How to Look (and Throw!) like a Pro with Airborn Disc Golf Apparel

Note: I am not being paid for this post - I just like recommending good companies with great employees and products.  

Today we are going to talk about Airborn Disc Golf apparel! If you haven’t visited the website to check out the plethora of unique and high-quality gear, your game and style are missing out. Many of the top players in the game have sported their stuff, so don’t be left behind! Check out Airborn Disc Golf to get started.

This is a company based in St. Paul, MN, run by Jason Tautges and Cale Leiviska. I have been wearing apparel from Airborn since they first opened their brick and mortar retail (we miss you!) a few years back.

The first time I went into the shop to check it out, I was greeted by Cale. It was amazing how down to earth, positive, and helpful he was. If you hadn’t known prior, you would never have guessed that you were talking to the current 5th ranked player in the world. Cale helped me navigate my way to some new discs, and from there I bought a tee shirt that was super soft to support the business.

Well fast forward to today, and I bet in my spare time I wear more Airborn Disc Golf apparel than anything else. My wife has at least 4 or 5 Airborn shirts/hoodies of her own! So the reason I’m saying all this is that beyond just liking the brand and the people, the quality and functionality of everything they sell is top notch. I have a few good friends who won’t buy anything cheap or non-functional, and they are sporting more Airborn stuff than me! Everything Airborn sells has the intent to use when playing disc golf in mind.

Customized Disc Golf Apparel with PDGA Number

Many of the items can be customized on the site (I have 3 items with my name and PDGA number on them), and they are all comfortable, fit for throwing discs (no loose sleeves, non baggy mid sections, fleece lined items, etc.), and have a great fit for every season. There are a couple of hoodies I can use instead of a winter coat, and usually do, when I’m playing disc golf. Note: In our video at Vision Quest disc golf course in Cedar, MN, I’m wearing a custom Airborn hoodie!

Disc Golf Hoodies 

I picked up this hoodie at the Par 2 event Airborn hosted on 2/21/2017 near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, MN. 

I picked up this hoodie at the Par 2 event Airborn hosted on 2/21/2017 near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, MN. 

So it turns out that the air temp was deceiving, and like any good self confident Minnesota player, I decided anything above 30 only required a light long sleeve shirt. Well, I think with the wind chill had to be 5 degrees. It was super chilly, so after seeing Cale in this hoodie, I decided to make the adult choice and get one.

First things first - Wow are they soft. When they say super soft, they mean more super soft than you are thinking soft. I went with the olive color, and it looks great. I love the seed in the “jet engine” logo they have on the front, and the only other logo is their “simple seed” on the right arm. It is a fun and unobtrusive branding item. Also, with just a long sleeve shirt and that hoodie, I felt perfectly warm, which is surprising, given that the hoodie feels very light. Throwing in the hoodie felt easy and unrestricted. I stayed very warm, and I feel as if this item at a large popular retailer would be well over $75. I would happily pay that for an item of this quality, style, and functionality. When I got home my wife was envious of my hoodie and wanted her own! I can’t stress this enough: if you want quality gear, Airborn Disc Golf is where you want to start.  

Disc Golf Course Design

Cale and Jason of Airborn Disc Golf were instrumental in the design of Vision Quest disc golf course, so note if you are looking for some help getting a course designed, you have proof of the awesome work they do!

Disc Golf Discs with a Unique Stamp

Of course the discs themselves! Most of what I throw I have purchased through Airborn Disc Golf. I like being able to pick a unique stamp, and if I have any questions there are always quick to respond, and are super helpful.

Disc Golf Art Work

In addition, they have some really cool prints done by Cam Todd (won the Glass Blown Open in 2016 and World Champion 2001), and I think they are super cool (we have one in our house).

Remember, if you want to look the part and have the right gear check out Airborn Disc Golf.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on the course. 

-Aaron

What the heck is the difference between all these disc golf tours?

Today we will talk about the direction of disc golf tournaments and the different tours we saw arise this year. There are three new tours that have emerged in 2016 and we will spend a little time with each of them.

American Disc Golf Tour

The American Disc Golf Tour was the baby of Salient Discs, and was making bold strides by pushing to be on ESPN3 for their initial outing. My goal is not to be negative towards any individual effort to try something new, however, I believe this tour had very little positive impact on the sport. Besides the lack of depth in the pro field, the high entry fees, the tacky score-keeping girls in Hooters outfits, and the very amateur feel of the production, the event simply didn’t deliver many positive results. The adage of “any press is good press” may be true, however, to what degree is up for certain speculation and criticism in regards to the American Disc Golf Tour. The last portion of this idea is that the “tour” consisted of a single event. This was blamed on the community not rallying behind the initial event effort, but given that there was a poor product, very little real competition, and a lack of appreciation for the people that may be the audience, I am wholly unsurprised at the outcome.

