likewise, if you can drive a hole without a run-up, why add that unnecessary complication?
My private lesson clients range from seasoned tournament players to complete beginners. Both are rewarding experiences for me, for different reasons. As a very driven competitor myself, I love helping others achieve new objectives like a first win or targeted player rating.
That being said, working with people who have only recently learned about the sport might be even better. I get the opportunity to ensure that someone’s earliest disc golf experience is a thoroughly positive one.
While I teach the basics of the game to new players I always also manage to ‘sell’ its many benefits, as well. It’s the reason I wrote The Disc Golf Revolution, and, really, the reason I launched School of Disc Golf a decade ago.
I had one such experience several days ago with a great guy in his 50’s and his girlfriend’s 17-year old son. Both were very new to disc golf, showed up ready to learn, and left excited to play all summer. They sent me this wonderful bit of feedback, which means more to me than they’ll ever know:
“Jack is a fantastic disc golf teacher. We were both beginners and found jack’s coaching and advice hugely helpful. And best of all, we had a terrific time in the process.I was specifically interested in consistency and accuracy. Jack gave me a few key tips which were perfect. I found my confidence has increased substantially after only a few hours of instruction.Jack is great with all age groups!! Great job, Jack!!”
Do you notice when watching the best players in disc golf that their putts seem effortless? A big reason why is Spin. In Part 1 of this series I communicated two main points:
Maintaining a straight line at the target while putting, during the entire motion AND follow-through, is the best way to maximize accuracy and consistency
It can be tricky to do this, since spin is also required and generating spin typically requires a certain amount of rotational (non-straight line) force.
So how can you manufacture spin while sticking to that pure straight line? That’s what Part 2 is all about.
I believe it comes down to two key points that work in tandem (in other words, you gotta do both for either to matter when it comes to generating spin). They are described below, followed by a couple other tips that should also help.
Cock the Wrist
By cocking your wrist you are doing all the prep work needed to get the spin on your putt that will enable it to fly more smoothly and hold its line longer.
The great thing about this simple tip is that it allows you to focus on the straight line. Just cock your wrist and keep it cocked, then bring the disc forward on that line.
Set it and forget it
The second part of this magical formula is that mainstay of good technique in most every sport- follow-through! A cocked wrist + strong and exaggerated followthrough = tight spin.
The keys to proper followthrough are exaggeration and keeping it up for longer than seems necessary. Power through the putting motion, and continue to move your hand toward the target without showing down, even after the disc leaves your hand. Stretch your hand toward the target until it can go no further, with fingers outstretched, even holding that pose for a beat.
Exaggerated followthrough ensures two things:
You won’t subconsciously add rotation movement at the end in an attempt to add extra spin
You WILL power through your putt rather than letting up just before or upon release
No more inside-the-circle airballs? Yes, please!
The first of these is important in terms of keeping the disc on the line, and the second is the key to converting the potential of that cocked wrist into all the spin your putt will need. The quicker you go from a fully cocked wrist to fingers outstretched toward the basket, the more spin you’ll get.
If you want a great example of both straight line discipline and exaggerated followthrough, check out Paul McBeth clips on YouTube. Jomez has plenty of good slo-mo (or SloMez, as they call it), and this several years-old clip shows three minutes of off-season practice. Watch for the straight line and the followthrough.
Practice reps focusing on going from cocked wrist to exaggerated followthrough will strengthen the involved muscles for use in this specific manner. If it seems like you can’t get much power on putts using this technique at first, put in the reps. You’ll see progress.
Focus on balance. Keep your entire body’s movement on that straight line–not just arm and disc. If you feel yourself pulling or falling to one side, it will affect the putt.
I shared a key component to accurate and consistent putting in a recent post. The title of the post, The Straight Line on Disc Golf Putting, Part 1, provides a pretty big hint to the nature of the tip. It also indicates that I intended to add at least one more complimentary post, and I do. But comments on social media convinced me to write this one first.
