Friday, December 27, 2013


 "Rich parameter support commencing," a woman's gentle voice spoke in Flight Master's head. The communication with his backbone of programming often felt like having a few people talking quietly into your ear. Different voices for different systems, but mostly just that lovely lady's voice crooning in his ear.

"Team Infinite's segment 1 has completed rendering for your flight. Physical map processed and intelligence procured. Please take route 1 with subroutine 4 and as always, have a nice flight sir."

Flight Master spun his disc once more, feeling his suit's intel-fabric multiplying his strength at will. Three quick steps, and without hesitation Flight Master sends his disc blasting from his hand at 400mph on an immediate arc into the entryway to the first segment.

"Sense mode engaged. Drive mode engaged," that soft voice whispered.

Flight master drops to a knee, fists on the ground.  Mentally he takes control of the disc and his vision is filled with the blurring lines of its path.

As the disc breaks through the entry door, Flight Master recognizes that Infinite has gone with the same tired method they've used the last few cycles. The light intensifies to maximum radiation trying to blind him. "Neutral density filter multiplier engaged," the woman's voice states and his vision evens out almost immediately. Flight Master scans as quickly as possible looking for the white globe that is his target before they kill the, "Light source terminated, filter phase shift, external light multiplier on."

Just as his vision found equilibrium he saw what was coming and bolted hard left. "Down draft maximum force detected... pilot evasion unauthorized."

Shhh, it's okay sweetie - I got this.

"Rectify to route 1 subroutine 4. Current estimate 53% chance of success calculated," this time a more stern male voice with a hint of impatience.

Okay, okay, and he righted the disc and increased spin rate and went nose up into the down draft.

"Down draft maximum force counter-balanced, find target, suggest quadrant 3."

Quadrant 3 it is... he could see a shimmer of white reflecting off an angle in quadrant 3... this looks like an easy bird. A smile cracked at the corner of his mouth just as he saw what he should have heard about already. "Inbound extrapolating projectiles, evasion subroutine 2 initialized."

And before Flight Master could even tilt his disc, he felt the shudder of the first explosion blasting his disc sideways. He let the disc continue it's roll pushing the past the explosion and went diving at the ground hoping for an air bounce. Flaring the disc up he managed to avoid two more explosions that faded low and he accelerated high off the deck. "Projectile intel subjugated, inbound paths accounted for." Thanks guys, projectiles make for a rough ride.

Quadrant 3 was just ahead and that sneaking suspicion was looking promising as he turned the disc over, banking hard right. A gentle glow of luminescence, yes... hidden behind a light bender. Without warning the disc was hammered from behind by something immense. The energy immediately drove the disc to the ground. Too late to worry about what that was, damn.

A much deeper voice spoke, "Skip angle suggested at 14 degrees, maximum spin. Ground stike 100% probable."

Flight Master felt the disc triangulating for an optimum landing and the gyro spinning up before deflecting off the floor, and without thinking he punched the acceleration at the last second. It wasn't an authorized move, but it felt right. Off the ground the disc careened, "All control systems deactivated during post ground strike."

Yeah, I know, this isn't my first rodeo here amigo.

He held his breath for all of a second, two seconds... three... the disc flaring nose up and arcing to the right. And then he felt the familiar warmth of crashing into the orb and being bathed in gentle light.

"Well done Flight Master.  Hole 1 orb obtained in one flight!"

Flight Master stood up with both hand to the sky, fists clenched. The roar from outside vibrating the floor - he could not help himself but to smile. No doubt a programming team at Infinite just lost their food rations if not their jobs. He raised his hand to retrieve the disc and felt it returning to him.

He glanced over his shoulder to see the Infinite navigator standing with his shoulders slumped. Meta-data streaming across the floor showed the progress Infinite had made. They had been stopped just 300 meters into the segment. Thousands of meters to go they'll be facing the most brutal programming imaginable and a triple bogey if they're lucky. Flight master gave a gentle wave to the poor guy, "Better you than me my friend. Have patience," and yet again he smiled.


Flight Master belongs to Team Eno, one of the most elite disc teams in the world. He is preparing to compete in the last broadcast of the day.

He stands alone on the side of the stadium's sprawling floor - flat, polished and deep.

Modern even by the standards of 2151.

The ceiling floats high above the shining floor, an artificial blue sky with puffy white clouds slowly drifting in front of the brilliantly bright computer generated sun.

Hidden in that projection ceiling are the machinations that Flight Master is known for out-witting to win the last 4 world titles.

Disc, as the competition is known, started from an obscure game known as disc golf that was played over 150 years ago in outdoor fields and forests. Only a handful of people had the patience for throwing plastic discs that would only fly as far as a human arm could muster.  Apparently, quite a bit of time was wasted not competing, but simply looking for lost discs. The idea brings a wry smile to Flight Master's face - hidden under his obsidian face-mask.

It wasn't until bio-metrics allowed humans to see and feel the the forces of physics that all sports were changed indefinitely. Sports that had been popular in the day, like American Football , became unbearable to watch. Software was wired into the individual players and worked out the future outcome of every move they faced in real-time.  The software fed each players' nervous systems with powerful stimuli to help them make the optimum moves.

After the first season of football where every game ended in a scoreless stalemate, the public had lost all interest in the game. The corporations that owned the game could not longer justify the expenses of paying it's citizens to develop and maintain the football teams. The pass-time faded into history.

Early gyroscope technology.
Once the first self-spinning discs were marketed to the general public the ball was rolling for the next generation of sport. Using sense and drive electrodes on a disc that is tied directly into a player's consciousness meant that throwing what the old-timers called a "hole-in-one" became as routine as walking.