Grade: D+

 

Disc Golf World Tour

The next main tour arriving on the scene this year is the Disc Golf World Tour (DGWT). This tour consists of five events throughout the US and Europe. Starting in California, to the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, and ending in South Carolina with the United States Disc Golf Championship (USDGC).

This tour is the creation of Jussi Meresmaa, who is widely recognized for the explosive growth and success of disc golf in Europe. The tour is also responsible for bringing some new statistics to light. I have always liked statistics and am a believer that anything you measure can bring greater understanding and interest to the topic.

The statistics measured are: Green Hits (from the tee), ICP (putting percentage inside 10 meters), and OCP (number of putts made outside the 10 meter circle). This is a great start to the idea that we can break down and analyze what statistics and metrics make a winning disc golfer. The only metric shared by the top finishing golfers so far is over 90% ICP, and being top rated in green hits. This means that they routinely give themselves a reasonable chance at taking birdies, and are able to capitalize on it.

This is surprising given that both Paul McBeth and Ricky Wysocki are known for their amazing putting accuracy at quite a distance, however in the four events of the Disc Golf World Tour thus far, that has not been the reason for their success. I would never have guessed that was the case. Most people would likely have thought that making the 40-50 foot putts on a routine basis would be the reason for the top ranked players in the world to be ahead of everyone else. Though this may be a contributing factor in this small sample size of four events, this has not proven to be true.

There is one more thing to consider in this tour. Given the amount of travel, the sponsor (Innova Champion Discs via Discmania), and the coverage there is an overwhelming amount of Innova/Discmania sponsored play coverage and related commentary. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. They are footing the bill to make sure all of their top pros make the events, and the coverage and commentary is outstanding after each round. Just remember when you’re watching the coverage who is putting it together. All in all, this tour has been good for the sport, especially abroad and I applaud Jussi and his team for a great start to what I hope becomes an even stronger tour for years to come.    

Grade: B+

 

Disc Golf Pro Tour

The thrid tour that started this year is the Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT). This tour consists of five events and an additional tour championship you must qualify to play in. The tour was designed so that pros following the NTs and majors for the PDGA could do so easily and in conjunction. With this ease of attendance, they have done a great job attracting the best in the sport to the majority of their events. Steve Dodge of Vibram Disc Golf is spearheading this tour and as with most things he’s done for the sport, he has shown thoughtfulness, great follow through, player first mentality, and long-term growth strategies can be at the heart of every event. The DGPT has brought carnival games, "beat the pro" challenges in the games, a revolutionary partnership in live scoring with the astounding uDisc app, in depth statistics and a relationship for new power rankings with DGstats, fantasy disc golf with prizes, live video coverage of every event, and wonderful round recaps and relationships with the disc golf media community.

This weekend I attended the Minnesota Majestic. I had the wonderful opportunity to watch the rounds in person and see the whole event unfold. The environment felt fan-friendly, professional, and accessible to players and fans alike. Of course the tournament directors, and course proprietors, were a large part of the enormous success of the event. It was certainly the best run, most interesting, and highest level of play in any tournament I have had the pleasure of being a part of.

One of my favorite things about the uDisc involvement are the statistics they track. They have fairway hits, circle 1 (10 meters), circle 2 (20 meters), and scramble. The scramble rate occurs when you save par, after missing the fairway off the tee. The addition of the extra statistics allows for greater analysis long-term. I also did the live scoring portion for a card on the first round and was astounded at the ease and accuracy of the app. Everything from the interface to the refresh time was amazing. If you haven’t checked out the DGPT yet, you should. You will not be disappointed.

Grade: A-

 

Both the DGWT and DGPT have done wonderful things for the sport and are driving the bus in the right direction. Ultimately, the future of the sport for professionals and fans alike will be more successful and enjoyable for all with great minds and tours propelling the sport forward. Please take some time to tune in to a live broadcast or watch some round recaps to show your support for the initiative taken by these tours this year.

Thanks for reading and until next time, enjoy the wealth of disc golf statistics and videos to look over on these great websites and additions to the professional circuits of our sport!

Thumber vs. Tomahawk - Perfecting Your Disc Golf Overhand Throw

Today we are going to talk about overhand disc golf throws.

I believe that they are some of the most underutilized tools in the average player's repertoire. I say this because one of the most interesting statistics measure in the Disc Golf Pro Tour event weekend was the UDisc “scramble” rate correlation to success.

