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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Knowing your game can help you win the battle with trees

Trees, trees, everywhere trees. (photo by Andre Fredrick)

by Andre Fredrick — RattlingChains.com staff

Let’s talk about trees, folks.

My life as a disc golfer began its incubation in the Midwest, in the lovely state of Minnesota. While trees certainly came into play there, it wasn’t until I started throwing in Oregon that I realized just how much a threat they pose to my scorecard.

Trees are everywhere out here, from narrow saplings to massive pines. Big or small, a well-placed tree can quickly devastate your score, knocking your drive down to a measly 50-feet, or sending an approach shot into the rough.

Granted, there are times that I thank the heavens for trees, be it because of a helpful kick or stopping an errant shot from going as wide as it may have.

Do you have a problem? (photo by Andre Fredrick)

Ultimately, however, this is just pure luck and luck is never something one should count on to save par and keep their score low.

It could be argued that hitting trees to the detriment of one’s score is just as much a matter of chance as getting that lucky deflection, but I disagree.

There are a number of ways in which you can handle throwing on a wooded course, and you have a great deal more control over the outcome than you might imagine. While I haven’t mastered throwing in their midst entirely, over my years of hucking plastic in Oregon, there are a number of lessons I have learned that have made them less of a factor to my game. Here are a few:

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