Disc started with youth-programmers playing in recreational leagues long before the sport caught on.  Each team would create an intelligent course for the other team to play. (It's amazing nobody was ever seriously injured with all of the unregulated insanity that went on in the early years!) But the core of the game was developed, a disc navigator putting his disc in a hidden goal in as few flights as possible.  Each hole studded with traps, hazards and an innumerable amount of computational power behind it, making it as dynamic and ever-changing as possible.

The discs spin and travels as you will it. To Flight Master, throwing a disc felt that he was sending himself on each journey. He was for all intents and purposes a part of the disc, seeing in his mind what it sees. Feeling what it feels. His disc was worth more than what the corporation had spent on thousands of programmers. It was power.

The floor of the stadium dimmed to a dark charcoal and the sky darkened to two stark spotlights. The last stream of the day was about to commence and Flight Master stood up. Thousands of feet away, the opposing navigator stood as well, barely visible in his spotlight. The team he would face were known as 'Infinite'.  Flight Master stretched in his disc suit, a black intel-fabric that was deep black with the elegant exception being burning white lines striping his arms and legs. He knew that the better part of the planet was watching him via the stream and he reveled in it for a brief moment before raising a hand to the sky.

Even through the walls of the stadium he could hear the roar of his city outside, screaming for him from there homes, the streets, from everywhere.  It had been nearly 50 years since disc was played in front of a live audience. The need to travel to a broadcast to watch from physical seats had been kept alive by the corporations for entirely too long. People could watch Flight Master's every move from any angle they so desired all via the stream. The roar of his city filled him with pride and screaming for your team was one ritual that Flight Master hoped never died.

Team Infinite had become stale and tired in their course methods and Flight Master had no concerns with his chances of winning. His own team, ENO, had been boosted to the top of the league by an acquisition they'd made of a promising company from Japindia. Their libraries of design intelligence had made ENO developers literally unstoppable.  Teams facing his programmers would often take double to triple the flights per course, just based on the fact that certain holes verged on unsolvable but remained legal by the strict laws of Disc. Difficult yes, impossible no.

Flight Master was ready and the floor lost all color as he stepped forward and gently spun his disc to life. His pulse remained steady, balanced by system intelligence that kept his biology as close to perfection as a human could be.

It was time.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Disc Art!

So sick.

Played a round with a very nice guy named Ian Millard on Christmas Eve. He has an absolutely wicked forehand, definitely the best flick I've ever played with and it turns out he's also a fantastic artist and he's done some really cool disc golf art (and non-dg art as well).

Hand cut stencils with spray paint. NICE!

He has a website at if you're interested in checking out more.

He's done some sweet custom basket artwork.

He's had some shows in Denver and I just wanted to share his cool stuff!

I believe he's got this color scheme for the dg basket... this is my favorite.

There's much more to peruse on his site and if you want to see Ian in action - check out this video.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Uncle Rico's Fieldwork

I'm not an expert, I am not a tournament player and I certainly don't want to pretend I'm better than I am. I'm just a guy who wants to get better. I spend time almost everyday in an empty field like Uncle Rico and I have found that it has helped my game far more than actually playing rounds. In 6 months I've gone from absolutely zero skill and zero confidence to having some skill and feeling pretty confident in my backhand shots.
My brother calls me Uncle Rico.

No doubt, if you play rounds as time allows, you will improve. But to make big strides in your game it's going to take more than playing rounds, it will take... queue up Allen Iverson, "I'm talking about practice."

I'm not wired very well for slow progress and in terms of disc golf, it's meant I do tons of fieldwork. Also, I don't have time to play a round everyday, but I can almost always squeeze in 45-60 minutes of fieldwork. There's no right or wrong path to get better - there's just doing it and having the patience to correct the bad habits.

When I started doing daily field work, I basically went out into a soccer field and tried to throw every disc from one goal to the other. Max distance throws everyday for months. Ultimately it was pretty fruitless and left huge holes in my game because not every throw is a bomb. I did learn to whip my arm pretty good and I can throw pretty well from a stand still now, which is a benefit - but that's ALL I worked on. It wasn't until I started reading that I started to realize that I needed to work on other things like throwing hyzers and anhyzers and various length shots. The following video started my wheels turning on putting together a specific regime.

The pec drill. Wow, talk about a humbling drill. If you can imagine standing in a soccer field basically throwing lame ducks about 50' in front of a bunch of middle schoolers... yeah, it was quality stuff. 50 throws from the pectoral before I added the reach back for another 50. Immediate benefit from this drill was that I was forced to keep my hand on the outside of the disc in front of my chest.  If you're not accelerating the disc, it shows and there's no way to cheat it. Another immediate benefit is that it forces you to feel where the disc should be on a regular throw, which is in close to your chest.

Next up I go into what I think of as a weight transfer drill, and I'll let this do the talking:

I tend to focus on throwing about 150' for a good warm up and then adding more distance. I eventually get to driving drills, but for this drill I just aim for something about out 150', 200, then 250' out and get about 50-75 throws where I'm fully weighting the back leg and adjusting just my reach-back and pivoting on my heal. I'm doing all flat releases on this drill and just focusing on smoothness and stepping through.

Within the last month I've added thumbers and forehands to the drills twice a week. I start out throwing really short 50' thumbers really easy - until I've really warmed up my shoulder. Then I power them up to about 150-200'. Fantastic shot and one that I am very happy to have started developing.

