Last month in disc golf . . . The Masters Cup and a School of Disc Golf corporate gig forced me to skip several FrisbeeGolf Fridays. I hope it didn’t leave too much of a void in your lives. Onto some news from the front lines of disc golf!
As some know, I am a member of Team Infinite. Over the years, they have come up with some interesting product ideas.
I like this one because it reminds me of bedspread setups I created in hotel rooms over the years to help get in my disc fix. It’s a giant towel with a full-size basket on one side, with grommets for hanging.
Practice putting for an hour in the sun, work up a sweat, then pull the target down and take it to the lake for a swim. I’m in!
Now, I’m not sure why, but many of my favorite stories about disc golf culture these days are coming out of Canada.
From Midland a senior disc golf group called 60 and Hyzer is cleaning up after others, and in Centre Wellington a local man is making a strong case for a publicly-funded course in the township. Even local publication Guelph Today contributed with some solid reporting.
Yet again from Canada — although this practice takes place on courses everywhere — a story about a form of memorial unique to disc golf. Seeing one of these on the course somehow makes me feel sad and good at the same time.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the Phillipine News Agency just announced the first disc golf course in Manila, where the sport can be played year-round. Expect big things!
Have you checked out our new booking site? It’s also a great place to pick up unique disc golf gifts and merch. There’s not a lot there yet, but you can find some clearance items you won’t find anywhere else. There is even a shirt from the show Discmasters that I hosted with Nate, Val, and Avery back in 2011.
Finally, for those who have been asking, Idio just announced the release of the next generation of their Syncrasy disc golf shoes. They also acknowledged some customer feedback and listed specific improvements made to the new shoes. According to the company, “We have been listening and adapting. This year we have improved our bonding process, hardened the rubber for longer life, and improved on our waterproofing.”
My tester Syncrasys have indeed begun to let some water in after an epically wet winter, but otherwise they’ve held up well. I look forward to seeing the new ones and appreciate that is never satisfied.
That’s enough for now. Disc golf season is in full swing everywhere, so get out there and enjoy!
Last week in the wide world of disc golf, another brave disc golf club declared its intention to turn straw into gold– and you can help! I particularly like the idea of converting Bellingham, WA mall dwellers into disc golfers. As the Disc Golf Revolution continues, disc golf is expanding into a new market- New Market, Alabama, to be precise.
From Taupō, New Zealand we learn of the North Island Championships, where more than 200 players will compete. I love this uncredited image from the story, and that basket! The chain assembly looks solid but the cage appears ready to break some hearts.
My extended test of the world’s first real disc golf shoe continues, and they’re holding up great. Check out my first three months’ review– if you want to give them a try, now is a great time. In honor of Women’s History Month, Idio is knocking $44 off the regular price of $129.99.
Watch. Where. You’re. Throwing! The latest instructional post on our website is about the role our eyes play when putting and driving, and it can be summed up with those four words. Learn how to best use these powerful pieces of human technology.
Our new booking site is also a great place to pick up unique disc golf gifts and merch- or it will be soon. There’s not a lot there yet, but you can find some clearance items you won’t find anywhere else. There is even a shirt from the show Discmasters that I hosted with Nate, Val, and Avery back in 2011.
Wish me luck this weekend as I compete in the Enduro Bowl at DeLaveaga. It’s 58 straight holes (2×29 holes), and the course is bound to be a slog.
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!
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.
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?
Tonight marks a fairly significant milestone for disc golf in a year that may be looked back upon as one of the turning points in the young sport’s history.
The milestone? Professional disc golf will air globally on ESPN2, during Prime Time on the eastern coast for the U.S. It’s not the first time disc golf has appeared on a cable television network, but it is the first instance of the sport airing in a non-paid production. In other words, ESPN believes disc golf can draw enough eyeballs to create advertising revenue.
Everything you need to know to check it out is covered in this run-down at Ultiworld Disc Golf. If you are not yet familiar with professional disc golf or the sport in general, I strongly recommend you check it out. It’s post-produced coverage of the Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship Finals, both male and female, and it should include some good drama and close finishes in addition to plenty of material geared toward viewers new to the sport.
If you love disc golf and want to see it grow even more, this is a great opportunity to share it with your circle of influence. Share this post or just say “ESPN2, 5 PM EST, you gotta check out the Pro Disc Golf Tour Finals!”
I like the fact that this broadcast is taking place in the evening on the doorstep of winter. Disc golf fans are also disc golfers, and given the choice between watching and playing they choose to play. Other factors provide hope for encouraging viewership ratings: We’re all stuck at home right now, and a quick perusal of other options during that 2-hour slot doesn’t yield much strong competition. And then there is the recent trend that likely opened the opportunity for the DGPT to partner with ESPN.
