Last Sunday I received my friend Paul’s practice disc golf basket. Basically it’s a basket that you can easily set up and use either for practicing your putting or you could use it to set up your own course. I guess it’s probably better to use as a practice basket than for a course, but if you had a bunch of them and some time and a large area you could set up a neat course. Going a little off topic, when I lived in New York I looked up courses and they said there was one in Park Slope. I have a friend that lives there, so one early summer day we made the trek to Brooklyn and met my friend at Prospect Park to check out the course. Well, it turns out that you actually have to bring your own baskets and they have a suggested course for you to follow. Not having a basket kinda put a damper on that and we played bocce ball instead. So I guess now that I have a basket, I could take it there and try the course, but living in Kalamazoo makes that a little difficult.
Anyway on to the heart of this post and let’s talk about using the basket for practice. I have read and talked to disc golfers and they both say that practicing putting is probably the most important thing you could do. Being able to sink putts easily will help you shave off a throw or two and get you closer to par. The disc golfers that I talked to at a tournament back in 2006 said that they usually practiced with it every day. Kinda intense. But these guys were able to usually do only two throws a hole, I guess it paid off. So I guess it’s important to practice putting.
I’ve only had the basket for a week and a half, but I have practiced with it four or five times and I actually have seen a bit of improvement in my putting. I probably could do it every day, but some days it’s crappy out, other days I’m disc golfing, and other times I just don’t feel like it. I’m trying to get better at that, I mean even doing it for 20 minutes is better than nothing.
I only have two putters, a Mercury Putter (which seems to not exist when you do a Google search for it, weird) and then a Birdie. Obviously, it would be kind of a pain to just use those two putters when practicing. Throwing two and then walking over to pick them up and then throwing them again is fine, but it’s probably better to have a bunch of putters to throw (kinda like those guys that practice golf putting, they usually have a bunch of golf balls). So, being the crafty guy that I am, I grabbed the putters that my father-in-law has and then found that you can use the Shark disc as a putter as well. This gives me a total of eight putters to practice with. Much better. Now if you are reading this for advice for practicing with a basket, you don’t need to have a bunch of putters, you could do just fine with one, but I think it might be a little easier if you could just have a stack next to you to practice with, won’t throw off your rhythm.
I put the basket in the middle of my in-laws’ yard, which gave me the most options to move around it and practice different length putts. Actually, it was a little weird at first because the next door neighbors were on their porch and I didn’t feel like having an audience, so I moved it a little further away from their view and it was just fine (I’ll talk about disc golfing with an audience later, for some reason it messes with me). I would recommend putting the basket on a flat surface, because the majority of courses have baskets on a flat surface (most of the Kalamazoo area courses do, not all of them, but most of them. Also, you don’t want to have the basket wobbly and maybe fall over). Plus, I think in the context of practicing your putts, your focus should be that you want to get the putter into the basket. Being able to do that from different distances is more important than worrying about the height of the basket. Once you can get the putter into the basket from varying distances on your first try, and you never have to worry about it not getting in the basket, then I say what the heck, if you got a hill in your yard go for it.
My first time practicing with the basket was me just getting a feel for it. I would stand at one place, throw all of the putters, and then move to another random location. I had no rhyme or reason on where I was going, I just wanted to get all of the putters in the basket. This worked, since you can’t really determine where you are going to be putting from when you are out on the course. But, was kind of a pain because you really couldn’t track your progress. Therefore, on my next couple of times out there, I used a marker that was about 13 feet from the basket and tried to get all eight discs into the basket on one try. If I couldn’t do that, I kept throwing until they all got in the basket, and then tried again, this time doing it in less throws than the last time. I figure once I can throw all of them in on the first time, I’ll move back a couple of feet.
I am also practicing my holds and aims while putting.
- What am I focusing on?
- How do I want to hold the putter?
- What should I aim at?
These are things that I think about while practicing. All of the pros say that you should do the same thing every time you putt, this way it becomes automatic and helps clear your head. You don’t want to be thinking about the guys you are playing with, or the next hole, or something unrelated to disc golf completely. You want to focus on the task at hand, which is sinking the putt. So, doing the same thing is kinda zen like. Also, they say that you should aim for a link on one of the chains. Again, this helps with the focus zen thing you are trying to accomplish. Plus, I think it helps you get the disc in the chains, which usually helps stop the disc and drops it right into the basket. There is nothing so painful then having a disc smack the basket under the chains and drop to the ground. So, aim for the chains (title of the blog makes sense now, doesn’t it? ;)). Finally, I suggest that if you are right handed, aim for a chain on the left, and I’m guessing if you are left handed you should probably aim for the right. This is because the disc (like I have said before) goes the opposite way you throw it. So, aiming for the opposite side of the way you are throwing will help keep that disc going toward the basket and not just passing it. This is a lot to think about as you putt, but trust me it’s really not this bad. You know that you need to get your putter into the basket, so just do that. These are just things to help you get that putter into the basket. Most of them are probably common sense, but gotta say it.
One final thing that I noticed while practicing. My hold on the disc is becoming different. Usually when I putt, I hold the disc with my pointer finger on the edge of the disc. So I have my thumb on the top of the disc, my pointer on the edge, and the rest of my fingers gripping the lip ( looks like I’m making a gun with my hand and it’s sideways). But, for whatever reason, I’ve started putting the putter in between my pointer and middle finger. This puts my thumb and pointer on the top of the disc and the rest underneath the disc. It seems to help, but since I have only just started doing this, I’m not sure on the long term affect it will have.
I will continue to practice with the basket, it’s nice out, so why not. Hopefully I’ll be able to get all eight in on one try. My best was yesterday, I was able to get six in. I’ll let you know when I get all of them in.
Anyone have their own unique way to putt? If you don’t have a basket, do you practice with something else? Do you think you need more than one putter?