Thursday, August 17, 2017

DD Events Coordinator Doug Bjerkaas Awarded TD Of The Year

Joining a host of other Dynamic Discs team members who have organized events over the years, Events Coordinator Doug Bjerkaas is being honored in 2017 with the TD of The Year award. Those of us who work closely with Doug know just how much heart and soul he puts into the events that he runs, and the record attendance at the 2016 GBO is proof that he knows how to organize a great tournament.

Doug shared with us a bit about his experience in running events, why he’s so passionate about being a tournament director, and some of the times he’s learned a lesson the hard way.

Starting Off Small

Having played disc golf for about twenty years, Doug quickly saw the need and opportunity to help run events early on when he lived in Texas. Running weekly minis and larger events in the late 1990s, he found that he loved the atmosphere of organizing gatherings for the sport he loves. “I have always enjoyed the community that is created by organized disc golf events and jumping in to help with making them happen seemed like a natural fit,” he said.

Doug’s experience as a tournament director has run the gamut from large to small, with his smallest sanctioned event taking place in 2011. Organizing the inaugural Rocky Mountain Women’s Disc Golf Championship brought about 60 women to the competition and has since grown to one of the nation’s premiere women’s only tournaments.

Doing What It Takes

Doug commented that he often gets asked what kind of a person it takes to be a successful TD, and he believes it’s a combination of three essential skills: organization, communication, and caring.

Since the nuts and bolts of a tournament can easily become scattered or overlooked, “organization skills are critical to running a great event,” Bjerkaas says. It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway - being a clear and effective communicator is required if you want to keep your players happy and you want your event to be well-attended now and in the future.

Lastly, a passion for the sport and caring about the event is a prerequisite for being a TD. Doug’s sage advice is applicable to many of us: “Like anything in life, a passion for doing what you do sure improves the results. A TD should be passionate about the event or events they are running. If not, they should quit TD-ing that event.”

Insider Secrets

If running a disc golf tournament seems easy, there may be a few surprises in store for you along the way. One item that Bjerkaas notes is imperative is not messing with tee times in a way that will negatively affect players. He recalls an instance in which this lesson was an important, yet difficult, one to learn:

“A handful of players saw a posted tee time, went to bed, and showed up to the course the next day after their revised tee time had already started. This was a very painful and difficult situation to sort through. A decision was made after that event that we would never adjust a tee time again that caused a player to show up earlier than originally posted.

TDs will make mistakes. TDs should not make the same mistakes over and over again though. We all need to learn from these difficult situations to better improve the tournaments we run in the future. I have found that disc golfers are generally understanding of a mistake when it is made the first time. Disc golfers tend to not sign up for events again when the same mistakes are made over and over again.”

Doug also makes an important distinction between the level of involvement in running a weekend B-tier compared to a massive undertaking like the Glass Blown Open. Without his dedicated staff and amazing volunteers, Bjerkaas would single-handedly have the task of managing players at six different courses and running extra events throughout the week.

A Gracious Recipient

Never one to take the credit all for himself, Doug recognizes that the people who devote countless hours toward running events each deserve a piece of the pie too:

“This award was really won by several folks including the entire staff at Dynamic Discs, all of the volunteers that worked these events, and the entire Emporia, Kansas community. Course TDs like Stevo Storrie, Tyler Searle, Mike Solt, Scott Reek, Brian Lamoreaux, and Matt Loyd are as deserving as I am for this award.

A guy like Dustin Leatherman who has stepped up to lead our junior GBO events deserves this award. Jackie Morris who serves as the Volunteer Coordinator for our events deserves the award. Jeremy Rusco and the entire staff at Dynamic Discs deserve part of the award.  Emporians like Chris Walker, Don Schrack, Susan Rathke, Bryan Williams, Mark McAnarney, Casey Woods, Jess Buckholtz, Kim Redeker, and scores of others have also won a piece of the award.”

