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  • Chris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

Putting: Putter and Shot selection

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Vortica Disc Golf has already taken an in-depth look at How to Putt More Proficiently by Practicing Properly, and how you can program yourself to be a good putter by making almost all your putts in practice, using your existing technique. This time we’re looking at what putter and what putting shot to select for various types of putts and conditions.

Auckland's Mario Cerniar, loving Victoria Park's challenging putting environment
Mario Cerniar, enjoying Victoria Park

Having the right putter for the job, and the right shot for the wind and terrain, means your disc has the best possible chance to nestle into the bottom of the cage.

The type of shot you play to the basket is dictated predominantly by the wind, and then by where the basket is in relation to OB, backstops, drop-offs, your vertical height from the basket, what’s behind the basket, and what’s between you and the basket.

The Big One - The Wind

Wind is what disc golfers fear most when putting. Must-make death-putts into the wind instil sphincter spasms in even the most hardened and capable players. But knowing how to approach each situation correctly allows you to relax a little, and do your best.

Here’s how various winds affect various nose angled putts.

Nose Up vs. Nose Down vs. Nose Flat

Nose up + head wind = lifted over the basket and hyzers long

Nose down + head wind = Slapped into the ground short

Nose flat + head wind = Can fly into the basket

Nose up + tail wind = Drops short/slapped down

Nose down + tail wind = Can be lifted/pushed long

Nose flat + tail wind = Drops faster than normal

Nose up + no wind = Can bounce off cage rim, & roll away

Nose down + no wind = Drops slightly short

Nose flat + no wind = Flies into the chains

From the above you should understand why I am a fan of flat putting wherever possible. This is because when the disc is flat relative to the wind, it has a very small cross sectional area – so the wind only “sees” a small sliver of disc, and hence it remains relatively unaffected by it – at least as minimally as a disc can be.

Cardona Ski Area, and Disc Golf Course, Wanaka.
Cardona Ski Area, and Disc Golf Course, Wanaka.

Of course, air can be moving vertically as well, which will lift or slam your disc, and it is extremely difficult to account for the vertical component unless you are putting up or downhill, and there is a natural angle to the wind as it follows the terrain.

Turbulent air cannot be accurately accounted for, so long as we continue to be unable to see air. To get a good basic understanding of wind and how to play it, please read our article Over Here.

Now, the instant a disc shows a face to the wind, by having some nose or hyzer angle relative to the wind, the wind begins to see a much larger object, and suddenly the apparent size of a disc can change from perhaps 40 square centimetres, to 200 or more sq.cm. – a fivefold increase!

This immediately causes the disc to be heavily affected by the wind direction and strength, in the following patterns. This is for a right handed player. Lefties should swap Hyzer and Anhyzer results.

Left to right wind

Anhyzer putt = Lifted over basket and blown long right plus a cut roll

Hyzer putt = Slapped down with no fade, and short

Flat putt = Pushed slightly right

Right to left wind

Anhyzer putt = slapped down and short

Hyzer putt = lifted over basket, and blown long right, with skip/roll

Flat putt = Pushed slightly left

This shows why you should putt using a very flat disc in the wind. Hyzer angle makes for extremely difficult putting beyond a handful of metres, because you are not throwing the disc at the chains, but rather to the right, along the hyzer line required for the disc to hit the pole.

Putting practice should also include goofing off
Putting practice should also include goofing off

A flat putt is almost always aimed directly at the chains, and the only variable in the putt is how high the disc will be when it gets to the basket. Whether you use a spin putt, or a pitched putt, or a combination, you always need to have the disc descending into the chains when it arrives.

Discs which arrive with a nose up attitude, or on an upwards trajectory often bounce out, or are spit out of baskets due to the uniquely poor catching ability of the targets our sport uses.

Discs which arrive on a downwards slope into the cage are far more likely to end up in the bottom of the cage. Discs which hit the exact centre of the pole with speed, or strike the chains with excessive force are sometimes spat out, or can even fly right through.

Many of these so-called “spit-outs” and “fly-throughs” are often User Error though, and the result of an inappropriate putting form and disc flight selection, for the type of basket being played into. But that is a subject for another article.

Outside easy putting range

It should be self evident that a perfectly flat putter aimed at the chains is only possible from some distances and from some lies. This is because discs will not fly perfectly straight for very far – at most about 10 metres, in ideal conditions for a pitch putt - and longer for a faster spinning disc.

