Monday, January 4, 2016

Throwing for Distance: Why?

Nate's wide rail crush.
By Jason

Like moths to the flame, anytime there's a thread / post / conversation about:

How far you can throw?
How far is far enough?
Best things to practice?

... there's players that come out of the woodwork to say:

Nobody is really throwing as far as they say they are.
Throwing for distance is a waste of time and energy.
Drive for show, putt for dough.
Distance driving and golf driving are totally separate shots
Throwing far doesn't equate to useful golf skills

I've responded to about 20 of these conversations before, but I wanted to put my thoughts down on the matter once and for all.

Discgolf courses are notorious for bad signage. Who knows how the guy making the sign measured or if he measured at all. Elevation drops make some 400' shots - relatively easy putter shots. Did your disc fly 400' horizontally? Yes. Did you throw a 400' shot? Sorta. Will that same shot, thrown on flat ground, go 400'? No chance in hell.

So issue #1 - if you threw to the basket on a course that's listed as 400', you can't accurately claim to have thrown 400'. Sorry, it's just not that easy.

Then how do you know if you can throw X distance?

Purchase one of these (150' tape measure) and some of these:

Next, find some flat ground.

This isn't as easy at it would seem. Even the recreational soccer fields around my house are slightly up or down hill. Your best bet is to find some wide open spaces that have proper fields on them. Throwing on concrete will give you potentially a long slide - adding 50' of skittering, so don't think that a nice flat parking lot is a good place to measure, unless you have a spotter who is dropping a marker where your disc hits the ground.

Okay: issue #1 is resolved. You have your distance. Congrats, you're a winner - now go tell the internet.

Issue #2: how far is far enough?

For what? To win the USDGC in MPO? 500' of golf distance would be a good ball-park. Why? Because Paul McBeth, Ricky Wysocki, Will Schusterick  can all throw that far - and if you are throwing only 400' you're going to need to be able to putt lights out from 100' to keep up with them on a 500' hole.

We've seen this become a reality in the last few years. The top MPO players have stretched the high percentage circle out to 40' and have controlled distance that makes par 5 holes eagle-able.

Do they park a 500' hole everytime? Absolutely not, unless it's a really wide open course - and that's extremely rare. There are trees, doglegs, OB and mandos that make the game spicey. But if a top MPO player needs to pipe a laser beam 400' or get 500' down a wide open fairway, they can and will do that.

Will hitting some magic number mean that you can compete at the highest level of tournament play? You have to be delusional if you think that's the case. It's just one of the skill-sets, OF MANY, that are required to give you a fighting chance.

To complete in your local B/C-Tier tournaments and cash? 400' of usable golf distance will most likely keep you in the cash all season long. Putting 90%+ inside the circle and avoiding any bogey's will most likely keep you from donating your tournament fees to the guys on the top-card. I play with a number of MPO players that fit this bill. They are consistent and it literally pays to be consistent.

To compete in Intermediate / Advanced and take home some plastic, 300-325' of golf distance should be enough. You've probably heard this before, but in ADV it's all about playing par golf and screwing up the least. I didn't play a single tournament in 2015, but in 2014 I played a few in ADV and I felt that to be the case. The guys who won, stayed in bounds and didn't bogey. There were a few that could throw 400'+ but it rarely gave them a big advantage.

Last week, I finished out the year playing "Last Tags of 2015" and tied for 1st place with about 20 other players. NONE of the long drives that I could throw 400'+ netted me a stroke on the field. My putting did, as I missed just one putt inside the circle and I didn't have any bogeys.

I practice distance drives about once a week, with the other fieldwork mostly playing solo rounds where I can throw multiples and putt multiples. My distance drives are not "pure distance". Pure distance drives are thrown much higher, trying to break right as long as possible - hopefully getting a long stretch of flattening flight.

Claim: Throwing for distance is a waste of time and energy.

