Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Alex Geisinger - Distance Beast

6'3" - 225 pounds.
Minnesota hockey player.
Strong as an oxe.

It's hard to imagine a better starting point for throwing as far as humanly possible. Alex Geisinger is one of the frustrating icons of form perfection. Frustrating?! Yes indeed.

And here's why:

HeavyDisc: How did your distance skills develop? Can you give us some idea of what kind of distance you were throwing early on, and when you started pushing into the top level?  

Alex: Well, I'll start off with my very first throw.  I'll never forget it.

Innova DX Wolf, nose up hyzer. Max distance 110ft, but within my first month - I started to hone in my form and was pressing 300.

My 3rd month is when it just clicked. I never really watched videos on technique or anything like that, I just went through the process of trial and error. I would spend all day on the course, throwing non-stop, and when it clicked... I couldn't believe what I had done. My first throw of 500+ was just three months into playing, yet I had no consistency or accuracy whatsoever.

500'+ in 3 months?! That's why it's frustrating!


Cale Leiviska(L) and Alex (R)

In the world of top level disc golf - it's pretty rare for somebody to step out of the shadows and truly turn heads. Alex was somebody I'd never heard of before, and I watch a ton of A-Tier and N-Tier tournament footage. When the last USDGC went down, I was watching the results of the field-events like a hawk. Word spread pretty quickly that Alex won with 739', out throwing Simon who hit 722' ( 

This was the recurring conversation in my circles: wait, what happened?!  WHO? Seriously... the list of guys who can throw 700'+ on flat ground is SHORT. It turned some serious heads and here's the kicker: 739' was not his best throw.

HeavyDisc: You mentioned that you feel like you are going to outpace the 739' mark. First off,  for those of us who weren't there -  this was flat ground at the 2015 USDGC field events? Can you just tell us a bit about that experience.  Simon is currently the world record holder and I believe you out threw him my 17'? What was going through your mind?
Alex: Yes, it was on flat ground and there was a decent wind but nothing too substantial. I was happy with my throw of 739' but it wasn't my longest throw that day and there where a few issues with the throw. 

First off, I blew out the ground on my plant foot on that particular throw, so I lost some power on it.

Second, it hit a tree nearing the end of the flight which caused it to quickly drop hyzer. I threw maybe 8-10 warm up shots before my qualifying round and had one that was over 800'. I threw earlier in the day than Simon, so I didn't know I had beat him until that night. Honestly because of that, I didn't really think much about it.
[Jason here... I can't tell you how many times I've had a 400' throw that felt like an absolute crush... he had a throw that was DOUBLE that in his warm up session. DOUBLE a 400' throw. Dear god. Alright, I'm going to shut up now and just let you guys read the interview!]

HeavyDisc: When did you start playing disc golf?  How did you get into it?

Alex: I started playing in late 2011, progressing to leagues and my first tournament in 2012. I was introduced to disc golf by a long time friend Anthony Ulrich, the fall of my freshman year of college.

Minnesota off-season training.
HeavyDisc: Can you give us a general idea of what Minnesota courses are like? What's your home course and any local favorites?

Alex: Well, I'd like to say you can find almost every type of golf in Minnesota.

Tightly wooded courses like Kaposia, and Sportsman Hill and wide open courses like Hyland SSA and Fort Snelling. 

My home course is Alimagnet Park in Apple Valley,MN. It's a fairly short 12-hole course with a good mix of shots. Although the newer Kenwood Trails DGC is closer to my house I still consider Alimagnet to be home because it's where it all began. 

Local favorites: Kaposia, Kenwood, Blue Ribbon Pines, The Valley, and Bryant Lake

HeavyDisc: I looked through your PDGA history and it seemed like you had a short stint playing Advanced (and winning)  before jumping into Open (and ranking well very quickly).  Was tournament play something you were immediately drawn to?
Alex: To be honest, I didn't even know disc golf existed until maybe 2010. But once I started playing Leagues, I quickly began to gain interest in tournaments as well. 

As many know, I had my son Owen at the end of my very first season playing tournaments. Being a dad, I am very limited on my travel while carrying a full time job and being in my son's life. With that said, I am trying to get to more big tournaments every year. 2015 was my biggest season yet. 

Grow the sport!
HeavyDisc: You're not just a distance guy. Last year you beat Wysocki, Leiviska, McCray at the Minnesota Majestic and this year you did the same thing to Steve Rico, Matt Dollar and again to Leiviska. I think playing more tournaments is a wise choice!  Assuming that you're as human as I am,  I imagine that you have hit some plateaus in distance shots.  What do you do to work through form fixes? Did you read or DGCR to work stuff out,  or did it come more natural?

Alex: I'd like to start off by saying yes, I am a human. 

I've hit quite a few plateaus, but I always seem to break them pretty quickly.  I used to do a lot more field work than I do now due to time restraints, but that was always the fastest way to get myself from stalling. 

As far as DGCR forums and such, I never really got into that as I'm not the most tech-savvy person. I prefer to work things out myself. However, I was given some tips from other local big arms. 

HeavyDisc: Did you have any light-bulb moments, when you found that form changes really increased distance?

Alex: Personally, no. I have what most people like to call "weird" form, but it's what I found to be the most comfortable. I have a very short reach back and a lot of explosion in my hips and power coming from my lower body that helps with my distance.

