Be a sponge part 2: Paying attention to detail

By Jack Trageser — RattlingChains.com Staff

The previous post under this heading (To play better disc golf . . . be a sponge!) didn’t focus on the absorbent characteristics of a sponge, but rather the practice of “wringing out” every bit of talent and knowledge one already possesses to maximize performance.

In a nutshell, everyone will make errors in execution at one time or another, and it’s unavoidable. It happens less to better, more consistent players, but it happens. However, mental errors are much more systemic and can usually be avoided or even practically eliminated with the proper mindset.

This post goes back to the absorbent nature of the sponge, with three specific suggestions on how to soak up new information that can help you improve.

  1. Observe and learn from players that are much better than you;
  2. Observe your own game from a detached, analytical viewpoint;
  3. Listen to your body.

Observe and learn from players that are much better than you

The key to this bit of advice is the fact that players is plural. Don’t just pick one player whose game you admire and try to emulate him or her. He or she may have an unconventional style that doesn’t work for most other people (like Nate Doss’ putting technique), or maybe his or her physical capabilities far exceed yours.

Instead, observe all players whose games you admire, and try to identify traits and habits that they have in common. For instance, nearly all top players do several things exactly the same when it comes to putting, like following through in an exaggerated way.

If you pay attention, you’ll also notice something about those players who do well because they are consistent as well as talented: they keep their emotions in check.

Players who show great abilities in stretches but rarely win in the end, on the other hand, tend to get really excited when good things happen and throw tantrums or berate themselves when bad things occur. See if you can observe these trends in others when you’re on the course, and absorb the meaning of the correlations.

Observe your own game from a detached, analytical viewpoint

There are more formal and less formal ways to do this. On the formal side, consider keeping score during all your rounds for a few months as you would in a tournament, hole by hole. Compile the scores on basic spreadsheets — one for each course you regularly play.

After you’ve got 20 or so rounds compiled for a given course, do some basic math to see what your average score looks like on each hole. Examine the trends you see in the numbers, then compare the proven reality of those results with the preconceived notions with which you approach each hole.

For instance, you may see that after playing a given par 3 hole 20 times, you recorded three birdies, nine pars, six bogies, and two double-bogies. That means that your scoring average for that hole was 3.35, well over par. If your strategy on that particular hole is to play for a birdie off the tee, you’re likely hurting your scoring chances just by making an unwise decision. You only had three birdies in the past 20 tries, after all, while during the same span collecting six bogies and two doubles!

Armed with information like this, you can improve your scoring simply by remembering that that hole is a deceptive trap, changing your strategy on the tee to one that aims for a routine par rather than a not-so-realistic birdie attempt.

The best way to explain the less formal way of observing and analyzing your own game is to provide a recent personal example.

On hole 23 at DeLaveaga one day, I decided to swing my lefty drive out wide to the right-side pin placement, around a large oak in the middle. As I watched the result, my initial reaction was that it went too straight and long, and would likely hit trees before being able to finish it’s hyzer skip to the right. I was happily surprised to see that the disc had indeed gotten close to the basket, ending up 20 feet below the cage.

Rather than just appreciating my good fortune, hitting the putt for birdie and moving on, I asked myself why. In asking that question, I realized that recent clearing work done on the hole had removed the trees and brush I would have hit in the past, and I further concluded that this change makes the outside route the clear choice for me in the future.

If you’re constantly asking yourself questions on the course and trying to learn things, you’re bound to improve merely by expanding your knowledge base. Plus, it’s a good way to make even bad-scoring rounds productive.

Listen to your body

You’ve heard that phrase before, but what does it really mean?

Obviously it is not to be taken literally. The creaking sound in my back and clicking sound in my knees doesn’t tell me much besides the fact that I am getting older. Listening to your body simply means paying close attention to how it feels.

No, this isn’t a get in touch with your feelings kind of thing, either. Just be really aware of what it feels like to, for instance, stretch your hand out toward the basket while following through on a putt. Think about how you can feel that stretch all the way from your shoulder through your fingertips.

Muscle memory results from repeating a motion again and again. Do something enough times and your body eventually is able to replicate the motion in a a more automatic, natural way. By active awareness of how your body feels when you putt or throw the right way, you’ll speed up the process of muscle memory. So listen (to your body) and learn!

Disc golf is a sport that can be enjoyed on many levels. Going out in the fresh air and getting exercise by flinging discs with friends is a great way to spend a few hours. But on the fun-o-meter, if that’s all you’re doing you’re just scratching the surface of disc golf’s potential. Observing, learning, and improving lets you tap into a whole other realm.

Jack Trageser is the founder of School of Disc Golf and is a writer for RattlingChains.com. You can reach him at jack@rattlingchains.com.

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