Monday, April 21, 2014

FOUR! Myths of Disc Golf

Yours truly contemplating the next blog post.
April brought a quick resurgence of winter conditions to Colorado and I made haste to the mountains to recharge the batteries and sit on some chair lifts with my friend Steve. Steve's a great photographer and my mountain biking buddy and I've been hard selling him on disc golf since I started last summer. I gave him a Buzzz and a putter and demanded updates on when and where he played.

During our chair lift conversations he mentioned something about how disc golf "wasn't exactly a work out." It's a line I've heard many times before from my friends who don't play and associate disc golf with drinking a few tall-boys while strolling through the park losing frisbees. Which leads me to myth #1...

Myth #1: Disc Golf isn't Exercise

Okay, so you're not going to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I've shaved two loops off my belt; I had to punch a new hole in to keep my britches up! I had the classic late-thirties-skinny-guy-belly that came with my extra large forehead and general lack of interest in sit-ups.

The proof is in the pudding or lack there of.
A great by-product of doing field work in the mornings or on a short lunch break is that I tend to avoid drive-through lunches and I get my metabolism moving at least once or twice a day. And don't get me started on playing the mountain courses outside Denver. I could barely move the next day after my last round at Beaver Ranch. There's plenty of exercise to be had throwing and hiking a round of disc golf, especially with 20 discs and a liter of water in your bag.

Myth #2: Fieldwork is for Distance

Fieldwork can improve all aspects of your game, not just your drives. It might not be as fun throwing 50-150' shots, but it's a huge benefit to have those shots dialed in.

Sir Kyle of Upshot
My buddy Kyle will probably not like that I'm outing him as an upshot master, but he is. From inside 150' I have seen him put it within 8' of the bucket more times than I can remember. Trying to beat him is very tough because he never seems to bogey. An errant drive that is off by a 100' is quickly parked and he's in for a 3.

It's put a strong impression on me that accurate upshots are key to staying under par for a round. Plus, it takes the pressure off your putting and lowers the amount of mental energy that you put into the game when you see that you're walking up to a 10' putt instead of a 40'er.

Practice both forehand and backhand in various ground covers to see what kind of skip or slide you'll get. Flip a disc up-side-down and see how it slides on it's top in case you have to slide it under some tree limbs on grass. The best part of a solid upshot is that it immediately lets you decompress and reserve that mental energy for the future .

Doing fieldwork that focuses on your short game will absolutely save strokes off your game and of course you can still impress the folks walking by with your monster drive.

Myth #3: The Mental Game is for Tournament Players

"Zen Golf" by Joseph Parent. This short and easy to read book put the mental game on my radar. Before I read it, my confidence was completely tied to my immediate past. If I had 2 good holes, then my confidence started building - but if I had 2 bad holes, it was crushed. I never thought that a simple little book could pack such a punch with improving my game. Anybody who plays with me knows that I still go into the tank, everybody does... it's almost impossible to have enough armor shake off endless struggles in a round.

By using a few really simple mental strategies I've really improved how much I can enjoy a round or a hole that doesn't go my way. It's so easy to end a round and focus on the few things you did wrong, ignoring the 95% of the round where you did great.  By replaying the round in my head, I often realize that even if I didn't beat my little brother I still had great time, played well and did quite a number of things right.

Myth #4: Drive for Show

It was the first platitude I ever heard about golf and it makes me crazy. Drive for Show, Putt for Dough! Bahhh, I'm guessing that might have been true when a long course included all 300' holes, but not anymore. You've got to develop a solid and accurate drive, upshots and putting. Giving up on an entire section of your game, with the hopes of making it up in your short game is short sighted.

Distance is power.

The reality is that distance can save strokes at all of the courses I play. I play with a buddy named Ryan, who's fluidity and power on drives actually made me say, "HOOOOLYYYYYY  SH***%&$^#^$!!" He was throwing lines that were not even on my radar because I simply didn't believe a disc could get there. I still can't necessarily get there, but I'm recognizing what improving my driving technique can yield. Efficiently driving doesn't just mean that you can throw further, it means you can throw higher (over trees instead of around) and you can throw more stable discs in windy conditions. It increases your shot selection.

Distance in forehand and backhand is a fantastic skill. If you've got a moderately workable forehand out to 200' and you put some hours of fieldwork in, I'd put money on the fact that you can develop at least another 50'-100' and open new alleys to throw.

Myth #5: (WHAT? YOU SAID FOUR!) The Gimme Putt

Had to sneak this in because it's been a huge struggle for me lately.

The "gimme putt" does not exist. How many times have I missed a 15' putt?! Too many to count. And nobody is going to gimme that stroke back. Missing a short putt can literally make your head swoon.

Short putting requires focus and practice. I struggle mightily inside of 20'. In fact, 15-20' might be the aspect of my game that raises my blood pressure more than anything else. There's very few things that are easier to fix than taking off your disc bag and making sure to focus... it's simple - TAKE OFF THE BAG AND FOCUS.

My brother pointed out that he feels that inside that range he feels that's mandatory that he put it in, which in turn makes him a tighten up and over think everything. Next thing you know, you're off to the side or in my case, I'm off the top of the bucket.

Practicing at 10-20' feels crazy because you're so close, but even crazier is neglecting to practice the putts that are, without question, going to be involved in every round you throw! In my 15' putt, I realized pretty quickly that I was throwing high quite often (DOINK) and there is a physical reason behind it. When close to the basket, I was trying use my 30' putt stance which feels comfortable and consistent... but I was completely flat footed. I didn't feel like I needed to generate that momentum to toss a disc 15 short feet - but by being flat footed, I'm not leaning forward, and my release point is too high.

