In defense of the low putt

By Matthew Rothstein – Special to Rattling Chains

No low putts, right?

Every disc golfer has heard this advice at one time or another.

If you miss low, they say, you never gave it a chance to go in.

Why, I ask, have low putts earned such a poor reputation? If a putt misses too high, or too wide, did it really have more of a chance to go in than if it had missed low?

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As a result, I am writing in defense of these so-called “low putts.”

The reality is that a low putt deserves at least equal status with any putt that leaves us with more work to do before marking our scorecards. A putt that misses two feet low had every bit the same chance as a putt that misses two feet high; that is to say, not much of one.

Putting is not a game of chance. Rather, it is an opportunity to focus and execute. We should never be thinking about “not missing low” or “not missing high.” Instead, all of our attention should be on burying the putter into the very heart of the chains. Anything else is a distraction.

Of course there are other things to consider when lining up a putt. If there is cliff or an out of bounds line behind your target, you may want to take some speed off your putt. If there is a strong left-to-right wind, you may want to put a hyzer angle on the putter to make sure that it does not fly off like a kite.

That said, once you have lined up your putt and made your calculations, there is nothing left to do but visualize and execute.

Once the putter has left your hand, there are three potential outcomes: You make it (woo-hoo!), you miss with the putter remaining close (meh), or you miss with the putter traveling far enough to give you another pressure-packed putt (d’oh!).

A low miss seems likely, in most circumstances, to leave you with a shorter comeback putt.

Why, then, have low putts gained such a poor reputation?  Is it that disc golfers actually assume the conventional wisdom that low putts never had a chance?

I don’t believe that this is the case, and I would guess that most players understand putting to be a matter of execution rather than one of chance.

My explanation is that the “no low putts” movement has grown out of the gamesmanship that often surfaces in friendly competition.

To miss low is wimpy, and if you miss far – well, at least you gave it a manly effort.

Missing low is also seen as evidence of tightness or nerves. But how many times have you missed a putt low and then overcompensated by throwing a putt that is too high? In both cases, nerves may have prevented success.

Don’t be drawn into these mind games. The quality of your miss has nothing to do with whether you threw too high or too low. Rather, it is in how close you came to realizing the putt which you had envisioned.

So the next time you hit the very top of the cage with your putt, be not discouraged that you “never gave it a chance.” You are so very close to being dialed-in. Keep focused, and throw the next one into the heart of the chains.

Matthew Rothstein is a professional-level player based in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

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8 thoughts on “In defense of the low putt

  1. I think my biggest problem/fear with putting outside of 25′ is not using my legs when I putt. Most of the time when I miss a putt, I am pin high, but it begins to fade in front of the closest set of chains and lands left. When I concentrate on pushing more off of my back leg I am more consistent, and am able to make them from farther out. The better in envision the flight of the disc, my finished body position, and the use of my legs before I putt, the better the result. Great reminder, thanks for the post.

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  2. I’ve mostly heard things about “don’t miss low” or “don’t short it” in the context of playing doubles. On the rare occasions I’ve heard anything about it in singles matches, it’s generally been more in the context of making a high lob instead of a straight run if the terrain leaves a high likelihood of running past otherwise.

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  3. Low puts are hated for the same reason putts below the hole in golf. It’s a amateur mistake. And putts that are high or left or right do have more potential to go in than a low one. But otherwise you are correct. It’s paramount to focus on the shot.

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  4. Running straight at the heart of the chains gives you the smallest target area to make a good putt. The sweet spot is a small rectangle, narrower and shorter than the chains, off-center to the right. If you miss high or to the right, you might get lucky and have your disc fall into the basket. If you miss left or low you gave the disc no chance to go in.
    The biggest target area for a good putt is dropping in from above and to the right with a pitch putt or a hyzer putt. Stand in front of a basket and look. From the higher side angle the sweet spot becomes much bigger. You have the entire surface area of the basket to drop into, a wider portion of the chains to hit, plus, a vertical distance on the chains to hit that is greater than the basket opening itself. Aiming at a bigger target gives you more chance for success.

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  5. I agree, I’d rather hit the top rim of the basket than fly over the chains entirely. But I think the sentiment of don’t miss low is directed at those putts where someone is lined up, but feeling queasy about going too far past and leaving a hard come back: which leads them to short arm the putt toward the bottom of the pole. By Telling yourself, “don’t miss low”, you are reinforcing commitment to to putt. And often, this commitment to a putt is what gives you the best chance at making it.

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  6. I believe its because of the old adage in ball golf dont leave it short which is true because the ball is rolling on the ground and cant go in the cup if short, but that doesn’t guarantee it will go in if it hits the cup but at least it had a chance, you could say the same in disc golf but the disc is in the air so there are many other factors, like you left your last two putts short so your next putt you go a little more agressive make a near perfect putt and it chains out. When I’m hitting the front of the basket more than I should I grab a slightly lighter putter!

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  7. I agree with about everything up to a point. Everybody has a natural range and keeps working to expand it. My range is 20 feet & I should make almost every one. As I move on out, the percentage goes down. I will make a long one or two each round, but my goal is to give every shot a chance. If I am trying to “make” a 50 footer or longer, my goal is to give it a chance. I want it to be chain high when it gets there. Short did not have a chance. For the shorter (within my range) putts, being right handed, I spot the pole & try for the left side of the disc to hit the right side of the pole in the middle of the chains. If you get a piece of the pole with your disc, it will normally stay in, for me any way. I try to never think of high or low. More often than not, my low miss is a lack of concentration & not getting the throw I really wanted and leave it short (mechanics). Practicing gets them up over the rim. Learn more than one style. I liked the golf shot comparison, a shot that rims the cup right or left & one feet deep is a lot better shot than one on line but one foot short. The other shots had a chance. Some days they go in & some days they don’t, but you have to give them all a chance. If you are missing to many putts low, you might try the old saying – never up, never in.

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