A Blueprint for Better Disc Golf Putting

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!

Left/Right Misses

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

Short Putts

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.

Pressure Putts

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. 

Three-Putting

If you take three throws to complete a hole after being within 50 feet, either you made an avoidable mistake or got hit with a large dose of bad luck. (I’ve got tips on how to best deal with the instances when it’s truly a rotten break and nothing else.) If you suffer lots of three-putts, however, you’ve likely got a systemic issue that is easily addressed. 

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.

your blueprint

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.

  1. Identify your putting ‘leaks’ (WHERE is the leak?)
  2. List possible causes for each leak. (WHY does it leak?)
  3. 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?)
  4. Practice putting purposefully, plugging one leak at a time

This is Why I Do It

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!!”

Brett W., Millbrae, CA

Yep. This is why I do it.

Disc Golf on CBS Sports Network

Disc golf will be on TV in August, for two reasons. Both are directly related to the current global pandemic.

First or all, disc golf is exploding as a recreational activity. Rules and restrictions have severely limited our options, and disc golf happens to be an ideal option. It’s great for social distancing, very affordable, and, as countless people are finding out for the first time, disc golf is fun! This has led to disc golf businesses of all types (especially retailers) having a surge in demand for their products and services. School of Disc Golf is no exception, as we have experienced a sharp rise in website traffic and inquiries for lessons. Another, much larger disc golf company, Dynamic Discs, has recorded record sales the past three months and decided to invest the gain by funding a high quality disc golf production.

The other reason disc golf will air on the CBS Sports Network in a month or so is the dearth of sports programming in 2020. What better time to capture the attention of the world?

I wrote a recent story about the upcoming CBS Sports disc golf broadcast on Ultiworld Disc Golf, and will soon share some thoughts on what it means for the future of the sport. Stay tuned!

remote disc golf lessons

Remote disc golf lessons work well!

I have provided ‘virtual’ disc golf instruction in the past. The methods used ranged from verbal and email consultations to critiquing form via shared video clips to video conferencing. I’m glad I had that experience under my belt before the Shelter at Home directives ruled out in-person lessons for several months, because the desire among disc golfers to improve has not waned. If anything – with most of us having extra time on our hands – it has increased!

disc golf lessons, disc golf remote lessons, school of disc golf

The testimonial section of our website now features a new entry in the Lessons & Coaching section. Roger, who inquired via the School of Disc Golf website, was in a courtyard in Mexico while I was in my garden in Santa Cruz, CA. The physical separation did not seem to hinder the effectiveness of our communication. Below is quick rundown of how we did it.

To begin with, I had Roger share video clips with me prior to the lesson, from several different angles. This gave me an idea of where to start before our live video session began. The most notable flaw in the video clips led me to emphasize a particular point, and Roger told me the next day that it resulted in a major breakthrough in his putting accuracy and consistency.

For our scheduled virtual lesson we opted to use Google Duo. We could have used Zoom or Facetime (if I was an Apple guy) and those tools would have been just as effective. One key bit of equipment for me was a Bluetooth headset, so I could easily hear Roger without having to be near my phone and demonstrate technique with the hassle of wires. Another, perhaps even more important, was us both having a tripod with a smartphone mount. I can’t properly demonstrate anything while holding a phone, and propping the phone up somewhere is a hassle and, depending on the surroundings, often impossible.

disc golf lessons, disc golf remote lessons, school of disc golf

Perhaps the best endorsement of the ‘remote’ aspect of our remote lesson was the fact that Roger didn’t even mention it in his testimonial. I didn’t feel like the lesson suffered by us not being physically together, and apparently he didn’t either.

If you are interested in giving it a try, contact me at School of Disc Golf today.

Alternatives to your regular disc golf fix

One of the most underappreciated benefits of disc golf is accessibility. Not only are most courses free (or close to it), you can play pretty much whenever you want. Need a disc golf fix? Just show up and tee off. When you can get as much as you want of a game that brings you so much pleasure, it’s a beautiful thing.