Part of the post was an explanation of why the ‘straight line’ approach to disc golf putting works regardless of a player’s preferred putting style. Push putt, spin putt, pitch putt, I wrote- it doesn’t matter. I also included a very brief explanation of those terms for readers unfamiliar with them, and those definitions became the focus of most of the feedback I received.
I decided to dig a little deeper into what others have said and written about pitch, spin, and push as descriptors used to explain putting techniques in disc golf. One thing became clear (or, rather, unclear): because there is no ultimate authority on disc golf terminology they mean different things to different people. Rather than cite a variety of conflicting explanations, I’ve decided to simply explain what they mean to me, and why.
Before I go into each of the three terms, I’ll start by listing three key points:
Each player’s standard putting technique is unique to that player.
The three terms defined below are not putting techniques or putting ‘styles.’ They are components that can be and usually are combined to one degree or another.
Most players have a standard putting form for routine putts (defining ‘routine’ as inside the circle, relatively flat and not obscured) and therefore a standard mix of two or three of the 3 components. But non-routine putts call for the components to be mixed in different proportions.
Not only does each player’s putt feature its own unique blend of mechanical components. That blend can and does change from putt to putt depending on the situation. It’s a fluid thing. Keep that in mind as you read the definitions below.
This term is used to describe a player propelling a disc forward in a straight line at the target from a spot close to the torso (anywhere from waist to sternum). A couple similar movements used in other sports would be the thrust in fencing and the jab in boxing. Paul McBeth provides a good example in this video by Jomez Productions. Go to the 5:57 mark, and note how the motion of the disc is all straight forward- no arc, no sideways movement, even at the end.
The pitch putt may be so named because of its similarity to the motion used when ‘pitching’ horseshoes. Like the push putt, an accurate and consistent pitch putt requires the player to keep the disc on a straight line from beginning to end (release and follow-through). Unlike the push putt, the player typically starts the putt at knee-height or even lower and often maintains a straight arm and locked elbow throughout. Because of the low starting point the trajectory of a pitch putt is also almost always steeper (low to high) than a push putt, which especially for power putters can be almost flat.
The term ‘spin putt’ is probably the least accurately descriptive of the three. Spin, after all, is a critical element of any putting technique except the rarely seen end-over-end ‘flip’ putt. A more accurate label for the technique known as the spin putt would be ‘fling putt’ or ‘flip putt.’ There are two things that differentiate this putting method from the two listed above:
The putt finishes with a rotational flipping motion, similar to that uses to ‘toss’ a Frisbee. Original Frisbees used to come with the slogan “Flip flat flies straight.
Unlike the push and pitch putts, most or all of the power/thrust of a pure spin putt comes from this flipping motion. “It’s all in the wrist,” as they say, and in this case it’s true.
This gets back to the reason I wrote the post The Straight Line on Disc Golf Putting, Part 1, in the first place. The wrist flick that defines so-call ‘spin putting’ is the easiest way to generate power while facing the basket. It is the most difficult, however, when it comes to achieving a reliable, consistent release point.
Sure, some top pros have have had success with it (Nate Doss and Steve Rico come to mind). but they are the exception to the rule. Why? Because when the wrist-flip supplies most of the power, the motion of the disc leading up to the release point follows an arc rather than a straight line.
To see what I mean, check out this very recent clip from Jomez Productions’ coverage of Simon Lizotte at the 2019 Pro Worlds. Go to the 32:00 mark, and watch the slo-mo replay of Simon’s spin putt. He finishes by following through straight at the target after the disc is out of his hand, but the motion leading up to the release is clearly more of a rotational wrist-flicking nature.
Now go back and watch the Paul McBeth clip linked above and you’ll see the putting motion and the exaggerated follow through both staying on the same line directly at the target. The disc can’t help but following that straight line, and this isn’t a given with a spin (AKA fling AKA flip) putt.
