Four disc golf goals for ’13

As I approach two years of playing this lovely sport we call disc golf, I have come to a harsh conclusion — I am just not that good.

steveI miss easy putts. My drives are still all over the place. I have more plastic sitting in a crate in my garage than I do in my actual bag, and instead of my discs bearing the names of their manufacturers, they might as well be covered with expletives, because that’s how I refer to them.

In short, I’m kind of a hot mess.

But, the promise of a new year at least gives me a little hope that 2013 may be the time for improvement. I have to hold myself to some kind of standard if I actually want to get better, though, so I am setting some goals for myself for the coming year.

Why goals, and not resolutions? Well, according to my friend dictionary.com, resolutions have more to do with determination and will than actual results. Goals, on the other hand, have a defined aim, and that is where I am going with these. Concrete improvement that I can (kind of) measure.

Plus, everyone makes resolutions. See all those people at your local gym? They won’t be there in a couple weeks. Sign up for a marathon and set a goal of finishing it, though, and you’re doing it. It’s about commitment.

Goal 1: Drive less, putt more — As the famed author of this site’s Noodle-Armed Reviews, readers know I’m not long off the tee. But that doesn’t stop me from heading out to the field all the time to try some new form tweak that I think will be my magic elixir, so to speak.

And while I traipse around in the grass to collect my scattered drives in the 250-300 foot range, I still miss gimme putts on the course, I’ve got a stack of six MVP Anode putters in the garage. In my backyard? A DGA M-14 portable basket.

It's time to start making use of this basket.

It’s time to start making use of this basket.

It’s high time those products threw some Marvin Gaye on the turntable and got it on.

With that in mind, my first goal for this year is to take at least 150 practice putts per week. For some people, that may not be that many. But, when you have a toddler running around the house and all of the included responsibilities, taking time on the basket can be difficult.

However, I’m already about two-thirds of the way toward my goal for the week — it’s just about finding a couple free minutes. Nap time is key, and I’ve set the basket up outside and on the opposite side of the house from my daughter’s room.

I’ve also been able to steal a few putts while making dinner. Living in the San Diego affords me the luxury of January BBQing (weep, east coasters and northerners), and I don’t need to stare at my turkey burgers for them to cook, so I sneak off to the basket.

I’ve also taken one extra step to help my putting accuracy. Drawing inspiration from Gateway’s Bullseye basket, I took the outer chains of the M-14 and zip-tied them up so that my target is more narrow. My hope is, if I throw a ton of putts on a smaller area at home, the baskets at the course will look cavernous by comparison, thus boosting my confidence.

And I figure, if I take 150 putts per week for the whole year, that comes out to 7,800 practice putts on the year — or roughly 7,000 more practice putts than in 2012.

If I don’t improve after that, I might as well hang ’em up.

Goal 2: Stick with what I’ve got — In addition to my terrible habit of trying to get longer drives while neglecting my putting, I also have fallen victim to my penchant of constant shuffling around the contents of my bag.

It's time to stick with some discs and stop trying to test everything out.

It’s time to stick with some discs and stop trying to test everything out.

In fact, if I had kept a roster of discs in my bag at the start and tracked all the moves up until now, I probably could qualify for one of the open general manager positions in the NFL — that’s how many changes I have made. (Since I am not that good, though, I’d probably end up with the San Diego Chargers or Kansas City Chiefs. But I digress.)

As a result, I know I haven’t learned my discs as well. Sure, my mid-ranges are pretty well set — finally — but I have gone through drivers like Charlie Sheen goes through … No, that’s just too easy.

Regardless, I need to settle on a lineup and stick with it, which is what I plan to do for this year, and I am trying to keep it pretty simple with the following set-up:

  • Drivers: Discmania C-FD, Discmania S-FD
  • Mid-ranges: MVP Axis, Latitude 64 Fuse, Latitude 64 Pain
  • Putters: MVP Anode, Vibram Summit

The driver set-up is one that I am really excited about. The FD is a versatile mold, and the two plastics it comes in almost act like different discs, but with the same grip. It will give me the chance to really learn what one mold can do, and I think this will lead to more success on the course.