The reason this has relevance is that I learned to throw overhand shots out of necessity during a disc golf tournament.

The amount of times that I use the overhand shot now is surprising. I am never looking to throw overhand in favor of a backhand shot, but there are many times it saves me at least a stroke or two on a tough course when I miss my line off the tee. There are times it is a very safe tee shot as well, but I try to not make a habit of throwing overhand. I believe that my time and practice is better served practicing backhand and forehand off the tee.

A word to the wise - I am not the best overhand thrower around. I try to use this on holes 250 feet and less, and I never try to throw an overhand more than 275-300 feet. I injured my shoulder in high school baseball, and trying to throw harder just hurts and rarely yields better distance.

As a right-hand backhand dominant disc golf player, I favor throwing the “thumber” over the “tomahawk." 

The reason is simply the direction of the fade. A thumber will end trending right for a right-handed throw, whereas a tomahawk will end trending left. Also, I feel more confident gripping the disc in the thumber than the tomahawk. If you are forehand dominant, the tomahawk is likely to be a better choice for you for as the grip is almost identical, and the fade will be left instead of right for you.

The main advantage is that you can circumvent the obstacles that are lower, focusing only on throwing above them.

With a little practice, the left to right variance and lack of huge skips can be a significant advantage. My approach article speaks to the advantages of this a little bit. There are a couple of courses here in the Midwest that having a competent overhand throw will give you a lot of confidence, such as Cedar Creek West and Axldog Acres disc golf courses. There are players who use this shot as their primary throw type, and though I have seen it work to some degree of success, you will without question limit yourself, if you do not have a clean backhand and/or forehand shot to compliment an overhand.

When choosing a disc for an overhand, I choose overstable disc golf drivers.

Something that will cut through the air quickly and rotate in the normal “knot” look through the air after achieving maximum height. The other benefit I’ve found in in throwing an overstable disc is that I can use this throw to help break in an overstable disc that I would like to throw later once it is stable to straight throwing. Throwing slower discs with an overhand will have the effect of faster rotation in the air. Unless you have a specific reason for this, I believe it yields less consistency in distance and in left to right deviation.

So, when learning or trying to hone your skills, use overstable high speed disc golf drivers, to create the most consistency.     

When throwing a “thumber,” you are looking to have an overhand throw fade to the right for an right handed thrower. The thumber is aptly named because your grip has the thumb on the underside or inside of the flight plate. The way I learned to grip a thumber, and still do, is to have my thumb hooked on the inside of the rim, my index finger pointed straight parallel with the bottom edge of the disc, and my middle finger supporting the bottom edge of the disc. Think of making a pinching motion between your thumb and index finger, and supporting the bottom edge with your middle finger. It feels strange for a while, but when you get used to it there it becomes comfortable enough.

For a “tomahawk,” I would recommend using the same grip as a forehand throw. This type of throw will fade to the left for a right-handed thrower. I use the traditional stack forehand grip for my tomahawks, and in order to not have the disc slip out, I try to not over throw for distance. Especially with a tomahawk as I am primarily a backhand thrower, I only use when necessary as the fade direction is the same as a backhand hyzer.

I would encourage everyone to learn how to throw a 200 foot Thumber and Tomahawk disc golf throw.

Have it for when you find yourself in trouble off the fairway. If there is a short tight hole with a low tree line, know that you can effectively take the obstacles out of your way. One thing the pros do quite well is get out of trouble. As we’ve seen in the UDisc statistics for the Disc Golf Pro Tour, the scramble statistic is heavily correlated to the success of the players. Solving left to right deviation is a primary goal in almost all technical shots for disc golf. Let this type of throw be a tool in your bag or cart for many rounds to come. Remember you don’t need to be able to throw a far overhand to make it a stroke saving part of your disc golf game.

The main advice I will give in trying to throw an overhand disc golf shot is simple - throw in a similar motion as throwing a football, and right before you release pull down hard (as in throwing a curveball in baseball).

Start throwing comfortably hard and never try to strong arm the throw harder than you need to. The more the flight plate is facing up the more fade you will get on the throw. I prefer to try and keep the disc on a minimal fade for most of my shots. I find it easier to line up straight and release with less left to right variance planned.

Get out there and practice, and I hope to see you saving pars on the disc golf course!

How to Select Discs for your Disc Golf Bag - A Guide for Rec to Advanced Disc Golf Players

Let's talk a little bit about disc selection. There are a million "In The Bag" videos out there, and you can find advice from anywhere about what disc is best, but the truth is that many people have too many discs in their bags that do the same thing. I have many friends that over the years have come to see the wisdom in my thought process for selecting discs for your bag, and I would like to share my thoughts on that with you all today. For the sake of a baseline, I will talk in terms of Innova plastic, as they are the most broadly known for a standard comparison in the market today. I am not affiliated with any disc manufacturer in any way. Obviously these disc choices are for a generic person and may not fit your game, but the same logic should apply to the appropriate weights and stability for your arm speed. I also assume that most people are backhand dominant for the purposes of disc selection.     