Next I go to 150' anhyzers and hyzers without a run-up. About 25 throws of each and then I try another 25 with a run-up.

Finally if it's a distance day (I take a break from throwing distance every other day when I'm doing daily fieldwork) I will throw about 25-40 max distance shots. I do quite a bit less because it does take it's toll on my body and I want to be throwing well when I'm practicing not getting sloppy.

For the sake of easy reading my field work breaks down kinda like this:

  1. Pec Drill or Closed Shoulder Drill: 50x stand still (Power Grip)
  2. 50-250' Standstill 50x-flat, 30x-anhyzer, 50x-hyzer (Climo Grip)
  3. 250-300' X-Step 25x-flat, 25x-anhyzer, 25x-hyzer (Power Grip) 
  4. 150-250' Forehand 25x flat
  5. Max D X-Step: 350'+ 25-40 (Power Grip)
So most field work days I'm trying to get in 200-250 throws - sometimes more if I am doing a max distance day. I like to throw at a 300' soccer field that has a few goals around it for aiming.

I putt pretty much everyday for about 15-20 minutes. I don't do every drill each day - I mix it up and typically focus more on hyzer shots than anhyzers. I work on pec drills or closed shoulder drills if I am struggling with getting a good hit and as a way to reinforce driving my elbow and keeping my hand on the outside of the disc.

It may be the nature of forehands - it tears my hands up when I throw them over and over so I usually throw less of them. Needless to say, it's a hugely valuable shot and one that I am slowly adding to my routine.

That's it... nothing that special, just a basic routine that forces me run through a variety of shots and doesn't bore me to death. I also do these exercises every other day: pushups, planks (front and side) and a few yoga poses that work shoulders, core and hips. I take about 10 minutes to do all these exercises and I try not to cheat.

If you've got a routine, please feel free to share it in the comments - I'd love to hear about it.

Happy throwing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

All work and no play...

I've got only fear for throwing the roller. I fear throwing it in a field that doesn't have a fence surrounding it. It's like having a greyhound off leash in a field rife with bunnies.  Rollers are half magic, half craziness. When you see somebody throw a roller that weaves in and out of trees and then does a loop around the basket before coming to rest leaned against the pole, I call that guy a Gandalf. Keep your eyes peeled for a hobbit or a dragon.

Friggen wizards.

Luckily I don't play many courses that benefit greatly from the roller. If I did, then I'd probably dig into them more - but there's already enough shots that are on my list of "Needs More Fieldwork".

Winter has punished Denver for a couple weeks now. High of 11 a couple days ago. ELEVEN DEGREES? Yeah, downright balmy by sub arctic standards. I pushed out to do field work a few times once it warmed up to 22. I guess it was a good way to practice falling on my ass and eventually throwing with a mitten on.

Today my brother and I made a lunch-time pilgrimage to Paco for some 39 degree (toasty!) field work. We got a few rounds of closed shoulder drills in and some "stand still" drills. Then my bro submarined my Surge and we spent too much time kicking snow around a field.

I moved my basket into the basement and have been trying to squeeze in some 18' putts between a door frame and the clothes drier. Next I hung an old blanket from the ceiling and have been throwing into that... the kids love it, I mean THROWING DISCS IN THE HOUSE?! Awesome. No idea if these throws would be good or bad, but I'm guessing they're all 500' line drives.

Going from playing daily rounds, lunch time field work and late night putting sessions to trying to putt in my basement without knocking over a stack of laundry is rough. Typically ski season has me out in the garage waxing skis and monitoring snow storms like a hawk, but I am having a very hard time with channeling my ski bum motivation.

Perhaps it's time I unleash my inner retiree and peruse some winter properties down in Southern Florida?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Patience. NOW.

I was watching a MurderMike youtube video where the Rico brothers interviewed Ken Climo. Very interesting to hear that the champ has had to work to adjust to a more modern game of big arms and overstable drivers. But something that really stuck with me from the interview was Climo's answer to what is one of the single most important aspects to a young player's game. "Patience."

"Overall, through the long haul... patience."

Patience? Huh? I was expecting tenacity, balls of steel or maybe hard work. Patience?!

I sat there mulling on it for the next few days, whenever I had a little quiet time.

Am I patient with my game? Am I patient with my expectations of disc golf?

What does that really mean? I don't have years or decades of time in the sport like Steve Rico and Ken Climo, perhaps it means something to them it doesn't mean to me?

With a little self reflection I realized that I'm not patient. It didn't take much reflecting either. I started playing in May 2013 and I have been rushing to improve everyday since then. I don't want to be patient - I want to be better NOW! Longer drives, better putting, accurate upshots - practice practice practice!

Then I thought about all the blow ups I've had where I hit a tree, another tree, throw OB, roll into a river and I get frustrated and throw worse and worse until I basically just give up - angry with myself and unhappy.

I will watch pro tournaments on youtube and actually feel disheartened when I see the best in the world drain 50' putts over and over, racking up birdies like it's nothing and I consider that from 50' - I am good for maybe 1 of 10. MAYBE. How will I ever be great?!

Hold the reigns for a second there partner, I don't even have a PDGA number. I have played one casual doubles tournament. Why am I even in this head-space of worrying about it? I had made the mistake of going full retard.

I've been playing for so short of an amount of time, but here I am thinking that I should be better than I am. Clearly I've lost my friggen mind - and patience hasn't really been an ideal that I've nurtured.