Congratulations Doug - we appreciate all that you do at Dynamic Discs and know that players across the country are thankful for the incredible events you put on!
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ep 182 Disc Golf Answer Man

Our thoughts on Latitude 64’s overmold discs, out of production discs, should you get a favorite mold in different plastics, and much more.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Quick Tip: Tournament Day

This week’s Quick Tip from Robert McCall: Tournament Morning Warm-Up

I’m going to describe a situation to you. I’m hopeful that it’s not a situation you’ve encountered, but it’s likely that you’ve felt this way before:

On a tournament morning, you’ve planned to be prepared, so you set your alarm fairly early. However, when the alarm blare catches you mid-dream, you snooze it a few times, because you’re still tired. No big deal, right? You get up, get dressed, and drive toward breakfast from McDonald’s. The McDonald’s line is a little longer than usual, so you waste 10 minutes or so waiting on your food. When you arrive at the course, around 30 minutes before the players’ meeting, you realize you don’t have all of your discs in your bag, so you dig around your car for a few minutes to find your discs and ensure your arsenal is ready for battle. You head toward check-in, but see a buddy of yours, so you guys chat it up for a few minutes before you arrive at Tournament Central. You sift through the available plastic for a few minutes, and before you know it, it’s time for the players’ meeting. After the meeting, you head toward your assigned hole, the two minute horn blows (TWOOOOOOO MINUUUUUUUTES), and you’ve thrown zero discs.

If you’ve been there before, you know how unsettling your first few holes can be as you’re trying to catch your stride. I’ve experienced this situation a couple of times, and it’s my absolute nightmare. In order to combat that awful feeling on the first tee, I’m going to share my pre-tournament routine in hopes that it might help you form a routine (or at least help in some small way).
The night before the tournament, I do everything I can to be ready for the next morning: I lay out my clothes, pack my bag with my usual discs, towels, mini, Whale Sac, water bottle, and anything else I might need for the day. I set my alarm to plan to arrive at the course an hour and 15 minutes ahead of the players’ meeting. I do my best not to stay up too late. I drink quite a bit of water in the days leading up to the tournament. If I’m leaving the place that I’m staying for good that day, I completely pack my bag that night.

The morning of the tournament, I NEVER snooze my alarm if at all possible. I’m a notorious snoozer during other times, but not during tournament days. My goal for the morning of the tournament at the place I’m staying is to get ready, get dressed, and be out the door in 15 minutes or so.

I eat breakfast quickly and as early as possible, because there’s nothing worse for me than standing on the first tee box and feeling as if I’ve eaten too much. If the line is too long at the breakfast restaurant I’ve chosen, I’ll head to the next one. Wasting time waiting for breakfast is one of my least favorite tournament morning activities.

If possible, and this may be oversharing, but I stop to use the restroom and get any last minute snacks or drinks before I get to the course. I don’t want to ever have to rely on a restroom at the course.

Once I arrive at the course, I try to follow the same routine if I can. Walk to check-in first, greet the people I haven’t seen in awhile, and chat briefly with friends there. Once I’m at an hour before the players’ meeting, I begin my warmup.

I’ll do a few jumping jacks, arm circles, or a brief jog to get my blood flowing a bit.

Stretching is next. I stretch both arms, shoulders, hips, legs, and back as thoroughly as I can. Even though I haven’t thrown any shots yet, stretching makes me feel ready to compete.

I’ll find a field or more open hole and throw some of my discs. I usually throw all of four my throwing putters, a midrange or two, a couple of fairway drivers, and a few distance drivers, if space allows. As I move up disc speeds, I increase my arm speed.

Once I’ve retrieved my discs, I like to play at least 5 holes of the course. Usually, these are the holes nearest tournament central, but I’ll sometimes choose a stretch of holes on which I generally struggle if I really want to hone in my tee shot or landing zone. I putt out both of my putters on each hole.

After the warmup holes, I putt for 5 minutes or so, beginning close to the basket and moving back slowly. My focus is remembering my putting stroke properly and feeling a good follow-through. I’ll throw a few putts outside the circle to stretch out my arm and feel that extra bit of commitment, then make a couple of short ones, and then I’m off to the players’ meeting.

I try to make it to every players’ meeting I can, because I don’t want to be in the dark about any course-specific rules, and I like to respect the tournament director’s time - they pour a lot of effort into making their events happen, so I like to express gratitude for that.

Once we have hole assignments, I head to my hole as quickly as possible, throwing a couple of tee shots as time permits along the way. As time winds down before two minutes, I putt inside the circle to increase my confidence from that range.