HeavyDisc: Whoever calls your form "weird" doesn't know much about form. Outside of dg, did you play or excel at any sports that correlates to the backhand? 

Alex: Hockey was my life through high school and it's where I would say most of my power comes from. However, I also played baseball football, and lacrosse growing up. I still play pond hockey.

HeavyDisc: Ahh yes... HeavyDisc readers know all about my hockey hips! Go to distance disc?

Alex: Prodigy D1 for all occasions. Uphill, down-hill, distance, tail wind. D1.

HeavyDisc: Are there any thoughts running through your mind when you are throwing for distance.  Are the things you are focusing on different from when you are throwing golf shots?

Alex: Distance throwing is very different from golf throwing in many ways. For one, I will throw a disc that is considerably less stable than I would trust on any golf shot. 

It really comes down to how good you can read the wind and execute the shot - to get the most turn on your disc

I throw almost every golf shot with at least a touch of hyzer, and when going for big distance I throw even more hyzer to get the extra turn in the shot for more distance: hyzer-flipping if you will. Generally the height of the distance shot is about 3 times what it would be for a golf shot.

More Minnesota off-season training
HeavyDisc: Do you throw any ultra light discs in distance comps?  Is there a noticeable difference between throwing the light stuff from your perspective,  in terms of distance?

Alex: I tend to struggle with the light weight discs and prefer discs in the low 170's for distance throws. However, I have never thrown a light weight disc in high wind situations like they have at Big D in The Desert. 

I would be interested to see if I could get a light weight disc to come back for the full flight with those winds.

HeavyDisc: Do you have a set style of fieldwork or is it mostly playing rounds?

Alex: I used to go throw max distance shots out in the field and then throw them back to a target on golf lines. But as I stated earlier its been some time since I've been out for field work. Generally my practice these days comes while playing courses.

[Jason again]... so that was really great. Awesome to see a fellow Minnesota kid representing some serious skills. Alex is going to try to shoot some slow motion footage soon and I'd like to do a dedicated form breakdown similar to this one I did for Tyler Liebman

Can't thank Alex enough for his time and looking forward to seeing what 2016 has in store for him.

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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Disc Golf Pro Tour

Warming up pre-tournament. Always fun.
I don't typically get into tournament stuff, but Steve Dodge has always impressed me with his tournaments and how he handles himself. So when the DGProTour reached out to me to cover there new announcement - I said, "That sounds cool, but I gotta ask you some questions." They didn't mind, so here's the low down:

Hey man, this is interesting... so tell us what are the long term goals of the Pro tour?

To keep it short, in the long term we plan on being the premier pro tour in North America

Okay, bearing that in mind, you would basically be replacing the national tour in 2017 or beyond. Does that mean that all N-Tier tournaments would be under the umbrella of the DG Pro Tour?

Our goal is to increase the Pro Tour to have 12 to 14 events and to have every event in the tour be a premier event. If, in the future, the PDGA likes what we are doing and therefore decides to stop executing the National Tour, we would of course welcome any and all NTs to apply to be on the Pro Tour. The National Tour and Pro Tour are not mutually exclusive. In fact, our inaugural event, The Maple Hill Open presented by Vibram, is both a National Tour and a Pro Tour event.

Why is Steve hugging my grand mother?
Do you guys have goals for cash added or payouts that you're aiming for?

We would like each event to have a minimum $30,000+ FPO/MPO payout. The minimum amount of added cash that we ask is $10,000.

Big Jerm, dancing. Nobody understood why.
It doesn't take many tournament sign-ups to realize how quickly things get filled and pushed into long wait-lists. I believe Steve has had dedicated spots available in the past so that top level players aren't left in the cold if they can't get to a phone/computer at the right time. There's been some epic facebook/DGCR "discussions" about these situations. How are you planning on handling what will likely be a big # of players looking to get into these events?
At this point in time we are going to be giving recommendations to our events on how to go about doing a tiered registration process, where higher rated players have the ability to sign up first. The Maple Hill Open is already an event that players must qualify to play, and the Ledgestone Insurance Open already has a tiered process where 990+ rated players have first crack to sign up. As our events grow we will look to implement a consistent process to take care of the sign-up issue.

Any idea on the size of the events? #'s for MPO, WPO, Masters, Juniors, etc?

Our events will be focused on the showcase MPO/FPO divisions and those are the only divisions that will earn points towards the Tour Championship. In the long run, we foresee our events including the MPO and FPO divisions only. Pro Tour events will not be focused on age protected or junior divisions. Every event will vary in terms of the number of players, but our goal is around 15 to 25 FPO players and over 100 MPO players.

Anything else we should know?

Every event will have live coverage, scoring and statistics. Additionally, we will be building a festival concept within each tournament with the plan that this will draw in newer players and spectators to the game.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Shift Shift Pump the Breaks

HELLO. It's Jason. Whoooo? I know, I know. I sorta disappeared.

I'd call it a long stretch of blogging vacation. I had to check out of the internet world for a while, because of 2 big things:

1. Renovating my basement has taken up a vast majority of my free time. Concrete demo sucks.
2. I needed a break from the self analysis.

I wouldn't say that I ever lost the love of fieldwork, it's just that I started to miss the game of disc golf. I decided to (temporarily) pull the plug on form tweaking and blogging because I felt like I was too much in my own head and I really needed to get out and put the disc where it needed to go.