A week rolled by and as I was playing a round by myself I went back to that thought and it started to take on a new meaning. The game of disc golf is an unpredictable game of mistakes. If I don't want to embrace that fact, then I should do myself a favor and quit.  Wild skips, insane rolls, chains that spit out perfect putts, wind that comes out of nowhere to push you into a lake are just a few of the things I see every round. It's an imperfect game that cannot be perfected. (Not to mention gravitational fluctuations that surround me all the time!)
I can hear people objecting, "Paul McBeth, Will Schusterick and Dave Feldberg play perfect games - 550' drives, 100' putts, world championships!"

They are great, no question. They have the ultimate skill-set at this sport. I'm saying that the game itself can't be mastered. All of those guys have missed gimme putts, thrown OB, and had space-time warp to have a disc pass directly through the chains. Period. It's going to happen to everybody who plays the game.

Ultimately, it takes patience to love a game for it's inherent imperfections rather than curse it. So what can you do in the face of throwing a good shot and having it slow roll 50' past everybody else and into a water hazard? You control your attitude, take a deep breath, smile and think of the champ's words. "To be a great player, you have to have patience."

All this zen shit, man, what the hell do I actually do? Well, how about some more zen shit?

Confidence, Staying Present and Having Fun

Confident shots are ALWAYS better than timid shots. That doesn't mean that a confident shot is always a good shot, but getting tense and tightening your muscles will never throw as smooth as when you're relaxed. Throwing confident shots doesn't mean taking risky shots either. It means taking the shot that is in your skill-set, regardless of:
  1. your score
  2. your opponents score
  3. what happened on the last hole (or what's coming up on the next hole)
  4. if you're playing alone or in a tournament
  5. you're about to lose to your little brother if you blow this up-shot
Step up to your lie, go through your pre-shot checklist: good stance, visualize the flight, whatever you do - shut your inner chatter down and relax and trust your instincts and make your brain get out of the way of letting the disc go in the chains.

Staying present... if I could just put that in a bottle and sell it! The best way I can personally stay present is tied directly to why I'm out playing in the first place: to have fun. You can have fun and play great or you can NOT have fun and play great. You've got options!
But do you want to look back on an afternoon, a weekend, a year, a decade of playing disc golf and realize that you were not having fun while you were playing? Does anybody want to play with the guy who plays great and is having no fun, cursing, and kicking his bag? I don't have disc golfer's digits in my phone who isn't fun to play disc golf with... why the hell would I?

Once the disc is out of your hand, you move on.

But what about when you miss a 10' putt or roll 40' out of bounds - turning a bird into a double bogie? It happened. It's done and over. There's no fixing it and thinking about it will not help you.

At the end of your round - if you realize you were not doing something well, then you have something to practice. Allowing frustration into your game is not allowed because the only shot you get to care about it the NEXT one. If you are staying present - forgetting what just happened - it also lets you have more fun, smile at the fickle game of disc golf and stay loose for the next shot.

Does the outcome of the game matter to your next throw? Should it matter? Are you throwing this next shot in order to affect the outcome or to throw the best throw you can? If your mental game is affected by the potential outcome - you're not staying present and not throwing the best you can. Allow yourself to play each game like the outcome doesn't matter one lick.

It doesn't mean that you don't care. But getting to point where you're playing the best rounds you can - will mean that you let go of the outcome.

But what if the game is on the line? The big tournament is down to the last hole?! Your little brother will beat you AGAIN!? If you win or lose - you're still the same person. You'll play another round.
You'll win and lose and all that matters of the outcome - is how you handle yourself.

Remember you're out there to have fun so... happy disc'ing amigos.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

30 Days of Putting Review

"I see you've got an ultimate frisbee thing in the back yard?" the neighbor lady hollers at me as she is raking up leaves.

ULTIMATE FRISBEE, is she kidding?!  I smile politely knowing that maybe a few people on my block even knows that disc golf exists... let alone that calling a disc a "frisbee" is like calling a Ferrari a golf cart.

"Oh yes, my disc golf basket." I respond, "I hope it's not too loud", knowing full well that even someone with the patience of a saint and an unbridled love of rattling chains would be sick to death of me and my ultimate frisbee thing.

My son rattling some chains w/ the new basket.

Seven weeks ago, I started the 30 days of putting. Simple math tells you that 7 x 7 = 49 and 49 days is more than 30 days, so what the hell happened?

Life got in the way of my 30 days of putting and about 4 weeks ago I had no practice basket and no time. I had started out strong for 3 weeks but dropping kids at school, crazy work and a sunset that starts roughly after lunch eventually shut me down. Trying to putt at a tree on my lunch break just felt stupid. I was quickly online hunting for a basket and came up with an Instep DG200 for about $80 shipped. Awesome basket and I highly recommend it.

Two weeks ago the basket arrived and I dove back into putting practice like it was my damn job.

If you have any room in your yard, basement or living room - get a basket. Get a basket. It will improve your putting - it is fun - it is a great idea, so just do it.

So, what does it take to improve your putting?

1. Confidence (and you can't have it with out #2)
2. Practice MAKING putts.

Practice, if you are MISSING the shot, teaches you how not to put it in the chains. Practice, if you are MAKING the shot, teaches you how to put it in the chains. Simple idea and it works.

Only push further back when you are making it consistently from a step closer. The process teaches your brain and body how to do it. It just works and it's the brain-child of Mark Ellis.

In the last couple weeks I've found a confidence that is unlike anything I've felt before with my putting. In games I don't get bent out of shape at all if the disc spits out out - or bangs off the rim and I don't get nervous at all stepping up to any putt. Doing the 30 days of putting really is a fantastic exercise and one I hope to start again in a week or two. I'll continue to practice putting in the meantime - but I'm going to take a little break from the 15 minutes, break, 15 minutes routine.

