Monday, April 21, 2014

FOUR! Myths of Disc Golf


Yours truly contemplating the next blog post.
April brought a quick resurgence of winter conditions to Colorado and I made haste to the mountains to recharge the batteries and sit on some chair lifts with my friend Steve. Steve's a great photographer and my mountain biking buddy and I've been hard selling him on disc golf since I started last summer. I gave him a Buzzz and a putter and demanded updates on when and where he played.

During our chair lift conversations he mentioned something about how disc golf "wasn't exactly a work out." It's a line I've heard many times before from my friends who don't play and associate disc golf with drinking a few tall-boys while strolling through the park losing frisbees. Which leads me to myth #1...

Myth #1: Disc Golf isn't Exercise

Okay, so you're not going to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I've shaved two loops off my belt; I had to punch a new hole in to keep my britches up! I had the classic late-thirties-skinny-guy-belly that came with my extra large forehead and general lack of interest in sit-ups.

The proof is in the pudding or lack there of.
A great by-product of doing field work in the mornings or on a short lunch break is that I tend to avoid drive-through lunches and I get my metabolism moving at least once or twice a day. And don't get me started on playing the mountain courses outside Denver. I could barely move the next day after my last round at Beaver Ranch. There's plenty of exercise to be had throwing and hiking a round of disc golf, especially with 20 discs and a liter of water in your bag.

Myth #2: Fieldwork is for Distance

Fieldwork can improve all aspects of your game, not just your drives. It might not be as fun throwing 50-150' shots, but it's a huge benefit to have those shots dialed in.

Sir Kyle of Upshot
My buddy Kyle will probably not like that I'm outing him as an upshot master, but he is. From inside 150' I have seen him put it within 8' of the bucket more times than I can remember. Trying to beat him is very tough because he never seems to bogey. An errant drive that is off by a 100' is quickly parked and he's in for a 3.

It's put a strong impression on me that accurate upshots are key to staying under par for a round. Plus, it takes the pressure off your putting and lowers the amount of mental energy that you put into the game when you see that you're walking up to a 10' putt instead of a 40'er.

Practice both forehand and backhand in various ground covers to see what kind of skip or slide you'll get. Flip a disc up-side-down and see how it slides on it's top in case you have to slide it under some tree limbs on grass. The best part of a solid upshot is that it immediately lets you decompress and reserve that mental energy for the future .

Doing fieldwork that focuses on your short game will absolutely save strokes off your game and of course you can still impress the folks walking by with your monster drive.

Myth #3: The Mental Game is for Tournament Players

"Zen Golf" by Joseph Parent. This short and easy to read book put the mental game on my radar. Before I read it, my confidence was completely tied to my immediate past. If I had 2 good holes, then my confidence started building - but if I had 2 bad holes, it was crushed. I never thought that a simple little book could pack such a punch with improving my game. Anybody who plays with me knows that I still go into the tank, everybody does... it's almost impossible to have enough armor shake off endless struggles in a round.

By using a few really simple mental strategies I've really improved how much I can enjoy a round or a hole that doesn't go my way. It's so easy to end a round and focus on the few things you did wrong, ignoring the 95% of the round where you did great.  By replaying the round in my head, I often realize that even if I didn't beat my little brother I still had great time, played well and did quite a number of things right.

Myth #4: Drive for Show

It was the first platitude I ever heard about golf and it makes me crazy. Drive for Show, Putt for Dough! Bahhh, I'm guessing that might have been true when a long course included all 300' holes, but not anymore. You've got to develop a solid and accurate drive, upshots and putting. Giving up on an entire section of your game, with the hopes of making it up in your short game is short sighted.

Distance is power.

The reality is that distance can save strokes at all of the courses I play. I play with a buddy named Ryan, who's fluidity and power on drives actually made me say, "HOOOOLYYYYYY  SH***%&$^#^$!!" He was throwing lines that were not even on my radar because I simply didn't believe a disc could get there. I still can't necessarily get there, but I'm recognizing what improving my driving technique can yield. Efficiently driving doesn't just mean that you can throw further, it means you can throw higher (over trees instead of around) and you can throw more stable discs in windy conditions. It increases your shot selection.

Distance in forehand and backhand is a fantastic skill. If you've got a moderately workable forehand out to 200' and you put some hours of fieldwork in, I'd put money on the fact that you can develop at least another 50'-100' and open new alleys to throw.

Myth #5: (WHAT? YOU SAID FOUR!) The Gimme Putt

Had to sneak this in because it's been a huge struggle for me lately.

The "gimme putt" does not exist. How many times have I missed a 15' putt?! Too many to count. And nobody is going to gimme that stroke back. Missing a short putt can literally make your head swoon.

Short putting requires focus and practice. I struggle mightily inside of 20'. In fact, 15-20' might be the aspect of my game that raises my blood pressure more than anything else. There's very few things that are easier to fix than taking off your disc bag and making sure to focus... it's simple - TAKE OFF THE BAG AND FOCUS.

My brother pointed out that he feels that inside that range he feels that's mandatory that he put it in, which in turn makes him a tighten up and over think everything. Next thing you know, you're off to the side or in my case, I'm off the top of the bucket.

Practicing at 10-20' feels crazy because you're so close, but even crazier is neglecting to practice the putts that are, without question, going to be involved in every round you throw! In my 15' putt, I realized pretty quickly that I was throwing high quite often (DOINK) and there is a physical reason behind it. When close to the basket, I was trying use my 30' putt stance which feels comfortable and consistent... but I was completely flat footed. I didn't feel like I needed to generate that momentum to toss a disc 15 short feet - but by being flat footed, I'm not leaning forward, and my release point is too high.