In the basket.

So let's get down to business. My fellow form nut, Sidewinder22 passes around Shawn Clement videos all the time, even though Clement is a ball golfer. Clement is a master of the golf swing and more importantly, he's very good at describing what we should be doing.

The beauty is that a ball golf swing is similar to a disc golf swing in all the key areas. So watching one of Clement's latest videos - he said something really amazing.

I'm going to paraphrase for the disc golf throw: during the back-swing, imagine that you're lined up to play tug of war with a person standing behind you. At the extension, imagine that you're lined up to play tug of war with a person standing IN FRONT of you.

I really want you to get up, outta that seat and keep your spine up-right, but set your hips and the pressure of your feet to be in the back-swing. (Some fools call it a reach back.) Maybe have a wife/girlfriend/boyfriend (who tolerates your insanity) hold onto your hand.

Feel the pressure. Ball of back foot only, HEEL UP. Keep your stance closed like it should be. The video above is able to show the forces of bracing back and then forward because I'm on a rug. Tug of war behind me, drives the rug backwards - then tug of war in front, drives the rug forward.

Switching to the extension of the disc (arm forward), set those hips to be ready to pull against that person in front of you. You're playing tug of war in TWO directions.

Now, here's the key: move from position 1 to position 2 and feel what happens to your body. Move back and forth! There's an axis through your core that is going to keep you in balance. If you're too far forward, you're going to start tipping. Too far back, you'll tip or get on your heel. Just right, through the axis of rotation and it's perfectly balanced and if feels so ridiculously powerful that you know you're onto something.

What I see very often in form critique requests, is that humans are good at setting up for the initial tug of war with the guy standing behind you. But when it comes time to brace to counter-balance your weight shifting around the axis, we fail to pull against the guy in front of us.

Ways I personally failed:
1. Zero front side bracing.
2. Barely front side bracing.
3. Too far over my disc front side
4. Not enough over my disc
5. Chin too far down
6. Back to #2
7. You name it, I was doing it wrong

If you can brace against the front side, then when you're pulling back on the rim of the disc during extension - you get a very powerful ejection.

Period. It's on par with feeling what the hit does for you. Timing of that brace with the disc extension is a big piece of the engine.
Below is Eagle McMahon winning the tug of war on the front side.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Nate's Road Journal Check-In

Mr. Sexton showing some textbook form.
By Jason Liebgott

After Nate Sexton sat down with us for the first interview - I thought it would be fun to check in with him along the way and see what's going on.

This question is a bit of a play on the last time I emailed you: If you could hop in a time machine and have a conversation with the pre-2015 tour Nate Sexton, what would you tell him? I have to think that you've learned some touring-life lessons along the way!

I don't think I would change much, touring with Paul in the rig that he has this season is a great way to go! I am tempted to say that I would advise my younger self to get out on the National Tour earlier but I am not sure it would have been as good an idea back then with nothing but an old car to travel in. So far I don't have any regrets!

What has life on the tour clarified for you?

Eating well can be difficult, some areas of the United States do not yet know about good food. Some days the country feels really big, and other days it feels like we could drive to anywhere and be there sometime in the middle of the night tomorrow.

Do you feel like you're seeing a plan start to form for your place in the industry as a full time job?

I am starting to think about my place within disc golf going forward. I do feel like there will be a full time job for me once I hang up the discs.

What's the hardest struggle been?

Time away from my wife is far and away the most difficult part of playing on the tour.

Do you feel that there's added pressure on you that comes with touring with Paul?

No, maybe if my face was huge on the side of the RV I would. I feel fortunate to be able to practice and play with Paul, he takes the game seriously and his play constantly reminds me that I am not good enough yet.

2016 Innova Sexton Proto (Classified)

Have you discovered anything about your game this season? Any specific shots that are needing work? Any form tweaks going on? Do you find yourself thinking less and committing more to the shot you know you have?

Somewhat, I know I still need work on my backhand power game through tight tunnels or near OB. I have made some strides but I still feel that most of my mistakes come from not fully committing to those shots.

Has anybody surprised you with their game? Maybe somebody you recently met or have seen them coming on strong this season?
Lots of people, Anthony Barela, Zach Melton, Eagle McMahon, Nate Tomlinson, Calvin Heimburg, to name a few. (Psst, I added some videos for each of these guys)

Does a tour like this have you feeling like you'd want to continue doing it next year? 

At this point I would be interested in touring again next season. I think I would need to build in more trips home to see my wife though.

Did the fundraising for St. Jude have an impact on you?

It was fun, I worked really hard at it and I am proud of the money I was able to raise. If I can be involved again next year I will work even harder to help Disc Golf make a positive impact on our world.

Music Trivia

1. Song for getting ready before a tournament.

Paul takes care of these, he has some good ones. We usually listen to Kid Ink - Hell and Back.

2. Song for driving across a never ending stretch of TX.

I like Conor Oberst in one form or another. Bright Eyes, or Mystic Valley Band.

 3. Song for beers after the round is over.

Dawes - When My Time Comes

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Putting: At the Beginning

By TAFL Hols

First apologies for the delay in getting to this post. A lot of life has happened over the past several weeks, including my mother going in and out of the hospital and my wife breaking her ankle in three places (which means extra work hours for me). The arrival of monsoon season (sooo much rain) and not making it to the course also helped put a damper on things.

