Last week in the world of disc golf, I played in my club’s weekly bag-tag competition, early A.M. as usual. The “flex start” format allows groups to play throughout the day. Because we use Udisc for scoring, that enables players to keep an eye on the scores not just when they are playing but before and after, as well.
Club members who play in the afternoon can watch the scores to see how the course is playing that day— and make note of the current score to beat.
It works the other way for me and my Breakfast Club buddies. If I shoot at least a decent round I’ll check back occasionally on my phone to see how it holds up. If I shoot a really solid or great round I’ll watch to see how long it stays on top of the leaderboard or at least in the top 5.
This is a pretty great enhancement to casual competition, and thanks to Udisc it gets even better. Their live scoring features let us follow other groups’ scores hole-by-hole, so after playing a clean round (other than that roll-away triple bogey) on a very tough layout, I watched and waited. After moving up and down on this list as new players started and others finished, I ended up pretty much where I expected.
The early morning rounds are special anyway, regardless of the associated competition of bag-tags. Birds are chirping and the course is mostly empty. We’re out there together, three or four of us, eschewing our warm beds and embracing (on this day) a blanket of fog in the air and water dripping from every blade of grass. It’s more than disc golf. As my mom would say, “It’s an adventure!”
Before I share a few “disc golf makes good” stories, as is my custom, I want to share why I do it. I’m hoping people pick up on the common themes that permeate these accounts of growth in our sport. More often than not they involve people volunteering, donating, and sharing their expertise because they appreciate disc golf so much they feel a kind of obligation to share it.
For instance, thanks Brad Silvers and others the town of Howland, OH has Tiger Town Disc Golf Course, while Trigg County, KY used restaurant tax money and a host of volunteers to build its new 18-hole course. And then there’s Alex Dowley, assistant tennis coach at Albion College in Michigan. He’s doing what he can to grow disc golf there, where will may someday be the HEAD disc golf coach!
For those who didn’t see the cool buy o’ the month, here it is again: The handy-dandy product that serves as a stylish car seat cover, disc golf practice target, and beach towel— just not all at once.
The grommets enable it to be hung up, and the regulation size basket for aiming will hopefully reduce the times someone asks why you’re launching Frisbees at a towel. Get one before they’re gone!
Finally, this week’s disc golf news from the Canadian Front. Moosejaw is getting another 18-hole disc golf course, because one is never enough. My friend Brett in Saskatoon will play them both and report back. Have a great holiday weekend. Let freedom, and disc golf chains ring! And remember those who made it possible.
World record in nz, disc golf lingo, disc golf philanthropy, and the march madness winning coach practices disc golf?
Last week in the warm, furry underbelly of disc golf, a new distance world record was set. Seven year old Sarah Wadsworth of New Zealand launched their disc 62.07 meters, or a little more than 200 feet. Sources are unclear on whether it was a chuck or a huck.
According to Udisc, Morley Field in San Diego is the most-played disc golf course in the world. After an improbable run SDSU last week lost to UConn in the NCAA men’s basketball title game. According to these fools UConn coach Dan Hurley practiced disc golf right after the game, but he’s really just tossing . . . you guessed it . . . a Frisbee.
This week’s flashback is to a post about disc golf lingo— one of my most popular ever. It’s also a chapter in The Disc Golf Revolution, right between “The Complexities of Disc Flight” and “Disc Golf on the Road.”
Local disc golf clubs like the Trumbull County Disc Golf Association not only routinely provide the necessary labor and funding to build new courses (go to Play Discgolf on Facebook and search #newdiscgolfcourse to see a ton more). They also raise funds for the community, and every winter clubs around the world host “Feed the Hungry” events. Shout out to the LoCo Disc Golf Club in Loudoun County, VA, first off first the cool spelling of your name, but also for being a shining example of disc golf’s philanthropic nature. 40k is not chump change, and they do it again and again!