Finding time for the 30 day challenge it is tough, as well as it being physically and mentally challenging. Many times I would be just falling apart in the 2nd session - missing  from a distance that I just felt great at and I just wanted to say screw it and call it a day. You do get tired, you get sore, it's hard to do it everyday and when you're doing all this time putting and then you miss a 15' shot in a's disheartening .

I putted in snow, I putted in heavy wind and sleet, and quite often I putted with a frozen hand.
I putted up-hill, down-hill, across-hill, and almost always very poorly.
In a box, with a fox, upside down, in a town. I putted as poorly as a clown.

Seriously just D- to F+ putting for the vast majority of this process, and by that I mean I was only good inside of 21- 24' for a very long time.

Had a few morning sessions that involved much snow inside the putters.

I missed putts from 5' all the way out to 40' (and everywhere in between) MANY times and I even managed to pickup a wasp once while reaching for a disc and that sucked. Wasps can suck it.

Eventually missing or making stopped really mattering. I no longer felt an up or down emotion with it because it became so routine - and that's when you can drain it uphill, through a tree, from 30' (in the dark) while being attacked by a wolf pack. You get to a point where you just go with the muscle memory and that's the turning point.

Mark Ellis - who created this "Confidence in Putting" program - preaches that you should use whatever putt feels right. Spin putt, pitch putt, straddle, forward, turbo-behind-the-back, whatever works for you. For me, it took some serious trial and error to find out what really works. I went really far down the road with straddle putting before realizing that I wasn't feeling it from 24' and beyond. I could hit the chains great until I had to start giving it more umph, and then it just wasn't as consistent so I went back to the forward stance pitch putt and managed to get consistent results out to about 28-30'.

Like most people new to disc golf, I wanted a shortcut to being a better putter. I watched every youtube video I could find about spin putts, pitch / push putts, read the forums, and thought - "that's it, I'll do that and I'll be more consistent!" and I still sucked. For me, and I wouldn't say this is true for everybody, but it's very true for me, the only thing that fixed my putting was doing it over and over and over. Eventually my brain and muscles worked out the mechanics and slowly improved and my emotion was taken out of it.

And it doesn't mean that I'm now even a GOOD putter, but I don't have anxiety about those putts. I know that I can and will make those putts because I've seen them go in over and over in practice. Perhaps the best thing to come of it - is that when I miss during a game - I don't go "Ahhhh crap on a stick!" or feel deep frustration because I know that sometimes I will miss and sometimes I won't.

Happy putting.
Another morning out with just mr. pineapple skull.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Improving Back Hand Distance

I watch an absurd a reasonable (depending on who you ask) amount of disc golf on youtube and the one thing I've noticed in the difference between the top pros and the top Am's is how consistent the pros are. Top pros will put a 200' shot within 30' of a pin 9 out of 10 times.

At the core of consistency in most sports is creating body mechanics that are reproducible. Consider a pro baseball pitcher throwing a pitch or a pro tennis player hitting a serve: each repetition is nearly indistinguishable from the next. Once it's completely reproducible - it's much easier to be consistent and can be counted on to go where you want it to.

Can I say that about my disc golf form?

But I can say that about the top pros and while I know I'm not ever going to be pro - I am constantly working to improve my game. I think everybody enjoys disc golf more when they're playing better and these pros are some of the best.

Improving my backhand is not about just adding distance. Adding distance at the cost of accuracy is at best a wash and at worst a huge loss. I'm focused on increasing distance and improving accuracy but that's much easier said than done. 

A fantastic video popped up on youtube that shows Paul McBeth (TopLeft), Will Schusterick (TopRight), Jeremy Koling (BottomLeft) and Dave Feldberg (Bottom Right) in slow motion on a distance drive. Being able to really see what they're doing is a fantastic tool.

Take a look at the video of the top card from EO2013: Watch this clip and tell me these guys aren't smoother than hot butter on polished ice.
Everybody is built a little different - but for the most part - none of these guys is looking back further than about 90 degrees off the target during the reach back. Will Schusterick does take a slightly further look back - and McBeth takes slightly less. It's just a split second, but by keeping eyes on the target does seem to improve accuracy. Less look back should help accuracy but comes at a cost if it stops your shoulders from turning back squarely. You can see that McBeth doesn't turn his shoulders back nearly as much as Will. Will and Big Jerm both have their shoulders squared up like they're leaning against a wall at the front of the teebox.

For me, getting an open shoulder turn and a strong upper body rotation is important but I try to balance it with keeping my head from dipping too far back in the reach back. McBeth makes it work and throws just as far as anybody - because whatever he loses in having less shoulder rotation he makes up for in accuracy and a monster snap.

In the frame above - the disc is at the furthest point back in all of their reach backs. They've all set the front foot and now all of their run up momentum is beginning the transfer to the front leg. Paul and Will are both noticeably bending their knees. I have had more success with keeping my knees more bent versus less bent - it makes transferring weight smoother and puts me in a very balanced and athletic power stance.

And a big takeaway is that from this position - they are set to use all the main muscle groups in their bodies to transfer their energy into the disc. You can tell that if they were pulling your hand, they'd rip your arm off.

It's also worth noting that w/ the exception of big Jerm in the bottom left, everybody has their front foot planted at an exact 90 degrees from their trajectory during the weight shift. Jermey is huge and keeps a more open stance.

