Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Push Putt / Straddle Edition

Like many people who are trying to improve their game, I have started putting considerable effort into my short game. Typically what I mean for "short game" is anything short of 50', especially 30' to the pin. 

After about a solid month of working on a traditional pitch putt I was still struggling. It doesn't feel natural to me and I was making very little progress. So a little online digging and I came across a few posts on discgolfreview that echoed my feelings of frustration with the Dave Feldberg version of the pitch putt. For me, that pitch putt (sideways stance) has too much going on and too many moving parts.

This video shows basically the putt I've ended up with.

A big key for me is the release of the disc. I've gone to a fan grip with just my index finger on the inside of the rim. It took some getting used to - as the fan grip has never felt right for me, but I'm getting the best results with it. The release for me is low. Literally with my legs spread wide, but still able to bend at the knees - I'm starting to open my hand at knee height. It almost feels ridiculously low, but I think of it more as tossing a ball at the pin. You don't need any arc on the toss, it's more of a straight slow toss from down low to the tape area.

Okay, so 20' and inside is now feeling automatic. I rarely miss on flat 20' putts and when I do miss, I'm typically sitting within 5' of the pin. The real struggle comes at 25-30' and obviously beyond that is going to get much harder. 

There's no easy answer for getting that distance dialed, but we'll discuss that more in a bit.

The hard part for me right now is that I feel like at the 30-40' distance I'm only making 2 out of 10 straddle putts, but I can make 4-5 out of 10 throwing a short arm spin putt.  So ultimately when I'm playing a game, I go with my stronger putt - even though missing can mean another long putt to finish a hole. The only time I really go for a long straddle push putt is if I'm 100% going for the layup. Then I feel like I've got a better chance of getting within 10' of the pin and guaranteeing to finish the hole in 2 strokes.

Here's a longer video of the master of the straddle putt Nikko Locastro. And whether I'm right or wrong is TBD, but I think it's this video where Dave Feldberg steps in and says that Nikko is not spinning the disc is a bit misleading. Dave has said in a number of videos that he doesn't spin the disc and you shouldn't spin the disc, but the disc DOES spin. I believe his point is that you don't try to spin the disc... the release of the putter creates the spin. As crazy as it seems, after watching Dave's putting videos I was out practicing trying to push the disc with zero spin. Which is as frustrating as it sounds.

When you hold the disc, I typically have my hand at the 3:00 position on the disc with my wrist just slightly cocked. Opening my hand to the "shake hands" position (fingers pointed at the basket) and wrist un-cocked does in fact spin the disc pretty substantially. At about 20-25' I put my hand at about the 2:00 position which causes the disc to spin a bit more.

Coming up short from 30'?
Okay,  so you're hitting 5 out of 5 from 20' but as soon as you move back 5-10' you are hitting the old front rim banger. WHY MUST PUTTING BE SO HARD?!  The answer is pretty obvious: you're not able to get that straight line pitch from knee to chains at some point. Gravity starts effecting the disc, pulling it back down, which means you have to either throw it higher, harder or with more spin. All of which is difficult to do from the single lever position of a push putt. 

What to do?
1. Raise up onto your toes.
2. Pushing hips and pelvis forward more.
3. Optionally stepping forward with a leg (Outside the 30' circle you can legally take a step).

As Nikko points out in the video, the disc is going to be flying with a hyzer - but since it's a slow throw (relative to a drive) the disc will go straight. 

So anyways, good luck - enjoy shit-tons of practice and rest assured I'm out in the wet morning grass with you (at least in spirit).

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