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What is The Secret to Consistent Putting?

In 30 years of disc golfing I’ve come to learn many things – and that’s what this blog is all about – trying to pass along what has taken me so long to learn, and which you can easily learn in under a year or two. Today, it's puttin' we talkin' 'bout!

 

So, there is a mercifully brief and very simple answer to the question I pose above: It’s YOU!

Liene Krastina makes a great putt at Lismore Park DGC, Wanaka.

 

That’s right, it’s all down to you, and only you. The real problem is that as humans we are remarkably inconsistent unless we are very talented. Or very experienced. Or very skilful. And preferably, all three.

 

And, this is why I have developed what I think are a relatively error-tolerant set of putting forms for use in various situations. I’ve done this because I am not an accomplished putter even after many years of giving myself the greatest possible chances to be successful. I am this way because I am not very talented. I am capable, and competent, but not talented, and I have worked hard for every metre I have ever moved away from the basket.

 

In previous articles I have stated that a large part of getting better is actually making your worst disc golf less bad, rather than playing better shots or sinking longer putts. It’s about making your misses smaller, and your decisions becoming better over time.

 

Disc golf is a game of continual refinement, after all.

 

So, paradoxically, it is quite possible to play much better disc golf than your physical level would tend to suggest, provided you don’t muck it up.

 

Will it make it? Lismore Park.

 

On the putting green too, you can perform better than you can perform, by not screwing it up with silly decisions. So, what are some of the sillier things you can do when putting?

 

 

  1. Getting caught between two putting styles

  2. Getting caught between two putts

  3. Throwing nose up into the wind

  4. Throwing hyzer into the wind

  5. Running putts when you should lay up

  6. Going OB on your putt

  7. Failing to commit to your chosen putt

  8. Not listening to yourself when you are full of doubt

  9. Half-running it

 

Let’s address each item in turn;

 

Getting caught between two putting styles

This isn’t going to affect new players much, but it can be problematic for long-time players like myself, who have used and practiced every kind of putting form, and every combination of forms it’s possible to use.

 

For us, even deciding on a putting form can be hard work, and then we need the mental discipline to make sure another form doesn’t sneak in at the last second, and muck it up.

 

The classic example is a competent player who has taught themselves a true lobbed pitch putt, and a true bent-elbow spin putt. They have discovered that a pitched put only goes so far, and that a spin putt will blow a long way past the basket if it misses. So there is a strong mental urge to add some spin and reduce the loft as you get further from the basket when pitch putting.

 

But great care needs to be taken when combining putting forms, even if you have practiced them well. There is a certain mental attitude required for a pure pitch putt, or a pure spin putt. For the pitch putt, you mustn’t break the elbow, because “the elbow is evil, and can’t be trusted” (Note 1).

 

And in a spin putt, you mustn’t loft the disc as you would in a pitched putt.

 

It can be hard to trust yourself that a pure putt is required, and to execute that pure form correctly.

 

Getting caught between two putts

This is a classic mistake in disc golf, and probably deserves its own article at some stage. (I have added it to the long list). But until then, a few paragraphs will suffice.

 

Not sure if you can pitch that far? Wind is a bit dodgy? Slightly downhill behind the basket? Or OB? So - what putt are you making? Low flat spin-putt to skip the wind? Medium height perfectly flat low-spin pitch putt to reduce the wind's influence on the disc?

 

These are important questions, because missing the putt, or worse, missing the basket might prove to be tactical suicide.

 

Agonising over a death putt often causes a player to fail to commit to one particular putt, and they try to meld two putt shapes into one - which usually doesn't work.

 

Or, a player can get confused and hung-up about nose angle, and simply run out of time, sticking it out with too much or not enough. Or you can struggle with the required height for two different putts, shooting for one, but getting close to the other.

 

Throwing nose up into the wind

This is guaranteed to ruin your day. It normally results in a total basket miss, as the disc gets lifted strongly, which adds hyzer, and causes the disc to end up far away and left of the basket – somewhere outside circle one, but usually inside circle two – for an even longer, crosswind comebacker.

 

Throwing hyzer into the wind

Hyzer throws result in the disc lifting. And any hyzer angle at all allows the wind to “see” the flight plate, which instantly begins working on it. Headwind hyzer putts which do not hit the basket will continue to be lifted gently, and glide long, where they can skip, or even roll to finish outside circle two.

 

Into the wind, you need to putt with the nose flat, with anhyzer, and preferably on a downward trajectory the whole way, but a flat release is OK. This is because a disc flying on anhyzer is descending through the air, rather than climbing in it, like a hyzer.

 

This is why you can throw discs very low if they only flip to flat, but the instant a low-thrown disc flips beyond flat, to any kind of anhyzer angle, it’s going to land short and cut-roll.

 

When attempting to flip discs over from hyzer to anhyzer, or flat to anhyzer, you need to allow more height than you think you need. Remembering that anhyzers are always descending should help you to flirt with that ceiling height with confidence.

