Disc golf lingo: Many groups have their own dialect

In a recent round at DeLaveaga, I paused briefly to tell my friend that his last throw had tons of “E.V.,” but I held the comment for later when we noticed a large group of marauders was quickly gaining on us. So naturally we…

What’s that? Not exactly following my meaning?

jackDon’t worry, you’re not behind on the latest disc golf lingo — at least, not yet.

Most of those reading this are well acquainted with the fact that, while disc golf borrows a great deal of terminology from its stick-and-ball ancestor (par, birdie, drive, putt, etc.), the sport has a lexicon all its own as well.

Words like hyzer, anhyzer and thumber, and terms like “chain music” and “high-tech roller” mean nothing outside of disc golf (or at least disc sports). And words like “chunder” and “schule” — while they can be found in a standard dictionary — have very different applications in the world where golf meets flying disc.

These words and phrases serve as an instant bond between people who might otherwise have zero in common. Picture, for instance, a 55-year old clean-cut professional type visiting a course he’s never played before during some free time on a business trip.

As he arrives at the teepad of a blind hole, he encounters a couple of long-haired, dreadlocked, hemp-wearing locals. The locals offer to let him play through, and the traveler asks them where the basket is located. One of them replies “If you throw a big anhyzer over those trees on the left and can get it to ‘S’ out at the end, you’ll be putting for birdie.”

Different as they might appear and even be, in respect to the other aspects of their lives, the visitor and the locals understand each other perfectly well on the disc golf course. We’re all members of a subculture that, while steadily growing, is still far from the mainstream, and our lexicon of unique terminology is one of the true identifying marks about which those not yet part of the clan remain completely ignorant.

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Part 2: Two universal truths — and 7.5 tips — to help improve your putting

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

Before you dive into this post, make sure you read the first 3.5 tips and universal truths to improve your putting from the neck up. You can see part one here.

If you’ve already seen that one, or are now done with it, read on!

4. Follow through. Really, really follow through! Think about all the pictures you’ve seen of pro players having just released a putt. I guarantee that most of them will show a player with his or her arm extended almost perfectly straight, and with all fingers — and even the thumb — rigid and reaching out toward the target.

Rattling Chains staff member Darren Dolezel shows his follow-through on a putt. Notice how his arm and fingers are pointed straight out. (photo by P.J. Harmer)

Following through is an important aspect of mechanics is many different sports, especially those that include throwing a disc or ball. The benefit is two-fold as the best way to ensure consistent aim is to extend toward your target in an exaggerated fashion, and doing so will add a smoothness and extra bit of momentum that increases power and speed just enough to make a difference.

I’ve had too many putts to count barely go in where I noticed, as I brought the disc forward, that my grip was a little off or I wasn’t providing enough speed, but compensated by following through as strongly as I could.

This might be tough to do right away as it requires developing muscles in a different way. But this short video tutorial demonstrates an exercise that will help you understand the concept as well as develop the form.

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Santa Cruz locals could give top dogs a run at 2013 Masters Cup

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

Every year in April, Santa Cruz, Calif., is not only the Epicenter of Disc Golf — the self-imposed label given in 1989 after the nearby Loma Prieta earthquake — but the center of the PDGA professional disc golf tour as well.

DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course has hosted a National Tour event every year since the tour was established, and the 28th annual “Steady” Ed Memorial Masters Cup has drawn the sport’s best talent for about 20 years before that.

Paul McBeth, shown at the Texas State Championships, is leading the National Tour through two events. (photo courtesy PDGA Media)

This year’s event runs April 26-28 with one 24-hole round each day.

If you follow the tour, you’re familiar with many of this weekend’s competitors. Young guns such as Ricky Wysocki, Paul McBeth, Will Schusterick and Nikko Locastro will all be there, as will veteran champions Ken Climo, Dave Feldberg, Nate Doss and Avery Jenkins. And there are plenty of other names you’ll recognize as well, such as Philo Braithwaite, Paul Ulibarri, and Josh Anthon.

