Using a falling putt can help lower scores

By Jack Trageser — RattlingChains.com Staff

Disc golfers familiar with the rules of the sport recognize the term “falling putt” as an infraction that occurs when the disc is within 10 meters of the target.

The rules (see 803.04 C) clearly state that a player – when inside this putting circle, must demonstrate full balance after releasing the disc before advancing to retrieve his or her disc. This is to ensure players cannot gain an advantage by shortening the distance their disc has to travel.

If this rule were not in place, putting would turn into a Frisbee-long jump hybrid, with players taking 10 paces backward to get a running start before leaping toward the target. I can easily imagine some nasty accidents as well, with “slam dunk” attempts going horribly awry.

Luckily the 10-meter rule prevents gruesome player/basket collisions, while at the same time preserving the purity of the flying disc aspect of disc golf putting.

Of course, when this rule is broken, it is usually much more subtle than that. The player inadvertently leans into the shot and is unable to avoid stepping or stumbling forward. Hence the term “falling” putt. But outside 10 meters no such rule applies, and using your entire body to gain added momentum can be a great strategy. If — and only if — it is done correctly. Plus, even outside of the 10 meter putting circle, it must be done legally.

The Disclaimer

Rule 803.04A makes it clear that the main restriction is one point of contact (foot, knee, etc.) must be in contact with the ground at the time the disc is released, directly and no more than 30 centimeters behind the marker. So keep this restriction in mind as you read the rest of this post. Even outside 10 meters, it is illegal to break contact between your supporting point (usually a foot) and the surface behind your marker before you’ve released the disc.

The Likely Scenario

All players are different in terms of physical capabilities, of course. But, generally speaking, most of us can only use our putting style to a distance of somewhere between 30 and 40 feet before the need for more “oomph” robs our form of its consistency and affects our aim. We put so much extra effort into getting the disc to go far enough that smoothness and fluidity is replaced by herky-jerky and disjointedness. When this happens, we rarely get the disc to fly where or even how we want. So not only do we not make the putt, but we often are left with a challenging comeback putt as well.

At this point, players recognizing the need for a better approach will embrace one of two different strategies:

  1. Change from a putting, flip-style throw to a regular throw, where the player stands sideways to the target and pulls the disc alongside his her or his body — a typical backhand throw. This method solves the need for increased power and allows the player to regain smooth form, but aim usually suffers considerably since the throwing line is no longer aligned with the sight line.
  2. Take advantage of the fact that the rules allow players to “fall” forward outside 10 meters. When it’s legal, and done on purpose, this is usually referred to as a jump putt since the result appears to be a jumping motion towards the target.

I’ll usually take the second option, but not always, depending on distance, terrain, obstacles, and situation. And like most players, I initially took the term jump putt too literally. The term implies that you’re supposed to jump into the putt, or as you putt, but I learned there are two problems with that.

First (as noted above), if your foot behind the marker leaves the ground before the disc leaves your hand, that is a rules violation. I know it’s often hard to tell, because it’s almost simultaneous, but it’s better to avoid disputes of this nature entirely if you can.

The other problem with trying to jump as you putt is that it doesn’t work!

If your feet have left the ground before you release the disc, or they leave the ground right as the disc leaves your hand, you don’t really get the power you’re intending to get.

Think of a shortstop in baseball trying to jump in the air and then throw the ball. It can be done, but without feet planted on the ground the arm has to supply all the power. The same is true in disc golf. Also, aim is much less consistent without the stability of those feet on the ground.

Enter the legal falling putt.

The Solution & Unique Technique

I’m not sure how I discovered this, but it enables me to putt from probably 70-80 feet with good control and consistency.

By taking the straddle-putt stance (legs apart, toes pointed at the basket), then falling slowly toward the target, and putting at the last moment before my feet leave the ground, I get the best of both worlds. The momentum adds significant power in a smooth, fluid way, enabling my arm speed to stay the same as it is on a much shorter putt. And as long as I don’t get too eager and try to jump and throw at the same time, it’s remarkably accurate.

A top pro who has embraced a version of this strategy is Dave Feldberg. His approach is to “walk into” long putts that require extra momentum, allowing him to use an in-line style (as opposed to switching to a straddle style) similar to his normal preferred putting style. This video clip from the 2008 Scandinavian Open (the putt occurs fast in the first second of the short clip, so you’ll have to replay it a few times) shows how he walks into the putt to gain power.

His actual technique differs from mine, but the basic strategy is the same — leverage the extra momentum of the entire body moving forward, but do so in a way that does not sacrifice the fluidity of a good, consistent putting motion.