The previous two posts of mine looked at what I want to see at the end of a putt and during the flight of a putt. This post looks at the beginning of a putt--the part that determines what actually happens during the rest of it.

The first thing I want at the beginning of a putt is a motion that is repeatable. Properly, a motion that is accurately repeatable. I want to be able to train my muscles to make the same motion time after time, with an absolute minimum of variance.

The next thing I want of my putting stroke is the ability to put the disc on the exact line I want. For putting without having to curve around an obstacle, that means putting the disc on a line direct to the basket. When there's an obstacle to curve around, it means being able to provide the necessary turn to clear the obstacle, using the same basic stroke.

The means I use to achieve these ends is a spin putt technique. My upper arm moves in a single plane--vertically. It begins lowered and raises during the stroke, with the amount it gets raised determining the loft of the putt. The other hinges of the arm--wrist and elbow--are used to provide the spin and angles. The wrist is the primary generator of spin. The elbow helps provide drive for longer putts and help provide the hyzer/anhyzer angles necessary for bending putts around obstacles.

So, on short putts, only the wrist bends to provide the spin on the disc. Between the drive provided by the wrist, the forward shift of weight, and the loft provided by the rest of the arm rising vertically, the disc has enough speed to get to the basket. On longer putts, the elbow bends to add power/distance. The upper arm provides the line and the elbow and wrist bend during the backswing and then snap back into line with the upper arm for the delivery.

I work to keep my torso from interfering with the movement of the disc during the backswing. It appears to me that I line up with my body closer to perpendicular to the basket than most people. When I shift my weight onto the rear leg and draw back my hips, this seems to clear more room for the disc on the drawback/backswing and less interference from the torso. Or so it feels to me.

Now, push putting, as I understand it, locks the entire arm into a single unit and uses the weight shift and some springy fingers to launch the disc on a straight line. This makes for a repeatable stroke, certainly, as there are no hinges bending then realigning. The times I tried this approach, I couldn't shape lines worth a darn and gave up trying straight away.

One can stand broadside and deliver the disc in much the same fashion as an approach shot, a technique that meets the general requirements I have for putting. Indeed, I use this style at times. I've found that it's more difficult for me to have fine control over the loft of a putt, however, so I've not adopted it as my primary putting style.

I've discounted the chicken wing approach as having more hinges moving around than I'm comfortable using. The addition of the shoulder moving in more than one axis seems to be too much work for me to lock in accurately, especially when I may go long periods without much play.

Different players find different techniques useful, obviously. There are players who consistently putt well using techniques different from mine. I offer up what I do and how I think about it as a way of helping other players think about what they do. Close consideration of how one plays is how one figures out how to get better, I reckon, so is a useful exercise.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Importance of the Non-dominant Side

By Christopher Lard

All of my disc golf career I haven't paid any attention to my left arm. I throw RHBH, and I've thought endlessly about my right hand, wrist, arm, shoulder as well as my legs, feet, and hips. Careful consideration has been given to spine angle, weight distribution, and head placement but I have utterly ignored the left (non-dominant) side of my upper body.

So, obviously, my most recent distance breakthrough came from activating my left side. As far as I can tell this comes in two main parts. First you use the left side to pull the upper body around with more tension during the backswing, and then, once the weight shifts, the chest and core create a springboard to rotate the right side through faster.

Loading the Backswing

This part clicked for me while watching a Simon Lizotte clinic.

Right at the 10:20 mark he says that in a full reach back you should really be using your left shoulder to pull your body around. This loading of the backswing with the left shoulder is what makes the unloading of the tension so effective.

Unloading the Backswing

I can't begin to guess how much I've watched Paul McBeth slow motion videos, but it's a lot. One thing that he does very obviously is pull his left arm in with his chest and core right as the weight is shifting to the front foot. Focus on the action of the left arm beginning at around 8 seconds.

He goes from having the left arm lagging behind to abruptly pulling it in to his midline creating tension that springs his right side open with a ton of added force. If you could see his chest and core right now I guarantee every muscle would be tense The timing of this action is extremely important, but once your left side goes from being weight that is slowing down your rotation to tension that speeds it up the difference is amazing. It brings a truly explosive feeling to the throwing motion that is unlike anything else I've experienced. The difference between a left side that lags behind and one that assists the rotation will give a completely different feeling to the end of the throw. My right side feels like it's being sprung open by my left upper body, and it gives a strong feeling of late acceleration.

Above is a comparison of my current form (top) and my form back in November (bottom). There are lots of differences here, but the thing I want to focus on is the action of the left side starting right at 35 seconds. Just as the weight transfers to my front foot I bring my left shoulder and arm through to create tension in my upper body that will power my body open through the rotation. Compare that to the bottom throw where you can see that my left side is lagging behind sapping power out of the rotation.

When I worked this into my swing I accidentally did it in reverse, and in retrospect I think that is the best way to go about it. If you are already throwing 350'+ then your backswing is probably adequate, and adding in the unloading, forward action (like McBeth) will be immediately beneficial once the timing is down. The added turn that you get during the backswing from the added loading action only really makes sense once you have a feel for unloading what you already have. As with any motion, I would add this in doing stand still throws before adding it to an x step. Timing is essential, and the x step makes all timing about 10x harder.