How to fix it? Getting up on the ball of my front foot and leaning forward in an aggressive stance. I am putting my body in the position to release the right height. AHA! It feels strange, but by getting up into a forward and aggressive stance, focusing just like I am hitting a long putt - I'm doing better.

  1. DD Witness Understable Distance has never been easier
  2. DD Renegade So good it goes permenantly in the bag
  3. Beware the Bad Towel When things go seriously bad at least there's a good story to be had.
  4. Coaching Column The Psychology of Learning Plateaus with Brian Earhart


  1. Good read as always, thanks Heavy D!

  2. I really enjoyed that. Thanks for the help and wisdom.

  3. Great post. Shared it to my DG facebook page...

  4. Great read, and very informative!

  5. Excellent points. I couldn't agree more about the fact that distance matters. While I'm a better putter, and more consistent than many disc golfers in my league, there are certain holes that I just can't birdie. It doesn't matter how good my putting is, until I can drive far enough to get a decent second shot, the advantage is always with the big arm guys.

    1. I can't suggest it enough - grab a video camera and take some footage of your drives. I would have sworn under oath that I was pulling low and tight to my chest, but it wasn't until I watched myself that I realized I was pulling higher and further out. Little tweaks like that can make a huge difference.

  6. Thank you for the insite. I have just recently started playing seriously and it's like an addiction has taken over. I love this game. As for exercise, I would say most definitely a moderate work out.


      I wrote about the addiction in that post... It's nuts how it can get it's claws into you. No signs of slowing down on the crazy train either.

  7. Great read with great points! I'm in a relatively flat area of NC, Charlotte area, and quite a few of the courses are similar to mountain hiking trails, up and down hills, throwing a mile+ while walking 2 to 4 miles, and are quite a workout! Even if they're pretty flat, they're still great exercise! I'd challenge any pretty fit person to come on some rounds with me and see if they weren't tired afterwards and at least a little sore the next day. Good upshots=stable putters and mids, are key to a good overall game, and should be practiced in the field along with your fairways and drives. I just try to focus on each shot at the time, and stay loose the other 90% of the time. Also, I try to have a short memory and good attitude about bad shots or bad holes. i.e. "3 bad shots and 1 good one still make par" Distance is also key to a good overall game these days. Being able to throw 400-500 accurately either way is a must on the pro level. And more like 300-400 on the advanced level. Shaves big strokes off your score for sure! As for putting, still the most important part of a good overall game, I just try to focus on doing the same thing every time-develop a routine as you practice and stick to it, staying loose and confident, and making sure to hit my release point-lower for shorter putts and higher for longer ones. Playing since '98. DISC GOLF FOR LIFE!!!

  8. Obviously I don't play enough Disc Golf... I've heard none of these before. That said, I'm in agreement with all of them. Thanks for a great read!

  9. I've use the "Drive for show, putt for dough." line a lot. IMO, it's not about neglecting that part of your game, it's about understanding that the whole game matters. I don't have a powerful drive, but I can make up for that with a better short game... until such a time as I can build my drive to be more effective.

    I once read that your drive is not as far as you can throw, it's as far as you can consistently throw. If my best distance is just over 350', which it is, my golf drive is not 350' it's more like 250'-300'. I agree you need practice to build that up, but a good short game can make up for a LOT of drive mishaps and lack of power in a less experienced player.

    So as much as I use the platitude, I never discount the drive as an important part of the game.

  10. GREAT READ! Extremely well-written with excellent observations. Tying "Myth #4" into "Myth #5" in a roundabout, drive-by shooting sort-of way brought it all together.

    By extolling the virtues of The Big Drive and eulogizing on how having more distance will shave strokes off your overall score -- to say nothing of the empirical beauty of the flight of a disc on an extremely long trajectory -- but clearing the air by emphasizing the importance of having both tools in the bag (driving AND putting), you essentially put to bed the "drive for show" hyperbolic wives-tale through equalization. Never seen that before.

    Well played, sir....well played.

    1. Thanks Nemmers... and I have a good Navy line for you. Every time you walk into a restaurant, ask the hostess if they are seaman friendly. (Bob's Burgers gets the credit).

  11. Well said on all these! I have taught numerous people that had all sorts of misconceptions about disc golf. One misconception is strength over form. I started playing in 97' and wasn't very strong. I focused on form and could out throw almost anyone relying on strength. Form is key! Every time I help teach newbies I tell them to practice good form and everything else will fall in place. Doesn't matter if it is a 500' shot or inside the 20' of the pin. Keep up the good writing!

  12. GREAT POST. Joseph Parent's 'Zen Golf' preceded a total turn-around for me. I had NO tournament results while throwing fairly well. I now have several wins in Advanced Masters despite being 56 and have moved up to Advanced. The top AM and top Women's Pro in New Mexico are also devotees...get this book!

    Mark Ellis' 22 minute You-tube on confidant putting really helped too. He totally emphasizes MAKING short putts. 1000s of them. Get used to it going IN....all the time. Then move out and the 30 footers will go in too. Forget technique at least as much as possible. Just keep putting short putts IN. It works.

    Meanwhile, the best known GM Pro in New Mexico throws approach shots EVERY time I see him. Dozens of 70 to 140 footers. Par Par Par.

    Anyone reading and understanding your post should get better. Thank you.

    1. Thank you! I think I'm going to have to start re-reading that book and re-start the 30 days of putting. It did so much for me last time and now that the dg season is really under way, I find myself slipping back into old crazy habits. Thanks for the reminders.

  13. I was never under the impression that that was what the putt for dough adage was meaning. To me it just meant the obvious that if the putts drop in then your score is going to be better.