When interviewers ask Simon Lizotte how he learned to throw as far as he does, his answer is daily field work. When Paul McBeth makes a video on how he practices, he shows you his field work. When people write in to the Disc Golf Answer Man podcast and ask how to get better, you can bet that Eric McCabe will recommend field work. There’s only one problem with those recommendations…
Field work is stunningly boring.
That’s right, I said it. Most of you were thinking it, don’t lie. Look, if field work were as fun as playing rounds, we would all do a lot more of it. Bottom line is that when faced with spending our free time playing rounds or chasing our discs around a football or soccer field, most of us choose to hit the course every time.
So what is a disc golfer in need of improvement (and isn’t that all of us?) to do? Just playing rounds leads to minimal, if any, improvement. The improvement that does come comes at a snails pace compared to the improvement to be had from solid field work. For example, in a round you may only throw a tunnel shot that fades right at the end once in a round. You could throw that same shot 100 times in a field in the time it takes you to play a round.
But this isn’t a post about why field work is more effective. For a million different reasons it just is. This is a post about how to make field work less boring than watching paint dry and hopefully more effective.
First, I realize that there is a group of people out there who religiously do field work and actually enjoy it. Those people are weird and this post probably isn’t for them. For the rest of us, we need a way to get the benefit of doing field work while still getting the enjoyment of being out on the course.
The answer is actually pretty simple. Do your field work out on the course.
I play a ton of solo rounds. A metric ton, actually. That’s because the times I am able to play are when no one else is available. 6-7am on a weekday is a time that sees very little action out there on the course. You pretty much have the place to yourself no matter where you live or how much traffic your local course gets. This means that if you want to play at this time, it’s generally by yourself. This also means that you don’t have to worry about playing each hole quickly.
At this point in my preparation for the Glass Blown Open, the only day I do field work in a field is on Saturday. When the courses are full, that’s when I head to the local football field. Other than that, all of my field work is done out on the course itself. Here are the top 10 reasons why:
- On a course, you can simulate any shot you would actually face when playing. In an open field, you can’t do this. Sure, you can pull a Mr. Rogers and imagine it all, but that just isn’t the same. Practicing tunnel shots is a lot more fun and a lot more effective when you are actually in a tunnel.
- On a course, you have a real tee pad. Everyone always says, “practice how you play”. Well, I don’t know about you, but when I’m driving in rounds, I drive off of tee pads 95% of the time.
- There is elevation on a course, not on a soccer field. Unless your park district designed the worst soccer field in the entire world, it’s flat. You can’t practice throwing up or downhill when you are on flat ground.
- On a course, you have actual baskets to throw at. Sure you can bring cones or other targets with you to the field, but there’s nothing quite like throwing at a basket. This strongly contributes to the “fun and not boring” part of doing field work on the course.
- On a course, you can alternate between driving, upshots, putting, and lots of other stuff. This is how a real round goes. When playing, you don’t get to throw 9 drivers before you throw the one that counts. Mixing up the shots you are practicing is a much closer approximation to how you actually play.
- There are obstacle on a course. Again, you can pretend to throw your disc around an imaginary tree in an empty field. Or, you can throw your disc around an actual tree. The latter is just more effective.
- You can get in putting and throwing practice out on the course. Typically, when out in a field, there is no putting. A day without putting practice is a day of practice at least partially wasted.
- On the course, there are many different types of grass, dirt, and other ground cover. You can practice getting your disc to land the right way in each. You can practice skip shots right along with shots that stop dead in longer grass.
- You get regular changes in scenery as you move around the course. The boring sports field will always be the boring sports field. The changing environments around the course serve to keep things interesting. The more interesting things are, the longer you tend to practice.
- It’s more fun out on the course. When your practice is more fun, you will do it more often. The field work that you used to do just once in a while becomes the field work you do weekly or even daily.
Now, there is one big drawback. You will be tempted to just play a round instead of practicing. And that’s a big temptation. In order for this to work, you have to be committed to just practicing. If you can do that, though, you are bound for much more beneficial practice sessions.
So how do you go about this? Honestly it doesn’t really matter. You could go out and throw a bunch of shots from each spot as you play around the course. You could go out to select holes and play them over and over with multiple discs. You could go out and pick certain spots and throw a stack of discs from each one. You could go to one hole that’s just out of your reach and work on your distance by driving it over and over again. Just take a stack of discs, and probably your video camera, and get out there and practice.
Those are just a few of the many ways you can get in field work out on the course. And that in and of itself highlights one of the benefits. The possibilities are endless. The opportunity to improve virtually every aspect of your game is limited only by your imagination.
I honestly believe that people don’t practice because playing is more fun. For me, field work on the course is almost the only way I practice. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen my daily practice updates. Unless the weather is bad, almost all of them are made up field work drills done out on the course. This one mind set shift has done more for my practice regimen than just about anything else. I encourage you to try it for yourself.
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