One of the difficulties I encountered early on when trying to bring these concepts to my throw is that I would tighten up the rest of my body even though I only wanted to tighten up parts of my left side. When trying to implement this be sure to keep everything (other than the left side during the inward pull of the left arm) loose and relaxed as usual. Tension in your body can only work for you when it's localized with the proper timing.

I hope this helps others as much as it has helped me! As always, any feedback or comments are appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dust your shoulders off

By Jason

Was trying to think of a good title about shoulders, and that led me to Jay-Z (... cause I'm straight with the Roc). By the way, who knew that Jay-Z played disc golf - let alone that he'd be a Roc fan?! Wonder if he throws old CE Rocs? Anyways, I've spent quite a bit of time thinking on shoulders and something started "hmmmm'ing" in my brain. To the video archive I went, to start going frame by frame to really figure this out.

I eventually grabbed a pen and paper and drew up a sketch and the cogs kept turning, then the paper turned into a mess and I went to the computer for some high-class photoshopping:

Looks pretty normal, but then something jumped out at me: notice how on the second line - the angle of the shoulders to the upper arm DECREASED? Did I just screw up the image?

No. The timing of the shoulders opening (turning to face the target), will actually be a part of where the power comes from.

Bear with me on this, because I believe it's one of the hidden secrets that rarely gets talked about, because honestly it's sneaky and not readily visible (and it happens really fast).

As you guide the disc to your center chest or even the right pec, the proper timing will have your shoulders aimed right along the line you're throwing on. As you start extending the disc forward, your shoulders are still coming though, catching up to a point where the upper arm is at a 90° from the shoulders.

At that point, you have a muscle base of shoulders/lats/triceps that are going to create a natural frame that will hold that position. MikeC below demonstrating what I'm talking about. Specifically, let's check out frame 5, 6,7, and 8 to see how much the shoulders open as the disc pretty much stays put.

The shoulders open, but the disc stays put... building up a natural constraint that gets loaded up full of potential energy. In screen shot 8, I put the discs in there to show the full power pocket - and in my mind, this answers a question I see all the time: what is the thing that allows you to throw faster?

For a very long time I was thinking that it must have been the bracing that delivering all the power, but while EXTREMELY important, there was something else going on because I was able to throw some long drives with no x-step and no real shifting (just good posture).

You hit an elasticity constraint when your upper arm is fighting to stay at 90 degrees, being compressed and then pushed open by the opening shoulders. The shoulders are driving the lever system open.

If you're right handed, reach back and feel your right lat (side back muscle) and then feel your left one. Right one is going to be more developed. We use that muscle to lock the arm into the 90° position, and swing that sucker open. I have quite a bit more "meat" on the right side.

Let me warn you: it's easy to over open. Over opening would be getting the shoulders open before that disc is at the center chest/right pec. Paul McBeth, above, keeps that upper body closed until that magic 90° angle is locked in, so that the opening will drive the full arm open. Open too soon, and you're going to drag the disc and lose the rigidity of the system that you need to take advantage of to get the goods.

Wanted to also tell you guys what's been up with me, personally. I resigned a job that I'd had for the last 8 years and took a new gig. It's been pretty difficult balancing the new job and then immediately contracting for the old job after hours, trying to play disc golf / field work and keep the kids on schedule for piano practice, classes, play dates and then of course doing my taxes. I do get quite a few emails from you awesome people, and lately it's been much harder to write back very quickly, so please be patient with me. If you're looking for specific form analysis, I strongly suggest DGCR as a fantastic resource of very wise players - and they even have a dedicated section for form review.

Things should hopefully settle down in the not-so-distant-future, but right now I'm barely keeping my head above water. But a blizzard just arrived in Denver, so it's okay - I was needing a forced rest anyways!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Mental Game

By Brian Castello

I usually talk form technique in my articles but I'm taking a small detour to talk about the most important, yet most often overlooked part of disc golf: the mental game.

Tournament season is now in full swing and after an offseason of taking an extended time off from playing rounds and just doing field work I decided to play in a tournament. I am a very competitive person and love playing in tournaments. However, playing tournaments while your making swing changes can be rough. I found out first hand. Enter the fragile mind of a disc golfer if you dare.

I started the round out great for me I was shooting par through 9 holes and I was on track to shoot within a few strokes of par. I was exactly where I wanted to be, but then I made a dumb decision. My tee shot landed about 15 ft from the basket. Sounds great except I had putt through a gap between two trees for the birdie. My gut instinct was to lay up  around the trees and take my par. I ignored that went for the birdie and it kicked off one of the trees. I then preceded to miss my par putt. Bogey. I was angry at myself and I made the crucial error of taking that anger to the next hole.

The next hole was tricky. Distance wise it was driveable but its way too technical to get there on your drive. The smart play is a placement shot to the landing zone. That's exactly what I did. My tee shot landed a little bit right of where I wanted, but when I got to my lie I realized I was actually in good shape. I had about a 150 ft forehand upshot to the basket. I'm usually very comfortable with this shot. I'm better at forehand upshots than with my backhand. I sawed off my shot way early into the woods.

"Not again! You're just going to keep making those stupid mistakes aren't you." That's what entered my mind and my solid round snowballed out of control. My day was over from that point on. The mental onslaught continued the rest of the day. I ended the round with 4 bogies and 2 double bogies. The second round was worse.