I know, sticking to this straight line while also generating sufficient spin is tricky. I’ll address how to do just that in the next post, Part 2 of The Straight Line on Disc Golf Putting. Stay tuned!
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. You’ve heard that before, right? It’s true of many things, including – in the figurative as well as the literal sense – disc golf putting.
If you’d like to transform yourself from an inconsistent putter who is frustrated by frequently missing putts your peers seem to make all the time (Point A), to someone known for their solid, consistent putting game (Point B), this ‘Straight Line’ tip might get you there quicker than any other adjustment you can make.
More than any other part of the game, putting is all about precision and accuracy. If you miss your release point by even a few degrees it could very well result in a missed putt- even on very short attempts. The best way to prevent this from happening is to keep both the disc and your hand on a rigidly straight line from the time you start the take-back until after the disc leaves your hand (the follow-through).
The bottom line: Eliminate the left-to-right movement in your putting form, and you’ll greatly reduce your left/right misses. Just like that!
Figure 1 is obviously a diagram using crude symbols, but it’s a good thing to visualize if you choose to practice this key ingredient to consistently accurate putting. Another option is to imagine a narrow tunnel barely the width of your disc running between you and the basket. Your objective as you take the disc back then launch it forward should be to keep the disc and your hand from hitting the sides of the tunnel, holding onto it until your arm is stretched as far as it can toward the target.
Why It Works
The reason this tip works so well is simple. A disc pulled back and then propelled along a straight line will begin its flight heading in the exact direction at which that line points. Assuming your aim is true, all you need to do is open your hand when your arm is stretched as far toward the target as it will go, then keep reaching with all five fingers for a half-second more.
Whether you prefer the ‘Push,’ ‘Spin,’ or ‘Pitch’ putting technique; whether you use an ‘In-Line’ or a ‘Straddle’ stance, the straight line principle works and is embraced by nearly all top pros. Want proof? Do a little research on YouTube and you can easily spot the effort to keep the putting hand on the line toward the basket even after the disc leaves the hand. Paul Mcbeth and James Conrad provide obvious examples. Watch Ricky Wysocki and you’ll see that the straight line is even more essential to successful pitch putting.
Contrast that with a short ‘toss’ or ‘flip’ where your hand and the disc travel in an arc. Because the movement isn’t directed in a straight line headed toward the target, accuracy depends on releasing the disc at just the right moment. Too early and you miss ‘short-side.’ Too late and you pull it wide. As diagrammed in Figure 2, a variance in your release point of less than an inch can result in completely missing the target.
To further drive home the importance of keeping putts on ‘the line,’ let’s explore the fact that putting in disc golf has very little in common with throwing. Contrary to what most beginners and a surprising number of more seasoned players seem to think, putting isn’t simply a backhand throw modified into a short, soft toss.
The differences begin with the stance. For a right-handed backhand throw, a player’s feet are typically positioned with her toes pointing roughly 90 degrees to the left of the target. All standard putting methods, on the other hand, call for the player’s toes to be pointed, and shoulders squared, directly at the target. This is for a reason; It allows the player to pull the disc back and bring it forward on the same line as her line of sight- something that aids greatly in aiming. To help understand this, think of how we aim in archery or with firearms- with an eye peering directly down the line of flight.
Unlike rifles and longbows, however, in disc golf it’s up to us to provide both the aim and the momentum that ensures the projectile heads directly at the target. It’s not as simple as pulling a trigger or releasing an arrow. The line of sight advantage only matters when the disc is kept on that same straight line until it leaves your hand.
Why It Can Take Some Work To Get It To Work
Keeping your disc on a true straight line provides greatly improved accuracy and consistency, but the tradeoff is a restriction on power generation. It gets easier and more natural with practice and repetition, but holding the line can be hard at first. This is why even players who normally demonstrate proper straight-line form sometimes pull their putts wide when attempting shots at the edge of (and especially beyond) their range.
Up Next: How To Make It Work
I’ve made my best argument for why eliminating the left/right movement from your putting form is the secret to improved accuracy and consistency. Hopefully it seems logical enough that you want to start working on it right away.
