Improving your Approach in Disc Golf

Improving you Approach in Disc Golf

I would like to share a few thoughts about one of the least talked about topics in disc golf. Many times this is the case because of level of courses available, the seeming impact on scores, and if there is a least flashy part of disc golf it is the

approach shot.  

As a new player I only focused on throwing drives and putts. Partly because those are the only 2 shots you are guaranteed to have to throw every hole (unless you ace everything, of course).

And while I agree they are important parts of disc golf I believe that as an amateur working on your approach game is important to every aspect of your play more than people realize.

Any drive where you can reach the basket should be treated as an approach shot where you want to leave yourself an easy putt.

Let’s look at the topic from this viewpoint.

When you throw a 250 technical shot off the tee, are you really throwing a drive?

Of course it is your first shot, so technically it’s your drive, but I would argue that any seasoned player is really trying to throw a placement shot.

An approach shot is a placement shot.

At that range many players are throwing putters, mids, or possibly forehand drivers depending on the shape of the hole, but they all have the same goal: 

Put yourself close enough to the basket to leave yourself a putt.

This concept is not new, certainly not original, and if you’ve done any reading about how to improve yourself as a disc golfer on a consistent and competitive level, you’ve heard this advice before.

The truth is that if you don’t put yourself in a position to comfortably putt, you’ve either not executed your shot, or you’re making bad decisions off the tee.  

Let us start with making bad decisions off the tee.

Most amateurs, especially at the intermediate and recreational level, are just throw something that they hope will go towards the basket.

Distance is a factor, but they really just want to “get it there." And by that I mean park it.

While it’s well and fine to have that goal in mind, it will likely not serve you well in the long run. I believe that you must try to throw that shot that will leave you with the best chance of making a putt you are comfortable making 90% of the time or better. If the hole is out of your comfort range, then at least try to leave yourself a clean jump putt.

The truth is you have to give yourself an opportunity to succeed more often than you fail.

Often times when trying to “park” a hole you throw harder than normal, or take a slightly riskier line. Then when something goes awry you are struggling to save your 3. It is chalked up to a bad day, bad disc, bad luck, whatever else you want to justify at the time.

I believe that an excellent tee shot is often time on blue level courses (90% of the courses most places are blue level or easier) is the shot that gives you a nice putt for 2 (maybe 3 if the whole length or shape is difficult enough).

When I turn in the best rounds in leagues, or even a tournament, I never feel as if I really had to work hard to do it. In fact, when I feel like I’m pushing myself past my comfort zone, every hole my score history would indicate I score significantly worse.

Executing the approach shot

When playing competitively, it’s best to come at every throw with the mentality of “how can I most easily put myself in range to make my putt comfortably.”

If the hole is challenging, change the last part to “have a putt." The difficult part of all this is actually thinking and doing it. When playing with others, it is easy to adapt your game to that of whoever is having a hot round. This “mimicking” is one of the easiest ways to get out of rhythm and have some melt down throws.

I struggle with this all the time and I imagine that is a common problem. There are great times to push yourself, but I would recommend those times to be field work or solo rec rounds.

Trying to execute a shot you managed on a perfect throw once, but have not managed to throw again the last 5 times is another example of a bad decision, not bad execution.

To execute a great shot, you simply need to throw a shot you can throw 90% of the time accurately that will put you in a position to generate the lowest reasonable score you can on the hole.

I took first at a league last week in which I had one goal off the tee every throw: Put it in the fairway and closer to the basket than you are now.

I did because there wasn’t any pressure other than hitting a line that I felt comfortable hitting, and trusting that I would make the best of putting or approaching from that lie. Guess what?

I even hit an ace trying to just “put it in the fairway comfortably!" 

The reason is simple: When you throw the right line, the disc may just do exactly what you want and even exceed your expectations!

Sure it feels great to try something challenging beyond your regular shot repertoire, but that leads to a dark path.

On a good day, you will be feeling on top of the world until something goes wrong. Then one tree kick turns into three tree kicks, and so on.

What I am recommending is that you only allow roller coaster disc golf when consequences are much lower (no money spent on beating the field).

If you need to make up a stroke or two in the last couple holes of a tournament, do what you will. Only you will know your game well enough to know if that is the right decision making process.

I will post my guide to better approaches in the next few weeks, as I have a few friends and fellow players that have been remarkably happy with the process I used to improve my short game and technical shots. Until then, happy decision making. 

Hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought, and I hope to see you on the course beating me with my own advice!

See you on the course,

Aaron