Part 1 of the ground-up approach to saving strokes

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

You’ll often read the term “saving strokes” in my instructional posts because I believe the best way for an average player to improve his or her score is to cut down on taking unnecessary bogeys, doubles, or worse.

Birdies are wonderful, but for those who consider breaking par consistently to be a lofty goal, the quickest way to get there is to identify the avoidable mistakes we repeatedly make — and eliminate them.

There are many ways to do this, and the good news is most don’t require increased athletic talent so much as an understanding of three things — what’s likely to happen given the situation, your current skill level, and a number of environmental factors.

This post focuses on a big part of what happens after the disc leaves your hand — specifically the moment when it obeys the law of gravity, as all discs must eventually do. What goes up must come down, and unless your disc lands in a tree or on a roof or somewhere else above the playing surface, it’ll end up hitting the ground.

The question to ask yourself is, when you’re planning the shot you want to throw, how much thought are you giving to what happens after your disc first makes contact with the ground?

If your honest answer is “none” or “not much,” you’re likely taking some unnecessary strokes during your rounds. And if you’re like me, you might have been giving the subject plenty of consideration for years and still not realizing the important points.

My goal with this lesson is to list a few factors related to the angle or texture of the terrain that may affect your decision making when determining the exact shot you plan to execute. In the first part, we’ll cover the best ways to deal with holes that slope — uphill, downhill, and side-to-side. The second part will address the texture of the terrain — thick grass, dirt and rocks, thick brush, and hard-pan. Each presents special considerations, and we’ll cover ’em all. Now, on with the book, er, blog learnin’!

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Product review (and contest): Vibram Lace

By P.J. Harmer and Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

Vibram has taken its next step in the disc golf market.

After months of anticipation, the Lace — Vibram’s first long-distance driver — was released to the public Nov. 23, or Black Friday as many refer to the day after Thanksgiving in the United States.

Reviews from around the Internet seem to be extremely positive for the new disc, which Vibram says is a stable driver.

When you get to Jack Trageser’s part of this review, you’ll get a more in-depth feel about the disc and what it can do for somebody with a stronger arm and with more ability to do what he wants with the disc.

My part is going to talk about the disc from the vantage point of a light-armed thrower and one who doesn’t have a lot of control over a disc.

Allow me to note I’m a Vibram user. The Ibex is one of my best discs as I can actually  get it to (usually) do what I want. I also putt with a Summit and, in the past, I’ve carried and used a Trak, V.P. and Ascent. So it’s safe to say I like Vibram’s products.

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Product Review: inFlight Guide

By P.J. Harmer and Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

I never understood flight charts for discs. A lot of people have told me I should check the charts when getting discs and such. But I didn’t get ’em. I saw graphs with numbers and lines and wondered what it meant.

Too, there seemed to be many different charts. Ones by manufacturers and ones by independent people.

Who is right?

My thoughts on disc flight is simple — I throw the disc and the way it goes is its flight. Pretty simple, eh?

The inFlight Guide by inbounds Disc Golf.

That’s why I was intrigued when contacted by inbounds Disc Golf. The company has a paperback book out, as well as an online spot, where you can check the flight path of more than 300 discs.

For people who like having flight guides, this book is small and compact and can easily fit in most people’s bags. That gives you the chance to use the book out on the course.

There is also a website for the inFlight guide which is continually updated with more flight charts.

There’s a small part in the beginning of the book describing how to use the book. However, as Jack Trageser will talk about below as well, these charts assume several things — including the player being a right-handed back-handed player, having perfect playing conditions and throwing a maximum-weight disc, among others.

I’ve never played in perfect conditions and I usually don’t throw maximum-weight discs.

Though I understand the need to have certain specifications to use the book, it seems like it’s pretty direct in the things that are needed for the chart to be useful. I’m sure all charts are like that, but it still ostracizes some players in the disc golf community.

For people looking for flight patterns and such, the book is useful. It covers hundreds of discs and it allows people to look up discs and get an idea of what the disc is supposed to do.

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Roller shots, part 2 — How to throw them

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

The first thing to know about throwing roller shots is if you can throw backhand and sidearm, you already know much of what you need to know.

Roller shots don’t require learning an entirely new technique — just a twist on your most basic throws. With most air shots, the aim is to keep the disc aloft most of the way to the target, whereas roller shots need to hit the ground early.

And, as opposed to air shots where you usually want the disc to land mostly flat so the disc won’t roll away, roller shots are calculated to not only land on the edge, but on an edge at a specific angle so it goes the direction and distance you intended.

By the way, if you didn’t catch the first post regarding this technique, which covers the who, what, when, where and why, of rollers, check it out here.