Until, rather suddenly, you can’t.

Every course near me is closed right now. I’m not exaggerating when I say I find it jarring, and my guess is plenty of disc golfers in similar situations feel the same. So what can we do about it? 

The way I see it, we have a choice. We can wait for our courses to re-open, meanwhile denying our ravenous disc golf appetites to the point of starvation, resulting in varying levels of irritability. Or, we can get creative in finding ways to feed our need to throw flying discs at things.

 We may miss the casual rounds with our friends and the strangely pleasurable tension of tournament golf, but anything that even vaguely approximates our beloved pastime is better than nothing. Right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna survive this (disc golf) crisis, even if I have to subsist on grubs and roots for a while. So to speak. And who knows, maybe I can even find a way to turn lemons into lemonade. Maybe I’ll have a breakthrough in some aspect of my game, or gain a new appreciation for the sport’s prehistoric origins. If you agree that something is better than nothing and like the idea of turning a negative into a positive, here are some ideas. 

Putting

If you have a basket at home, an obvious option is to work on your putting. I address how to do that in the most productive ways possible in a companion piece, coming soon. But if you don’t have a basket, or still crave a way to really throw some plastic, what then?

Fieldwork

This is the recognized term for practicing throws in a wide open field, usually by throwing multiple discs from the same spot in order to refine one’s technique. If the term fieldwork makes it hard to accept this as a worthy substitute for your fun rounds of disc golf, come up with a different term. Then invent a game element to make it more engaging. For instance, give yourself a point for every simulated upshot that lands within 20 feet of the tree you’re aiming at. Keep track, and try to beat your best score.

A few more suggestions and disclaimers on doing fieldwork in these times:

  • If you have any near you, artificial turf fields at high schools or colleges work best for fieldwork. It’s much easier to find your discs, and the pre-painted lines help you keep track of distance and whether your throws are really as straight as you think.
  • Speaking of finding discs, and especially if you are throwing the discs from your bag, keep track of how many you throw at a time and where they land.
  • Play by the rules in your community. If the field is off-limits, don’t use it.

Object Disc Golf

I fell in love with disc golf on the third hole of my first round ever, after my drive flew exactly as I envisioned. It was an anhyzer line that flattened at just the right time, and it occurred on an object course on the campus of UC Santa Cruz, with targets consisting of trees, light poles, a fire hydrant, and a trash can. About half the holes featured the more official 4 x 4 posts painted green. I was hooked on disc golf the second I saw that disc heading straight for the 4 x 4 post — before I even knew baskets existed. I didn’t learn about DeLaveaga – only 10 minutes away – for more than a year! I share this fond memory so you’ll know you can trust me on this: Object golf provides a robust disc golf experience.

If your disc golf courses are closed but you still have wide open spaces at your disposal, object golf with golf discs will scratch that itch. It will feed the need. As a bonus, you will get to experience the separate exhilaration of course design. Simply pick a good place to tee off on hole 1, and then select an object in the distance to serve as your first target. Try to incorporate some natural obstacles to add to the challenge. When that hole is complete, design and play another, and another.

DeLaveaga in Santa Cruz started as an object course. Note the post in the background serving as the target for iconic hole 27 (then Hole 3), AKA Top of the World. Photo by Jeff Rockwell.

You may find reasons to refine and modify your course over time, due to issues relating to safety, or difficulty finding discs, or just playability. Once things are set, the experience will become even more like what you’re used to as you strive to top your best score on your new, self-designed course.

A few more suggestions and disclaimers on playing object disc golf in these times:

  • Think safety first. Don’t throw into blind areas where other people might be, and steer well clear of anyone who might be in harm’s way. We all know how far discs can fly, skip, and roll off the intended flight path.
  • Depending on the area where you’re designing your course, you may want to use back-up discs until you identify places where discs might get lost.
  • Similarly, consider using a putter that isn’t your favorite as it may get dinged up when you putt into solid objects.
  • Obey your community’s current rules. If the place is closed, stay out. And don’t invite friends to join you no matter how awesome your new course is. Household members only. Wait until the pandemic coast is clear to share your new gem.