Are you having fun doing it? Yes. Then it's hardly a waste of time. There's certainly worse things to do: punch kittens, meth, yoga. I'm just saying - throwing far is fun. It may not shave strokes off your game like putting, but who cares. We didn't feel that sense of awe the first time we saw somebody blast a drive because it was boring. It's AWESOME.

I like it, so I'm saying claim is FALSE.

Claim: throwing far doesn't equate to any real golf skill.

What we're doing at the core development of max-d or golf distance, is to maximize our form for it's ability to impart controlled powerful force on the disc. The key concepts that heavyDisc readers are probably sick of hearing about: hand on the outside at the right pec, balanced and braced... mean that it takes less physical wear and tear to throw the disc.

If I can throw 18-21+ drives during a round that don't wear me out because I'm using my form to do the work, then playing a second round in the afternoon is much less difficult. I'll play better longer and I'm much less likely to find myself waking up with a stiff neck and sore muscles.

Spending time throwing "far", reviewing our footage and altering our form to match the best in the world pays dividends in all our shots.

This is my claim: if you want to improve, and I mean work on your whole game to be the best you can be... all aspects of your game need systematic and regular training.

Drive for dough, putt for dough, upshot for dough, get out of jail for dough, step around a tree out of a gully for dough. You get my point, it's not enough to just putt and think that because you're a world class putter - that you'll be leading McBeth in the final round.

He's spends his time putting too - but can uncork some monsters and works on it in the field to stay at the top.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Fallout from the Nuclear Option

By TAFL Hols

It's been half a year since I last posted. In that time, much of my free time was eaten up by varied concerns, including my mother's battle with cancer (and her passing). I have been able to get out and play, using what rounds I could for mainly practice, because getting time just for field work wasn't much of an option. I can say that I've not gotten anywhere near as much time in practice as I anticipated and wanted. That said, it's proven immensely interesting.

For those who've not been exposed to the phrase, "the nuclear option" - when it comes to rebuilding technique,  it refers to starting over from scratch when it comes to throwing the disc. One becomes a beginner all over, working to develop every aspect of a throw anew, building good habits and scouring oneself of every scrap of bad habit. In my case, I've become a beginner with thirty years' experience.

It's been interesting, to say the least. It's been discouraging and rewarding, by turns. I can say that I'm happier now with my game than I have been in quite some years, despite it just seeming to be on the cusp of breaking out in serious goodness. There have been so many improvements that I can identify.

That's not to say that everything I did before was bad, mind you. My short game was always good. It was the long game that was my bane--I was never a long thrower. When I did field work a couple decades back, I consistently threw many of my shorter drivers--discs that are now considered midrange discs-- 280' to 290' feet. My primary driver, though--still considered a fairway driver even now--would only carry 300' to 320'.

Part of the early process of nuclear destruction and then rebuilding of my form involved evaluating what I did when throwing from the tee and throwing off the tee (from the fairway) and comparing that to what I was learning about how to drive effectively. It was easy to figure out the many things I was doing wrong on the tee. What took longer to figure out was what I was doing off the tee that contributed to my driving issues.

My short game was good, so how could that lead to bad driving? Well...there were lots of things I did, in terms of technique, when throwing from the fairway that helped me use a lot of finesse that are absolutely dysfunctional when it comes to throwing with power. Issues with grip, foot placement, hip movement...habits that I'd developed that helped with the short game and hurt the long game.

So I've changed things up wholesale. Those changes have rippled through my entire game, as teaching the muscles to do thing differently affects so much. My putting deteriorated noticeably, which was extremely disconcerting. Once I began working on changing my grip for driving, it felt weird to pick up a disc and hold it the way I long had for putting, for example...and the changes engendered resulted in changing the technique I use for putting. (I still have the same philosophy as I outlined previously, just a whole new technique.)

I hope to be able to speak cogently to many of the changes in my game over the next few weeks and see if it helps somebody else go through the process.