Playing early morning rounds has always been part scheduling necessity for me and part preference. The course always seems more beautiful and dramatic at first light. And speaking of drama, my favorite arch nemesis is back, and he wants my tag!
DeLaveaga is set in The Long for the upcoming Masters Cup, and pretty much every hole requires skill, precision, and nerves of stainless steel.
Enjoy your weekend, especially any disc golf you get to play. It’s a gift!
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!
Last week in the wild world of disc golf, Canadian rodeo grounds became a target for a new disc golf course. According to a story in the Penticton Herald, disc golfers in the British Columbia city helpfully pointed out that disc golf can co-exist with other park users, and also noted that disc golfers happily build and maintain our own courses. Anyone near there should let the Summerland Council know you want disc golf at the Rodeo.
Disc golfers in the village of DeForest, Wisconsin can use your help, too. Proposals by village staff to install a couple of small courses have been under attack by the NIMBY’s, and they are still requesting public comment. Take a minute to let them know how disc golf has been good to you. OK, last one on this theme- maybe things get a little tense up North this time of year, but the town council in North Vancouver is also hashing out a dispute between players and neighbors. If you play on this course, have a calm word with these “few offenders” and let them know how much the course means to you.
unique disc spotlight
One interesting perk of being a disc golf blogger for the past 20 years has been the opportunity to review some notable, ambitious disc models. A great example is one of the first offerings of Swedish manufacturer Kastaplast. Their attempt to innovate in the area of drag reduction to create a faster disc was successful. Even the meathook drivers call the Rask a meathook.
I don’t have much use for this disc in my game (I think it was intended to be Thor’s signature fundraiser disc), but it is a piece of functional art. I tried to capture it’s unique properties in these images.
The feature that makes this disc SO overstable is a raised ridge on the underside of the flight plate. Also on the underside is the disc’s branding, molded in reverse lettering. Viewed from the top of the disc the Kastaplast “K” and other writing can barely be discerned.
pro tour thoughts
The DGPT’s 2023 season opener went down in Las Vegas last weekend. Everyone I know who was there raved about the experience, and it looked great live on the Disc Golf Network- with two exceptions, two headwinds, if you will, pushing against the pro game’s steady progress as a spectator sport.
The first is the literal wind, which can make the game very hard to play- and watch. There isn’t much anyone can do about that, but if you like unpredictable twists and turns and lots of missed putts, windy golf is for you. The other is holding top-level competitions on a playing field designed (and used) for a different sport. Some mention the monotony of wide-open holes when criticizing disc golf on ball golf courses, and I know the practical reasons for using ball golf courses for disc golf events.
My issue has more to do with image and perception, and I have the same problem with disc golf events in multi-use parks. When a person who is already predisposed to not yet take disc golf seriously sees our top level pro hours broadcasting events from what looks to be a temporarily repurposed setting (even if it isn’t), they see it as a confirmation of their beliefs.
When the pro tour has enough options that avoid this issue and still meet required criteria for a strong cell signal and spectator accommodation, look for the sport to soar even higher.
new booking site
Clients have been asking us for a way to book lessons online, and we (finally) responded! Our new booking and ecommerce site, giftofdiscgolf.com, lets users find and book open dates and pay for lessons, purchase gift cards, and get started with remote coaching. Soon it will also have a curated selection of cool and unique merch, as well.
last week’s video
I realized after sending last week’s email that I mentioned but didn’t show or even link to the actual video. Here it is, a nice bit of film making that accurately captures the varied entertainment of playing a solo round of disc golf on a challenging course.
We at School of Disc Golf are pretty excited to have just launched FrisbeeGolf Friday, a weekly disc golf newsletter that caters to disc golfers who love to play the game and grow the sport. You may see the occasional item about a touring pro, but that won’t be our focus.
Please check it out and subscribe. Yeah, we’ll conduct a little marketing as well, but it will be stuff we genuinely think you’ll find useful and relevant.
