by Andre Fredrick — RattlingChains.com staff
Let’s talk about trees, folks.
My life as a disc golfer began its incubation in the Midwest, in the lovely state of Minnesota. While trees certainly came into play there, it wasn’t until I started throwing in Oregon that I realized just how much a threat they pose to my scorecard.
Trees are everywhere out here, from narrow saplings to massive pines. Big or small, a well-placed tree can quickly devastate your score, knocking your drive down to a measly 50-feet, or sending an approach shot into the rough.
Granted, there are times that I thank the heavens for trees, be it because of a helpful kick or stopping an errant shot from going as wide as it may have.
Ultimately, however, this is just pure luck and luck is never something one should count on to save par and keep their score low.
It could be argued that hitting trees to the detriment of one’s score is just as much a matter of chance as getting that lucky deflection, but I disagree.
There are a number of ways in which you can handle throwing on a wooded course, and you have a great deal more control over the outcome than you might imagine. While I haven’t mastered throwing in their midst entirely, over my years of hucking plastic in Oregon, there are a number of lessons I have learned that have made them less of a factor to my game. Here are a few:
There are no trees: There’s a saying that “thought is the mother of all intention.”
What this means is if you’re thinking about a particular outcome, you’re more likely to bring that result about through your own actions. The same goes for throwing on a wooded courses.
In my experience, if you approach your shot thinking about the trees between you and your target, you’re more likely to hit one of them. Focus instead on the gaps and alleys while doing your best to ignore the trees.
Envision your shot: This goes hand-in-hand with my first point. As important as it is to ignore the obstructions between you and your target, it’s just as crucial that you picture the flight-path you intend your disc to take.
This isn’t always easy, depending on your abilities and the lie of your disc. I’ve been backed into some pretty bad corners, but really examining all of the angles and weighing the possibilities against your own abilities is critical to getting the shot you want.
Know your limitations: If you’re buried in the trees and stuck in what I call a “bird cage,” you need to seriously consider just how good your odds are of getting clear of the tree line and getting close to the basket.
Examine your situation realistically and make a decision based on what you know you can and can’t do. I’ve often made the mistake of misjudging my abilities against the odds, only to end up further in the sticks and no closer to reaching the basket.
The best play might be using a short shot to clear the rough and make the green. While you might add an extra stroke, your odds of making it up with a more open shot outweigh the risks of throwing on a wing and a prayer.
Know your discs: It has taken me a long time to realize just how important it is to choose the right tool for the job.
Just because that Latitude 64 Striker is my favorite driver, it’s not going help me much when I need to anhyzer a shot around a stand of trees. I’ve spent a great deal of time researching discs by pulling data from websites and publications and talking to other golfers about what they carry in their bag and why.
I have used this information to assemble a decent arsenal of plastic to address challenging shots. As I’ve built my collection, I have also devoted a lot of time to testing them out in a soccer field that adjoins my house to truly get a feel for determining those situations for which they are best suited. Knowing the flight characteristics of my discs has greatly improved my game.
Confidence: Taking all of the elements discussed thus far, confidence is the most important element of all.
Trusting in your knowledge of your own game and the discs in your bag are really your best defense against those tough, wooded courses. At times, this means acknowledging your weaknesses just as much as embracing your strengths. It means being as confident in your ability to make a shot as you are in admitting that you still have a lot of work to do and learning from your missed ones.
Andre Fredrick is an Oregon-based disc golfer writing for RattlingChains.com. E-mail him at andre [at] rattlingchains.com.