A large majority of businesses, municipalities, and individuals have suffered losses and setbacks due to the pandemic. In one sense disc golf is among them as competitions and course installations everywhere have been cancelled or postponed. But the sport has seen a boon as a recreational activity due to it’s social distancing-friendly nature, as confirmed by retailers and other disc golf businesses reporting record years. I can attest that the School of Disc Golf conducted more lessons in 2020 than at any time in it’s 10-year existence.
In my book, the Disc Golf Revolution, I predicted that disc golf would achieve broader popularity as a recreational activity, which would lead to greater opportunities as a spectator sport. I believe this recent sequence of events shows that to be the case. Whether the increase in casual disc golf players translates to a commercially viable viewing audience remains to be seen. As I mentioned, the type of person who has historically been drawn to play disc golf leans toward active vs. passive activities.
What this broadcast proves, though, is that people whose job it is to know about these things at least believe it’s possible. That is really the essence of this milestone.
Three Paths to Better Disc Golf is a self-help book for disc golfers. I published it in 2015 as an ebook only, as a way for me to learn the process before releasing The Disc Golf Revolution, a book I had been working on for years. I remain proud of the contents of my first book, but never really liked the cover design, and the copyediting polish was beneath my own high standards.
When I decided to publish a paperback version of Three Paths, I realized it was also an opportunity to address the copywriting and cover issues, as well. I’m stoked with how both the new paperback and ebook (which was also updated) turned out.
Each band of color on the cover represents one of the Three Paths to Better Disc Golf detailed in the book. The yellow band represents the Philosophical Path, blue for the Strategic Path, and the red band is the Tactical Path. I like the simplicity of the design, the basket designs (borrowed from our logo), and the fact that the paths intermingle- because they really do.
I wrote the book for disc golfers who enjoy keeping their score and would like to conquer their friends or just improve on the last round or the best round. The fact is, there are many ways to accomplish both and most have nothing to do with driving distance- although the book covers that, too. Decision making and mental focus are just as important in disc golf as technique and power.
Each of the three sections in Three Paths to Better Disc Golf contains a dozen short but potentially game-changing chapters. At least one will speak directly to every disc golfer, probably more. If it shaves a couple strokes off the score, or simply makes the game an even more enjoyable experience for every disc golfer who reads it, I am happy indeed.
The key to achieving a goal is to have a plan. A blueprint for success. This is as true for improving athletic performance, including disc golf putting, as anything else.
In the first half of 2020, thousands of competitive-minded disc golfers asked themselves a question in response to closed courses and cancelled tournaments due to the quarantine: “What can I do to make disc golf downtime profitable in terms of lower scores in the future?” Many of us present ourselves with a similar personal challenge each offseason — or at least we should.
If I were to conduct a poll asking that question, the most popular answer would almost certainly be “work on my putting.” Missed putts feel like missed opportunities, more than any other aspect of the game. Three-putting from 35 feet feels like self destruction in a competitive round, and missing a 20-footer after an incredible drive can be soul-crushing. Converting a few misses into makes each round is the quickest way to shave strokes from your score.
If you want that payoff at the end, however, you need to think beyond simply “getting in your rep’s” each day. Twenty putts from 10 different stations is great for conditioning, but to achieve a noticeable, lasting breakthrough you’ll have to dig deeper. This project is about thinking as well as putting.
In other words, you need a blueprint.
The first step is to conduct some critical analysis. Think of your putting game as a boat that is taking on water. You know there are leaks, and you know they can be plugged: you just have to find them.
Finding the Leaks
Step 1: Think back to missed putts in past rounds and try to identify any trends. For instance, do you regularly miss short putts left or right? Does your percentage of made putts go way down when there is more at stake? Do your missed putts all too often end up even further from the basket? Does it seem like you get more than your share of spit-outs? Make a list of what you think are your biggest leaks, then grab some discs and head for your nearest basket.
Step 2: Before you start putting, remind yourself that you’re going to take that same analyst’s approach at the end of the session. Take putts from a variety of distances (and inclines, if possible) without putting from the same place twice in a row. Take your time with each putt, as if you were playing a round. After misses, make quick mental observations so you can recall them later, then let them go and focus on the next putt. When you’re done, add to or refine the list you started earlier.
Step 3: Now contact a couple disc golf buddies, preferably ones you play with regularly. Ask them for their honest input. What are your putting strengths and weaknesses? What are your costliest chronic mistakes on the green? Do you let emotions get in the way, and if so, which ones — Fear? Anxiety? Anger? Use your friends’ answers to add to your list, then rank the items based on severity (how much of an issue is this for you personally) and impact (how many strokes is it costing you per round).