Frisbee Golf

If you don’t have an open space available that is large or isolated enough to accommodate the speed and distance of golf discs, there is another way to play object golf. Consider stepping back in time to the earliest days of our sport, when the packaging on Wham-O Frisbees encouraged people to “Play Catch, Invent Games.” 

As Frisbee enthusiasts everywhere strove to answer this call to action, many of them, in different places and at different times, seized upon the idea of playing golf with their Frisbees. They played in pretty much the same way described in the ‘Object Golf’ section above. (For more on the origins of disc golf, check out my book, The Disc Golf Revolution.)

Bob and Betty Branlund discovered Frisbee golf in the 1970’s, using lid-style discs and trees as targets- and (despite this photo with a basket) they still play that way only. Photo by Jack Trageser.

If you can get your hands on a regular ‘ol Frisbee, pretty much anywhere outdoors can serve as a course. Just be mindful of other people’s property and head off on an urban/suburban Frisbee golf adventure. The slower speed of lid-style flying discs may even help you gain a new understanding of how to shape your shots.

Regardless of how you do it – provided you’re not breaking rules, noses, or windows, or putting yourself at risk – get out there and toss a disc. Huck some plastic. Feed that need enough to help you get through these crazy times, and before you know it the all-you-can-eat disc golf buffet will be open once again.

More on ‘Brodie Smith is Good Theater’

For those who haven’t noticed yet, I’m now also writing a column for Ultiworld Disc Golf. My instructional content will be re-posted in full here. For other posts, which are typically an opinion on a popular disc golf-related topic, I’ll provide a link along with a short summary and possibly some additional insight.

Brodie Smith is a social media influencer most famous for his Frisbee trick shot videos such as this one, which to date has more than 22 million views. He is also a former college and pro ultimate (Frisbee) superstar.

Several months ago Brodie announced that he was going to pursue a disc golf career with all the intensity that he brought to his Ultimate career, and has been vlogging about his journey ever since.

Photo courtesy of Ultiworld Disc Golf

You can read my full column on Ultiworld Disc Golf. Most of the feedback I’ve read on Ultiworld Disc Golf’s Facebook page has been positive, and interpreted the column the way I intended it. There were a few people who read negativity, most likely huge Brodie fans who would have preferred me to write in 100 percent glowing terms. To sum up my takes:

  • I have mad respect for Brodie as an athlete, and even madder(?) respect for his skills as a marketer, entrepreneur, and self-promoter.
  • I believe he can only have a positive impact on the sport of disc golf.
  • I think his motivation in pursuing a disc golf career is in large part to provide content for his social media influencer career- and I’m totally fine with that.
  • It’s my opinion that he’ll get very good at disc golf very quickly, but it will take him much longer to get good enough to win any event where he is competing against the top players in the world. But hey, I could be wrong!

Read the column and let me know what YOU think (and give it a like and a comment over at Ultiworld). Thanks!

Don’t let the bad breaks break you

Disc golf is a game of skill. Players with superior skills generally end up with superior scores. But no one is immune to the occasional twist of fate. Stuff happens- even to the best and most cautious players. At least once in every round you play, after the disc leaves your hand, it takes an expected and unplanned skip, roll, or bounce that gives you a different result than what you think you “deserved.”

These are The Breaks, and if you play competitively you know they’re a (sometimes big) part of the game. While you have no control over The Breaks, how you react to them is completely up to you. What’s more, your mindset and resulting play after a bad break often impact your final score more than the break itself. Read on for three and a half insights that will hopefully keep the bad breaks from breaking you.

#1. Don’t infuse them with mystical power

It doesn’t matter how you ended up behind the tree. Focus on making the putt!