Anger leads to doubt; doubt leads to mistrust. Play disc golf like that and your toast. There is a great book for golf called "Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect". We have talked about it here on Heavy Disc before and for good reason. Here is a great excerpt from it that summarizes things nicely.

Getting angry is one of your options. But if you choose to get angry, you are likely to get tighter. That's going to hurt your rhythm and your flow. It will upset you and distract you. It will switch on your analytical mind and your tendency to criticize and analyze everything you do that falls short of perfection. It will start you thinking about the mechanical flaws in your swing. and trying to correct them.
A strong mental game is what separates good players from great players. Let take Paul McBeth for example. Why is he the best player in the world right now? Let me tell you it's not because of any physical skill he has. What?!?! He's one of the best probably in every disc golf category you could think of. That definitely is a part of the reason and helps make him a great player; however, you could find other professional players with similar skill sets. His mental game is top notch and that is what sets him apart. Watch any commentary on him playing and you will hear comments like he's got "ice water in his veins" and the like. In other words, he's got a strong mental game. He keeps himself focused only on the next shot at hand and lets the previous shots go.

The author continues.
Alternatively, you could train yourself to accept the fact that as a human being, you are prone to mistakes. Golf is game played by human beings. Therefore, golf is a game of mistakes.
The best golfers strive to minimize mistakes, but they don't expect to eliminate them. And they understand that it's most important to respond well to the mistakes they inevitably make. 
Did I make mistakes in the 1st round where started off playing well? Absolutely. The difference was my mindset. There is power in positive thinking. Don't think so? Play a round and completely dog yourself whenever you make a mistake. The next round whenever you make a mistake be uplifting and positive. I'm sure you'll find the results more satisfying and the round more fun. A strong mental game helps keep a good round from going bad, and can help turn a good round into a great one. You just have to trust in the preparation and work you have put into your game.

Lesson learned again the hard way. I'll work on not being so stubborn next time.

Here is some great resources to help improve your mental game.
"Golf is Not A Game of Perfect" by Bob Rotella
"Golf is A Game of Confidence" by Bob Rotella
"Zen & The Art Of Disc Golf" by Patrick McCormick

Monday, March 9, 2015

How I learned to love the hyzer

I got the following email from a reader (Lee) who shared the following thoughts. I added by reply below his email. I love getting emails like this from readers! Makes my day, that's for sure.

Click to see full size
To: Jason
From: Lee
Subject: Blog Suggestions

I just wanted to tell you that I've really enjoyed reading your blog. Your honesty and dedication really ring true. I think it’s great because you aren't a top pro telling someone how to throw 500 feet. You are a regular guy like all of us out here who love playing and just want to figure out how to improve. Your backhand info has completely changed my game. I’m still a work in progress, but the gains have been obvious and I’m enjoying being out there more now that I have something to latch on to in terms of technique.

In looking at the content of your blog and noticed that a huge portion of your blog is dedicated to throwing far.  What I don’t see too much of is advice on how to actually play the game well. I’d like to hear more about how to approach strategy. Arnold Palmer once said that if he had to play against a weekend golfer and had the exact same skill set, he would still win 99% of the time. He said this was due to understanding how to score well. When to go for it, when to hold back, how to play a high percentage shot, etc. It really stuck with me. I’m probably never going to throw 500 feet, but If I can manage to play higher percentage shots decently, I should be able to beat my friends. It seems to me amateurs really need to know how to avoid trouble. I’d figure I throw 5-7 bad shots per round which isn’t a ton, but if each one costs me a stroke, then that’s 5-7 strokes I can make up if I can just manage to not throw the terrible shot. Some of these are drives, but many are approaches and putts.

So I’ve been really working on getting those 5-7 strokes back. Of course I work on driving technique too, but I really wanted to clean up my short game because that’s the quickest and most accessible area that can be utilized in game. So for upshots I’ve been I’ve been playing a game (sees attached image) where I throw 10 discs (putters and midrange) and try to park them within my putting comfort zone (You can do this at any park by just picking a tree or something). If I land in that area, I give myself a point. If I land outside my comfort zone but still within the putting circle (I’m solid to about 25ft.), then I score it a zero. If any disc lands outside the circle, I subtract a point. I play to 10 with each kind of throw (hyzer, straight, anny, forehand and backhand, etc.). I start at 125’ out and work my way out to 225’ from the target. Lastly, I count how many throws of 10 discs does it take to actually score 10 points. If I threw every disc perfectly, then I would reach 10 pts. with just 10 discs.

The effect of this game has been profound on my scores. Not only have I shaved 4-5 strokes off my score, I learned what each disc does in a very specific way. I also learned in terms of percentage how effective a shot actually is. Say, for example, I played the game three times (hyzer, straight, and anny). It typically takes me 13-20 hyzer throws to get to 10 points, it takes me 22-30 straight throws to get to 10 pts., and it takes 20-40 anny shots to get me the 10 points. This information is huge! That means that my hyzer throw is twice as effective in getting me to my putting comfort zone than an anny. I learned that if I face about 10 degrees to the right of the target, my disc on a hyzer line will land about 15 ft. to the right of the target and ultimately stop right on the pin.

I also try to play this game with obstacles. I realized that a lot of strokes that always cost me typically come from being in a weird spot and trying to throw out of it. So with that I learned what throws will work and also (maybe more importantly) when I should just toss the disc back to the fairway and know that it’s the better move.

