Early in my short disc golf experience, I was horrible at putting. My confidence was best from 15 feet and closer. Though I had several memorable putts longer than 50 feet go in, I would not have even considered myself a decent putter. This deficiency contributed to many of my high scores, among others coexistent in my game at that time.
I was constantly in search of how to improve my disc golf game. Finding the Disc Golf Answer Man podcast allowed me to hear the concerns of other disc golfers had with their own skills. One word was repeated often, well two, but they are closely related. Eric “Emac” McCabe and Bobby “CDSB” Brown fielded a question each podcast that had the same answer. People wanted to know how to get more distance from their drive. Their answer : Fieldwork.
Their answer also included the fact that if you don’t practice something, you cannot expect to get better at it. This truth relates directly to putting in disc golf. I knew it well as a novice disc golfer. At club minis, my score was usually well above that of the rest of the field, even those who weren’t great players themselves.
The Practice Basket
The company I work for has its administration offices just two and a half miles from three disc golf courses. There is one practice basket near the first tee of Veteran’s Park DGC. Thunderchief is an open course winding around fishing ponds in the park. Its baskets are all in open spaces where you can practice putting on them easily. My hometown course, Tallahatchie Trails DGC, has a practice basket as well, but it is harder to make it there as often due to family responsibilities.
Honestly, practice never really made it very high on my list of important things to do during my first year of disc golf. It got slightly more important starting in year two, but did not make the top ten until I signed up for my first tournament. I had seen a putting challenge in the winter of 2014 called 100 putts in 100 days, where you basically put in at least 100 practice putts a day for 100 days. Simple concept. I created my own challenge since I was so close to a practice basket when at work.
It is very simple. On my lunch hour, I would go to the practice basket, grab a stack of putters, and get in 100 practice putts. I started this approximately a month and a half before playing in that tournament. I had enough putters that I could take a stack of ten to the practice basket.
Over the course of that month and a half, I made nearly two thousand putting attempts. I varied my distances from ten to thirty feet. I even borrowed heavily from the guys over at Disc Golf Putt Heads. They published an awesome post containing several putting games that you can use for improving your putting skills. I used a variation on the solo ladder and the gauntlet games the most.
The solo ladder game I changed the distances used. I started from five steps from the basket, and after each made putt, I took a step backwards. For the gauntlet, I would sometimes randomly place the putters on the ground and sometimes set them in a straight line. I would not go as fast as possible since I was usually wearing dress clothes. The ladder game was the most challenging as I was not used to putting successfully from longer distances.
Flipping the Switch
Something happened during all that practice. I was suddenly hitting my putts at any distance. While not one hundred percent, minus any strong wind, chains and basket were rattling. That first tournament was coming up fast and my putting confidence had soaring.
When that tournament came around, I had never played the course until the day before. I got in a partial round from the long tees with a few guys from my local club who were playing the tourney as well. The tournament day came, and the novice division I played in put in two rounds from the short tees. All of that putting practice paid off at the tournament.
While the first round was a poor seven over par, it was not the result of poor putting. Those pesky trees hurt me more than anything. The second round was a different story. While my driving was still not the best, my putting more than made up for it, helping me card my first ever under par round at 1 under for the round.
Since that tournament on October 17th, I had not played a single hole of disc golf until November 13th. On a rare day off from my new job, I went to my local course for a round. The first two holes were played solo, and I joined a threesome ahead of me on the third hole.
I ended up only being four over when we got to the 17th hole. This was due to some good putting helping me par a hole when it could have easily been a lot worse. High winds on the last two holes forced some mistakes, and I ended up seven over for the round. A personal best at my local course.
All of those practice putts made a significant impact on my game. No longer do I fear the aftermath of an attempted putt. Now my efforts shall shift to getting more consistent off the tee. I’m still working on those forehand rollers.