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.