Proper roller technique requires a high release point, exaggerated nose angle, and a torso with a tilted axis. (photo by Jack Trageser)

Now on to the how.

Much of what I know about throwing rollers comes from my personal roller mentor, Alan “Flash” Friedman. I tapped into his knowledge base for this post, and filmed a quick video, which I uploaded to YouTube. The video can be seen at the end of this post, but don’t be lazy and just watch the video as it doesn’t do a great job by itself of explaining how to properly throw the shot.

According to Friedman, there are two types of roller shots — the finesse version (thrown using understable or “beat” discs), and “high-tech” rollers that require an overstable disc.

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The five Ws of roller shots

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

When teaching or playing with people new to the sport and they see me execute a roller shot for a long, accurate drive, it’s only a matter of time before they ask if I can show them how to do it.

They have correctly deduced that, quite often, a disc can travel farther rolling along the ground than spinning through the air. Actually, if the terrain and conditions are suited for the purpose — and the roller is thrown by someone who knows the right way to do it — it usually is the case. It’s pretty enticing for someone who is having a hard time getting the kind of distance he or she sees everyone else is getting.

Some people avoid the roller as a violation of an important aesthetic element of disc sports. After all, it’s supposed to float through the air. To that, I say geo over it.

At one point, I was in the camp myself. Then I realized I was a person who loved the competitive golf aspect of disc golf. I was jealous that others who could execute rollers had an advantage over me. So, I began to figure out a different world of getting discs from point A to point B.

In fact, roller shots are not as inelegant as they first appear. The same science of selecting the right combination of release angle, arm speed from an air shot applies to rollers as well.

From the time I started to now, I’ve learned a lot. The following is a journalist’s tried and true who, what, when, where and why for rollers. The how will follow in part two of this series.

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Book Excerpt 3: The time factor in ball golf vs. disc golf

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

So far the snippets I’ve posted from my upcoming book have been from the first chapter, which first describes the reason golf is a singularly great game. It then contrasts ball golf with disc golf in light of the many limitations of the former and the lack of those limitations with the latter.

This post continues that dissertation with an examination of time factor, as in, how long each takes to play, and exactly why that matters when it comes to accessibility.

Keep in mind this book is aimed primarily at the non-disc golfing public, designed to properly educate them about the nuances and beneficial aspects of our sport. As a way of explaining the intention of certain passages to you, the disc golf-enthusiast reader, I’ve added some further comments to the text. Those are the sentences in italics.

The Time Factor in Golf

According to GolfLink, a portal website that bills itself as “the most complete online golf resource available on the web,” an average foursome playing 18 holes on an average course at average speed “should expect the round to take near the maximum of 4-5 hours. They estimate that for groups using motorized golf carts the duration might be as low as 3.5 to 4 hours, but that, of course, adds to the list of expenses and reduces the amount of beneficial exercise. GolfLink is a for-profit commerce site dependent on the popularity of the game with no reason to exaggerate this estimate. Quite the opposite, actually.

For an increasing number of people, that’s just too big a chunk of time to carve out of their busy schedules already filled with work and family commitments. In a report in the New York Times in 2009 titled ‘More Americans Are Giving Up Golf‘, Paul Vitello points out that “The total number of people who play has declined or remained flat each year since 2000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million, according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.”

A check of more recent statistics on the National Golf Foundation website confirms that the downward trend continues and even steepens into 2012.

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How do you rate a disc golf course?

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?

It is true of most things to which the words “subjective” and “opinion” may be applied. And so it is with disc golf courses, as well. When I read user-submitted course reviews on dgcoursereview.com, it’s clear that different people value different features in a disc golf course.

Disc golf courses can be quite unassuming.

Some of the most popular — and most famous — are almost invisible to the uninformed eye when not populated with clusters of people flinging bright colored flying discs. That is because one of the elements of disc golf of which its practitioners and proponents are most proud is its ability to conform to nearly any hikeable environment — with minimal or no alteration. In fact, for a large part of the disc golfing population, the more rugged, the better.

And then there are those — no less ardent in their love of the sport — who highly value open, flat fairways where their discs can soar unimpeded by the “thwack!” of a tree and have no chance of plummeting into a deep, dark brambly chasm.

It’s all a personal preference.

Some players like a remote course that is so removed from the hustle and bustle of civilization (and, they might say, the watchful eyes of Big Brother) that having to hike half a mile on foot just to reach it is a bonus. For others, that would be a deal-killer. They want convenience, safety, and even supervision, and couldn’t care less if the park is shared with other users and bordered by streets with cars constantly zipping by.