While I don’t get to warm up in this exact manner at each tournament I’m lucky enough to attend, I like to stick to this plan pretty closely if possible. After the warmup, it’s the most fun part - competing. I love it.

What is your pre-tournament routine? Is there anything that I do that you’ve never tried? Have you had success with other methods? I’d really like to hear from you. If you want to reach out with some ideas or feedback, you can contact me through the Disc Golf Answer Man podcast or Facebook page, or you can find my social media links below. See you next week!

Robert McCall
Dynamic Discs
Team Manager

Friday, August 11, 2017

Mental Composure In Disc Golf - The Mind and Body Connection

Like many sports, disc golf is a multifaceted game that requires practice and determination to improve your skill set. The physical aspects of executing a putt or tightening up your driving form are important, but just as essential is developing your mental composure.

One’s mental game can truly make or break a round, or tournament for that matter, even if your physical skills are on point. Letting the pressure of a bad shot or a spit out get into your head can create some devastating results, so let’s explore some various aspects to practice when you’re out on the course.

What’s Your Style?

Some players push putt and some prefer the spin, and just like the variations in our physical styles, mental games can look differently too. Are you the kind of player who has ice in your veins? One can only think of 4x World Champion Paul McBeth when we imagine a competitor that isn’t phased no matter what happens on the course.

How about those who are expressive, whether it’s putting on a show for the crowd or experiencing some rage on a difficult hole? If wearing your heart on your sleeve is your style, you might question how those ups and downs affect your overall mental composure. While we see certain players take the win from time to time, it’s usually the calm and consistent ones that find the most success.

Home Course Disadvantage

Another element that seems to have an effect on one’s mental state is during competition at your home course. There’s something about knowing each hole like the back of your hand that perhaps gives players too much confidence in their game. Approaching each hole with this attitude can sometimes lead to poor performance, despite your experience and certainty.

When this phenomenon occurs, it’s tough to shake it from your brain. You tell yourself: “I play here five days a week - what’s happening?” and once that thought permeates your mental game, it’s hard to refocus.

A Mental Routine

 The last element of mental composure that can make a huge difference in the success of your game is creating and executing a mental routine during both your casual and competitive rounds. The putting green is usually where this comes into play, as we have our own mantras that we repeat in our head.

Sometimes our mental routine is largely associated with our physical actions, and if we don’t have an extra putter in our other hand, spin our disc a certain number of times, or emulate any other motion we usually do, we can’t get into the proper headspace to execute.

Improving our mental composure takes time just like developing any other element of our game, but it’s almost harder for a lot of people, as casual rounds just don’t simulate the same mental state as tournament play.

If you’re looking to beef up your mental game, playing in local competitions just might be what you need to strengthen this muscle. What are some of your tricks for keeping calm under pressure and maintaining a positive state of mind during your rounds? Let us know in the comments below!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When Disc Golf Is Life...

We're all pretty obsessed with disc golf around here, and if you've ever seen one of our Disc Golf Is Life videos you know that we take the sport very seriously. When it comes to parking, dating, or even visiting the restroom, the terminology we use on the course can often easily translate into our daily lives.

But in all seriousness, disc golf is life for many people out there, and we're curious how that relates to those of you who don't work in the industry. Do you find that your co-workers think you're nuts when you sneak out of work half an hour early so you can make it to a weekly doubles event?

Or how about the fact that your vehicle is decked out in stickers declaring your love of the sport? Does your spouse give you a look when you try to hyzer your dirty laundry into the washing machine or are you a disc golf family that celebrates these attempts?

If you're not sure if disc golf is life for you, then check out our list of quick Disc Golf Is Life videos and see for yourself. You just might find yourself using terms like par, out of bounds, and foot fault in a business meeting if you aren't careful!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What's In Your Bag? A Look At How Some Of Our Pro Players Approach This Important Question

It can be daunting for any new player to figure out what discs work for them, and seeing others with a selection of multiple molds can make you question if you're stocking your bag "correctly." The truth is that every disc golfer from the casual aficionado to the touring pro takes a different approach when it comes to what's in their bag.

Some like to carry a full arsenal of discs, with various types of putters, a wide selection of midranges, and drivers that number into over a dozen. In his recent In The Bag video, Zach Melton explains why he uses certain discs and gives us pretty convincing reasons to have a lot of different types of molds in one bag.