Some use the term “luck” when referring to this aspect of the game, as in “bad luck” or “lucky break.” I’m not superstitious, but even if I was I think I’d still prefer the word arbitrary. It’s tough enough to overcome unexpected and undeserved difficulties; if I embrace the belief that some cosmic force is working against me I’ve just given myself an excuse to stop trying. Who am I to overcome a Cosmic Force?

I choose to believe that all breaks are arbitrary and that they even out over time. I also see disc golf in many ways as emblematic of life. And sometimes life, as we all know, isn’t fair.

#2. Acknowledge good breaks, too

It’s human nature to acknowledge bad breaks more than good breaks. We get both, but we might look past the good ones for egotistical reasons. Taking credit comes much more naturally for most of us than taking blame.

Try to fight this tendency. If you recognize the breaks that benefit your score as readily as the breaks that hurt, it’ll benefit your game in a couple ways. First of all, it’ll help you accept that both good and bad breaks happen, that they’re just a part of the game. You’ll be less likely to think the forces of the universe are aligned against you.

An awareness of good breaks can also help keep you grounded. I played the 23-hole winter layout of my home course, DeLaveaga DGC, a couple days ago and shot an 11-under par with 14 birdies. The praise from others at the course had me feeling pretty darn good, but on reflection, it could have easily been 5- or 6-under. I pulled my drive on hole 8 toward OB, and would have gone in the road if the throw sailed six inches higher. Instead, the barrier of logs funneled a bad drive toward the green, and I barely eked a 40-foot downhill putt into the cage for a chain-less birdie. Several other putts that could have gone either way went in, and a couple other less-than-stellar drives resulted not in the potential bogey trouble or routine upshots they warranted but birdie looks. On top of all that, I missed four putts inside the circle! I don’t want to let a good final result — which I believe to have been positively affected by breaks in my favor — let me overlook the many mistakes I made.

#2.5. Accept good breaks without apology

This extension of point number two is a reminder not to go overboard with humility and self-flagellation. It is healthy to acknowledge good breaks because doing so will help you accept that, just like in life, you get things both good and bad that you don’t deserve. That in turn will help you take things in stride when the bad breaks inevitably come. But don’t take it too far. Golf is a game of imperfection, and we need to hold onto all the genuine confidence we can muster.

When you get an incredibly good kick that results in a birdie, own it. You shouldn’t feel you didn’t “deserve” it, nor should you express embarrassment to others in the group. Recognize it as just one more part of the arbitrary flow of breaks, good and bad, that helps make our game the emotional roller coaster that it is.

#3. Let it go

When bad breaks happen at particularly bad times, it just might help to hear that hit song from the original Frozen movie in your head.

Let’s say you throw a perfect drive on a technical par 3 with the basket perched precariously atop a steep wooded slope. Maybe you even hear some distant cheering from players on another hole. Then, upon reaching the green, you find that you ended up OB, 90 feet from the basket. You’re on your third shot with 20 trees to negotiate.

It doesn’t matter how you got here. This is your current reality.

When bad breaks happen at particularly bad times, it just might help to hear that hit song from the original Frozen movie in your head.

Let’s say you throw a perfect drive on a technical par 3 with the basket perched precariously atop a steep wooded slope. Maybe you even hear some distant cheering from players on another hole. Then, upon reaching the green, you find that you ended up OB, 90 feet from the basket. You’re on your third shot with 20 trees to negotiate.

It doesn’t matter how you got here. This is your current reality.

Whether you hit the pole with an epic drive and tragically rolled to where you are now, or shanked your drive mightily, it just doesn’t matter. Either way, the best way to proceed is to let it go. All that matters is what you do next.

This one is really the key to dealing with bad breaks, and it’s part of Sports Psychology 101. Ignore the past, and for the moment ignore the future as well. Focusing only on the shot at hand gives you the best chance to execute.

This is something that is hard to do in the moment, so plan ahead. Before your next round, when emotions are not ruling the mental roost, take the time to fully accept and internalize the fact that the only rational, constructive reaction to a bad break is to instantly move past it. The next time disaster strikes, you may feel like expressing your anger, frustration, and disappointment, but you’ll know that putting it behind you and focusing on your next shot is the more sensible reaction.