How to fix it? Getting up on the ball of my front foot and leaning forward in an aggressive stance. I am putting my body in the position to release the right height. AHA! It feels strange, but by getting up into a forward and aggressive stance, focusing just like I am hitting a long putt - I'm doing better.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Torture Round

Hey amigos, where have I been? Spring is here - so I've been playing disc golf even more than my usual overly-obsessive self. It feels almost unnatural to throw in <GASP>shorts and a teeshirt</GASP>! My discs aren't frozen solid anymore and I have even started sweating on occasion. It's been weeks since I tee'd off on a drive only to have my foot slide out on snow and then I end up slamming to the ground. 

We're back into DISC GOLF SEASON or I guess it's really wind season. Honestly there's days when I don't know which is worse, playing in the frozen tundra or playing in 20mph head winds. Lots of character building rounds, that's for sure. It's a chance to work on letting stuff roll off your back. I've lost count of the dead center putts I've seen blow right back out from recent rounds.

In other news, the wind can suck it.
I'm not a particularly superstitious guy, so when I started a round on Saturday morning I had no reason to believe that it would spiral so badly out of control. I hadn't walked under any ladders or even seen a black cat. I had stolen a pet ferret from a one eyed witch, perhaps that was where the bad luck started... there's just no way to tell.

I had shot a personal best of +2 for the 21 holes at the same course the night before, so I was actually feeling confident. My newly acquired ferret sat relaxing in my bag's cup holder with a dark twinkle in his eye.

I stayed confident after 4'ing the first hole, which I rarely par anyways. The first inkling of pain came on the 2nd hole where I putted 6" over the basket and right into the street. Double bogey.  From 15' no less, so I shook it off as some early round jitters and moved on. Still confident - after all, there was lots of disc golf left ahead of me and the ferret was only a bit agitated. 

A nice drive on 3, but then I soft armed my upshot and left myself 40' short. Missed the long putt. Racking up the strokes, the bleeding continued. It was just painful - with another missed putts from 15' and the feeling in my gut was dropping into my shoes.  If there was an iron blade of grass out there, I was hitting it... then I'd hit it's long lost cousin on my next shot. I hit a short metal sprinkler head trying to skip up the basket, stopping my disc cold 75' out.  Next shot, I hit a bush 40' out.  

Missed putts followed by missing the comeback.  Upshots skipping 2' OB. The bleeding didn't stop. Ferret update: he crapped all over my discs and ate my snickers bar.

WHO OWNS THESE THINGS?! Horrible.
My buddy Kyle tried to console me, "It's sunny and we're throwing discs - it's not so bad... and you've got that ferret that you stole from the witch. It's not all bad!" But it was like I was staring at him through binoculars facing the wrong way. He was a million miles away and I was swimming in despair.

By the end of the round I was frustrated that I couldn't seem to turn any part of my round into a positive. I ended up shooting +15, which was 13 strokes more than just 12 hours previous. 

I went home confused but not exactly angry, just truly unsettled and even if I rationally knew it wasn't true - I felt like I had lost all my skill. I setup shop in the backyard to throw 200 putts from 15' away and try to replay the round in my head. I wasn't going to miss from 15' anytime soon after that session. It wasn't like I was throwing anything THAT horribly wrong - I just kept ending up outside my putting range and taking a stroke. 

I returned the ferret and payed the penance to the one eyed witch, which turned out to be that I had to sacrifice three goats. Messy affair, but she promised to lift the curse.

It's so easy to focus on the negatives, replaying the missed putts that you know you could make 100 out of 100 times. I forced myself to replay the entire round in my head, and find some of the positives. The best way I can describe it, was that I felt like my hands were frozen and I was wearing a tight coat that restricted my movements - even though I was wearing a tee-shirt. I couldn't get loose and just throw the disc.

I had a few hours the next day and I ran out to join my buddy Ryan and Andrew for an afternoon round.  I decided right then that regardless of if I picked up where I left off on the bogey train - that I was going to throw the disc with confidence.  I wasn't going to leave any up shots 50' from the pin. I was going to throw what my gut told me to, not what that second voice lobs into the mix.

Without question, I played a better round. If I'm honest with myself, saying, "Throw this confidently" doesn't really translate to me actually throwing it confidently. There's going to be rounds that just don't come out well, and I think what it showed me was that I REALLY have to get warmed up. After sitting on my butt for eight hours at my desk, running out to squeeze in a quick round means that my body is NOT ready to go. 

If you ever do fieldwork, you'll see it happen very clearly. My first 20-30 throws are often a bit of mess. It's not until I've got a solid 10-15 minutes of throwing under my belt that I am hitting the lines I want to without effort. Why should I expect that off the couch after a full day of sitting, that I'll be able to throw 4-5 warm up drives, 5 minutes of warm up putting and be "in the zone." It's just not going to happen... at least for me.

It finally dawned on me - I had thrown field work on my lunch break before my best round. Then I showed up Saturday morning feeling stiff and tired and not very surprisingly, I had a horrible round. Sunday, we played later in the day and I'd thrown 200 putts in the afternoon before playing.  I was physically ready to go and it showed.

In other news, I've been really happy in the wind with 4 specific discs: DGA Breaker, Discraft Drone, Champ Firebird and if it's not too windy - my Champ Destroyer. Having under and over stable discs for windy days has been a huge help in taking some of the sting out of big head winds and tail winds. Putting is still a mess, but getting to the pin is much less stressful.