On the topic of variety, there is a real catch 22. The word variety itself is perhaps misleading as that would imply having a large variety of discs for every situation imaginable. I assure this is not advisable.

When many of the top professionals do “In The Bag” videos, you will notice a relatively common theme. They carry many of the same disc. Understanding that they often have them in different weights, plastics, and runs is a big consideration.

Midrange Discs

You may decide that for your anhyzer and hyzerflip throws, you would use a mold in DX or R-Pro plastic. You may then decide you need something you can throw flat or on a slight hyzer that will be a straight flyer and may choose a McPro Roc3 or KC Pro Roc. For your stable choice, the Champion Roc3 would be your best bet. Now you may have one or more of these Rocs in the process of being seasoned just right so your mid range lineup may look like this: 2 DX Rocs (one well seasoned at 180 grams, and one newish one at 176 grams), 1 KC Pro Roc (180 grams newish), 1 McPro Roc3 (max weight slightly seasoned), and 1 Champion Roc3 (max weight).

Drivers/Fairway Drivers 

You want to do a similar thing as to your midranges. I would start with 2 slowish drivers. I prefer to throw a stable disc such as a Teebird (either star or champion plastic and near max weight) and a less stable disc such as a Valkyrie (again star or champion plastic and near max weight). That should cover most anything that your midranges can’t and you don’t need maximum distance on. Next, I would choose a driver that is well within your arm speeds ability to throw. In my experience, most people tend to throw drivers that are well faster than their arm speed can truly handle. I would recommend 3 drivers of the same mold. For this instance, I will pick an Innova Destroyer as they are discs that have the ability to fly with a great variance of stability. I prefer the star plastic for drivers, but that is up to you. As discs go, Destroyers are notorious for being unpredictable in their stability off the shelf. This is not a bad thing as they are a great discs for many types of shots. I would find one in a lighter weight (such as 167 grams or so) and use that as my turnover or anhyzer disc. Then, I would find one that is stable, but not a meat hook around 172-174 grams. Next, find one that you can’t turn over on your most powerful flat throw at 174 grams and make that your overstable driver.

Putters

For putters, I prefer to putt with a stiff plastic as I feel more confident with that in my hand. No matter what you choose, I would make sure that you have 2 of the same putter, just in case something happens to one of them. There is not a single correct type to use. I putt with Prodigy PA3 in the 350 plastic, but I also like putting with the stiff 300 plastic. I use putters off the tee for most shots 270 and under when the line permits, as I feel the most comfortable throwing them accurately. I keep a stable throwing putter at max weight, a straight throwing putter at max weight and a very understable putter at max weight for approach shots and tee shots. I also throw a well seasoned PA1 in 300 plastic as my straight putter, and my understable throwing putter is a well seasoned PA4 in 300 plastic.

If you have all of the discs recommended above, you would be at 15 total in your bag right now. That being said there will be a need for a few utility discs that fill the gap for shots that require a more extreme line.

Utility Discs

For these, I believe you need first a very overstable putter. I believe a Discraft Zone is a perfect choice for that. Next, a very overstable midrange. There are many great options, and any will do. Just pick whatever you like best, but some great discs are, Discraft Drone, Innova Gator, Prodigy A1, Dynamic Discs Justice, are all outstanding meathooks.

After that, a very overstable fairway driver is in order. The most popular is an Innova Firebird, but a Discraft Predator, or Prodigy H1 will all be overstable enough for your needs as well. Lastly, if you still need a more overstable driver for your bag, pick something faster than your arm speed can handle or just grossly overstable. If you want something that you can’t really throw too hard I recommend a Dynamic Discs Stiletto. The very last disc to bring you up to an even 20 would be a very very understable disc for rollers or situations where you are throwing far uphill or do not have the ability to generate a run up or much power.

Thanks for reading and let me know if this helps to pair down your bag!

See you on the course,

Aaron

Two Things to Avoid When Preparing to Play in a Disc Golf Tournament

Today, I would like to talk about how my recent experiences in preparing and playing have gone for tournaments. The last two tournaments I have played in have been some of the worst disc golf I’ve played in years. After having some time to reflect on this, I believe it is a combination of a few things, so let me speculate why this is and how I plan to prepare differently to receive a different result in the future. As we all know, actually following advice, especially regarding the mental game, is tremendously difficult when you feel the pressure to perform. I believe that there are 2 main components to this and we will discuss them separately.   