 

It’s true, even when you throw a sky anhyzer drive : your disc is descending through the air it is travelling through, and it’s only on an upward trajectory because you threw it strongly upward. What makes sky annies so long is that when the disc reaches the top of “Anhyzer hill” it’s already nose down, so it doesn’t stall out. Instead it begins that long and descending reach to the right, (which is the signature of all good anhyzer flight shapes) before it fades to finish.

 

Running putts you should lay up for

This is a real problem for some people. Yes, it is a good thing to be confident when putting, and it is generally a good idea to putt firmly, as well. BUT – and it is a very big BUT; going for it when your body can’t cash the cheques your mind writes is a Very Bad Thing to do. And, knowing when to lay up and when to run it isn’t that difficult to figure out!

 

But before we do this, let’s talk briefly about the difference between Bullshit Bravado and Deep Confidence. Bullshit Bravado is what a player uses to steel themselves for a big putt when they do not have Deep Confidence. Bullshit Bravado causes a player to make bad calls on the putting green.

 

Deep Confidence is what you have in your putting ability when you have followed the regime I detail in my Proficient Putting article. It allows a player to execute on a long putt, and perhaps even make it.

 

Vortica team member Kyle Martin makes a monster putt in Paradise.

 

Well worth noting here are a couple of side issues: You will never be wrong to lay up to the basket, and then drop in. Never. But you will frequently pay the price of running it, which is a triple putt, or even worse; triple putt plus OB.

 

The second issue is, that if you think you can’t make a putt, then you are absolutely right! There is almost no possible way to go in, if you’ve already told yourself you probably won’t make it.

 

So, if you feel any negative emotion or feeling about a putt, do not attempt to run it. It’s so simple! Unless you are confident you can make it, and WILL make it, put it under the basket for a drop in.

 

Going OB on your putt

Wow – that sucks. But you probably deserved it, because you either ran a putt you were not properly confident of making, got caught between two putts, or got caught between two putting styles.

 

If there is OB in close proximity to the basket, your putting style must account for it, such that if you do miss, you will not be penalised for it. How does that tie in with my “be confident” message, then?

 

A player who has Deep Confidence isn’t Stupidly Confident – that is the sign of Bullshit Bravado. Deep Confidence allows a player to assess any putting situation, and make the best possible decision to avoid going OB, usually by putting the disc in the basket instead, by using a pitching putt which if it misses will most likely stay in bounds.

 

Getting an unlucky roll-away into OB is usually a sign of failing to commit properly to your putt, and low putts which collide with the cage stand a fairly high chance of a roll-away. High putts which hit the top hat or upper rim and skip or roll OB are an indication of failing to properly execute.

 

Failing to commit to your chosen putt

It can be sphincter puckering when the consequences of going wrong are Very Bad. Death putts are called that for a reason. Take the opportunity to think carefully before committing to it, and when you do, you must commit 100% to the putt.

 

Typically death-putts hit the cage low, when players do not commit, and you can get away with it for a drop in, but equally a chaotic outcome may result in OB, or a lengthy and difficult comebacker.

 

It’s not just death putts, either. Often a player will putt low when worried about the distance a possible fly-by will create. This is the classic Inner Asshole at work, as I have discussed in a few articles now.

 

Here’s it’s worth noting that your putting release height is going to be the same as normal; somewhere in between your chin and your nose. Letting go of a disc lower, often results in a low putt.

 

If you are worried, you could try putting on an anhyzer angle, down into the basket, so as to force a flat landing without roll or skip, should you airball it. “Airdisc” just doesn’t sound euphonious, does it?

 

Failing to commit can also allow other problems to emerge, like getting caught between two putts, or two putting styles, or half-running it. (see below)

 

Once you have decided on your form, and your putt, no matter it is a lay-up or a proper attempt, you must strictly enforce your will on your body, to adhere to not just the putting form, but the power and height needed to make it.

 

Not listening to yourself when you are full of doubt

Probably the worst thing you can ever do on a DGC is ignore self-doubt. It’s there for a reason; you doubt yourself!

 

Self doubt is a double edged sword though, which cuts both ways; it can prevent you making a big mistake, and it can also prevent you making a big putt.

 

Only you are able to gauge your own level of self doubt, as it varies by personality, and by experience, and by ability. You may doubt yourself needlessly – and this is more Inner Asshole stuff – or you may doubt with great reason, because you are looking to execute a very difficult shot, where the consequences of going wrong are dire.

 

Needless self doubt on the putting green can be eliminated by following the guidelines in my Proficient Putting Practice article.

 

Reasonable self-doubts are to be embraced as they are a necessary and natural antidote to your boundless optimism, your Positive Mental Attitude, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect. :P 

 

Once you have tamed your Inner Asshole on the putting green, the self doubts which remain are the legitimate concerns of an experienced and capable player, and they should not go unexplored, or unconsidered.

 

And you should explore them carefully, because unless you can successfully justify your putting decision to yourself, there is no way to release that Deep Confidence which will allow you to make it.

