Jump-putting to Conclusions

My old shoulder injury returned with a vengeance last Friday while playing a round.

  • I finished the round, because I have an obsession with finishing rounds
  • I kept an appointment to play early the next morning – even though I had to play right-handed most of the time and ended up shooting +21 – because I had been looking forward to it for days
  • I tried to apply the basic instructions I give to beginners to myself, throwing right-handed. I learned (again) that knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.
  • Hopefully I can restrain myself and stay off the course until my shoulder at least regains its most recent level of ‘serviceableness’ (sp).

Didn’t follow the worlds very closely once I realized that Natron wasn’t going to contend for his 3rd Worlds title. But when I saw the final leaderboard, one thought came to mind: None of the former Worlds or USDGC champs was at or even near the top of the standings. The closest was Feldberg, finishing 13 strokes off the lead.

Since I’ve never played any of the KC courses, I’m speaking from a position of relative ignorance. But based solely on the observation I just made, I’m guessing that maybe the courses collectively put too much emphasis on distance and power. I’m guessing that these Worlds’ were more about the physical than the mental, and that adversity mostly took the form of long, grueling holes. How else do you explain a leaderboard of almost all ‘young guns’ who can throw 500 feet all day without wearing out? And when is the last time a Worlds or USDGC ended with Ken Climo, Nate Doss, Dave Feldberg, Barry Shultz, and Stevie Rico all 13 strokes or more off the lead? Look it up (because I’m too lazy to do it). I’ll bet that hasn’t happened since 1991, when Climo won his first Worlds.

Self-serving note about putting

Somehow or another, I started a habit yesterday of putting with my abdominal muscles flexed. I noticed as I was practicing that it kind of locked me into the putt and also helped remind me to maintain good posture.

During my solo round this AM, I remembered to do the same thing out on the course, and I made every single putt (except a clanker on 21) en route to a -4. I might be onto something, and will certainly be sticking with this new discovery for the foreseeable future.

July 4th Monthly
Before I took off this morning, the monthly run by Mark K. got started. Mark had everyone do the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, which I thought was pretty cool.

Putting practice, indoors, without a basket

I travel fairly frequently for my job, and I end up spending a decent amount of waking hours in my hotel room. Even when I’m in places that have courses near enough to get in a quick round, I usually just scurry around the course, note it’s highlights despite the fact that it’s no DeLaveaga, then split. When I’m on the road, I rarely get in any putting practice at all.

So one time I pulled out my putters in the hotel room, wedged myself in one corner, and aimed for a reading chair in the opposite corner. It worked- sort of. Trouble was, the discs would often bounce off the chair and loudly smack the wall, Worse, after a couple beers they would sometimes miss the chair altogether and slam the wall like the fist of an unrequited lover. Inevitably someone front desk would then call and ask what the hell was going on in my room. I needed a better mousetrap.

So this week I’m in ‘the OC,’ and I brought with me an adjustable pull-up bar I bought online for $15. I wedged the bar between the walls of the entryway, then draped a hotel towel and part of the bedspread over the bar. After positioning myself as far away as possible (maybe 15 feet), I aimed at one small part of the bedspread pattern and let fly. And guess what? It worked! The discs hit the linens draped over the bars (silently) and fell to the ground (almost silently). So while this exercise doesn’t give me the absolute resolution of seeing a disc come to rest in a basket, I still get to practice the motion of extending my arm exaggeratedly toward the target. That particlar element is important to my particular consistency, and although I don’t know the muscles involved, I’m sure it improves muscle memory and even exercises the muscles themselves more than turning the pages of a book or fondling the TV remove in my hotel room.

There is a thin line between dedication and obsession. Feel free to join me as I straddle that line.

Why putting is even more important than you think

My goal with this entry? To convince you how much your entire disc golf game is affected by your putting ability and consistency.

I’m sure even non-golfers have heard the saying “Drive for show, putt for dough.” Well-know cliches are usually well-known because they are so completely true, and this one is no exception. If you need a translation of what the clever one-liner means (or even if you don’t), I’ll tell you- using disc golf terminology: People love to see someone crush a long drive. But if you throw a disc 430 feet on a par 3, 450-foot hole, then miss your 20-footer birdie putt, your impressive drive gives you no advantage over my 370-foot drive and routine 75-foot upshot. As we all know, disc golf scores are comprised of total number of throws, and gimme drop-ins count just as much as hurculean hucks. So that’s the essence of the saying, and it’s very true. But like most homespun homilies, it’s also over-simplfied. Simply put, it doesn’t come close to painting the complete picture of the importance of putting.

How’s this for a picture? Imagine an inverted (upside-down) pyramid. At the top, you’ve got the big, broad end that normally is the foundation of the pyramid. This is your driving game, the throw on each hole that hopefully gets you most of the way to the basket (hence it’s occupation of the broadest part of the pyramid). In the middle you’ll find your upshot/approach shots, and at the bottom – the small, pointy “foundation” upon which the rest of your inverted pyramid is balanced – you’ll find your putting game. Many people will want to flip the pyramid over, seeing their driving game as the base of a good score, since it does the most work in terms of distance travelled between teepad and basket. But you need to see your complete game as building upon a solid foundation of putting. To show why, let’s look at a hole in true inverted fashion- backwards.

If you consistently make almost all your putts inside, say, 25 feet, and a majority inside 30 feet, you are indeed putting for dough, but you’re also doing something just as important: You’re taking a great deal of pressure off yourself on the shots before the putt. For instance:

  • You’ll have more confidence in agressively running for long putts if you know you can hit the comeback putt.
  • When you do rip that killer drive on the long hole and have 30 feet left for a rare, envy-causing birdie, you’ll step up with a positive frame of mind, as opposed to thinking “If I don’t make this putt my killer drive will be going to waste!”
  • On the holes where you find yourself with a challenging upshot, hoping to just get close enough get a look at par, a consistent putting game will help immensely. You’ll be able to imagine a 30-foot radius around the basket and know that if you can get your second shot anywhere within that radius, you can par the hole. This usually provides several alternative routes you can visualize, and takes away that familiar pressure of thinking you gotta base every shot because you have no confidence in your putting game
  • The common thread to all three previous bullet points is confidence vs. pressure, anxiety, negative imagery, and forced conservative play

If you’re now convinced like never before that a better putting game is the key to finally finsihing in the cash in tourneys, taking your friend’s bag-tag, or maybe just breaking par, here are a few obvious but useful tips for getting better:

  • Practice. You hear it all the time, and like anything else, if you don’t devote some regular time each week to improve your disc golf putting, you won’t. It takes a little as 10 minutes a day for a few weeks to see significant gains
  • Use the inverted pyramid concept in practice to build up your putting game. First work on those short putts (15 feet and in) that just kill you when you miss ’em. Practice those until you get to the point that when you have them in a round, you approach them knowing you’ll make ’em, and you do. After that, slowly work your way outward until you’re feeling good about those 30-footers that right now cause your heart to flutter during a round.
  • Watch the players that not only hit most of their putts but seem to do so with confidence and calm. Instead of picking one person’s style and trying to copy it, try to see the basic balance and fluid form that most good putters have in common. Then, during practice, incorporate that good form into your own unique physical abilities

If you use these tips to beat me someday, make sure to let me know. It’ll make me feel a little better as I hand you my tag. Really.