So the disc travels back in the reach back smoothly and relatively slowly, comes back to the chest relatively slowly and doesn't actually start to accelerate massively until it it's pulled into the center of their chest. Dave Feldberg has talked about the fact that you want your disc to remain on the angle you plan to release it through the reach back. If you are throwing a flat release, the disc should be flat in the reach back.

Next screen capture - all their weight is now on the front leg ready to go into their arm. Back foot is up on the toe (weight is fully off the back leg) - and you can see that they're all leading with the elbow. Feldberg is the anomaly here - he creates more of a tightening arc with his pull. The rest are all driving their elbows forward - chins down and very importantly their disc-hand is on the outside edge of the disc. You aren't pulling the disc forward with your hand on the front of the disc. Hand on the outside when the disc is close to your chest.

And here's why: this shot perfectly show the levering action of the disc almost coming out of their hands while their arm is opening up and your hand rotates to the front of the disc. Squeezing your grip extra hard right before you release it with a small thought of "I want this disc to lever out between my thumb and index finger" has helped me. You want to fight the torque as long as possible, keeping the wrist straight as late as you can.

From the point where your hand is at the front of the disc, the wrist extends open maybe an inch, and at that point you aren't going to be holding onto the disc long. Clamp down like a monster, and let the disc lever out between your fore finger and thumb.

Lets dig in a bit into WHY does all this make the disc fly further. What each of the pros above are doing is throwing a disc faster than their arm speed. They're imparting huge spin on the disc by pulling their hand very quickly from the outside of the disc to the front. The longer they wait to have their hand pop through that distance - the faster the disc will spin and the more it will accelerate. Furthermore, the faster a disc is spinning - the longer it will stay spinning. Once a disc stops spinning at a certain rate - the force keeping the left edge of the disc up will start pointing down and your disc will fade left.

A very accurate analogy that I've read about is if you were to consider yourself throwing a hammer. If you held the end of the hammer and swung it so that you were whipping it out of your hand - you could throw it much faster than your hand is traveling.  If you don't whip it, it will only travel at your hand speed. We're throwing discs the same way, but our whip comes from moving our hand from the outside of the disc to the front before it's ripped from our fingers.

In getting my drives to go further, I realized that there was basically no more physical exertion in the action. I don't do anything faster, stronger or much harder. I simply had to start delay the release more and make sure to keep the disc nose down and squeeze harder on my grip right before the hit.

My run-up is slow and doesn't generate a ton of energy. It's something I know I need to improve - but the more I try to put into my run-up the worse things get. It adds hitches in the giddy-up as they say down south. Getting from 400' to 500' is going to be much harder I'm sure.

Lastly, choosing the right disc is important and unfortunately it's extremely dependent on personal preference. Everybody has a disc they'll tell you is awesome for this or that, but the reality is that a disc that I liked 8 weeks ago for distance is now too flippy. As you gain snap and power - you're going to overpower discs that you used to be fine with. Adding weight to the disc will add stability to a disc, so if you find yourself turning over a disc mold that you love - try throwing one that's 5-10 grams heavier.

Learning how to throw further and more accurately is frustrating and hard, and ultimately it comes with throwing for hours in a field and using what works. Many people have argued that throwing longer distance is not really needed. That being accurate trumps distance any day of the week and that's very true in certain places, but if I'm trying to improve all aspects of my game - and this is part of it. Being able to park a 350' hole so I don't have to sweat an approach or long putt means I'm way more likely to be able to birdie it.

  1. The Distance Checklist Reminders for stretching your drive.
  2. Innova Daedalus Gstar goodness with a helping of turn. 
  3. DD Witness Understable Distance has never been easier.
  4. DD Renegade So good it goes permanently in the bag.
  5. Beware the Bad Towel When things go seriously bad.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Luck is real.

Worst than losing some plastic.

Every once in a while, your luck simply runs out and you have a bad day. Flat tire, dead battery, lost credit card. Bad day.

Once every long while, bad luck seems to be able to just multiply, expound and spawn. I remember back when I was just a young man of 16, I was watching a play at a high school one-act competition and I saw one of the most phenomenal displays of compounding bad luck unfold right before my eyes.

I wish I could remember more, but this is my best recollection. The first thing to spin off the tracks was that an actress was sitting at a table with a glass ball in front of her, and as she stands up, she bumps the table, sending the glass ball to the floor where it rolls into the front row of the audience.

Next, one of the prop doors on the side of the stage, that the characters were using to enter and exit, became completely stuck and actually pulled over the entire prop wall down on top of the poor kid. People scrambled to push it back up while trying to continue the dialog.

Not to be outdone, an actor came on stage with a prop bloodied bandage on his forehead. He begins to deliver his monologue, but as he's talking, one side the bandage comes un-stuck and is flapping back and forth like a flag - clearly showing his uninjured forehead.

Missed cues, forgotten lines, props that just didn't work... you name it, it happened. The crowd, tried for some time to politely hold it together, but eventually - I believe when the walls literally and figuratively started to collapse, the audience lost it and just roared with laughter. It was brutal, just unredeemed brutality.

That play is the best analogy I have for when disc golf starts to go bad and you simply cannot recover. I played a few weeks ago with my friend Sam, when he had such a round. Lost discs, found discs, lost discs, hitting trees, more trees, lost discs, terrible shots, nothing worked. It culminated when he was teeing off - and at the exact moment he was releasing a drive - he was stung on the neck by a wasp. Seriously.

He valiantly tried one more hole, but he again shanked a shot - losing his favorite driver - and he just quit the round. At the time, I had to hold my tongue because he was clearly not a happy camper - but the next day we were able to laugh about it and he said it was bar-none the worst round he has ever played.