The only rational, constructive reaction to a bad break is to instantly move past it. Let it go. Put it behind you and focus on your next shot.

Whether you hit the pole with an epic drive and tragically rolled to where you are now, or shanked your drive mightily, it just doesn’t matter. Either way, the best way to proceed is to let it go. All that matters is what you do next.

This one is really the key to dealing with bad breaks, and it’s part of Sports Psychology 101. Ignore the past, and for the moment ignore the future as well. Focusing only on the shot at hand gives you the best chance to execute.

This is something that is hard to do in the moment, so plan ahead. Before your next round, when emotions are not ruling the mental roost, take the time to fully accept and internalize the fact that the only rational, constructive reaction to a bad break is to instantly move past it. The next time disaster strikes, you may feel like expressing your anger, frustration, and disappointment, but you’ll know that putting it behind you and focusing on your next shot is the more sensible reaction.

A big part of the mental side of disc golf is developing an ability to override feelings and emotions with knowledge and planning. The observations above will hopefully help in this particular scenario. When bad breaks come your way — and they will — treat them more like a slight detour on your road to a successful round, rather than a land mine.

Rovic Disc Golf Cart

I’m going to share my thoughts on the Rovic disc golf cart from PAS Disc Golf (I like it), but first I’d like to broaden the topic a bit and present a matter-of-fact, bullet point-style case for why some disc golfers choose to use a cart. Then – assuming one of the reasons resonates with you – I’ll explain why you should consider using a pushcart (Rovic) rather than a pull-behind cart (Ridge Roller, Zuca.) NOTE: It’s been pointed out to me that Zuca and Ridge Roller carts can be pushed as well as pulled but to me the two-wheel and ‘stick’ handle design elements don’t lend themselves well to pushing over and around obstacles.

Five reasons for using a cart in disc golf

  1. Less strain on the body- In most circumstances pushing (and to a lesser extent, pulling) a load results in far less stress and fatigue on your body than carrying it ‘beast of burden’ style on your back. On top of that, carts (some more than others- see below) reduce the strain of bending over to retrieve and replace discs from a bag on the ground.
  2. Carry more discs ‘n stuff- This argument works in reverse if you’re only carrying five discs and a water bottle, but the average disc golf-obsessed individual likely carries at least 15 discs in addition to all manner of accessories. The more you carry, the stronger the argument for using a cart when possible (see #1).
  3. Good built-in seat- Both styles of cart provide the option of a built-in seat that is better than the three-legged stools (which can also be a pain to carry and stow).
  4. Better in the rain- Setting aside the advantage of umbrella holders for now, the simple fact is carts mean not having to constantly plop your bag on the wet ground then sling it back over your shoulder(s). As it gets wetter, it gets heavier, and you get wetter.
  5. Another way to spend money on disc golf- Disc golf, on the whole, is exceedingly affordable, leading many players to happily spend the money they save by not having to pay to play on surplus discs and every cool accessory available.

On the flip side, the most obvious reasons for not using a cart is terrain that makes it more trouble than it is worth (If a course is mostly steep slopes and/or rocky and rutted surfaces, for instance), having to transport it to the course, and cost.

four reasons for using a pushcart

Discs sit about a foot higher in the Rovic, and that means less strain on back and knees. and check out that cool seat!
  1. Much better to push than pull- Others may feel differently, but I don’t like having to stretch an arm behind me and pull something along on wheels. It’s just not comfortable and I don’t like not being able to see the wheels as they encounter obstacles.
  2. Discs sit higher- With three-wheeled push carts my discs sit higher than they do in a pull cart, providing easier access and less bending over.
  3. Maneuverability- The three-wheel design is more stable, and by lifting either the front wheel or back wheels of the ground I can easily navigate through most uneven terrain.
  4. Ball golf example- The Rovic is based on the design used by ball golfers for many decades. There’s gotta be a reason golfers have stuck with it all these years, right?