The Bottom Line

  • Disc golfers use a separate technique for putts – where the body and eyes face directly at the target – for a good reason. What is lost in power is more than gained in the accuracy that results from having the flight line and sight line on the same line. But . . .
  • There is a definite limit to the the power that can be generated while facing the target.
  • When outside the 10-meter circle, it makes all the sense in the world to maximize power while still facing the basket (and maintaining the accuracy advantage) by legally using body momentum. But . . .
  • Techniques that cause the player to leave his/her feet too soon negate the added power by throwing off aim and timing — and might also make the throw illegal as well.
  • By using a “legal falling putt” or “walk-into” technique, players can gain valuable extra power without sacrificing aim or timing.

It takes some practice to get it down, but this approach will eventually result in a way to hit more long putts without as much risk of long comeback putts. Try it, you might like it!

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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0 thoughts on “Using a falling putt can help lower scores

  1. With the Indiana tourney that just went down… this is a very timely post. Great descriptions… able to visualize your technique and thanks for recognizing that there is more than one way to achieve the desired goal – the Feldberg reference…

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  2. This is genius. I’ve found that when I’m playing, that 15-25 meter distance is a bit of an odd distance to judge for power. I’m definitely going to give this technique a shot in my next round.

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  3. Great post, Jack! I have been wanting to work on my jump-putt for ages, and this article will definitely help immensely.

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  4. To those that have commented (thanks!) and anyone else who reads and plans to use this post: The key is to use the forward motion smoothly as part of the putt. The ‘jump’ should only be the aftermath, as a means of not literally falling forward on your hands and knees. Actually, sometimes when there is a low ceiling, I have no choice but to end up on hands and knees! Let me know if you have questions trying it out at jack@schoolofdiscgolf.com.

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  5. Great article. I generally find your articles to be informative and I particularly enjoy reading about the different authors’ points of views.

    P.S. you may want to correct the second-word typographical error.

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  6. Thanks for posting this clear article. I am confused by your comment “the accuracy that results from having the flight line and sight line on the same line.” For this very reason I prefer the Turbo and Flick putts, and do not use the Push or Jump putt.

    In the push putt the left/right is online, but the forward/backward is 3 feet behind. The up/down is also up to 3 feet off. I mostly use a backhand putt, done exactly as I would throw any other backhand throw (sideways, level, even pull back, and good snap at the release to achieve good “freestyle” floater float). The line of the throw is only off the line of sight by 1 foot up/down, about 6 inches from left/right, and the sight line is 3 feet behind the forward/backward release point.

    To increase the coincidence of the line of sight I sometimes use a variation of the Backhand grip. I grip the disc’s rim with the thumb and middle finger, index finger resting on the top. This allows a release from higher up, and can be released right on the up/down level with my eyes. It is useful for putts from below the basket or if you have to go over something.

    The Turbo Putt, with the disc held with thumb under the center and four fingers behind the disc is launched from very close to the eyes in all 3 dimensions. I think this putt is much easier to sight and should be everyone’s preferred putt for short distances. It is also useful for putts from below the basket.

    When I am so far away that I need to turn my head away from the basket to putt Backhand, I putt with a Flick. Avoiding turning away is obviously better. The Flick can also be released much closer to the eyes in all 3 dimensions than either the traditional backhand or the push putt.

    This has nothing to do with line of sight, but I included it to cover all of my putting arsenal. For extremely short putts, I use the “Pie” throw my wife thinks we taught her, but she actually discovered herself. It is done as if you were throwing a pie to someone. Facing the basket like the Push putt, but with both hands & no spin (or maybe a little if it is windy). Just shovel the disc level toward the basket. Once you get a feel for how far this travels you will never miss a super short putt again.

    In summary, the Push, Falling, Walking, or Jump putts are inferior to either the Turbo, traditional Backhand, or Flick because the latter are released much closer to the line of sight. There is also an easier decision of when to switch putts, since the range of the latter putts overlaps a lot. For the former putts you have to worry about the 10 meter rule and lifting your foot too soon.

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  7. Ven, flight line and sight line are aligned when the disc is pulled back and propelled on the same basic line as the line between your eye and the target. This is not the case when throwing backhand or sidearm.forehand-style.

    And to each his own, but putting with a Flick (extremely overstable, sharp-edged driver) is generally not a good idea. Nor is a 40-foot turbo putt. Good luck out there, and have fun!

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  8. For a putter I use a DiscDevil Beaver not a Discraft Flick. By Flick I meant Forehand throw. To each his own, but I think I clearly showed that the line of sight in 3 dimensions is important.

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    • Ven

      -Daredevil Beaver? Good Canadian company.

      To say that one type of putting technique is “superior” to another is an impossible call to make. If I become a wizard at putting with my eyes closed, left-handed, with the disc upside down in my hand, then that is the “superior” technique in my opinion.

      What I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to like one style better than another, but to automatically deduce that every other technique is inferior, that’s the wrong call to make. The awesome thing about this sport is that there are so many products, so many techniques that every individual player should be able to find something that works for them. You’d be hard-pressed to find two identical dg players in that sense (i.e. Nate Doss and his putting technique – it looks weird, but he’s the #1 player in the world right now)

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