 

1. Not sticking to a single type of practice.

The first issue is how I tried to prepare for the tournament. I put in more rounds of practice than I had ever before any tournament at the courses. Usually this would be a good thing, however I played 4 of the leagues at one of the courses and won 2 of the 4 weeks! How could this be bad? Well, as I suspect many of us (especially amateurs) do, we start to compare all future rounds to our better, or best rounds at a course in the past. Though I have traditionally played very well competitively at both courses in leagues and single round tournaments, I managed to shoot the worst rounds imaginable in the one tournament this year I have played and wanted really badly to do well.

In preparing for the tournament, I didn’t stick to a single type of practice.

I practiced inconsistent methods, and I created a lack of confidence in a single method. What I mean by this is, every round I tried to play slightly more aggressive than the last and both physically and psychologically it had a negative impact on my performance when it really mattered. Instead of playing my game (which is semi reminiscent of “old man disc golf”) and staying in the fairway and trusting my putting, I wanted to be a hero off the tee on every hole.

This is a tough spiral once you start making bad shots. For one, if you try to throw harder than you really can or should, you tend to miss release points, landing zones, and angle of release. Beyond that the confidence to throw the more technical holes is greatly diminished and the ability to comfortably throw tighter lanes seems harder than it should. After this cycle starts, you end up having to make longer putts than you’re used to and once you miss those putts, the confidence in that part of the game starts to diminish as well.

With that being said, I put myself in a position to fail. I bring this all back to trying to play a game that really wasn’t mine. I truly believe that if I had just played a comfortable game hitting fairways and giving myself a chance to putt in all of my practice rounds, I would’ve been just fine. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, so for next time, I will practice playing my game and leave myself a chance to stay in contention and make a push in the final round. Also, don’t practice a course you know super well, to the point where you start to make up new throws, lines, and get creative for shots that are neither needed, nor advisable.

2. Not playing your OWN game.

The second issue is playing the tournament itself. I went in with the mindset that I would play safe. This generally good advice, except when you’ve been practicing playing aggressive. I found that the far throws were executed poorly and the short throws were either too short or too long. I had lost my comfortable throws in simply trusting my muscle memory to do the work for me. Instead of doing what I do best, I tried to “throw through the slump”. Boy oh boy, is that a poor choice. Generally if I’m having trouble finding a rhythm, I disc down to less stable discs and find a way to hyzer flip to flat. However, instead of doing the smart thing, I started throwing more stable discs harder. As I’m sure everyone knows, throwing harder is the solution to nothing when you’re having a bad day hitting your lines. In putting, I decided I would putt more aggressively to make up for my lack of accuracy on the tee pads and approaches, but as you would guess the numbers long-term don’t end up favoring that decision making. The discs didn’t fail me, I failed me.

The real villain here was expectations.

I expected myself to be competing for first or second place and was almost embarrassed to think I would finish any lower. The truth is: in any field you’re really playing against yourself. Of course, in the last round if you’re chasing for the win you have to play according to your ability to gain strokes on a player, but many times in my experience unless you’re down to just a few holes, it's best to play your game. Most of the time especially at the amateur level, mistakes will be made. This is mostly true in tournaments that are multi-day and at least 3 rounds, but I think playing your own game at the amateur level will generally yield the best results. This last tournament, I ignored all of the advice I give others and try to heed myself.

So after taking a few days off from throwing, I decided to go into the next league round and play my game. Low and behold: I threw great! Such a mixed blessing. It is always frustrating to not throw to your potential in big situations, but part of nerves is good decision making.

The best practice to get better under pressure, is to play in situations where you tend to perform poorly.

I have made it a priority that when I play rounds I want to do especially well in that I will keep an extra scorecard and record every poor decision I make. In many situations, awareness at the time is most of the battle.    

If there is another takeaway to have in competition I believe it is that you need to play in a bit of a bubble. Watching both Paul McBeth and Ricky Wysocki play live, especially this year, they will be socially polite during a round, however they tend to play as if they are the only one on the course. They seem quiet, focused, and uninterested in anything but their next throw. Striving to make that a part of at least one round with friends may be a fun challenge. I’m going to try to see if I can still be fun to play with and polite, but focused in my casual rounds. The good news is that my friends will let me know if I’m being too distant. It will be a good test.

Hopefully some of you out there can relate, learn from my mistakes, and have found some takeaways for your own game here today. Thank you for taking the time to join me in the reflection of my awful tournament play, and please share your experiences and thoughts!

See you on the course,

Aaron