This game has totally changed my scores and I’m beating some friends who are much higher rated than I am. It’s increased confidence in a huge way because I know that as long as I can get the disc to around 175’ or closer to the pin, I should hit par at worst. Most holes are only 300-400 feet, so that means I only need a throw of 200-300 feet and I should be fine. Knowing that I don’t need a huge dive has taken the effort off my drives and now they actually go farther and are more accurate. At most bigger courses, shooting par would be a great round (for me). If there are a few shorter holes then going under par is pretty easy.

Anyway, I know there are probably a million things that can be talked about in terms of lowering the score of a round. I’d love to see how you would approach that topic.

Also,  in addition to that upshot game, I have been steadfastly playing the "driven 1025" putt app on my iPhone. I figure the best chance I have to score well is by increasing my putt range combined with parking an upshot closer to the pin. The more the upshot landing zone and the comfort putt zone overlap, the better off I will be. : )

Keep up the great work. : )

To: Lee
From: Jason
Subject: RE: Blog Suggestions

Awesome stuff Lee, do you mind if I post that on the site?! I think it's a great game and one that's really similar to something I do with my fieldwork.

Check out the "Knowing your Strengths" section.

I've written a few times about trying to improve my strategic game, but my opinion is that once you develop a firm understanding of what your shot selection is - and fully understand your bag and how each disc mold handles wind/power/angles (which is NO small task) - then it becomes about getting out of your own way and fully committing to putting the disc in the basket WHEN you believe it's inside your ability.

I'm at a very VERY strange place right now, where I've been hitting metal from 50' almost half the time in rounds. Yesterday I hit 2 "putts" from 10-20' outside the circle at a tags match. Then I air-mailed a 60'er that cost me a long come-backer that I chained out on for a bogey. I'm trying to figure it out myself in terms of what is the better play and quite often it comes down to the consequences of the miss. Am I putting down hill or on hard-pan that'll slide the disc away from the basket? Am I in grass or snow or mud that'll eat the disc like Velcro? How hard will I have to throw the disc to be chain high without being a huge lob?

I'm very much trying to put that stuff together in my own mind.

Learning that from 250' and closer you're in for 2 at a very high % gives you so much confidence to play smarter and most importantly - knowing that the hyzer is your single most powerful shot in terms of accuracy is a complete game changer. Over and over and over, watching MPO footage - you see top card players throwing the hyzer. If it's inside of 400' - I'm throwing a hyzer if it's available. I go more nose down to add some distance or decrease the hyzer angle, but it is coming out of my hand on a hyzer - and that alone as almost completely removed errant disc-flips from my game.

know your hyzer!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Downward Tilt

A quick intro: zj1002 is a screen name that I came to know and respect very quickly as I poured through DGR and DGCR Form/Technique. I was rather impressed when I realized zj1002 was the guy that Yeti used as his example in this video to demonstrate the power of hips in your drive. Here he is blasting putters like they're drivers. He knows his stuff and puts on clinics, plays lots of tournaments and coaches other players - so I quickly jumped on the chance to have him start writing some of his knowledge down! I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I did! - Jason
The Downward Tilt - Manipulating Angles and Creating Leverage.
By Zachery Jansen (PDGA # 39386)

Hello to all my fellow disc golfers. 

I want to start by thanking HeavyDisc for giving me the opportunity to write about disc golf technique.

Sometime around 2008 I found myself obsessed with a new hobby - throwing a disc as far as I possibly could. Back then I never thought I would actually fly my dreams this far. It led to a job with the wonderful crew at Disc Nation and a professional sponsorship with the Legacy Discs family.

Everything I learned about technique can be found on the beautifully confusing technique forums(DGR). I don’t think I could write this post without giving credit to the community Blake T fostered on DGR.

So I think its only fitting I focus my first article on one of the videos that changed everything for me - my lightbulb moment. The clip below of Discmania CEO Jussi Meresmaa popped up on DGR 4 or 5 years ago.

The DGR forum hive was curious -- Why did he turn the "inside" of the disc downward on the reach-back? Is there an actual benefit to it this style?

What you see with Jussi is a technique taken to its extreme. Turning the inside of the disc downward on the reach-back creates two main advantages for the thrower when timed properly:

  1. It creates extreme nose down angles for added distance
  2. It keeps the disc close to the body so it can extend through the power zone

What I call the inside of the disc, is the side closest to the body during the start of the throw. The outside being where our hand is on the disc. Its important to understand that in an ideal throw you want to leverage the inside of the disc forward. You are using your technique on the outside of the disc to leverage the inside of the disc around until it propels forward. This means that while may it initially looks like an anhyzer angle, when you open your body forward it turns into a nose down hyzer angle.

Check out this clip of Garret Gurthie from an old Innova video:

As Garrets body moves forward, he drives toward the target with his hips, shoulders, and elbow. This brings the disc in closer to the body/chest, allowing it to easily pass into the hit zone. I find with most people, this is where things are going wrong: do not uncoil the forearm before the disc reaches the right pec area

When this happens, it becomes harder to hold onto the disc and early releases occur, zapping power and accuracy. By turning the inside of the disc downward it makes it easier to hold onto the disc through the right pec (for RHBH) and into the power zone.