Others like Eric McCabe find a mold they love and stock up in various types of plastic and wear to give them enough variety for the shots they need on the course. One of his favorite midrange discs is the EMAC Truth (what a coincidence!) and he carries 5 of them in his DD Zuca cart. He takes the same stance with his fairway drivers as well, keeping 5 Defenders on hand as each one flies a bit differently.

Taking another approach to stocking one's bag, Paige Pierce employs a unique plan for creating variety by sticking to her favorite plastic in many molds. As a huge fan of the BioFuzion and Lucid plastic, you'll see a wide variety of discs in her bag that offer a well-rounded assortment of shots in a material that she loves to throw.

How do you like to stock your bag? Do you take the approach of having a ton of molds for each shot you need, or does it feel more comfortable to dial in just a few types and rotate various levels of wear and tear? How does your favorite plastic factor into things?

Let us know in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quick Tip: Putting Duel

Hey guys, my name is Robert McCall. I’m the Team Manager for Dynamic Discs, and I’ve been playing disc golf for around 10 years. I’ve played with players from all over the world, and I’ve been doing my best to learn from as many of them as possible. In the Quick Tip series, I’m going to share something I’ve learned over the years from a combination of personal experience and expertise from other players.

This Week’s Quick Tip: Putting Duel

If you play competitive disc golf, you’ve probably experienced this scenario:

Late in your tournament round, you and another player are jockeying for position, trading birdies and pars on your way to the last few holes. You throw a fantastic drive on hole 17, landing around 20 feet away from the basket. Your opponent throws a decent drive but lands 60 feet out. You think to yourself, “I’ve got another one. I’ll be up 1 going to 18.” As you approach your lie, you begin counting all of the dollars (#discgolfrich) you’ll get or all of the discs you’ll be able to choose from for winning this tournament. Then, in uncanny fashion, your opponent jams their 60 footer. You incredulously walk to your shot, look up to the basket, and all of a sudden, your routine 20 footer feels like a 40 footer with a lot more pressure than you had anticipated.

I’m no expert, but I believe the scientific term for this phenomenon is getting “big-putted”, or alternately, “playing any round of disc golf with Ricky Wysocki”. I’m unsure of which is more correct. Either way, unless your mental game is perfectly steady, watching a long putt go in can cause you to feel more nervous about your putt.

At a recent tournament, I had some extra time to warm-up because of how the tee times were set up, so I was just putting to stay warm. While I was putting, Spencer Ling from Nevada asked me if I wanted to have a putting duel. I didn’t know what a putting duel was, but I agreed. He paced off 30 feet or so and set down a marker for us, and then he explained the premise of the game: we trade putts one by one. If he makes and I miss or vice versa, the person that made the putt gets a point. If we both make it or both miss it, no points are awarded. If Spencer makes a putt and I miss, he goes first again. However, if he misses and I make it, I get a point and take the box, putting first for the next putt. We played to 10 points.

At first, I was just having fun putting, because I really enjoy putting, but after a few makes and misses, we both became slightly more competitive and focused, because even if nothing is on the line, no one likes to lose. Though we weren’t playing a competitive round, this format allowed us to feel some pressure on our putts, and by the time the round was about to begin, both of us had our putting stroke grooved in fairly well. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I putted well during the round that followed because we’d both had an opportunity to feel some nerves while putting before throwing putts that actually counted toward tournament scores.

I will definitely try some more putting duels before tournament rounds, but also during putting practice sessions to mix it up a bit. Thanks so much (and full credit goes to) Spencer Ling for sharing the game he created with me!

I’d love to hear what kind of competitive putting games you’ve created or tried! If you have some suggestions that work well for you, I’d really appreciate if you submit a question to the Disc Golf Answer Man podcast, call into Disc Golf Answer Man on the Anchor app, or post in the Disc Golf Answer Man Facebook page. You can also reach me via my social media links below. See you next week!

Follow Robert McCall on Facebook and Instagarm.
Monday, August 7, 2017

Hints for Handling the Heat of Summer on the Disc Golf Course

The heat and humidity of summer can be daunting. You are outdoors and susceptible to dehydration, heat exhaustion/illness, and heat stroke. Especially on days when you play two rounds, learning how to manage the heat can be the difference between scoring well and tanking, if you’re able to finish at all.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has good information on its website related to managing heat. I have combined that research with my own experience to give you these suggestions to manage heat. Earn your PHT – Prepare, Hydrate, and Trust.