 

If your attempt at justifying your putting decision can’t be convincingly won (and you have to be honest with yourself here!) then you are switching to a lay-up putt.

 

Half-running it

The worst of all possible putts. It can’t go in, while it can go wrong. You never ever practice a half-run, so why would you ever attempt it on the course? Lay-ups don’t (usually!) go wrong. 

 

Half-running a basket is what players do, when they don’t actually know what they are doing. 

 

What are the “error tolerant putting forms” I spoke of earlier?

First, some backstory: fairly early on in my putting career I discovered that putting hard at a basket was a terrible idea for me. Sure, it meant I could almost make exactly the same putt every single time, but if I missed, I got badly punished. And hard-putting can cause a disc to fly through a set of chains, which puts a damper on your round.

 

In order to justify putting hard you need to assure yourself that you are the talented kind of person who can, on average, lower your total score by putting hard, rather than increasing your total score – which is normally the case.

 

I also noticed that when I putted hard, I usually did so with a low release, which anecdotally at least, causes putts to finish low. But because I am not very talented, it’s hard to figure out if that’s the case, because my hard putts tend to go all over the place. :P

 

I also rapidly understood that if the disc was not always travelling towards my aim point, on a straight trajectory, the chances of missing grew with every degree of fade or turn the disc experienced.

 

Thus I rejected fast spin-putting, powerful pitch putts and also hyzer putts of all kinds, except where needed.

 

I learned that I could lower my score more by having the disc arrive at the basket at a slow speed, and descending rapidly, so that a miss nearly always resulted in a very easy comebacker.

 

To achieve this, I adopted a slow speed, very low-spin pitched put, and a faster, yet still relatively slow-flying spitch putt, which crested a little lower but was still descending at the basket.

 

I also taught myself to pitch the disc flat and straight along the line of play. This ensures an accurate putt out of my hand goes in the basket, and gets affected by winds the least of all possible putts.

 

A big part of pitching the disc flat and straight is propelling the rear three fingers of my fan-grip upward and outward at the same time. Ricky Wysocki calls this his finger-pop, and it does two things. The outward finger-pop applies spin to the disc with absolutely no movement of the wrist hinge at all (see Note 1), while the upward pop keeps the disc flat and ensures a nice high mid-point to the disc’s arcing flight. It also means an active spring from the hand, rather than a passive release.

 

You aren’t letting the disc go with your hand, you are propelling the disc forward and upward with it, using nothing but your swinging arm, and your fingers.

 

Aim vs. Target Point

Aim small miss small, goes the old adage – and it’s true. And while it is true I do aim at an individual link where I want the disc to collide with the basket, the target I want to hit is the massive horizontal circle of the cage – the chains are just my mechanism to help the disc get in there.

 

It means a small miss in the aiming department, doesn’t necessarily mean missing the target. Whenever you hear someone call “who needs chains???” it's often someone aiming at the big circle of the cage, rather than the little circle which is the sweet spot on the chains.

 

If you concentrate on getting the trajectory down into the big circle of the cage, as well as at the aim point on the chains, then you will be more successful in your individual putts, and miss fewer comebackers, because they will be shorter.

 

What about spin putting?

Yeah, I practice it regularly, because if you have a low ceiling, or an uphill putt, there might not be any other way to give yourself a chance of going in. But as a main method of putting, it is not suitable for people who are not of above average physical talent. And while it is true that 50% of players will be necessarily above average, you probably need to be in the top 15% if you are to reduce your score using it, rather than increasing it.

 

As with all things; you need to use whatever form gives you the greatest chance of success on every individual shot in disc golf, and that includes a full and frank assessment of the downsides to mucking up, and the chance of it happening.

 

I have seen too many spin putters miss and miss and miss… something pitch putters almost never do, unless they get spectacularly unlucky. 

 

Repetition

The power of repetition can't be understated. The top-rated disc golfers all have at least a million putts under their belt, using their selected putting style - and that is why it is so seldom we see a top pro change their putting form; they have so much invested in it.

And even if your form isn't great, performing it a million times will make you great at it.

 

It's a common fallacy that we develop muscle memory - when it's actually brain memory. Muscles can't do much of anything without the sodium-pumped impulses provided by your neurons. It's your mind you are training, and not your body, when you try to improve at disc golf.

 

Wrap up

Putting is hard. Crazily difficult in fact! We have to contend with unseen wind, a small target area, and our own (bad!) selves in order to be successful.

 

It is never helpful to rate your putting against the top players in the world because they are filled with sick amounts of great genes and great talent and total dedication. Seriously - don't do it. Compare your putting to your putting six months ago. That is the right way to look at your ability.

 

And remember; there’s no one secret to any physical activity. Disc golf is a game of gradual improvement over time. And the earlier you work hard to improve, the better at disc golf you will ultimately become.

 

Eely Point DGC at dusk, Wanaka.

 

Dear Reader,

 

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--Chris

 

Note 1: “The elbow is evil and can’t be trusted.”

              Copyleft.  Jay “Yeti” Reading, 2013-2019

 

 

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