Technical Courses

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!

See you on the course, 

Aaron

Thumber vs. Tomahawk - Perfecting Your Disc Golf Overhand Throw

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.

Give it a shot and let me know in the comments below how you did!

See you on the course, 

Aaron

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

Select Discs for your Disc Golf Bag

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

Improving Your Approach in Disc Golf

Improving your 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