At least three days before your competitive event, begin the process of prepping your body. If you are playing a warm-up event on Friday before the actual two-day event on Saturday and Sunday, that means begin on Tuesday. Acclimate by getting outside in similar weather if that’s not a regular part of your day. Adjust your diet and fluid intake – cut out fast food and eat lean meats, healthy starches, and a strong dose of bright-colored fruits and vegetables. But feel free to load up. And especially begin drinking water – plain water. A good rule of thumb leading up to the tourney is that for every drink you take leading up to your tourney, drink an equivalent amount of pure water. And consider adding supplements (like potassium or magnesium) to enhance water retention the day before and the day of the events.

Check weather and air quality reports, and know your own personal health history. Know how your body responds in the expected conditions and adjust additional preparations accordingly. Sunscreen, regardless of your skin-pigment color, is a must. On a hot day you should wear lighter fabrics, preferably of a moisture-wicking material and white or light colors. Have additional full sets of clothing to change into between rounds and then after a second round.


Outside of sunburn, most heat-related issues are caused by the loss of body fluids and salts/sugars through perspiration. So having plenty of water in your bag to drink is a must. I recommend a full 32-oz bottle that can be refilled if you know there is plenty of water on the course. If not, find a way to carry 96 oz during the round. Obviously, you should take a drink anytime you feel thirsty. Get sufficiently hydrated before the round. Personally during the round I take a couple swallows of water after my drive on each hole – whether I feel thirst or not. This is to be sure you get enough hydration. I do not recommend sports drinks during the round; it is better to drink water during the round, and replenish your electrolytes with sports drinks AFTER the round or BETWEEN rounds.

I also try not to drink ice cold water too fast as that can cause other problems. Water that is close to room temp (not outside temp) can be taken at a normal pace.


There are several things you need to trust; remember that simply standing in the sun on a hot day, even if you weren’t playing disc golf, is still zapping your body’s energy.

  • Don’t be macho; there’s nothing “wimpy” about not carrying your bag on your shoulders. Use a rolling cart if the course is conducive; or even better, get a caddy. It saves energy.
  • Umbrellas were originally created for shade not rain, so use one. You’d be very surprised how much better you will feel at the end of a hot day having shaded yourself with an umbrella all day.
  • Buddy up with someone in your group and have him/her watch you for signs during the round. Tell them your key health issues or “look fors” and have them keep an eye on you.
  • Monitor yourself. The best way to check your hydration is through urine color. (Sorry) If you haven’t pee’d at some time during the 18-hole round or right after, you ought to be concerned. You know you’re hydrated enough if your color is closer to clear or light yellow. Bright yellow color means you need to get water immediately. And if your urine has become dark yellow to a honey- or tea-color, you might need medical intervention right away.
  • A moist towel dipped in cold water and wrapped around the back of your neck can assist in keeping your body temperature from getting too high.
  • Your body will give you warnings. Muscle cramps or spasms seemingly for no reason, throbbing headaches, confusion or nausea, overly heavy sweat, feeling weak, or accumulation of small blisters are all symptoms of a heat-related illness.

Earning your PHT will help you solve the issues of heat. If I were to choose the most important of these, it would be prepping your body beginning three days ahead of time, using the umbrella, and drinking water constantly throughout the day. Do that and don’t let the heat control you!

A Ray
Team Dynamic Discs
Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Perfect practice makes perfect

Putting 01: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

You grasp the Trilogy branded towel hanging from your belt strap, the sweat wicks away easily. The towel is fresh, your clothes are crisp and breezy, your comfort level is at the highest its been stepping into any tournament this year. After a month of practice you know exactly what to do on green, and on the first hole of the day you’ve got a perfect tester. This 24 footer is exactly the shot you’ve been practicing for at home, right down to the Veteran basket matching the one mounted in your backyard. Stepping up to your lie you set your front foot down, perfect. Sitting on your back foot you’re sure to draw your disc in and then drive through your arm slot. 

A dull metallic thud.

