5.5 different reasons to practice putting in disc golf

Conventional wisdom says putting is a crucial facet of any successful golfer’s game — and conventional wisdom is correct.

No one who has ever spent a round crushing long, accurate drives only to score poorly because he or she couldn’t hit a putt (that would be everyone) would argue. Yet few players practice putting with a purposeful, regular routine.

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If you’re reading this, you are likely someone who has at least a moderate desire to shoot lower scores on the disc golf course. Therefore, if you’re not systematically working to improve your putting skills and consistency, the question is why?

One logical answer is that you’ve never heard a specific reason or reasons that resonated strongly enough with you personally. It’s one thing to agree with the logic in a general, vague sort of way, but quite another to be able to connect the dots with a straight line that leads directly to a result you value highly.

Therefore, the below 5.5 reasons to practice putting in disc golf are presented as a means of motivating more players to create and stick to a putting practice routine.

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Ben Franklin and disc golf — the wisdom shines through

“When in doubt, don’t.”

Golf had barely made its way to the United States during Benjamin Franklin’s lifetime, otherwise I’d be inclined to think the above quote, taken from his Poor Richard’s Almanac, came to him while playing a round.

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I also believe that Franklin, if born into a world where both ball golf and disc golf existed, would undoubtedly have chosen the latter. Add that to the long list of reasons why he is by far my favorite among the founding fathers.

I could write an entirely separate post listing and elaborating on the reasons he would favor disc golf — chief among them its accessibility to people of all classes and the endless intriguing flight path possibilities of a flying disc. But that’s for another day. Let’s focus on that quote, and how it applies to disc golf.

When in doubt, don’t.”

I like to think the best interpretation of this nugget of wisdom in the golf world is this: In order to execute any shot successfully — and especially the most difficult ones — 100 percent conviction is a must. You can’t be waffling on which way to play it and expect things to turn out well. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

Example 1

You’re 30 feet away from the basket with a downhill putt, where the terrain continues to slope down behind the basket, with a lake at the bottom. You know this hole well, and as you approach your lie you think of the many times you’ve hit this putt and others like it.

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A secret ingredient of putting power

Notice that the title of this post is not “The Secret of Putting.”

There are simply too many mental and physical aspects to good and consistent putting for there to be some secret that, once discovered, instantly turns a weak putter into a good or great one.

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If anything, the best advice is the one players often like to hear the least — practice.

But we’re not talking about flour and water here. Those are major components to making bread, but the secret ingredient is yeast. Without the yeast the bread won’t rise, and if it doesn’t rise, well, it’s not really bread, is it?

Secret ingredient.

The same goes for putting in disc golf. You can propel a disc toward the basket any number of ways, and it’ll even land in the basket once in a while.

But if you want a putt that seems to zip out of your hand, go farther and hang in the air a little longer than your effort warranted, you need some nice tight spin. And believe it or not, there’s a pretty simple modification you can make that will help you get it.

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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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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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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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Using a falling putt can help lower scores

By Jack Trageser — RattlingChains.com Staff

Disc golfers familiar with the rules of the sport recognize the term “falling putt” as an infraction that occurs when the disc is within 10 meters of the target.

The rules (see 803.04 C) clearly state that a player – when inside this putting circle, must demonstrate full balance after releasing the disc before advancing to retrieve his or her disc. This is to ensure players cannot gain an advantage by shortening the distance their disc has to travel.

If this rule were not in place, putting would turn into a Frisbee-long jump hybrid, with players taking 10 paces backward to get a running start before leaping toward the target. I can easily imagine some nasty accidents as well, with “slam dunk” attempts going horribly awry.

Luckily the 10-meter rule prevents gruesome player/basket collisions, while at the same time preserving the purity of the flying disc aspect of disc golf putting.

Of course, when this rule is broken, it is usually much more subtle than that. The player inadvertently leans into the shot and is unable to avoid stepping or stumbling forward. Hence the term “falling” putt. But outside 10 meters no such rule applies, and using your entire body to gain added momentum can be a great strategy. If — and only if — it is done correctly. Plus, even outside of the 10 meter putting circle, it must be done legally.

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