Preparing for 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,