Goal 3: Track my scores — Most of the time when I play, I keep score. However, I hardly apply any scientific analysis to my results, and instead keep the number above par in my head as I go along.

It’s time for that to change.

While it may look like things are serious if I am writing down my score, I am actually hoping that it will make me take my rounds less seriously. Hear me out on this one — with my current system, I am constantly going back through the round in my head, trying to remember if I parred or bogeyed a hole. This means that I am rehashing the bad shots in my round numerous times.

If I just write the score for each hole, then move on and tabulate the totals at the end, I can focus more on a one-shot, one-hole-at-a-time approach, which I hope will keep my brain more fresh throughout the round.

Plus, if I keep track of my scores and look back at them for patterns — something Rattling Chains instructional writer Jack Trageser mentioned in an article some time back — I can learn more about the highs and lows of my rounds and try to even them out.

Goal 4: Have more fun — While playing a round the other day, my friend was having some of the worst luck I have seen him encounter. Putts that looked gorgeous would clang off the Innova basket chastity belt, then roll 40 feet away. Drives that had great lines would find the skinniest, most insignificant branch and be routed way off course.

Suffice to say, it was one of those maddening rounds that we’ve all had.

The whole time, though, he kept his head up and was smiling. At the same time, I was practically yelling curse words for him! This juxtaposition made me realize that I take the game too seriously sometimes and really need to lighten up.

How, exactly, am I supposed to do that, when my last goal talks about tracking scores and another one is basically a putting drill? Honestly, I don’t know yet. But my hope is I will figure it out. Maybe it will entail playing more glow rounds, which are just casual and fun. Or perhaps I can challenge my friends to some goofy shots — off-hand, through-the-legs, etc. — to keep things light.

Whatever form it comes in, this is my most important goal. After all, I started playing this game because it was fun, but it can also be extremely frustrating. If I can shift the balance back to how I felt when I first started — having a nice time, being outside and throwing some plastic — everything else will fall into place.

Steve Hill is the associate editor for Rattling Chains. Email him at steve@rattlingchains.com and follow him on Twitter @onemilemore.

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0 thoughts on “Four disc golf goals for ’13

  1. I appreciate your San Diegan BBQ comment, as I’m sitting in my office wearing a down jacket. Seriously, though, I really like your ideas about tracking scores; I think I will adopt them. On the other hand, I think it’s important to sometimes play without keeping score at all. This is key to playing a frivolous round, just to get out and have fun. We all need that sometimes.

    Speaking of having fun, I’ve been practicing in a different manner lately. Even though there’s a course eight miles from home, I’ve taken to playing in a park in my neighborhood. I set up my basket on the bank of a creek and play to it from several areas. There are lots of trees, elevation changes and water hazards. I only throw putters and midrange discs. I refer to it as playing “par two’s,” attempting to reach the basket in two shots. My friends have also enjoyed this low-key approach to practice.

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  2. Great piece, you and I sound alike in many ways… Before Winter hit Texas (a couple of days ago) my breaks at work would be; a.m. – 15 minutes of driving practice with my top 3 drivers and two I was trying to learn; p.m. – 15 minutes of putting practice.

    While I still can’t crush drives, taking “some-off” throwing about 80-90% power, I can keep my drives in the fairway, saving strokes and sanity by avoiding that damn bush or cactis that always seems to catch my disc. On the other hand though, I can kill putts from about 20ft consistently, anything further than that all I get is “Great approach” from friends, as if that was my intention, nah, I was tryna sink that.

    If you don’t mind me chiming in with some advice… I too have a toddler and know time is limited.
    Goal 1: Putting practice doesn’t have to be outside, practice through hallways or doorways in the house, aim for specific couch cushions or pillows on the bed. The key is to make the disc “stick”. A roll-away on the course means you missed par but a roll-away or bad bounce in the house means you’ve gotta fix or buy a new lamp before the wife notices.
    Goal 3: Saving scores is great way to improve or at least know what and where you need to improve. “There’s an app for that”. I use Disc Golf Caddy, it’s great because you can add courses and the distances & pars and you’re ready to go each time. And since you seem to like collecting plastic you can also keep track of your discs, just snap a picture add the specs and your golden.