The look should improve over time, too. But hey, you gotta start somewhere!
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.
I am a sucker for novelty, and compared to all the other disc golf bags on the market the Shift bag by Upper Park Disc Golf is certainly novel. When the company asked me if I’d like to check one out and write a review my answer was an emphatic yes as I’ve admired them from afar for years and relished the opportunity to experience such a unique take on the disc golf bag.
Let’s start with this bag’s primary differentiator. The design element of having numerous disc slots that can each hold one, two, and even three discs securely has always seems very cool to me.
I dislike the quandary with the main storage section of most bags; if it isn’t full or nearly so, the discs fall onto their side like books without bookends to keep them upright. This often leaves a less than desirable choice. Carry more discs than I want or need that day, deal with having to dig around a cavernous area to find the disc I need (discs in half-full bags inevitably settle into a semi-vertical stack), or having a separate, smaller bag just for those days when I want to carry far less discs than normal. The latter option has been my move for years, but sometimes that other bag isn’t handy.
I loaded discs into my new Shift with what I thought was a good plan. Putters in the top slot, mids and utility discs in the internal slot below that, and drivers in the four elasticized side pockets (2 pockets/sleeves on each side).
Everything was up front and visible, but over the course of the round I realized that my organization strategy wasn’t detailed enough. With the outside sleeves allocated for drivers in general, I found myself having to scan all of them to find a disc when I wanted it. Were the Shift my go-to bag, I would assign a specific slot to each disc and be sure to return it to that specific slot.
The other feature that sets the Shift apart from other bags is its similarity to a daypack for a serious all-day hike. Let’s say you are playing a course that is long, with lots of trekking and climbing between holes. By the back nine you’ll be glad your bag is a Shift. It feels significantly lighter than other bags, and the ergonomics are amazing.
It has a latch to connect the shoulder straps in front, which some other bags have as well, but it also features a nicely padded belt-like strap at the bottom. Connect both of these, and you can barely feel any drag on your shoulders at all. But wait, there’s more! Both sides of the belt strap have small zippered pockets which would really come in handy if you used this bag to caddy for someone else since you can access them without taking the bag off your shoulders. The extra straps work great for what they are designed to do, but in a typical round, I can’t see myself connecting and undoing them between throws.
But here’s the thing: I don’t own a serious daypack. The next time the need for one arises, I will simply empty this bag of everything but a disc or two (my hike will likely include at least a couple spots that scream for a majestic throw) and Shift it into hiking mode. I assume the name has something to do with this double use, but Upper Park’s marketing doesn’t mention it. I’d consider playing this up, were I them. A disc golf bag that doubles as a daypack brings with it many selling points.
You can check out the Shift page on Upper Park’s website to see the full list of features and benefits. The material and construction seems top quality, and the company is clearly dedicated to a superior customer service experience.
I only identified two drawbacks, and one of them has more to do with me than Upper Park or the Shift’s design. I use a Rovic cart most of the time and had already set the cart up for my round when I remembered that I had planned to use my new Shift. Something about the two designs didn’t mesh, making it hard to get it all connected and secure and equally difficult to unhook. But unless you plan to use this bag with a cart (which is not it’s targeted use) this is a non-issue.
The only little annoyance was the bag’s stability when I set it down before each throw. Most backpack disc golf bags store the bulk of your discs at the bottom, giving them the advantage of a weighted base regardless of other aspects of design. Since the Shift spreads the weight out evenly, it tips over much more easily on less than flat holes. If you’ve played my home course, DeLaveaga, you know flat is not the norm. This is a clear tradeoff for the superior lightness and comfort, and under the right circumstances I’d happily make the trade. In fact, my Shift will see regular use when I’m giving on-course lessons. I can load it up and keep it on my back for long periods at a time and not feel back fatigue after a couple hours.
Is the Shift the right bag for you? Consider my quick rundown below.