Okay, top side off the bogey bar. But you know what happened. You followed through high. You’ll make sure to focus on following through on chains next hole, it’s fine – 53 holes to go, 62 if you count the Final 9 you’re sure to slide right into. But you don’t, and it isn’t fine. Hole after hole to follow you feel like you’re executing perfectly only to experience failure on top of failure. By the midway point you’re only sure of one thing: this is not what you prepared for. By the time you walk off of the course after three rounds of brutality your heart feels like it has fallen into your bowels.

What is it that leads even the most dedicated practice putter to fail when the time comes to putt for the money? In short: it isn’t the amount of time spent on the green but how you spend that time that matters. To borrow a quote from the sport of American football and legendary coach Vince Lombardi: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” There are varying interpretations of this quote, and to my eyes it is often misinterpreted as a need to practice until mistakes are no longer made. I believe that this interpretation is flawed, and so what we need to answer is: what constitutes perfect practice?

While for decades in athletics there has been intense debate regarding the efficacy of various practice strategies, it appears that we have entered a golden age in sports training. For the longest time various strategies were built on research and the pure reputations of experts. For example: in weight training the mere presence of research by experts in the field of power lifting led to a definition of a proper half squat for all – power lifters and all athletes – as parallel to the ground. However these training methods were not based on evidence of efficacy. In recent years a new definition of a proper half squat has appeared as evidence has demonstrated that the fulfillment of a 90 degree angle at the knee is what is necessary for all of the benefits of a half squat (long story short: angle of ankle bend was ignored in earlier research). In all athletic endeavors – evidence demonstrating results is emerging to help us practice better, to develop “perfect practice.”

In the sport of disc golf I’ve found that following evidence from thought science and learning science are both necessary in developing an appropriate training regimen. From the world of learning science I’ve found particularly poignant the compilation of evidence done by Brown, Roedigger III, and McDaniel in their 2014 book “make it stick: The Science of Successful Learning” which covers a both counterproductive yet widespread tactics as well as strategies that encourage retention of information and skills. From the field of thought science I am not the first to find the work of Kahneman, particularly in his work “Thinking Fast, and Slow” useful: much of his work is paraphrased in the work of athletics trainer Peter Gallwey, the author of the “Inner Game …” series of sports training books.

Over a sequence of two articles to come I am going to work to synthesize the work of these authors to develop a theory of practice that will allow you to both analyze your game and then disengage from analysis when executing a throw on the course. Next up will be a focus on theories of learning, followed by theories of thought.

Putting 02: Putting as Learning

Your eyes are bleary by the end of each day, every single morning you’ve been out early putting before work. Your routines are becoming habit. After a few months of this these habits are your new normal as a person. Your friends now know you as an obsessive. And yet your numbers never improve. Every week ends the same as the last: no improvement from 18, no improvement from 21, no improvement out to the circle’s edge. Each day the routine is mind numbing, all you’ve ever heard is that practice is the key to success – but it just isn’t happening. After a summer of work you come to a personal realization: maybe those guys who say you shouldn’t practice too much are right...

I’d like to begin with one important statement: successful learning is, on the whole, difficult and slow. There is no shortcut to successfully developing a new skill. The best putters in the world improve incrementally over the course of multiple years. Each new plateau in skill exhibits the next year’s plateaus in its hot streaks, and so it continues through the limits of your own body’s capabilities in terms of muscle memory. It takes months of practice to reach each of those new plateaus in skill, and earth shattering improvements rarely happen in a single season. The strategies I’m going to elucidate on are not likely to improve your game overnight, but they will improve your game.

Let's begin with the types of practice most common among developing putters: massed practice and repetition. One of the more common complaints that pops up in disc golf’s social media outlets are along the lines of: “I’ve been taking hundreds of putts per day, but ...” Commonly these competitors are chunking their repetitions into massive groups. A new player feels like 15 footers are giving him trouble, and so he repeats those 15 footers for an hour, dropping a couple of hundred putts on the basket from that range until he can mindlessly zip the putter into the basket without thinking about it. By the end of a session the putt feels easy, but when a tournament rolls around the skill seems to wash away like a sand castle at high tide.