    Don’t lose that fire that has you cursing discs and bad shots, my buddy’s and even some guys that have seen me on courses have come to expect that from me when I encounter bad shots. A bad day on the course is still a good day.

    Cheers to your goals and a new year.

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  3. I live in Niagara Falls, NY and I BBQ just like I play, all year long. Just wish my disc skills were as good as my BBQing.

    I hear ya on the putting. And 1 of my disc golf goals for 2013 is to improve my putting. I vow to actually use the practice basket in my yard this year. 150 putts per week sounds very doable.

    I’d also like to play a bogey free solo round. I’ve played several rounds under par but none bogey free.

    My 3rd goal is to play a 4th foreign country. I’ve played in The Netherlands and Germany, but have yet to play right across the bridge in Canada. So that’s a must.

    I don’t see how I can have more fun than I already do, but its worth a shot.

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  4. Thank you for the excellent article!

    I am now “master” age, and my health is not where it should be. So, now I am down to recreational play. My goal is to get out more this year than last. This sounds easy, but is not always so. I often tire after just a few holes. Two years ago, I was only able to finish 1 full round. Last year I made it up to 5-6 full games.

    Some of this is due to being out of shape (although I am down 90 pounds from 2 years ago). But, mainly due to problems with my allergies and some other medical conditions. It is so frustrating to get all excited about playing, drive to the course, throw 10-20 practice putts, and play 3 holes only to be gasping for breath and shaking, and having to walk back to the car.

    This year I will try to remember to take precautions (allergy medicine, eat right, etc.) and build up my stamina. I have started the migration to lighter discs and plan to complete this process this year.

    Again, thank you for the article. Already having day dreams of green grass and flying discs.

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  5. I hear you about the putting practice!! That was advised to me by a local pro earlier this past year so I bought 5 Gateway Magiks and practice with them when I have the chance. Which isn’t often enough as I don’t have a portable basket. Yet. Maybe when my finances lighten up I can get one. 2012 found myself playing the most disc golf ever and I only hope to continue playing more each year. Even though mid-upper Illinois winters can be nasty, I’ve found it very enjoyable to be out throwing and getting a good 2 mile walk (average) on weekends. Weekdays, after work, the dog needs walked and I take him to a local course where I can walk him and get six holes or so in in the process. He’s a Scottie so I have to avoid rough areas as his fur is like velcro and picks up every sticktight and seed pod he brushes up against!!! It’s a winning situation for both of us, however. Unlike you, I don’t have 250 – 300 foot drives. So, I’m still working that aspect of my game and it doesn’t come easy. The more I throw the better I’ll get with strong attention to form and technique, I’m sure. One thing I really need to work on is my follow through and snap at that last little bit of the throw. Here’s to your goals and mine and anyone else’s and to Brian Bell getting healthier so he can enjoy the game more in his master age!

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  6. First of all, I really enjoyed your blog. And I enjoy fellow disc golfers expressing their passion for the game much like I do. I think I was where you were about a year ago.

    This past year I did almost everything that you have mentioned on your list. Well not the writing down part because I like to keep the people upstairs busy but I completely understand what you mean by it. Also, with the new plastic, you are not the only one to commit this crime. This past month I became the proud owner of a lot of new plastic and now I’m stuck with trying to decide what I am going to start breaking in, whats staying in my bag, and whats going. (I’m not making that mistake again, 1 disc at a time from now on).

    I’m sure as long as you stick to your guns you will see the improvements you are looking for, much like I did. This past year I was able to conquer a few challenges of my own. I shot under par at my home course (which I had been hitting par at too many times it seemed like), I knocked out 2 aces, and I won first place in a tourney (intermediate division but a win’s a win).