Reasons to get a Shift
You want to lighten your load
You typically play with 15 or less discs but still want a “top line” bag
You like standing apart from the masses and love the cool factor
You like being organized- very organized
You often play extreme disc golf
You love the idea of a disc golf bag that can double as a serious daypack
Reasons to just the admire the Shift from afar
You’re looking for the most disc capacity on a tight budget
You play with 20+ discs
You don’t need the extra comfort straps
You plan to attach your bag to a cart a good deal of the time
You don’t like being extra-organized
Your home course is the opposite of flat
Before wrapping up, I’ll add caveats to a couple of the limitations I mentioned. If you love the idea of ultra-accessible disc storage slots, and/or admire Upper Park’s refined aesthetic but simply must have more disc capacity than the Shift is designed to provide, consider the Rebel. It may be the perfect combination what you want and what you need. Also, if you’re like me, you justify buying disc golf goodies with the knowledge that the sport is in most cases free to play. Even if it isn’t a perfect fit as your One Bag, The Shift is a great extra bag with singular versatility. I listed several reasons, and you might come up with a couple of your own.
The 2021 Masters Cup is over. The stuff I wrote the last three days about spectators and volunteers and the course and the weather… Sunday was more of the same. 72 degrees with puffs of wind bringing faint whiffs of the Pacific ocean. The spectators were, like, totally chill. So chill, in fact, that they were almost rowdy.
Since Sunday was the final round, and final rounds are about results, so that’s what I’m a-gonna write about.I got some good pictures and videos, too, so stick with me. I watched most of the lead card’s final round, and will explain why I think Adam Hammes won the Masters Cup by demonstrating some quick thinking, quicker feet, and a skill necessary for a good score at DeLa.
First up, though, is a look at two good friends of mine who competed in MP50, because this series is all about what I saw!
Flynn Carrol is a regular playing partner at DeLa and much better than his record in past professional Masters Cups (he won the event as an Advanced player) would indicate. I saw a good amount of his Friday and Saturday holes, and he battled! Didn’t let the inevitable bad breaks get him unraveled.1
This year, Flynn had the modest goal of throwing three rounds above his current 939 rating. His rounds went 951, 989, 945. Good job, Flynn! And no more strokes for you! Seriously, no more.
Jon Baldwin is another local friend who did well. Jon is no stranger to winning here and on the Worlds stage,2 but as easy to root for as ever. He ended up tied for first with Robert Bainbridge, and they were told to play holes 1-4 (the hill) in rotation, sudden death format, until someone won a hole. They both had outside circle putts, and Bainbridge insisted Jon was out. I couldn’t tell.
Someone nearby whispered “Gamesmanship,” assuming Bainbridge wanted to see if Baldwin’s attempt might possibly miss and roll back down the hill.
Jon stepped up first, nailed his putt, and the modest crowd whelped with glee. Bainbridge’s putt to match Jon’s birdie came up short, no metal, and it was over except Baldwin thanking Innova.
Hammes Shows How to Win at DeLa; Pierce’s Game Continues to Evolve
I am admittedly something between a die hard and casual pro disc golf consumer. I know most of the names and watch a good deal of coverage. My take on Paige Pierce — aside from the Captain Obvious observation that she is singularly talented in all aspects of disc golf — is that she combines those superior skills with a 100% aggressive, 100%-of-the-time game plan. The result is a mess of runaway victories, and a few that probably got away only due to her pedal-to-the-metal approach. On Sunday with a three-stroke lead to begin the final round, I saw an approach that was more Bobby Fischer than Mike Tyson. She seemed content to play some defense and see what the rest of the field might do. Sure enough, her lead grew simply through the faltering of others, and Paige Pierce cruised to victory.
Adam Hammes went wire to wire, shooting a 14-under par 61 in the first round, then 11-down in the second round, and 8-down Sunday. With the 24-hole Masters Cup layout and three rounds, that is 33-under par for 72 holes. That rate seems right about where the PDGA wants it.