There’s nothing wrong with taking hundreds of putts per session. But the practice needs to be varied. Evidence shows that repetition from a single range must be interleaved with practice that varies the range. Taking 50-100 putts at a time from a single range before moving to another range is beneficial, but the benefits are stronger when one also implements a routine that involves moving putt by putt closer and further from the basket. Contemplate for a moment what tournament golf is like: a golfer does not often take 18 putts on 18 holes all from 25 feet. The body needs to be able to adjust dynamically up and down from 15 footers out to the limits of range. A recommendation would be to set stations up at varied distances from the basket allowing you to move putt by putt in and out in small increments. When out on the practice green take 50 putts from 18 feet, and then break it up by moving in and out for the next 50 before moving to another set of massed putts from a single distance.

The benefits may not be as obvious: where you were finishing your massed sets at a single range by zinging in putt after putt and feeling confident and successful, you may find yourself missing quite a bit more often as you move up and down your “ladder” of stations. This is not a bad thing, learners often interpret difficult practice as indicative of an unsuccessful day, but that is rarely the case. Difficult practice is more in line with the mental challenges one will encounter on the disc golf course and develops the resilience necessary to maintain focus on the course through a day of competition.

You’ll note that I still recommend sitting back on a single distance and working that distance to perfection. At first glance those sets appear counterproductive, and on their own they are. In one study of children throwing bean bags at a bucket the children practicing a single range (3 feet) were far less successful on tests from 3 feet than children who only practiced from the ranges shorter and longer than that range. When interleaved with varied practice, however, there are definite positive results. These positive results come from the use of those massed sessions as retrieval practice: by using those sessions as ‘pop quizzes’ for your body you improve your ability to recall the muscle memory in the future.

Research into learning demonstrates that frequent low stakes quizzing on a particular skill improves retention of the skill over time. This is why, when taking those massed sets, you’re going to want to keep track of how many putts you make. By tracking your numbers you turn every individual putt into a true test of your skill as a player (this is especially true as you build toward 100% numbers at shorter ranges, where a single moment of lost focus means not hitting your target goals). This frequent practice with something small on the line develops the ability to focus when it counts. By making each of those 18 foot putts a must hit, you are again improving your resilience on the course. By coming back to a certain range every couple of days to quiz on it you develop your body’s ability to recognize that it will be called upon to perform a task and perform it successfully.

Putting 03: Developing Your Mindset

The drive leg is the problem. You’re sure of it.

Your lead has been evaporating for the past six holes. Ever since the missed birdie on hole 10, you’ve been hemorrhaging strokes on the green. Low off the cage. Focus on the leg, focus on the leg. High. Low. Low again. It has to be the leg. And then chaos. This isn’t what your putt is supposed to look like. This isn’t what its supposed to FEEL like. Where did that feel you’d held for 29 holes go? It was so natural for so long, how could it go so very wrong...

Now that we’ve taken the time to develop the rough outline of a routine for practicing – it’s time to look at how to approach those aspects of the routine from a mental standpoint. Both Kahneman (in “Thinking Fast, and Slow”) and Gallwey (in the “Inner Game ...” series) like to use the numbers “1” and “2” - with Kahneman referring to them as “systems” and Gallwey referring to them as “selfs.” Although I am going to use Kahneman’s work to explain much of what these numbers mean within the realm of thought science, I’m going to focus on referring to them as “self 1” and “self 2” as Gallwey does in his work. This is intended to align more closely with the fact that as competitors we often ‘hear’ the conscious and analytical self as an inner voice instructing our actions.

The first of the two selfs, self 1, is the automatic and intuitive you. It uses your learned experiences to perform tasks without much conscious thought. In the everyday world self 1 is used to inform your conscious decisions, guiding you toward the conscious thoughts that you have. In an interaction with another person self 1 would guide you toward immediately recognizing the attitude of that person at a glance before entering into a conversation. While driving self 1 is going to allow you to unconsciously turn the wheel first right, and then overturn the wheel back to the left during a lane shift (to prevent that shift stalling out as a total alteration of direction… into a median). When disc golfing you want self 1 in control whenever engaging in any sort of throw.