You know all about these guys already, and they’ve proven that any one of them can step up and win on any given week. Josh Anthon is a Northern California player who knows DeLaveaga well. Nate Doss grew up and honed his craft here, and Wysocki and Schusterick are always good bets.

This is the third stop in the eight-event National Tour. Schusterick and Wysocki each have wins in the first two events. Despite that, McBeth is leading the tour with second-place finishes in each. Wysocki is second, followed by Locastro, Schusterick and Feldberg.

On Saturday, after the first round is in the books, and even Sunday, when it’s down to the last 24 holes, there are bound to be some names you might not recognize on the top cards.

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Gap Analysis: the art and science of navigating trees

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

Many playing companions over the years have heard me mutter “I see holes” at some point during my pre-shot routine while playing a round of disc golf. It’s a go-to phrase of mine, and has been for probably 15 years. Some ask why I say those words when getting ready for certain shots, and they get the answers as you’ll see below.

The funny thing about this particular mantra is I use it for two distinctly different reasons, yet the two reasons often blend together. The place where the two meet — the axis of risk or reward assessment (a scientific approach) and more nebulous subjects like positive thinking and confidence (closer to an art than a science) — is really the essence of the mental side of golf.

school of disc golfAs always, this is best explained through the use of specific examples, which we’ll get into, but first a brief explanation of the two reasons for “I see holes!”

The history of this mantra, for me, was the light bulb-over-the-head realization that even on shots where the trees and other obstacles seem so numerous and throwing a disc cleanly through and past them is impossible, it’s rarely as bleak as thought. In fact, when you consider the overall area covering a particular flight path you’re hoping to take, the gaps between the trees usually represent a much larger portion of the total space than the obstructions.

After this became apparent to me, I would chant “I see holes” as a way to remind myself to think about and visualize a clean flight rather than dreading the relatively few disc-whacking trees it had to pass. In this context it’s really just positive thinking and positive imagery, and the mantra is a way to keep my thoughts focused on the good things that I plan to happen rather than the bad things that might occur.

And it really works!

That’s how the phrase first popped into my head. But it was only a matter of time before my analytical side dissected the magical effectiveness of “I see holes.”

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Casual golf’s competitive summit: an epic and friendly grudge match

I rarely dedicate an entire post to a first-person account of a disc golf round, but on rare occasions I feel it makes for good enough reading and I break my own rule.

This round is at DeLaveaga in Santa Cruz, California, and I’ve included links to hole descriptions so you can better visualize the situations.

jackFirst, let me give you some background. My friend Alan and I have played together since the late 1990s. We used to gamble small wagers. In the early days, he was an established — he won the Faultline Classic/California State Championship in DeLaveaga in 1994 — and I was playing Am1 and still learning.

More often than not, he hustled me. But I paid attention and, eventually, my improving game and injuries on his part swung things in my favor. I’ve had the advantage for the past eight years or so, but Alan has really cranked his game up in the past few months. We’re pretty even now. I’m sure most readers would agree that it’s more fun if your more evenly matches with a playing partner.

We attempt to play when the courses aren’t too crowded. This time, however, a 2 p.m. Saturday round was the only time that worked for both of us. We’re not used to being on the course at such a peak time and it was like a party spread out over 80 acres. For us, that’s not a goof thing on a golf course.

Discs were flying everywhere and voices continually cascaded up and down the ravines. It was wild. Crazy wild. The wind was crazy, too. It was pretty gusty, but the challenging aspect was that it kept changing direction. You’d factor the headwind into a certain shot and then it would change to a tailwind.

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Three causes for taking extra strokes in disc golf — and how to avoid ’em

By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

After playing the seventh hole at DeLaveaga the other day, it occurred to me I had already had three bogeys. To loosely paraphrase Ice Cube from back in the 1990’s, I was givin’ out strokes ‘like government cheese!’