Hammes had his ups and downs over the final round, but successfully avoided the big mistakes that enable one to cough up a lead quickly. As we walked down the short fairway on hole 20 — AKA the Gravity Hole, AKA The Lady — I checked scores on my phone while trying not to trip over a gnarled root and tumble into the ravine that makes this hole so potentially treacherous.
UDisc Live showed James Proctor on the last two holes, trailing Hammes by one stroke. Proctor had saved his best round for last, posting a -13 par 62. He had trailed Hammes by six strokes at the start of the round. I wondered how up-to-date UDisc was at that moment. Maybe Proctor was already in at -33, or even -34.
I looked up to see Adam Hammes gauging an uphill putt, the basket 35 feet in front of and above him and a deep, vegetation-clogged ravine below. His putt was just short of money. It hit the front rim and the hard dirt in front of it in quick succession, then did that thing so many would-be roll-aways do, pausing on its edge as if contemplating whether to flop to the side or go for a ride.
This one opted to roll, and it headed for the ravine, picking up speed as gravity pulled from the depths below. Then Hammes’ disc hit some tree debris and things took another turn, literally and figuratively. The still-rolling disc turned right and began rolling back toward Hammes rather than plunging deeper into the ravine.
Hammes, as he watched all this unfold, might have had about a half-second to appreciate the good break turn at the end of that bad-break roller before realizing the disc was now heading straight toward him (and he’s not standing in the safest place to hit the deck). As you can see in the video I captured, he showed quick thinking and nimble movement to dodge the disc and the one-stroke penalty that would have come with any contact between him and it.
Hammes watched the disc roll another 10 feet or so down the hill before coming to rest in a rare flat spot on that hole. He picked up his bag and walked down to his disc with zero body language. Nothing to indicate that he was inwardly screaming about having just been “DeLa’d.” He set up again, fired with full commitment, and nailed the putt in dead center chains.
DeLaveaga throws adversity at players, and offers them plenty of tempting (jenky!) excuses (jenky!) when things don’t go well. The players who win here all understand three things:
DeLa needs to be played differently, and she can be managed when played correctly
Bad things will happen no matter what
Must remain calm
Hammes ended up winning, four holes later, by one stroke. But if the rolling disc hits him or he misses the comeback putt, he ties or loses. It was all in the balance there on the Gravity Hole, and Adam Hammes made three championship-caliber moves for the win.
He reacted quickly to avoid making contact with his rolling disc (thinking and acting nimbly)
He did not react outwardly at all to display frustration at the bad break
He focused on and made the next shot
I believe all three were needed for Adam Hammes to become the 2021 Masters champion.
Talking Pod People and chatting with Hall of Famers
Good morning. As in, Sunday morning. Day two of the Santa Cruz Masters Cup is in the books and I had plenty of stuff to write about after wandering the course, following the women’s lead card for a long spell, and chatting with spectators, volunteers, Disc Golf Hall of Fame members and should-be member* and other old friends.
I also have a take on a bit of background drama going on this weekend. You might not think it’s a particularly bold take, but, whatever. “You do you,” as my two woke daughters like to say.
First, though, I would like to give you an inside look at the way the whole spectator thing has worked at the Masters Cup. Up until only a month or so ago the Delaveaga Disc Golf Club didn’t know if the county would allow spectators at all, or on what level. The final arrangement was a system of paid admission tickets that enabled patrons to either watch from one of three “pods” located around the course, or follow a particular lead card. I spent some time with both, and also talked with the volunteers tasked with maintaining order.
Given the fact that the PDGA and the club were giving a set of constraints in terms of how many spectators would be allowed into the event, I’d say things have run smoothly so far. The paying spectators I spoke with, most of whom seem to be very new to the sport, by the way — take note disc golf marketers — were enjoying themselves. They felt their tickets to be well worth the $35 to $75 they paid.