As I mentioned earlier, it most likely won’t be an instant transformation. You may struggle to generate spin, power, or both. In Part 2 of this post I’ll provide specific details that should help, complete with a practice technique and a couple video demonstrations. To make sure you know when it’s out, follow this blog on WordPress and our School of Disc Golf and Play DiscGolf Facebook pages.
When we watch a full-power drive performed by someone who can really huck it, the ‘run-up’ is a big part of the show. Whether it’s a literal running start or a couple smooth strides, and whether the technique used is an X-step/scissors step or crow-hop, that bodily forward motion appears to contribute greatly to distance the disc travels. But does it, really?
The short answer is no. The large majority of the power that translates to long disc golf drives comes from arm speed, maximized by hip/torso/shoulder rotation. The ‘run-up’ adds only marginally to that equation, resulting in between 5-15 percent more distance. And that’s only IF (and it’s a big ‘if’) everything is coordinated and timed perfectly.
Yet the run-up seems so necessary to power generation that nearly all developing players incorporate it into their drives from the very beginning. And that is usually a big mistake. It takes a high level of athletic coordination, plus LOTS and lots of practice, to use a run-up and still maintain control and consistency like these top pros. (Note that while their form may vary from player to player, they all have the main ingredients in common- especially the perfectly timed and balanced weight transfer. Even though the body is moving forward, the weight stays back until precisely right millisecond.)
The physical side of disc golf is as much about control as it is power. More, actually, because the harder you throw in the wrong direction, the farther the disc can go in the wrong direction. And if you play on tight, wooded courses it doesn’t matter how hard you throw; Miss that gap and your disc ain’t goin’ nowhere! Well, nowhere good, at least. Golf in all its forms is first and foremost a game of accuracy, precision, and consistency.
When I’m giving private lessons (with the exception of pros and top amateurs who already demonstrate a solid grasp of proper driving technique) I insist on starting with a stand-still throw. No run-up. No steps at all except for a back foot toe-drag on the follow-through. For details check out this post I wrote several years ago titled “Building Blocks of Basic Backhand Technique.” It is still one of the most viewed pages on our website.
I decided to write this particular post after reading a testimonial from a recent client. You can read his full comments here if you like, but the most relevant snippet is shown below.
“I’ve been playing for about 2.5 years and understood I had built some bad habits but did not have any clue as to how to go about identifying and fixing them. Jack broke proper form down to very simple and understandable mechanics, and over the course of 3 hours, I found myself throwing from a standstill almost as far – and much more accurately – than I had before.” –John J., Berkeley, CA
Here’s the bottom line: To maximize your power potential with a backhand drive in disc golf you need to focus on the following, in order of importance:
Engage your major muscles (as opposed to throwing with your arm only) through rotation of your hips and shoulders
Perfect your timing and weight transfer. Keep your weight back until a fraction of a second BEFORE you launch the disc. NOTE: This is the part that most often goes awry when a player tries to incorporate a run-up too soon.
Speaking of launching the disc . . . at just the right time, with all that coiled energy held back, unleash it with an explosive burst. Going from zero to 60 as quickly as possible is what creates the armspeed that is essential to power and distance
Finally, when you’ve mastered the first three, slowly integrate a run-up by starting slowly. The important thing is to keep your timing and release point intact.
(Once again, to learn more about making sure the disc goes where you want it to go, read this post for more details on backhand form). The above list addresses power generation only)
I recommend throwing backhand drives exclusively with the standstill technique for at least a month so that once you add a run-up you’ll know instantly when the timing is right and when it isn’t. You’ll likely suffer a loss of accuracy and control at first, so it’s best to experiment during fieldwork and rounds that don’t matter.
Remember that a run-up itself only increases your driving distance marginally. It’s the other three elements listed above that really help players make big strides in not only distance but accuracy and consistency as well. Good luck, and happy chuckin’!
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