Friday, January 30, 2015

Putting: Begin at the End....

Hallo. I'm TAFL, one of the guests invited to contribute here on Heavydisc. My primary qualification? I'm old...and I've been playing this silly game for a long time. I've done lots of things wrong and lots of things right and have seen every manner of weirdness happen in play. The hope is that I can offer up discussion on the game that somebody finds useful.

One of the things that I've done well over the years involves the short game, approaches and putts. I figure I'll start by discussing putting. Much of what I'll talk about can be applied to any style of putting you wish--push putting, spin putting, chicken wing, turbo, whatever. I'll also cover what I do, of course, which may be useful for players who have a similar approach.

And, so...we'll begin at the end.

I think that with any approach to putting, what should drive decisions on what technique to use should come down to choices made about what we want from our putts. A look at the end of the disc's flight, then, and what objectives we have for that, drive decisions we make about the beginning of the flight.

When we throw a putt, at the end of it's flight, we want it to finish in the basket (assuming for this discussion that we're shooting at chained baskets). That's the obvious objective. There's more to consider, however, as we may actually miss the target and we may have preferences about how we hit the target, when we do hit it.

I know there are folks who never bother thinking about misses. Those people are extreme optimists and live in a world completely unrecognizable by the rest of us. The rest of us live in a world where things can go wrong and we make allowances for them. We have to consider what we want the disc to do when me miss.

The obvious response, I reckon, is that we want the disc to end up as close to the basket as possible--I know that's what I want, that's my objective. The important question is how to achieve that? In ball golf, one can lob a ball onto the green at the hole and put a lot of backspin on it to stop it quickly after landing, so it stays around the hole if it doesn't go in. We can't do that. I've also considered tiny parachutes that deploy just past the chains and bring the disc to a quick halt, then ruled those out as impractical and illegal.

So, the way I want to achieve my objective of a lie as near the basket as possible after a miss is by having the disc descending to the basket on the putt. I want the flight to have peaked and the disc coming down. If it's at the apex of its flight when it sails by the chains, there's no minimizing the distance of the come back. I want that sucker headed for dirt by the time it gets near the target.

And when it hits dirt, I want to make it unlikely that the disc skips long distances or pops up and rolls off into the underbrush. I want that sucker to flop on the ground like a dead fish.

That's something to consider when developing an approach to putting.

Now, what if it hits the target? (Yay!) Is there anything I need to consider then?

Certainly. The disc can blow through the chains if it comes in too fast, or if it flips vertical and squeezes on through. It can get the leading edge turned up and hang up long enough for a wind gust to blow it out. There are bad things that can happen and I want to minimize those. So how do I do it?

Well, first, I want the disc to be nose down when it hits chains. Why? I want that leading edge to hit and begin sliding down into the basket immediately.

Next, I want the disc to be fairly level when hitting those chains. I want to minimize the chance that it will flip up and slide through the vertical space between chains.

I also want the disc to grip the metal and slow down as it enters. So, I want a really grippy composition.

And I want it to absorb the blow of the chains and without returning all of that energy in springing back, so I want it floppy, in large degree.

I also want it to enter the chains low, in the bottom half. I want that sucker down in the basket as quickly as possible, where it's less likely to blow out or get thrown out by chain action. And I want it to flop there to decrease the chances of it sliding around and out the back.

Can you see now how the expectations of what happens at the end of the flight influences what happens at the beginning of it? I have to figure out ways to achieve the objectives I have for the disc when it hits something--the ground or the target.


  1. Great read TAFL! I look forward to reading more from you. Tiny parachutes, hmm, you might be onto something there!

  2. I can't say I completely disagree with everything here, but I think what you are describing is "putting to miss." Maybe I'm one of the extreme optimists you are referring too because I think that the best way to score is to putt to make it every time. Obviously we should make allowances for when we miss, but the best way to minimize bad outcomes of a miss (rollaways, etc) is to make the putt in the first place.

    There are some extremely good putters who putt with a style similar to what you are describing, Nikko being the best example, but I don't think that makes it the best kind of putt to emulate necessarily. I agree that we want the putt to end up near the basket on misses, but I think the method of putting you are describing introduces a few huge sources of error:

    1. Putting with a pronounced nose angle of any kind (up, or down in this case) makes your disc more susceptible to wind. In a tail wind it will be lifted up, and in a headwind it will be smacked to the ground. I don't know about you, but I don't play all that many rounds without wind.

    2. You have to hit both the Y and Z axis of the putt. What I mean by that is that you have to get the height of the disc as it approaches the basket correct, and you have to get the depth (z axis) correct. Any kind of putt has to hit the x, y and z axis correctly to go in, but you are introducing large amounts of error to both of those axis with this method of putting at the expense of a pretty easy to hit x axis (left and right) and a soft landing on misses.

    I completely agree with the bit about the disc being level when it hits the chains. What Garrett Gurthie do that silly hyzer put sometime and it slides through the chains a lot. It also gets messed up by the wind because of the hyzer angle.

    Blake from dgr talked about soft vs hard putters a long time ago and described basically that they both just have different sweet spots. A soft putter excels at hitting the pro side of the chains (right side if you are putting right handed), but if you hit left of center there is a chance you are going to spin off of the chains because of the grippiness of the disc (although I'd believe that you minimize this by your disc being slightly nose down). Hard putters excel at staying in the basket anywhere in the middle really. Slightly right of center is always better, but you can hit the middle 60-80% of chains and stay in while potentially sliding off if you hit too far right or left.

    1. I don't see it as "putting to miss." I just see it as preparing for the worst, doing the work beforehand to reduce the consequences of a miss. Of the many different lines I can put the disc on to the target, I'm choosing from among those that result in the least catastrophic ending.

      There are folks who are solid putters who simply choose the best line they have available and run at it. McCray comes to mind--"the chains will stop it." I love watching those guys play, as there's always drama when the backdrop they're shooting into involves a steep valley or creek or pond. Shoot, I've played many rounds where that's what I did (and lost a Magnet in a lake that way, after hitting the chains). I just finally realized that I could still attack the pin, only in ways that aren't likely to be as bad for me should the pin win the battle on that throw.

    2. I also met a pro in Iowa 20 or so years ago who help provide that epiphany for me. I watched him practice putting. He was launching his disc ways up high with the nose down and it appeared as if they were sliding down a schoolyard slide at the basket. I noticed that his misses were staying consistently a short distance from the basket, even when he was putting from 30'-35' out. That impressed me a great deal and I started trying to always get the disc headed down at the basket and found that comebacks were consistently shorter for me.