Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Push Putt - Consistency is the Key to Success

Image courtesy of Mind Body Disc
By John Groen

Let me ask you a question. When you watch a YouTube clip of Dave Feldberg, Paul McBeth, or Avery Jenkins playing a round of disc golf, and you see them consistently sinking putts, clobbering the chains from 40 or 50 feet out, do you feel even a little bit jealous? Do you look at top pros and think: “that could be me!” but you regularly miss from 25 feet?

Make a commitment to ending that right now! Choose today as the time that you take your game to the next level, and join me in learning how to improve your consistency on the disc golf course by dissecting some knowledge from Dave Feldberg.

Before I go any further, let me say two things. First, hello! My name is John Groen, author of the Disc Golf from a Coastie’s Perspective blog, and it is a huge blessing to have the opportunity to write a guest post for HeavyDisc. When I saw the awesome content on this site and the detailed breakdowns of throwing form, I was tremendously impressed, so I owe Jason a massive thank you for this opportunity.

Second, I have to be completely honest and say that my putting is nowhere near incredible. For most of my disc golfing career, I just tossed a putter at the basket without much success. It wasn’t until watching a video of Dave Feldberg’s push putting clinic and comparing his approach to players like Eric McCabe and Nikko Locastro that I put much thought into my form.

In an attempt to help improve your game, I will analyze pictures of one of Feldberg’s putts taken from the 2014 Rochester Flying Disc Open. These will be used as illustrations for an explanation of the push putt specifically and putting in general.

Before diving into the mechanics of a particular style, it is important to acknowledge the fact that there is a variety of styles and approaches to the game of disc golf, which is one of the reasons why it is such a fun sport. This is particularly true in regards to putting because the primary issues are comfort and confidence. Almost any pro will tell you that the number 1 priority in selecting a putt and approach disc is the way it feels in your hand. Furthermore, you need to choose a style that you like. This post focuses on push putting, but some of the highest ranked players in the world are spin putters, so you have to choose the method that causes you to take your stance and sight in on the basket with confidence.

The primary reason to choose the push putt is the consistency it provides. Spin putters have hinges at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Push putters, on the other hand, only have to worry about the shoulder. All of the motion is simplified to up and down, forward and backward. Side to side movement is eliminated.

Now let’s take a look at Dave Feldberg’s form.


From this image of his setup, we can see that he is focused and relaxed at the same time. As you prepare to make a putt, concentrate on one individual link of chain on the basket. A common shooting term is “aim small miss small,” and that saying applies here as well. If you look at the whole basket, then a tiny error will lead to a miss. But, if you aim at one particular piece of the target, then a small miss will still hit chains.

Next, take a look at the stance. His center of mass is over the front foot, and his knees are bent into an athletic position to provide increased balance. The throwing arm is not completely straightened, but the elbow is as close to being locked as possible without being uncomfortable, and Feldberg’s toes are pointed slightly to the left of the target so that he is throwing from his right thigh and forward motion will be braced against it (so you don't foot fault).
  

Between the first and second pictures, the only thing that changes is the shoulder. The arm is still mostly locked out, swinging like a pendulum toward the target. The rest of Feldberg’s body begins to rise up ever so slightly, and this will continue throughout the putt in order to allow him to explode forward at the hit, but we will address that part shortly. Until the very end, all movement is smooth and gradual.

Additionally, notice that Feldberg keeps his chin up throughout the delivery. The natural tendency is to allow the chin to drop when you take your putting stance, but keeping it high raises your eye level parallel to the ground, and the odds of missing low are decreased. 


Looking at the third picture, the left toe has come off the ground in order to balance the forward motion of the arm, which is still moving upward in an arc. It is important to notice that the putter is almost on the same plane as the arm, but the nose is raised a small amount to allow airflow underneath the disc, thus increasing glide.


In this final picture, you can see Feldberg reach the “hit.” This is the only part of the putting motion that is not smooth and steady. On the contrary, it is an explosive extension of the arm at the moment of release. Although this is not a spin putt, the disc does in fact spin, and it is a result of the opening of the hand during the hit. Even after letting go of his putter, Feldberg’s gaze is still fixed on the same point, and his arm continues in a nice follow through.

As you can see, the left leg is now raised further off the ground. This is the way that push putters maintain balance despite the forward motion of the rest of the body, and it is one of the toughest parts of the style to master. The longer the putt, the more explosive the release will be, and the further the left leg must extend backwards.

In order to improve your balance, practice holding this position with your weak leg fully raised and extended. Then, without allowing any other part of your body to touch the ground, bend your right knee until you can pick up a second disc and return to the original position. Repeat this to strengthen the leg muscles used during the putt.

If you are already a push putter, then hopefully some of these tips will allow you to improve your consistency and lead to more birdies. One of the great ideas that is gaining traction in the disc golf community is the 100 putts for 100 days challenge, and if you are looking to compete in tournaments or start clobbering your friends, this is an awesome way to solidify your form.

If you are not a push putter, then I encourage you to try it. If you do it for a while during practice rounds and it never starts to feel comfortable, then return to your old technique. But, if you stick with push putting and master the new form, I am willing to bet your scores will drop significantly.

Push putting does not offer the range of a spin putt; that is simply a fact. When you initially make the switch, you probably won’t be able to reach more than 20 or 30 feet. However, with practice, you may work out to a distance of 40 feet. For shots beyond that radius, you will have to use spin putts.

I have good news! None of the putts pros make are ridiculously challenging. You can go to the disc golf course with your friends and make all of the same shots. The only difference is consistency. You might make a 35 footer 6 out of 10 times, but a pro will make it 9 out of 10. With that in mind, my goal is to provide you with the tools necessary to watch a professional round knowing that even though you probably won’t ever drive 550 feet, you can compete with them inside of the circle.


Good luck implementing these tips into your game! If you have any questions whatsoever, please leave a comment, and I will respond as quickly as possible. Also, if you want to learn more about push putting, watch Dave Feldberg’s clinic. Or, you can click here to see the round that I got pictures of Feldberg from.

2 comments:

  1. Just a heads up that the pictures aren't showing up, and the "watch Dave Feldberg’s clinic" link at the end of the post just goes to the Rochester Flying Disc Open video, not the putting clinic.

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    1. I'm not sure what happened to this post... seems to be all kinds of jacked up. Thanks for the heads up, I'll see if I can find it.

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