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!
Meanwhile in the world of School of Disc Golf, aka, Play DisGolf, Inc., aka, me, I was surprised to learn my book Three Paths to Better Disc Golf is only two ratings shy of 100 on Amazon. (I had no idea! You see, I’m pretty shall we say “hands off” when it comes to my social media marketing — eh-HEM, Slacker! — and not as up-to-date on these things as I should be.) If you’ve read the book, post a review and help it hit triple digits!
I want to share a few snippets from past reviews as feedback like this is extremely gratifying and humbling at the same time.
“I did not expect how many of the suggestions just clicked – reflections of things I know to be true from my work and personal life that I had simply never applied to my recreational passion – disc golf. So far my scores are trending in the right direction, but more than any of that, practicing “disc golf in a vacuum” has allowed me to enjoy my time on the course even more. Highly recommend!”
“This is an awesome read, Being new to the sport I was a little confused about some aspects of the game. The author makes great sense and is simple to understand. If you take your game seriously you owe it to yourself to check it out.”
“I’ve read several of the most popular disc golf books and this is by far my favorite. Excellent treatment of the subject and from someone who can actually write!”
Those were some of my favorites, each for a different reason. I even liked the lowest-rated review, which simply said “Be the Disc, Danny.” An association with one of the best movies ever can’t hurt, right?
I also have deep ties to Michigan Disc Golf (what’s up, WinniCrew?), and this campaign to build an epic course and honor a legend is a perfect example of why and how disc golf has come so far and ain’t slowing down! Help ‘em out if you can, especially if you’re near the Upper Peninsula.
Our private course is showing signs of a mini-super bloom, and the season for teambuilding events and group activities is getting started. Contact me directly if you’re interested in booking a date or learning more.
This week’s flashback post from the blog is a 2-Parter. Big mistakes can obviously cost you big-time, but lots of little things can add up fast. Knowing how to adjust to the vagaries of the terrain, or taking a Ground-Up Approach to Saving Strokes is key.
Part 1 focuses on up/down and left/right slopes, while Part 2 addresses varying tactics based on varying playing surfaces. Just to tie this week into a neat little bow, these are also chapters in that book I mentioned.
May your weekend include time to throw discs and enjoy their flight.
Last week we found lots of good stuff in the cracks and crevices of the disc golf world. The 2023 World Happiness Report came out, and get this: The top spot goes to disc golf-crazy Finland; the top 10 include more leading disc golf nations; the top 20 “happiest” countries all have disc golf.
Draw your own conclusions.
Ads for the Austin, TX chapter of the First Tee program ran during last weekend’s Disc Golf Network broadcast. I found that interesting. First Tee is a ball golf-based youth program where participants learn life skills along with golf skills. It is run by the World Golf Foundation, the trade organization for the golf industry.
Ads for the Austin, TX chapter of the First Tee program ran during last weekend’s Disc Golf Network broadcast. I found that interesting. First Tee is a ball golf-based youth program where participants learn life skills along with golf skills. It is run by the World Golf Foundation, the trade organization for the golf industry.
When researching my book, I interviewed the WGF’s then-executive director about the possibility of First Tee including disc golf in its programs since disc golf is so much more accessible. She made it clear that the golf manufacturers who funded First Tee would not let that happen. But that was in 2015. Maybe this is a sign of things to come- or maybe the head of the Austin chapter of First Tee received a stern phone call. In any case, the Revolution continues . . .
Speaking of DGN, kudos to the producers for making better and better use of the drone cameras. Getting that “5,000-foot” perspective really makes a difference.
Our #newdiscgolfcourse spotlight of the week comes from Quincy, IL. David Morgan, director of golf at the Westfield Golf Center, said “They (disc golfers) don’t have a long course in the area apparently, and so now they can have competitions and stuff like that.” Do they not have golf tournaments in Quincy? It reminded me of this great moment from Corporate Spokesperson history after Madison Bumgarner and my SF Giants won the World Series. Good “stuff.”
Here’s a quick tip. A truly straight-flying midrange disc is useful for maybe more than you think. If you’re challenged to get a disc to turn in a certain direction, sometimes it’s better to throw a shorter (or longer) straight shot than force it. The Wombat3 is a perfect choice for this purpose because it goes straight and finishes straight regardless of power, even if released with hyzer. If you can’t make that tight dogleg, play station-to-station instead. If you have trouble hitting low tunnels, a Wombat3 is good for both.
A client recently gave me this really cool gift, a handcrafted mini disc that features pressed alder seeds. I have no business relationship with Treasures of the Forest– just wanted to share them with my readers. Judging by the site, their stuff is in demand, but they add pieces each week and take custom orders that can include organic material you send them! Check out their Facebook page, too.
If you missed last week’s FGF, I shared a new instructional post on optimizing the use of eye-body coordination and mentioned I had an upcoming tournament. I won the tourney, and employing the eye discipline discussed in the post was a major reason why. Check it out!
Before you return to your own daily “stuff,” please take 60 seconds to sign this petition. The already semi-approved course would be in a part of the Bay Area that has no disc golf (how can they be happy?!), and the site is fabulous. Thank you!
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!
Jack Tupp’s weekly blast of disc golf stuff to read, watch, and use
Welcome to FrisbeeGolf Friday! Feel free to skim so you can get out and huck!
LAST WEEK IN THE WILD, WILD, WORLD OF DISC GOLF . . . From Moberly, MO came reports of disc-throwing robots built by students and paid for by the U.S. Army. The MMI (Moberly Monitor-Index) editorial board chose to downplay the disc golf angle of the story, but my first thought was ‘secret project to standardize flight numbers.’ Time will tell, but don’t count on MMI to break the story.
If you hadn’t heard, one of disc golf’s top manufacturers sued its 17-year-old star player, but LEGAL DRAMA IN DISC GOLF is not without “precedent.” Steady Ed sued Innova for patent infringement back in 1998 when that company copied his design of the Disc Pole Hole. The most fascinating part of that case for me was the determination that the essence of Ed’s initial design – chains hanging in a parabolic curve over a basket – could never possibly be improved upon. It was the basis of Innova’s legal argument, and the judge agreed.It’s an interesting story (podcast, anyone?) and much can be gleaned from court documents.
BUT WAIT, there’s more!
Fast forward to 2015. DGA and Innova had long since buried the hatchet* when all of a sudden lawyers for none other than Apple Computer dug it back up! They cited Disc Golf Ass’n v. Champion Discs, Inc. (9th Cir.1998) as legal precedent to back their claim that Samsung’s designers had blatantly copied the iPhone. So that’s one thing a Mach X and iPhone X have in common . . .
Udisc’s latest Disc Golf Growth report is worth a read and share. Due to the ubiquity of its popular app among disc golfers, the company is in a position to give us statistical ammunition like we’ve never had before. I posted additional thoughts on each item in this quick list of notable takeaways on the blog. Thanks, Udisc!
Two of the strongest areas of growth are schools & universities within the U.S. and lots of places outside the U.S.
My long-term test of the first true made-for-disc-golf shoe continues. The Idio Syncrasy has held up to some epically bad weather here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and they feel better the more times I wear them. If you didn’t already, you can check out my first impressions of these shoes here.
For this week’s disc golf-related bit of whimsy, I share a few minutes of filmmaker’s art, set on a disc golf course just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We’ve all been there (the highs and the lows), and you should go there (Stafford Lake DGC)! And if you’ve never played a full round solo, give it a try.
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.
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
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!!”