What comes before course management?
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about course management here on the blog. We’ve talked about improving your putting by throwing better up shots. We’ve also talked about improving your upshots with better placement of your drives. It’s a vast topic with a lot of nuance and detail. I like writing about it. You like reading about it. We could all get a lot better by actually doing it.
There’s no doubt about it. Better course management leads to lower scores.
But before we get too much further into course management, we need to back up a step. There’s something we need to cover first before we can ever expect to manage the course well.
Great course management begins with knowing what the best shot is in any given situation. It’s knowing what to throw and how to throw it so that you put yourself in the best possible position for your next shot.
Knowing what’s needed is good. There’s a certain confidence that comes with standing out on the course and knowing exactly what you should do. As GI Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle.” (for all you old school cartoon folks who knows where this comes from, you need to know that this exists!!!)
Unfortunately, what GI Joe said doesn’t help us execute. If you know the shot you need to throw, but can’t throw it, it’s almost worse than not knowing in the first place!
There is knowing, and then there is doing. It does you absolutely no good to know what to do if you can’t do it.
Sure, you can try to throw a shot you aren’t practiced at. But we all know how that usually turns out, right? Rarely is that going to end well.
How many times has this happened to you? You’re standing at your disc. You know the shot that is needed. You’ve seen other people throw it before. You even have an understanding of how to throw it. You might have even tried it a couple of times before. The problem is you don’t really have this shot in your arsenal.
When it comes to course management, there’s a catch…
If you don’t have the shot you need, you can’t throw it. It’s as simple as that. And that leaves us with the question of how do you fix it so that you never find yourself with this problem?
Disc Golf Practice.
Here we make a really good case for disc golf practice. But not just any old practice. We need shot specific practice. We need practice that is tailored to the shots we are going to see while we are playing.
Do you have a hole on your course that requires a long turnover shot? That’s what you should be working on out in the field.
Do you have a course full of low ceiling tunnel shots? Start doing your practice inside of a tunnel with a low ceiling.
Is your home course open and full of nothing but spike hyzers? Make sure you have that shot dialed in.
What do I usually see when I watch people doing field work? Usually, it’s someone out on a football or soccer field working on distance. They have their bag of discs and they are hucking them up and down the field, end zone to end zone.
Typically they are just trying to push their distance out a bit further. There is usually no goal other than adding extra length to their throws. If there is some aspect of form being practiced, it is usually related to getting the thrower more D.
What people are not usually practicing is individual shot types or shapes. They are not envisioning real world situations they might face (or have already faced) out on the course.
A big part of course management is being ready to manage the course in the first place. Distance has little to do with that. Shot shape and type are much bigger players.
More important than distance.
What if the best shot for a particular situation is a high anhyzer, out around an obstacle? One that flexes back to flat and sits down without skipping or rolling? Oh, and thrown with a putter? Hopefully, we have practiced that shot and are ready to throw it.
I mean REALLY practiced it.
Last summer, a friend of mine and I decided we needed to work on this exact shot. We grabbed a stack of 5 putters each. We went to a local course and picked out two baskets about 300 feet apart with a big tree between them. We then threw putters back and forth from basket to basket using a high anhyzer line around that tree.
We did that for about 3 hours that day. Then another 3 hours the next day. Later on, I put in another couple of hours by myself on my home course. We must have thrown that single shot hundreds of times. Just that one type of throw with that one type of disc.
I can guarantee you that both of us throw that shot with confidence now.
Too many times we go out and throw a shot a handful of times and call that practice. Then, when we find ourselves in need of it during a round, we get upset that it doesn’t turn out as planned.
If we want to be good at course management, we have to be able to execute the shots we determine that we need. The first step is loading those shots into our arsenal. That means lots of shot specific practice.
What shots do you need?
The second step is compiling a list of the shots we need. More specifically, the ones we need to play the courses we face on a regular basis.
What we should be doing when playing rounds is making mental notes of what shots we find ourselves most in need of. Then we should be taking those notes with us to the practice field.
A big part of why people don’t practice is they don’t really have a clue what they are supposed to be practicing in the first place. When that’s the case, most folks either just head straight to the course to play a round. Or, they fall back to the old stand by of throwing for distance until their arm hurts.
I’m guilty of both of those, how about you?
One of the keys to getting practice in is to have a plan. It’s knowing what you are out there practicing in the first place. If you have trouble figuring out why you are standing out there on the football field with a bag of discs and a sore arm, try starting with a better plan.
Make a list of shots that you could actually use. Throws that come up a few times every round. Then head to the field and see where you really stand with all of them.
What percentage of the time can you throw each of those shots and have it land where you want? I’d suggest that if it’s under 75% it’s time, dedicate some effort to it. Some serious effort. Like in the anhyzer shot example above.
We could go into a checklist of what types of shots all disc golfers “should” have in their bags. Heck, we might even make that into a post of its own someday (*note to self… make post about needed shot types next week). For now, just make a list of the shots that you use on your home or most played courses.
Now, pick 2-3 of those shots and head out to the field. Own those shots. Make it so that the next time you step out on the course and have to throw one of them, you will have all the confidence in the world.
Once you do this, you’ll be surprised at how much easier course management is. You’ll not only step up to your disc and know what you need to do, you will also have the important skill of being able to do it!
Oh, and bonus… You’ll score better and have more fun too!
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