Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Dinner with John E.

Okay, so it wasn't dinner... it was though, dinner time. And it was a really awesome chance to learn a metric ton of stuff from John E McCray (PDGA#9852) who recently set off with his wife on an across-the-country tour in an RV to kick ass in every tournament he could squeeze in. Stopping in Colorado for the first time ever, he put on a clinic in Denver for a group of us that were extremely stoked to ply him with questions.

Anybody who plays a round with me knows that I'm going to start interrogating them at some point or another about stuff. Discs, technique, shots, courses, tournaments, down to the color of their socks. Now I've got one of the best disc golfers in the world standing in front of me and completely willing to answer all my questions?! OH SWEET HAPPY DAYS!!

I don't want to give away any of the juiciest secrets, but I'll try to paraphrase to the best of my recollection some of the great stuff we went over.


JohnE is, by his own definition, a small guy. Compact and powerful. He subscribes to the Barry Schultz style of drive which lines his shoulders up along the line of his drive as opposed to standing perpendicular to it and then having to twist sideways on his x-step to get aligned. He leads with his hips and for most drives pivots on the ball of his foot - only rotating on the heel when he has to muscle it up to longer distances. Zero flutter... and I mean ZERO flutter on a 400' drive with a putter.

We cornered him on a few issues that we'd been debating. OS vs US discs for distance... he throws OS on a slight anhyzer to get a bit more distance. 400-450' though and he's throwing something stable flat and just off the right to let it fade in. I also asked if he felt like he was throwing the disc hard for longer drives... "Oh yeah! I'm really throwing it hard!" which was actually not what I was expecting!

For some reason I thought that these guys throwing 550' had worked out the technique to the point where it was less physically demanding and more about mechanics - but he insists that he clamps down on the disc really hard from the start of his x-step to the release and he's driving hard with his hips and extending a full reach back and that YES he has to really rip it hard. There's no trick to throwing it that far!


McCray was pretty adamant that it's a big mistake to try to learn a huge bag of various molds. "Get a small number of drivers, and bag 4-5 of them, letting them beat in to various stages of stability. Leave the under stable out on a windy day or pull the most stable out on a calm day."

He bags 100% Gateway (his sole sponsor for over 10 years) - even though they'd let him carry a mixed bag, because he loves beating guys with only Gateway discs. He insinuated that some guys look down on Gateway a bit, so it makes it extra sweet. He throws putters on pretty much everything 400' and under. He's so accurate with them it's ridiculous.


Known as a lights out putter who throws a pretty direct line putt and of course some wicked turbos. He said he doesn't really change any aspect of his putt between 20 and 40 feet. He wants to keep the disc flying at chain height until he's getting further out and then maybe 6" above the bucket - but he doesn't do a slow and lofty style of putt.  Calm upper body, with as little movement as possible - with follow through being extremely important.

I asked him about the decision making of going for a 40' putt against water or OB and he's going for it every time. "I'm hitting metal and that should stop it." Talk about putting confidence! Well, it comes from an insane amount of practice. He would throw 1000 putts a day with a stack of 32 putters - well past the point of wearing all the skin off his fingers.

On a windy day, I asked, would he change discs for putting? "Oh yeah, I throw an over stable driver, no question." And of course there's the turbo putting that he's so well known for. He explained that when he first started playing, that's just the way he liked to putt - so he only threw turbo putts for the better part of 8 months and then it turned out to be really handy in some of his local courses that were packed full of prickly bushes that were chest high.

Lastly - he likes the adage "aim small, miss small" - meaning he finds the tiniest spot on a chain and he aims to hit that exact spot. He can miss that spot a bit, and still be right in the heart of the basket - but aiming at the general area of the basket can lead to being off by way too much.

And now for a bit of the fun that comes with playing a round with one of the top disc golfers in the world after the clinic.

"I love throwing this shot!" Hole 2 at the course we were at throws about 200' over a pond - JohnE parks his shot with a putter, then he grabs a driver and skips it off the water about 40' from shore and putts it about 8' off the bucket.  That's a shot I won't be trying myself.

A few holes later, I pull out a bottom stamp destroyer I'd picked up recently. 167g... even a bit domey. Thing is the biggest hook I've ever seen, more over stable that a max weight Champ Fire Bird. So I hand him that disc and joked he could buy it for cheap.

"Man, I could roll that disc", he grins. I laughed and said to go for it... this I gotta see.

He just CRANKS on this thing throwing it on a high anhyzer that would have flipped a small yacht over. The hand of god reached down and pulled that disc back over, it straightened out and then faded. Damn thing barely even turned!

"Yeah, that's pretty overstable!" he beams at me. We all bust up laughing and I had him sign it.

 "Not a roller. John E McCray"
So long story short - when John E McCray shows up in your town, make sure you find your way down to watch him, cheer for him, buy a disc from him, shake his hand and learn as much as you can from him. He won't disappoint and he's a fantastic guy. Thanks JohnE and I am sure we'll see you back in Colorado soon!

To arrange for a clinic at your home course, hit!contact-us/cyha for finding out more.

  1. Innova Daedalus Gstar goodness with a helping of turn.
  2. DD Witness Understable Distance has never been easier
  3. DD Renegade So good it goes permenantly in the bag
  4. Beware the Bad Towel When things go seriously bad.


  1. Great article! I love to watch JohnE play, and wish him the best on tour.
    Maybe he'll make it over to Europe soon. There are some amazing courses over here. Ciao, Mike 'Doc' Gordon

  2. Hi Heavy Disc, I was at that clinic too and Iagree with you 100%. JohnE McCray is wonderful. Nice meeting you and your brother at Expo that day, hope to play a round with you soon. Love the blog! Mike Maness ( the old, bald guy who had to leave early)!

    1. Nice meeting you too Mike - and we'll definitely have to play soon.