As I stood chatting with the Pod People of Pod no. 1, whose vantage point provides views of at least five different holes including “Top of the World,” a drive approached at speed from that very same famous tee pad. The Pod People all scuttled to the far end of their pen1 as the disc thunked into the dirt where we had been standing. With my media badge I was on the other side of the rope; outside the pen, if you will. So I didn’t have to scuttle.
When the player came to play her shot the Pod People remained at the far end of Pod no. 1. Sorry, I didn’t get the player’s name. But she threw a fairly decent upshot and nailed her putt for par.
My interesting volunteer spotlight falls on three people who drove all the way from Fresno to help out with the tournament. They also feel like they got a great deal. They get to spend the day watching top-level disc golf up close, in 70 degree weather rather than the 90+ they left back home. But they definitely had to work for their suppers, so to speak.
Two of them were tasked with spotting on event hole number 3. This hole plays along the spine of a ridge that leads out to the tee pad for “Top of the World.” The fairway is narrow, and the terrain drops off sharply on both sides. Craig and Maya had to scurry up and down these slopes to spot discs all day. But that’s not all. They also had to enforce the park’s closure for all but disc golf, which meant telling walkers and bikers intent on finishing the climb and gazing out from “Top of the World” at the ocean that it wasn’t gonna happen.
Let me tell you, Maya and Craig are tough cookies! Matt Beatty,2 send them a gift basket! I didn’t come across any volunteers doing a better job enforcing rules. I did hear a little about non-paying spectators slipping onto the course, but the grumbling came from a volunteer rather than a paying spectator.
All in all I think the spectator side of things has gone well so far, and all of the ticket revenue has been added to the purse. So, yeah. Good. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the new norm, after Covid.
I mentioned in my previous entry to this series that I was looking forward to following the women’s lead card on Saturday. Well, I did, and they did not disappoint. And not just them, but the several cards ahead of them of which I caught glimpses. I love watching players who are world class in their execution but play lines I myself would play — because I can’t throw 600 feet.
With men’s lead cards I’ll get to see the seemingly superhuman shots, and that’s cool, too.The men also provide more stupid mistakes through hubris, which is good entertainment. But I just find it so much more engaging watching someone play the same shots I’d play, and executing at a very high level. And on this particular day, the foursome had it all! Paige Pierce and Catrina Allen, who I like to think of as arch rivals even if they don’t think of it that way themselves, the young phenom in Hailey King, and Juliana Korver, the legendary world champion and cagey veteran.
My point with all this is that if you aren’t watching the women with as much interest and investment as the men, you ought to consider my reasoning and give ‘em a try.
Speaking with a PDGA person who is also a friend,3 I learned of some salvos being tossed back and forth on social media about the number of camera teams covering female lead cards vs. male lead cards. One player demanded the PDGA insist on equal coverage in this regard. Once you learn the facts you understand that that is not realistic since coverage is determined by market demand. But until the coverage is equal, we’re all missing out. We just need to address the issue by increasing demand, not by manipulating supply.
One more thing I love about the pro women, since I can’t seem to let it go quite yet: They make great form models that I frequently use as a disc golf coach. Some of our best players are small, like 5’ or 5’ 4” tall — and they can still crush drives 400 feet. To do this they must get every ounce of bodily leverage they can while maintaining proper timing and balance. Watch Catrina Allen do this time after time. It’s truly something to see.
Well, I need to head out there and see how this thing winds up. Paige Pierce has to stay ahead of Kona Panis, and on the MPO side the lead card should be full of dramatics.4 Don’t rule out Ricky Wysocki and Paul Mcbeth, eight strokes out. Just sayin’.
Before I sign off, here is a picture of another of DeLaveaga’s Hall of Famers, Marty Hapner, along with a guy whose induction is overdue in my opinion. Stevie Rico is part of the history of the sport, has (I think) the longest streak of years (20?!) winning at least one A-tier event, and is a hardworking SOB.
Sorry, that’s just really what it looked like, and I thought it was funny. ↩