Well, yesterday was my day to fail and it was ugly. I have a park near my office that has a nice long narrow field that borders a small pond and some big bushes. First thing to go wrong - I throw two drives that turn too hard right and end up out by the pond - lost in a huge deep mess of some very thick bushes. I had to go into this mess about 40 feet to get them back. I found them and say to myself, "I can't end on those terrible shots. One more round of drives, just one more!"

I was already pushing an hour into my lunch break, but I wanted to end positive.

Bad call.

This time I manage to turn over my favorite Discraft Surge, which I don't think I've ever done before, and put it INTO the muck filled pond. I can see it floating 20' from shore and start throwing rocks passed it - trying to gently send it floating towards the edge of the pond. Finally after an eternity of rocks, it's 5 feet from the shore and I reach out with a stick to pull it closer and let the air out from under it and it sinks into the murky muck.

At that exact moment, I notice that my wallet is no longer in my back pocket. It's gone.

In all of the crawling through bushes I'd somehow lost it. I quickly pull off my shoes and socks, get into the slime covered pond - manage to get my pants wet and scoop up the sunk Surge. Back to the shore, and shoes back on - pretty sure that I scared the living crap out of a young mother walking her newborn in an otherwise serene park as I come tromping out of the bushes looking angry. I search the shore, I search the bushes. No wallet.

Now I'm running around a park the size of 2 football fields, covered in leaves, trying to find a wallet that's basically camouflage color. Back and forth I run, sweating like a pig, no wallet. I go back to the bushes by the pond and once again dive 40' into the first thicket. Finally, there it is, under some leaves in the spot where the first disc was... my stupid wallet. Nearly an hour had passed since I put the Surge in the pond - and I am done. Or more to the point, "it" was done with me.

So anyways, that's how my lunch break went yesterday. When your luck runs out, just hold onto whatever you can and hope the train stays on the tracks. And when does go off the tracks, just smile and know that it's only disc golf and not a high school one act competition.

This thing exists.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My first sorta tournament recap

I've already copped to doing more fieldwork than healthy, but after a this last weekend's tournament I felt like it was not all in vain. This was my first tournament of any kind. It was really nice to play doubles for my first time and I somehow lucked out and my brother ended up being my partner. More likely the random draw wasn't THAT random. I played a round where I had some big old nasty screw-ups, but thankfully it was doubles and my brother managed to pickup the slack when I did shank one, two or well, you get the point.

Down the hill, up the hill! Repeat. Lynn and Ron Leader.

Let's talk about the screw-ups first (because everybody loves a good bone up story).

To start, I woke up at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep! I was excited and nervous and I just lay in bed for another hour and half waiting for the alarm to go off. Not exactly a screw-up, but I certainly could have used more rest.

Next, new plastic that I'm even slightly unfamiliar with should be left at home on tournament day. I brought a new 176 MVP Axis that I'd thrown for 4 days during my field work practice. I figured I had some idea as to what it would do and that a hard snap would keep it straight, even turning right early a bit. Right?! I threw a shot across a big tree filled gully that I wanted to put a straight line across, and I even added a little anhyzer to the shot to hopefully keep it heading right. Of course, that anyhzer release sapped all of my snap... the thing went STRAIGHT, STRAIGHT, LEFT, LEFT, LEFT down down to the bottom of the gully into the abyss. I lucked out and found it 200' down the gully - but still it was a terrible shot.

Had I thrown my well worn Z Buzzz - it probably would have been a straight shot - I know I don't add anhyzer to it ever to keep the Buzzz straight... but I wanted to throw the new plastic. Gratefully my brother bailed me out with a great shot. 

TEAMWORK is what we called that... AKA, him bailing me out.

The new 175 Katana also came out and I know that mold pretty well - as the one I found (and lost) was a disc that I threw quite a bit. Big downhill throw (400ish feet) with a bunch of time for the disc to fade. I put it way out there - and it faded and faded and faded - ended up probably 50' pin high, 150' left of the pin. New over-stable plastic is more over-stable before it gets beat! I guess I just believed I could snap it hard enough to keep it straight for 450'! Dumb move. Brother saved me again. Team. Work.

Probably the most painful screw-up came on the first or second hole. 15' gimme putt for a double birdie (-2 on the hole). Brother putts in no problem. I look at it for a second and it was like I went into tunnel vision. I could feel the other players looking at me even though I knew this was a fun game and there was no real pressure. 

I felt like I was rushing and wooden and nervous. Off the top it goes and I immediately feel like a donkey. I had warmed up a bunch with putts from 15', while everybody else was shooting from 30-50'. I felt like an idiot doing it, but I wanted to get the same feeling I have when practice putting and I'm actually consistent. I never really got that feeling because I felt like I was dodging discs, in the way, talking with people... it is HARD to warm up your putts.

Lastly, if the teebox drops off - don't have your run-up end 6" from the edge of the teebox. I did this. As I approached the release, I leaned way back during the throw so that I didn't fall off the box and shanked the crap out of my drive. TEAMWORK! Thanks bro.

So it wasn't all bad!

I had my bag packed the night before - clothes picked out so I wasn't rushing to find clean socks while the wife slept. I also had a big breakfast and a mug of coffee so that I wasn't dealing with a caffeine headache. Plenty of snacks and 2 liters of water in the bag. I ended up refilling a bottle w/ 4 holes left to go... it was that long of a day. We got there and were checked in, warmed up and ready to go with plenty of time. I would have hated to have been rushed.