The longer you can hold onto the outside of the disc through the power zone as the arm uncoils, the more potential distance and accuracy you will have. As Garrets arm uncoils the disc ends up on the exact same line it was on during the reach-back. 

This technique doesn't just apply to throwing nose down hyzers. It can be used to understand how to manipulate any angle you want to create the leverage you need to throw with more accuracy and distance. I also want to clarify that reaching back is a direct result of turning the hip and shoulder back. As you open these parts of the body forward, it brings the arm in tight to the right pec.

When trying to copy a new style or technique -- learn how the mechanics of it can help your throw. 

We all have different body types, so not every style fits every person. If you are having trouble holding onto the disc through the power/hit zone, then this should help improve. Focus on the principles of a technique, and adapt it to your own form.

Okay, Jason here again. I wanted to also share this video of Zachery. If you've watched me throw on my youtube channel, you may notice that I take a very similar motion. That's for good reason. I found this video of his, and at the same time SW22 posted this one from Shawn Clement on balance. It clicked in such a big way that balance (like Zachery was displaying) was exactly what I needed to start forcing myself to do. It really was a great moment for my form and my accuracy.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Making a Swing Change: Part 3

Chris here. I'm back with the 3rd and final part in my series on making swing changes. In part 1 I outlined a process that works for me, and in part 2 I went over some of the mental game involved with practice. In part 3 let's talk about taking these changes from the field to the course.

Playing Rounds Slows Progress

In my experience, it's very difficult to make steady form progress while regularly playing rounds. A big part of this is that when you get on the course and want to make a shot your body is going to default back to the way you normally throw. So, if you go out and throw a round or two of golf when you just spent hours in the field the past couple of days then you may well be undoing (or at least lessening the effectiveness) all of that hard work.

This is no fun. I want to play rounds of disc golf in my local leagues, AND I want to make form changes simultaneously. There are a few different ways of handling this:

  1. Don't play rounds until your change is solid. This is probably the fastest way to improve, but it's not a lot of fun.
  2. Practice during your rounds. While not the ideal place to practice, I've found that I can take my field work on to the course with some mental discipline. The issue with this is that people generally want to score well, and if you treat your tee shots like field work you won't score well. I've had success with this by going into the round completely understanding that this round isn't about scoring. It's about enjoying the game I love and the company of my friends. This is my favorite option, and the one I think is best if you are a social golfer. If you go this route I would highly encourage you to get 20-30 minutes of field work in before the round starts so that you can get a feel for whatever the thing is that you are working on, and hang on to that feeling through the round.
  3. Practice during the off season. If you're the kind of person who plays lots of tournaments, and performing well in the is really important to you then only make form changes during the off season. Obviously this seriously limits the time you have available to improve, but it's better than nothing.
  4. Improve very slowly or, possibly, not at all. This was the option that I stuck with all of last year, and I have to say that I don't like it. I played too many rounds where my focus was entirely on scoring well, and the productive field work that I had was hamstrung by reverting back to my old form the second I played a league round. If you are reading this blog then this isn't for you. Avoid this painful cycle.
Practice to Perform

The first year I played in any tournaments was 2013. That year I did lots of field work and played lots of rounds, but I was NOT trying to change my form. Most of my field work involved taking a bag of discs to the field and trying to hit lines. All that year I consistently finished in the top few in Men's Advanced. In 2014 I decided to move up to MPO, and also start refining my form. I knew I had issues, but I hadn't really bothered to change make any big changes up to that point. In 2014 my rating dropped, and I was not performing nearly as well in tournaments as I had in 2013. My form was better than before. My putting was better than before. It took me a long time, and some reading to figure out what the main difference was: all of my practice in 2014 was focused on changing my form rather than working with the form I had.

Chances are that you are reading this because you want to change your form, and NOT just stick with the form you have. If you are like me then you spend a lot of your time in the field working on consciously changing some facet of your form. Just this morning I got in a couple dozen throws, and the whole time I was focusing on bracing and staying closed into the hit. This is perfectly fine, but if you spend all of your practice time thinking about your form then when you get on the course you are going to be thinking about your form. Playing to score well and thinking about your form don't work well together. To score well you have to trust your throw to do what you want.

Dr. Bob Rotella explains this perfectly in Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect. Dr. Rotella calls these two different ways of practicing "training" and "trusting." Training is practice in which you consciously and deliberately work on changing the way you do something. This is form work. Trusting is practice where your only focus is executing the shot required, and you trust your body to execute that shot. You can TRUST your body to produce the shot because you know that you TRAINED it to produce that shot when needed.

Paul is the picture of trusting

The other important thing to understand about training and trusting is that one of them is going to become your dominant habit, and it will be the one you default to when the pressure is on. Luckily you get to decide which one is your dominant habit by making that habit the one you spend the majority of your time doing. This means that in order to make trusting your default behavior you have to spend, for example, 60% of your practice trusting and 40% of it training.

If you don't mind the fact that your scoring ability will be temporarily impaired and making changes as fast as possible is the most important thing to you then you can spend the majority of your time training. Just understand that to score well you have to work yourself back in to a trusting mentality.  If you can manage your expectations and understand the relationship between your practice and your performance on the course then it doesn't matter how much you trust or train.

These concepts help me play and practice more effectively, and I hope they will help you too. I always enjoy feedback so if any of this helped you or you have any additional insights I'd love to hear them. Thanks for reading!