Spin putters are at an advantage here, because spin stabilises a disc, and allows it to stay on the hyzer angle it was released with for longer. Plus, the extra airspeed makes for less vertical curvature, which simply means it won’t go up as high, or drop as steeply as a pitched or high-lofted putt, making it ideal for low ceilings. These factors make it potentially more accurate at long distance, but they can fly a long way past, if you fail to connect.

Often you will need to adopt a putting stance or a putting form which requires that the disc have some hyzer or anhyzer on it at some stage of its flight, and thus, it is going to be affected by the wind somewhat more than usual.

Now’s the time it’s key to understand the effects I described above, in some detail, so you can estimate what the effect is going to be, and do your best to execute along that line.

To lay-up, or to go for it?

In our How To Putt Proficiently article I talked about deciding what you are doing, and never having a “half go”. We don’t practice half-goes, so we don’t do them on the course. Simple.

You decide if you are going for it, and you put it in the basket, OR you decide you are laying up to it, and you put it underneath the basket. Simple! But don't ever confuse simple with easy, as they are not the same thing.

A half-go often hits the rim of the cage, and sends the disc rolling away from the basket, often outside of the circle – resulting in a triple putt; the Ultimate Round Killer.

Developing a proper pitch putt

In order to prevent the aforementioned disastrous outcomes, it’s necessary to develop a wide range of putting forms, and practice them. Often, when a basket is very close to OB, or a drop off, you absolutely must have a putt available to you, such that the disc is descending strongly when it arrives at the chains.

If you putt with a flat disc, then you can throw a disc up quite high indeed, even over a relatively short distance, and still retain good accuracy.

Creating a proper spin putt

I believe that over-concentration hurts a spin putt. It is quite intuitive, once you have arrived at your ideal spin putting form. (See Lizotte, and McMahon.) The spin putt is best executed with very little thought at all.

You simply adopt your stance, make the motions of your spin putt, while focusing on the basket, and this is the critical part; look away from the basket (whether it be at the ground, or wherever), gather yourself, look up, find a link to aim at, and instantly fire the disc at that link. No thought. No aiming. Nothing. Just throw the disc at the link.

This will be very different to the way many people spin putt; concentrating, concentrating, concentrating… putting.

I truly believe, that the only concentration you need for a spin putt, is to quieten your inner self, become properly calm, align yourself with the basket, and be aware of the power your spin putt is going to need, and then you should direct your attention properly away from the basket, so as to release the Inner Spin Putter within you. That Inner Spin Putter will look up, and send the disc on its way the instant they focus on a single link to aim at.

Give it a go – as always, your mileage may vary!

Spin putting has the advantage of not needing a high ceiling, being very intuitive and accurate once you stop thinking about it, and also being able to propel a disc a long way. Often a spin putt can get you out of a lot of trouble when a long way from the fairway. Or make an astoundingly long putt, a real crowd pleaser.

But woe betides the spin-putter who does not take account of his surroundings properly, and causes himself to triple-putt repeatedly!

How many types of putt can you make?

Clearly, when it comes to shot selection, you can only select shots you can actually perform. If you haven’t practiced a putting form, then it is almost impossible to execute all but the very shortest putts using that style successfully.

And this is why, in practice, you should adopt many different stances, just so that you can add these shots as options to make putts you’d otherwise miss.

Some Putt types

  1. Straddle Putt The straddle is the bare minimum alternate stance you need, so that you are not blocked when behind a tree or a bush.

  2. Narrow Staggered Stance The most accurate stance for all standing, non-straddle putts. This might seem counter-intuitive, but it is generally more accurate than a wide staggered stance, which results in the player moving right as they transfer weight to the front foot.

  3. From One Knee Often you need to reach left, or right, with one foot behind the marker, and this allows a very low ceiling shot.

  4. From Both Knees Sometimes you just don’t get an option to do otherwise.

  5. Reach-Right Forehand Both flat and anhyzer putts are available with the forehand reachout.

  6. Reach-left Backhand (Patent Pending) Right foot behind marker, back to target, reaching right. Flat or anhyzer putts available.

  7. Tomahawk With the disc at a 45-80 degree angle, above your head, thrown forehand so that it lands in the basket upsid