Putting technique borrowed from ball golf

Watch some ball golf of TV, and pay attention to the players’ pre-shot routines on the putting green. After lining up their putts and going through any other particular aspect of his or her routine, each and every player will stand next to the ball but not close quite close enough to strike it. They then practice their putting strokes several times by swinging the club back and forth like a pendulum, coming as close to actually hitting the ball as they dare. When they’re ready to execute the actual putt, they take a small last step up to the ball, then usually go for it pretty quickly after that so as not to lose the elusive ‘touch’ required for that particular putt which the practice strokes hopefully provided.

While watching a player go through this one day and realizing the likely purpose for it (lock in the tempo and line, and establish a rhythm) I began to ponder how this exercise could be best translated to disc golf. Doing so would be huge for me personally, as most of my missed putts seem to come from a lack of ‘feel’ for the required power and tempo.

And then it hit me. Disc golfers try to emulate this practice, but because of the primary difference between our sports – ball golfers hit a ball with clubs, while we throw discs –¬† it is rarely done in such a way that enables us to reap the same benefits.

In disc golf, it’s common to see a player hold a putter out in front of them at eye level, ostensibly to determine the line and release point he wants. Many players will also go through a few practice ‘strokes’ as well, but most often they make two common mistakes that make the exercise pointless:

  1. Holding the disc during practice strokes means you can’t simulate one of the most important aspects- the complete follow-through. Stretching your entire arm and even fingertips toward the basket as the disc is released is crucial to good form (just look at a picture of any top pro to see what I mean), and you can’t do this while still holding on to your disc. This previous post describes a practice routine specifically designed to improve follow-through.
  2. Unless your practice strokes simulate the exact speed and motion you intend to use for your actual putt, they won’t do anything to help you establish the correct power and tempo. Once again, if you’re holding onto your disc during practice strokes this is near impossible, as well as very risky since it counts as a stroke if the disc slips out of your hand.

With all this in mind, I developed a method for disc golf putting practice strokes that borrows as much as possible from ball golf, in order to preserve the benefits of establishing the needed tempo and touch – as well as line and release point – right before the putt. Since this kind of stuff is hard to describe with words alone, I threw together a quick video tutorial demonstrating what I mean. Go ahead and watch it now, or read my description of the process first then watch it afterward. Either way, give it a try. Since putting this routine into practice, my putting is much, much more consistent. It’s been especially effective at eliminating those frustrating misses where the disc falls just short on putts inside the circle, when in the past I simply failed to use enough armspeed, and those where the line was off-target. Here’s the routine:

  1. Address your lie as you normally would, taking your normal comfortable stance.
  2. Transfer your putter to your non-throwing hand.
  3. Pick a specific link of chain in the basket to aim at, and lock your eyes on that link.
  4. While visualizing the putt you intend to make, and with an empty throwing hand, go through the exact motion required to make that putt. Pay particular attention to your armspeed, your line, the involvement of the rest of your body, and your follow-through. I exhale through my mouth at the end of each stroke just as I do on my actual putt, as this helps me exaggerate my follow-through.
  5. After whatever number of these practice strokes it takes for me to feel all elements are firmly established into a rhythm, I quickly transfer the disc to my throwing hand and execute the putt. As I transfer the disc to my throwing hand I’m only thinking two things: keep my eyes focused on my target link, and replicate the motion I established during the practice strokes.

You may be thinking that the difference of practicing your stroke without a disc in your hand and executing the actual shot would throw you off, due to the weight of the disc, but it really doesn’t. Try it, and see for yourself. As with anything else, it may take a little time to become a comfortable part of your game, but it should not take long. I noticed the benefits of establishing my line and tempo almost immediately. And after awhile I noticed an additional benefit for my mental game as well: By reducing the thoughts I want in my head right before releasing the disc to only two – focus eyes on the target link and replicate the established line sand tempo – it’s easier to keep distracting thoughts out of my head.

If you didn’t click the earlier link to watch the video tutorial that illustrates this technique, here it is. Let me know if this technique for preparing to putt works for you as well as it works for me.

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.