For some folks it’s all about the equipment.

If a course doesn’t have some type of permanent teepads and baskets (as opposed to posts or other objects), they have zero interest in playing it. On the other end of the spectrum, I know people who still regularly play courses like Old Sawmill in Pebble Beach, Calif., or Little Africa in Carmichael, Calif., even though neither has regular targets or teepads. They do so because the courses are set in amazing places, convenient to them, and/or consist of great hole designs. But they obviously don’t mind the lack of official equipment.

So what makes a course great in your eyes?

Personally, I break it down into two broad categories: courses that I can play on a regular or semi-regular basis (home courses), and courses I may only get to play once or twice (road courses).

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Book Excerpt 2: Now is the time for disc golf to shine

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

The previous excerpt of my upcoming book hopefully accurately captured the essence of golf, what makes it such a singular sporting activity, and why both versions of golf share the remarkable qualities.

Next up is a point-by-point discussion of where the two sports are starkly different, and why those differences position disc golf as the golf of the future. Today the discussion focuses on the economics of golf and disc golf.

The Economics of Golf

For all but maybe five percent of the world’s population, cost alone is a nearly insurmountable barrier. Even leaving out of the discussion those hundreds of millions in developing and/or impoverished countries for whom any leisure activity will never be a consideration during their lifetimes, golf simply costs too much.

In a 2008 report written for Yahoo! Sports titled “The cost of public golf,” Sam Weinman wrote “The average cost of greens fees for a course built before 1970, according to the National Golf Foundation, is $42.70. The average, however, for one that was constructed between 1970 and 1990 is $48.33, and $60.55 for those after 1990.”

In the same article, former USGA president Sandy Tatum is quoted as saying “The question is do you have affordable access to golf, and on too many fronts, the answer is no.”

Even in the most prosperous countries, $50 for an afternoon of recreation is too expensive for an average member of the population. In countries like Thailand, where total average annual income in U.S. dollars is less than $5,000, it’s not even an option for anyone but the richest of the rich.

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Product Review: Disc Beeper

By Jack Trageser and P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff

It seems that as disc golf equipment technology evolves, much of the advances are slight, such as a disc that flies slightly faster or farther, or a basket that has chains that hang at different angles.

Even in the world of accessories, nearly all products hitting the market are manufactured versions of do-it-yourself gadgets, such as telescoping poles to retrieve discs.

The Disc Beeper is something entirely new and it solves a problem every disc golf encounters at some point — a lost disc. Despite the fact that numerous people have probably mused a concept such as this, nobody has every built it.

The Disc Beeper is a small electronic device with the diameter of about a quarter. It’s light (about six grams) and attaches to the bottom of a disc. When activated, it beeps at three-second intervals after a 45-second delay.

The current model is a permanent attachment to the disc, so it would not be allowed in PDGA-sanctioned events.

The following is a joint review by Rattling Chains writers Jack Trageser and P.J. Harmer.

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Book Excerpt: Why golf is great, and why in the 21st century disc golf is better

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

It is my firm belief that the sport of disc golf — which already has enjoyed strong, steady growth for more than two decades — will experience an explosion in popularity when two things happen:

  1. The general public is properly educated about the true nature and accessibility of disc golf, and all the nuances that make it so much more like traditional golf than most people assume to be the case (the variety of discs and throws, the effects of wind and terrain, etc.).
  2. Disc golf reaches a ‘tipping point’ in terms of popular opinion, triggered by either a critical mass of popular culture/media recognition or a handful of random watershed moments. For instance, if a super-famous person suddenly lists disc golf as their favorite activity, or a TV show, website, or publication with millions of fans features it prominently.

Now, it is altogether possible that a famous person will stumble across disc golf at any time, fall in love with the sport, and by sharing his or her passion for the sport do more to promote it in one day than all other players combined have done up to that point. But unless there is some exhaustive source of correct, detailed, and compelling information available that explains the many different reasons why people that have played it love it so much, chances of that watershed moment resulting in anything but a temporary fad are minimal.

Those seeking the truth about the sport will find nothing substantial — or worse, the misinformation and oversimplifications that currently exist. My goal is to fill that void and have answers to the inevitable questions ready and waiting in a book, for the day the dam breaks.

I’m writing a book that aims to make the two events numbered above much likelier to occur, as well as making the inevitable explosion of disc golf a mere launching point for something with staying power. The book will include chapters that discuss the history, finer points, unique grassroots growth, and formats of the sport, among others. But the unifying theme is a very specific sales pitch for disc golf, and it’s established in the first chapter and repeated throughout:

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