    This year I plan to get at least 1 more ace (1 a year is plenty, i’m not that greedy), knock out a solid bag of discs that I can throw consistantly all around, play a round of non-bogey golf (I stole that one from above, I liked the idea), and become more consistant/confident with my 30 ft putts.

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  7. Great article Steve, especially the notion of setting goals versus making resolutions. I will disagree with one of them though – Goal 3, tracking scores. I prefer to *not* keep score, but instead keep myself tuned in to how I *feel* about the round I am playing. It’s kind of a zen thing – not getting hung up on the outcome, but rather living the current moment (of disc golf). Don’t get me wrong, I am competitive and do keep score (or let someone else keep score) when there’s something on the line (tournaments, bag tag challenges, etc.), but I don’t fixate on the number that’s written down. What’s more important to me is how I *feel* about the way I drove or putted.

    Take your friend, for example, who you mentioned in Goal #4. The 40-foot roll away and invisible branch hit probably cost him strokes on the scorecard. But he may still be smiling because his execution of the putt and drive in question were just as he wanted. Because of fluky chain-outs, roll-aways and invisible branch hits my score is often worse than the way I played. And to be fair, my score is sometimes aided by the bad putt that sticks, or the tree kick that actually helps me stay in bounds.

    So instead of focusing on the score (which will happen anyway), try focusing on the experience of the moment – how you feel when the disc leaves your hand. It works for me.

    P.S. – I bet you played that round at Brengle Terrace, didn’t you? 😉

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  8. Too right.
    I too have been playing two years, need to stop buying more drivers and settle on a couple to use, need to practice my putting. I do enjoy playing, and don’t get stressed when I am – quite the opposite, I just love throwing. Which gives me an improvement dilemma, If I get better I’ll take less throws a round… and its the throwing that’s fun!
    My problem is I just can’t achieve the “Everybody should be able to throw 350 with a teebird” that I keep reading on forums. Although here in the UK basically nobody can, so should I care? Probably not.

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  9. I have played for a long time (more then 20 years)and having goals will net you improvement. I dont play as often as I did back in the eightys and ninetys so my goal is at least one full round of golf per week. I know it doesn’t sound like much but last year I played 2 rounds total. I will also try for the 150 putts per week.

    One piece of advice for thoser looking for distance; spend some time playing with only a putter. The putter is not as forgiving with a full power shot as a driver so your actual throwing technique will improve. As your technique gets better you will find that the putter can easily reach 250′ holes. Once your technique is solid stop thinking about throwing hard, instead think fast. Speed equals distance. Play a round now and then with a putter and I bet your scores and then your distance will improve.

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  10. Putting practice is so helpful, just to get into a rhythm. I have found that it can be quite tedious so I’ve made it fun by playing different putting games. It helps the time go by and by the end you’ve taken so many shots that it can only be good for you. One of the issues of disc golf magazine had an article outlining several practise putting games that have improved my putting and gave me an opportunity to involve my kids in my practise also helping them.
    Practise on.

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  11. Hey there Steve~
    I realize this was an older article, but I enjoyed reading it and read through the comments a bit too, and I didn’t see that anyone suggested finding your sweet spot in the basket.
    What I mean by that is, when you putt, where does the disc hit the basket?
    Putting practice should start out close to the basket so you make it, and almost more importantly, you believe you can make it. Putting is 80% belief you can make the putt. The sweet spot is where your eyes fix on the basket as you make your putt. Where do you want the disc to hit the chains and drop in? My eye-line only waivers in head wind and distance from the basket. Start close, like 10-15 feet and find your sweet spot and start putting at it. After you make 3 or 4, move back 10-15 feet and do it again. Keep moving out from the basket, and believe you will make each and every putt.
    Also, keep in mind that disc golf, like other sports, have plateaus where you find yourself not improving, but not playing any worse. Take a week off. Get really excited about getting out to play after a break can really reflect on your game too.
    I’ve played for over 14years and didn’t keep score until 4years ago, true story. I don’t compete a lot, but I almost always keep score to see how I’m doing in that capacity. I also agree that some rounds should be score-free, it really does take a lot of pressure off.
    Happy Hucking Steve and great blog!

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