Pop quiz hot shot.
You are playing in a tournament. Your last 4 putts have hit the front of the basket instead of going in. That includes one 10′ “tap in gimme” putt. What do you do?
You are playing in a doubles round on a wooded course. Your last 3 tunnel shots have been shanked right and into the woods. You are stepping up to tee off on yet another tunnel shot. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!?!?!?!?
These are situations that most of us have experienced at one time or another. If you’ve been playing any length of time, it’s probably happened to you a lot. You go out with the best of intentions to play a solid round only to find that one part of your game is unexplainably broken. The worst part is you can’t seem to fix it.
As most of you know, I’ve been practicing every day for the last 2.5 months getting myself ready for the Glass Blown Open in May. I have light bulb moments almost daily about some aspect of disc golf, self discipline, and the value of practice. Every once in a while, I have one that is a game changer for me. That happened this week.
There are a million benefits of regular, dedicated practice. Putting practice, field work, throwing into a net, whatever your practice of choice is (aside from playing rounds, sorry that doesn’t count) is all great for your game. I can’t say enough about all of this and more. I kick myself every day for not starting a dedicated practice plan sooner than I have. My disc golf skills would be at a much higher level than they are if I had. But leveraging my skills hasn’t been the only benefit. Little did I know, daily practice can also help you fix your game when it’s broken mid round. Daily practice is the key to mid round course corrections.
Daily practice makes you intimately familiar with how to be successful at a certain skill. This much we know. What I didn’t know is that it also makes you intimately familiar with all the things you do that don’t lead to success. You start to know exactly why the shot you wanted is not the shot you got. You start to really learn the reasons why things go wrong. Let’s use the above pop quiz as an example.
For quiz #1, in the past, I would simply have started to throw the putts harder. Hitting the front of the basket meant the putt was short, right? The solution to a short putt is to throw harder, right? Maybe more follow through? Nope. All those things do for me is make me fire the putts into the front of the basket harder. It turns out that for me, when my putts are short it’s because I’m aiming short, not because I don’t have enough zip on the putt.
After 2.5 months of putting practice, I now know that when I start hitting the front of the basket, it’s because I’m leaning too far forward. When I start to get tired, I start to hunch over forward. That aims the putts down, at the front of the basket. For me to hit a lot of putts, I have to stand upright, head held high, chest out, shoulders back. Only when I use that upright stance does following through help.
This highlights a key thing when you are practicing. You should definitely be trying to figure out what to do right. But you should be paying almost as much attention to the causes behind the things that go wrong. What you’ll find is that your most common misses each have their own unique trigger or cause. If you figure these out, then on the course you can often limit yourself to only one bad shot of any particular type. Once you know why you are missing in any particular way, you can address it.
Bearing all this in mind, I have homework for you. Go out this week and practice putting every day for 20-30 minutes. When you miss or screw up, really try to take note of what causes each type of miss. What makes you miss low? How about missing high? Same with missing left or right. Take the time to spot the reason for each of those. Once you have that identified, find the correct behavior to replace each cause. This not only works with putting, but it works with any other disc golf skill you want to get better at.
Honestly, this isn’t always super easy. The true cause of your flaws doesn’t always reveal itself right away. Put some time into this. One of the most commonly asked questions by players is how do you save a round that is going sideways? What do you do when nothing seems to be going right? How do I course correct before the round is a lost cause?
While a lot of this is mental, at least some of it is physical too. The discs don’t have a mind of their own. They do what our body tells them to do. Figure out your errors. Make recognizing them an automatic thing. That way, the next time you keep missing the same type of shot in the same way repeatedly, you can stop the bleeding and course correct your round sooner than later. Once you are able to do that, you are one step further on the road to playing great disc golf.
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