You’re now almost ready to start the hands-on part of this project, but the last bit of preparation is crucial. You need to create a plan of action to address each specific issue on your list. It’s easier said than done, but you need to know the cause of each leak so you can figure out the best way to address it.
Plugging the Leaks
You may feel stumped at this point. If you knew the cause of all those frustrating missed short putts you’d have fixed the problem yourself by now, right? While I don’t have the space here to address every issue, I’ll cover a few common ones and link to some resources that go into more detail. But remember, the main point is to take a systematic and purposeful approach to make significant improvements to your putting game. Okay, onto plugging some common leaks!
First up: a tendency to miss even short putts left or right. This is usually due to horizontal movement of hand and disc during the putt, which makes it difficult to consistently release the disc directly at the target.
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.
If you’re interested to learn more about the importance of straight-line putting and how to retrain yourself, you can read up on that here.
If you tend to miss too many putts in general, the above issue is only one of several possible causes. The other common physical cause for demoralizing unforced errors such as missed short putts is a lack of follow-through. This sometimes happens because we mistakenly believe short putts only require a soft toss. It is important to always complete your putting motion, regardless of length. For help incorporating proper follow-through, check out this post.
The most common reason for missing short putts has nothing to do with technical flaws. It’s simply a lack of focus on the task at hand. If the putt is practically a gimme, it’s easy to take it for granted and begin thinking about the next hole. Or perhaps the hole went badly and you’re eager to get it over with and move on. The best way to eliminate these completely avoidable mistakes is to establish a specific putting routine and stick to it, no matter how short the putt. If you’re doing it at 30 feet, you should also be doing it at 10. There are even more causes of missed short putts and how to eliminate them here.
Do your putting percentages go down as the stakes go up? Pressure putts can undermine even the best players and in a variety of different ways. Stress and anxiety are known to be performance inhibitors in all sports, causing the body to tighten up and lose necessary fluidity. Sometimes it’s as simple as being distracted, thinking about how important the putt is when you should be thinking about aim or line or follow-through.
I’ve found that the best way to combat both is to stick to your routine, and make sure the routine includes thinking about the right things before and during the putt. This is straight out of Sports Psychology 101, and I sum it up thusly: Think about what you’re trying to do, NOT what you’re hoping to accomplish. I’ve talked about handling pressure, and proper ‘shot-thinking” in the past.
Here are the most common of those systematic issues:
Putting Too Hard
When you fire bullet-putts at the basket, all kinds of things can go wrong. If you miss entirely, the disc is now moving away from the basket at full speed. If you hit the top or the cage, the disc still has plenty of energy and momentum to travel away from the basket. And sometimes accurate putts that would stay in the basket if thrown at a more reasonable speed use that excess, superfluous energy to escape the grasp of the chains.
To avoid long comeback putts (which often turn into three-putts or worse), use only enough velocity to hit the link of chain you’re aiming at with sufficient energy to push that link toward the pole. Except on short putts, the speed of the disc should not be the same when it arrives at the target as when it left your hand.
The key to doing this is to use arc. The longer the putt, the greater the arc. This enables you to get the disc to arrive at the target with only the necessary amount of speed. As a bonus, the arc means that on longer putts the disc will be moving downward (toward the ground) at the end of its flight, which will usually help it come to a stop sooner.
The next two causes of chronic three-putting have nothing to do with technique. One stems from flawed decision making and the other a lack of focus.
Lack of Risk/Reward Concession
The object of golf is to complete each hole in the fewest strokes possible. Your decision to go for it boldly or go for it carefully or lay it up should be dictated by the answer you ask yourself: What are my odds of executing this shot successfully and what is the worst possible consequence if I miss?
Don’t confuse confidence with a blissful ignorance of things like odds and risk. If you know your chances of making a birdie putt from 50 feet are low and you’re playing a round where score counts, it makes sense to lay up and play for par. If you have the skill to go for it with enough finesse that a miss will result in a putt you make almost every time, that’s a different story. The key is knowing your limitations. Otherwise, you’re burning up three strokes to complete the hole from 50 feet.
Lack of Focus
As mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to maintain focus is to develop a routine and stick to it. This means going through the same steps every time regardless of how routine the throw or short the putt. The repetition will ensure that you don’t forget to do it in important or stressful situations. All routines different in little ways, but have the same critical elements in common. This is helpful in understanding the necessary basic components.
If you agree that working on your putting is a good way to achieve real score improvement, don’t just commit to an amount of time or putts each day. Use the below formula to create a customized blueprint to work smarter and succeed.
Identify your putting ‘leaks’ (WHERE is the leak?)
List possible causes for each leak. (WHY does it leak?)
Find changes or adjustments to try based on each cause until you find the one that works (What MIGHT plug the leak? What WILL plug the leak?)
Practice putting purposefully, plugging one leak at a time