Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pulling out of the death spiral

There's something I see happen during rounds (in my game and others) that I call "playing for bogey"... and the most common ways that this happens is that the player ends up throwing shots that aren't fully committed.

It can be that they're not aiming for a landing zone. It can be that they are not comfortable or grounded physically in the motion that needs to happen. It can be that they are forcing a risky shot for some stubborn reason.

I struggle MIGHTILY with this on shots where the basket is on a hill that I don't want to throw over or if there is any big elevation change (up or down). Suddenly my default shot is NOT what I think I need to throw. I start considering forehands, overhands, discing up in stability or down in stability... when the reality is that if somebody walked out into the field in front of me and pointed at the ground 15' from the basket and said, grab a mid-range and hit this spot - I'd probably just do it.

I like to (ideally) come up with the highest percentage shot available to me, which is almost always going to be a hyzer. I try to take the disc that skips the least, putter, mid, fairway, drivers and then I spot the exact spot on the ground that I want to hit.

Hyzers are predictable. Stable discs are predictable. Throwing a stable mid on a hyzer - all you have to do is account for the fade and how far you want to throw it. If you've got the skill to lay an anhyzer gently over that will break like a surgeons knife, then awesome. I don't have that ready to tap into in pressure situations - so I go with my best option.

Let me just own up to this: I've had the jitters in a tournament and played way below what I thought was my level. Sometimes I shake it off and stay in the hunt. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I play well, then my luck goes sideways and stays bad.

There are physical reactions to stress and worry that are completely counter to fluid physical movement. Stress tightens your muscles, makes your hands numb, and that's a bad feeling.

I've stepped up to shots where it felt like I couldn't FEEL the disc. The disc felt like it weighed 5g instead of 175g. That's horrible and doesn't end well.

This is not unique to disc golf. Rory 4 putted the same hole, two days in a row. Watch that video if you want to see some torture.

So what we can do, is to counter-act the physical reactions that come with stress, with mental and physical tools. What calms you down? What can you imagine that is just completely calming? Physically, we know that breathing slowly and fully will relax muscles and deep breaths will change your stress levels.

For me, it's the idea of my kids sleeping like a sack of potatoes in their beds. They are just hilarious sleepers. That idea takes me out of the situation and lets me put my thoughts else where.

While I'm waiting for my turn to throw, that's what I'm doing. I've assessed the shot, then I go into another place mentally. I am trying to be as liquid as possible even as I approach the teebox. I want to force my mind to see the line of the disc, like a light arcing through the fairway to the landing zone of the disc. I imagine that I'm as loose as a tiger moseying down the avenue, nothing tense at all.

If I do those things, then my shot was a success. If it went OB, it was a success. If it went where I wanted it to go, it was a success. My measure for success, is not where the disc eventually lands, but how I prepare for the shot.

If I miss a putt off the rim, then that is what it is. Did I line up, see the path, aim and slowly exhale? Yes? Then it was a successful putt.

Seems like some hippy dippy bull-pucky, but it works.

Finally, to address the frustration that comes with seeing other's playing at a high level without putting nearly the effort in that we have:

My skill comes from work. I want it to be smart work, but it's still work. Personally, I take great pride in the work I put into the field. The pride is not from necessarily playing the highest level of tournament golf or tags rounds,  but of looking at my entire history of learning this sport and what has happened to my game. My own labor of field work has done amazing things for my ability to make the disc fly.

There's casual rounds that I play sometimes that I feel like I can do anything. I feel like an ace is coming,  and wham! I smash metal!! It's not natural talent, but the hours upon hours of work that make that happen.

Climo said it: patience. We have to have patience with the game. With our skill. With our knowledge.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Zach... we're gonna have to rally for a winter round, especially if it stays warm.

  2. Another great HD piece. I had a tournament this year on a very intimidating course (Camp of the Tall Pines), where I kept twisting and torquing to get over or around the wide and deep and TALL Pines. I would have done better to take a breath and throw shots that are in my everyday 'wheelhouse'. Committing to that the rest of the year helped a lot. Relax and play the course, don't let it play you.