At this point, I should say I went into this review wanting to like the Rovic. You see, I’ve used the same makeshift disc golf cart for more than a decade- a BOB baby jogger designed for offroad use. When the pull-behind crates hit the market I never once considered buying one for the reasons listed above. But the pull-crates did have one feature I envied; the more compact size that enables them to be easily transported. My baby jogger folds up, but not small enough that I can fit it into my already crowded trunk. I had to lift it awkwardly into and out of the back seat of my compact car every time I used it.

My take on the rovic disc golf cart

I was excited about the prospect of having the on-course functionality of my baby jogger in a more stowable design, and I was not disappointed. It takes a few reps to get the setup/breakdown routine down, but it now takes me less than a minute to unfold the cart and attach my bag. For me, that is more than reasonable given the benefits the cart provides. Folded down it measures only 24x15x13 inches!

You can see how small the Rovic folds down with a standard Grip bag next to it. The car is a 2009 Honda Civic, and the trunk is pretty small. It takes up less space than a ‘crate’ style cart.

Backpack-style disc golf bags attach to the Rovic in three places, providing a very secure rigging. You can also simply hang your bag on the upper hooks and it won’t fall off, but it will swing from side to side when the cart is in motion. Use the extra straps if you want to avoid that.

The position of the standard umbrella holder keeps rain off you but leaves your bag exposed. Nevertheless, it keeps your hands free and is a cool standard feature.

The Rovic comes with some useful accessories, like an umbrella mount, a storage box with a secure snap-closing lid, and a large drink holder. They also sell some optional goodies as well. Some of the most relevant to disc golf include:

  • An adapter that allows the angle of your umbrella to be adjusted
  • A phone holder
  • A cart seat

I ordered the seat, and find that it works nicely. It allows me to sit up a bit higher than a three-legged stool, and the way it works is quite nifty (yeah, I said nifty). It includes a spring that keeps its footpad off the ground until weight is placed on it. When sitting on it the weight is on the seat, not the cart.

Rovic disc golf cart
The Rovic cart works great on my home course, the hilly and fairly rugged DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course.

So far I’ve played more than a dozen rounds using the Rovic, nearly all of them on a very hilly and wooded course (DeLaveaga in Santa Cruz, CA). It has performed wonderfully and been especially appreciated during and after the rain when my bag stays off the wet muddy ground. The ‘parking’ brake only engages on one of the two rear wheels, but it’s enough to keep the cart in place even on a steep slope.

I used my Rovic while securing a victory in the recent DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club Match Play Championship, and one of my playing partners told me he’s had one for a year with no issues. I expect mine to hold up for years of steady use and recommend it to others without hesitation.

Bottom line: If you want to use a cart in disc golf, go with a three-wheel pushcart. From there the choice is simple. Those with a tight budget but plenty of transport space can get by with a used baby jogger. Otherwise, treat yourself to a Rovic.

disc golf lessons, disc golf blog

The Straight Line on Disc Golf Putting: Part 2

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

CORRECT: When the wrist is properly cocked your hand will be at the front of the disc, ‘towing’ the disc along that straight line toward the basket. The back of your hand should stay closer to the target than the disc until the last moment.
INCORRECT: If your hand stays on the side of the disc and your wrist straight you’ll either generate minimal spin or pull off the straight line at the worst time.

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.

Follow Through!

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:

  1. You won’t subconsciously add rotation movement at the end in an attempt to add extra spin
  2. 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.

Additional Tips

  • 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.

Spin, Pitch, Push: Deconstructing Disc Golf Putting Terms

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:

  1. Each player’s standard putting technique is unique to that player.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Push Putt

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.

PITCH PUTT

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.

“Pitching horseshoes,” photo courtesy of Missoulan.com.

SPIN PUTT

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Nate Doss prepares to execute his signature eye-level spin putt. Photo courtesy of AllThingsDiscGolf

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!