Then, in keeping with my longstanding practice of pondering why the bogies occurred rather than simply lamenting the fact, I observed each was attributable to one of the three reasons players take extra strokes in disc golf — bad execution, mental errors, and bad luck.

school of disc golfIf you haven’t thought of your disc golf game from this perspective before, it might be worthwhile to check it out. Bad luck (and good luck!) will happen when it happens, and luck is impossible to control (although often times bad luck is set up by a bad decision). Errors are another thing entirely.

Knowing which type (execution or mental) you’re more prone to commit will help you know which area of your game requires more work in order to improve performance and consistency.

To make it clearer, here are the details of those three bogies at the start of my recent round:

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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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In their words: Nine secrets of the women of disc golf

The ladies who played in the advanced division at the Masters Cup this past weekend. Pictured are: Front -- Anna Caudle. Second row, from left, Victoria McCoy, Michelle Chambless, Lacey Kimbell, Cyndi Baker; and third row, from left, Christine Hernlund, Jenny Umstead, and Crissy White. (Photo by Alex Hegyi).

OK, maybe the title is a little misleading. Calling them “secrets” is overdoing it a bit, and this is about much more than that.

I spent some time last weekend talking to female competitors at the Amateur Masters Cup presented by DGA in Santa Cruz, Calif., and some of their answers might be new and useful information to the guys who play disc golf.

But are they secrets?

What’s definitely not a secret is the fact that disc golf is, and always has been, a sport played predominately by males. The breakdown of competitors in this A-Tier PDGA sanctioned event illustrates this point perfectly, as only 11 of the 158 registered participants were in female divisions. That’s less than 10 percent.

The eyeball test anytime you’re playing a recreational round on your local course will tell you that that ratio holds true in non-tournament settings as well.

So what’s the deal?

After watching the sport grow and develop over the past 25 years, I’ve got my own theories. For instance, in the early days of DeLaveaga — back in the late 1980s and early 1990s — seeing a woman on the course was rare enough to stop a guy mid-throw to ask a playing partner if he saw her, too. They had to make sure she wasn’t a mirage (or an hallucination, depending on the player). I later learned from the first female DeLa pioneers that a main deterrent was the lack of a restroom on site at the time — not even a porta-potty. Not a big deal for the average guy, but enough to keep many women away.

While not all courses are as remote and facility-less as DeLa, back then plenty of them were similarly in open spaces. And besides the lack of basic facilities, there was also an non-policed “Wild West” feel to many courses. I have a notion that many women felt these courses were just unsafe enough — or at least could be — to discourage them from giving disc golf a try.

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The number-crunching approach to better disc golf scores

Today’s hopefully useful game improvement post touches on a way you can improve scores on the course by recording and mining the data of past rounds while off the course.

However, talking about crunching numbers tends to get dry in a hurry — especially if you’re reading this in a disc golf frame of mind. So we’ll ease into the meat of this lesson by way of an illustration. The guinea pig in this case is yours truly.

I shot an even-par 84 (28 holes) morning round at DeLaveaga last weekend, and earned satisfaction on two different counts.

First, with the exception of only a few holes, the course is set up in its toughest configuration in preparation of the fast-approaching Masters Cup — an annual stop on the PDGA National Tour. Par in that layout is good for a plus-1000 rated round, and right now, I’ll take that any day of the week and twice on tournament weekends.

Hole No. 1 at DeLaveaga. (Photo by John Hernlund)

The other reason why I was able to bask in my own pysche a little after my round today — and the main subject of this post — is that I had a game plan and executed it quite well. My strategy at DeLa, when the course is long, is to think par at nearly every hole, even off the tee, and even though I can birdie most of the holes with a perfect tee shot and good putt. The result in this case was 24 pars, two birdies, and two bogeys — one of which was on Hole 13, which plays more like a par 4.

So why play for par on a hole when I know I’m capable of doing better? Because being capable of a executing a shot once and being capable of executing it consistently are two very different things. Understanding that basic fact is the first step in properly assessing the risk/reward quotient of every shot in golf — disc or otherwise.

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