Eventually my putting came around and between my brother and I we made most of our shots from within 25'.

Field work payed off when I put a thumber about 6' from the pin over a huge bush from about 100' out. I didn't feel like I had a chance at getting over the huge bush with a forehand or backhand.  I throw thumbers a few times a week during field work - but not much more because they're brutal on my thumb. It feels like the skin on my thumb is being ripped off, probably because that's what's happening. It's a strange throw, no question, but a very nice shot to get you out of trouble.

I actually threw the damn anhyzer and it worked.

The back-hand anhyzer drive. There's probably no shot that I fail with, during a game, as much as this shot. Throwing 250-300' with this shot, when it really has to go right and stay right, requires leaning my upper body back in a way that seems to drain all power from my shot. So two things HELP but don't solve this problem. First, I use a lighter understable driver. The same 167 Star RoadRunner that I use for thumbers is my disc of choice. Just a flat hard release will get this disc to turn right. But just turning right isn't always enough if you want it to get over a tree, which requires some UMPH and height.  Second, I pull tight across my chest and really try to get a good hit. 

Well, I actually nailed the shot! From the teebox, I managed to park a shot 5' from the pin - 300' across a deep valley and left of a tree hanging out near the teebox that was just enough in the way to keep you from getting a straight shot at the pin.

I didn't feel like I was just relying on my brother for getting us outta every bad situation - though I certainly put the pressure on him a few times. We both managed to have our shots go bad when the other guy had it covered.

My brother and I ended up shooting '-3' for the day over 21 of the most challenging holes that could ever imagine dreaming up (and we were friends at the end of it!). I felt like I was able to relax in between times when I really wanted to focus. It was great that it was doubles, everybody seemed social, lots of laughing and having a good time and it was charity event - not some scary sanctioned PDGA tournament. It was really fun and relaxed. But, I tried to imagine playing that course as a regular singles tournament and it gave me the shivers. It would have been a very very BIG score if I was playing solo. TEAMWORK!

My brother and doubles partner for the day (left) and I (right) before the start.

Monday, November 4, 2013

More pix from Deer Mnt

A couple of the other guys on our card got some worthy shots that I don't want to lose track of:

Yours truly getting the anhyzer going with a RoadRunner.
That disc has done it's best to get lost - but it's still in the bag.

Little bro about to sent it air mail.
The big hyzer bomb into the woods. Amazingly our card only lost 1 disc.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Winter Warriors at Deer Mnt (Part 2)

Alright, so the fun continues as we enter the belly of the beast. I'm already wishing I had the chance to play this course again - even though my body is sore and my neck feels like an elephant used it for a foot rest last night. Thanks again to the owner's of this gorgeous property for letting us come out and for they guys who make it all happen.

Michael getting psyched up to cross the valley. NO FADING LEFT!
Andrew loading the arm cannon for a big rip.
Dave getting dangerously close to falling off the teepad!
The pin is about 50' left of the SUV visible at the bottom of the hill.
Michael getting a strong pull. Pin around where the trees hit the horizon.
Andrew hoping to avoid timber.
Lynn on our last hole of the day. What a trooper!
Pin is somewhere out there in the trees. What a hole.

Andrew getting all of this drive.
Same tee, different angle. Dave letting it rip.

Winter Warriors at Deer Mnt (Part 1)

Saturday was the kickoff to the 9th season of Winter Warriors at one of the most spectacular and extreme disc golf course in Colorado... perhaps THE UNIVERSE. Nearly every hole has challenging hazards, and quite a few of them have extreme hazards - meaning there's no safe way to play it!

Deer Mountain is on private property and is 21 holes over miles and miles of terrain that follows ridge-lines, gulleys, sometimes going from one ridge to the next. A few times a year this course opens for public tournaments and I was lucky enough to jump on the chance. Needless to say some plastic was donated to the disc gods yesterday! I drank 3 liters of water and was dead tired by the end of the day.

The morning kicks off with the player's meeting. 105 players for the event!

Michael (my brother) and I overlooking the course... yep, that's the course below!
Dave Cervantes at one of the many custom made pins. At this point we all are thinking 
we've died and gone to disc golf heaven.
Dave in a bush. Going long past the pin is a VERY bad idea.
First hint that disc golf heaven has a touch of disc golf hell in it!
A quick note about the image above, if you click on it - you can see the full size image. You can make out the next pin across the valley on the right side of the image. You throw across the valley from just about 30 feet left of the pin he's putting at. Andrew, who was in our group had his drive fade left on a drive like this and we watched it go about 1000' down the valley. Good bye sweet disc.

Lynn (dave's doubles partner) wasn't going to miss
out on a chance to climb into the bush!
More to come!!!!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Throwing Rollers in the Wind

The wind is howling today so I figured I'd take the opportunity to work on my rollers. Sit back and enjoy this comprehensive guide to throwing rollers in the wind!

Video link (if you are seeing the Feldberg Video above):
Now many of you are going to want to ask about my grip in the above video. I went with a "1 finger push grip". What I lack in control I gain in wind alignment and distance. It's key to have 30-40mph gusts and a ROUND disc. Square and even rhombus shaped discs are not going to handle these conditions very well.

Okay, so beyond that... I have no clue. I threw a forehand that got out about 150' before coming right back at me 100'. I threw a backhand that ended up 50' BEHIND me. 

Rollers went sideways and then backwards, then stopped to mocked me before taking off into the air.

So when it's really windy, I'd say just lower your expectations, go to the bar or just be as awesome as Dave is...