Self 2 on the other hand should be avoided during the throw in competition. Self 2 is responsible for conscious tasks. Counting scores after a round requires self 2, as does comparing the value of your prize discs with your voucher total, or determining whether it is worth it to enter a basket toss. It is a very energy intensive way of thought, and as such it blinds a competitor to tasks that would otherwise be unconscious. We often disengage from tasks that engage self 2 without even thinking about it – a good example being when a passenger in a car. When the driver of the vehicle has to pass a large truck in a narrow construction zone, as passengers we often quiet ourselves without recognizing it to allow the driver to focus more consciously on driving as opposed to interpreting our words. On the course, self 2 is going to want to take control of our actions. When putting: self 2 is going to tell you to get your fingers under your putter and pop through; to drive through with the rear foot; to follow through after release. These conscious tasks interfere with self 1’s ability to unconsciously perform in coordination all of the other bits of muscle memory required to successfully make a putt.

Despite all of these flaws with self 2, it retains a very important role in practice and rounds if not within a competition throw. This is where I see all routines as requiring a division into two halves. One half of the putting routine should be focused purely on engagement of self 1, and the other half of the putting routine should be focused purely on engagement of self 2. This is because self 2 is the one responsible for mechanical analysis, and without mechanical analysis it is impossible to understand where mistakes are being made. On the course self 2 should be engaged when in between throws, and during the set-up aspect prior to a throw. To go back to learning theory: self 2 is in control of reflection, without which true learning is significantly delayed.

During a practice routine it is preferable to engage self 1 during massed practice that is done for the purpose of quizzing and retrieval of muscle memory. When focused on a set of 50 putts from 18 feet, for example, self 2 needs to be completely discarded. What you are practicing when you are attempting to hit 50 out of 50 from the edge of your 100% range is the ability to completely recall your muscle memory without conscious thought. Therefore: there should be absolutely no focus on the vagaries of form. This is the time to learn to trust your muscle memory just as you will in competition. You use these large sets of putts to develop trust in the practice routines that you’ve spent countless hours on.

The time for self 2 comes when you’re not engaged in counting makes and misses. For example: when working yourself up and down the ladder of ranges. If you are simply moving deeper and closer based on making or missing putts, you’re going to find that counting makes and misses is almost without a point aside from getting a personal ‘feel’ for your putt. This is a great time to focus on form. If your putts seem to be coming out soft, take the time to analyze and “listen” to your body as you go, noticing whether or not you’re following through or driving off of your rear leg. Use the energy intensive analytical skills of self 2 to your advantage during this part of your session. By necessity engaging in this sort of mental focus is going to make it difficult to make your putts at the high rate of consistency you’ll want for tournament golf, so never count makes or misses while doing it. It is a surefire way to ruin your self confidence as you’ll convince yourself that every aspect of your form has been thought through and you’ll struggle to recognize that by actively thinking it through you’re in essence preventing the sort of muscle memory retrieval necessary for all of those pieces to work with automaticity.

To translate this work to the course in competition you’ll want to use self 2 between shots, and discard when performing a competitive action. Competitors with self-confidence problems are often told to not “think so much” when on the course. There are seeds of truth in that, but they ignore the value of setup and reflection in proper execution. The practice with self 1 during the frequent ‘quizzing’ of the muscle memory teaches you to slide into a mental state where your only focus on the green is ‘throw it at that link’ when the time comes to execute. The practice with self 2 allows you to realize in between shots that maybe due to fatigue you started that last putt from your hip instead of your middle abdomen, or failed to get down into an athletic stance to drive off your rear foot. Engagement of self 2 is also vital in pre-shot setup: making sure your toe is pointed in the correct direction, lining up your shot to engage the proper shoulder slot, and so on.

By learning to use both of these forms of thought in practice, through a split putting routine that on one hand allows you to totally engage self 1 without thinking about form at all for the purpose of results and on the other hand analyzing your form while not worrying about the outcome you will learn to switch each form of thought “on” and “off” on the course. This will make you both a more prepared player, as well as a more natural and comfortable player.

I hope that this sequence of articles has been helpful for you as a player. Remember that at no point is any of this intended as an edict on exactly how to structure your routine down to the finest detail. This is meant as a guide to what the evidence regarding learning and thought tell us about developing our routines. It is intended to guide you toward developing the routine that best fits your day, your attitude, and who you are as a competitor.

See you on the course.
Chris Wojciechowski
Monday, July 31, 2017

National Disc Golf Day

Do you have friends, family members, or co-workers who might enjoy disc golf if they gave it a try? National Disc Golf Day could be the perfect opportunity to introduce people to the sport that we all love. Commemorating its first anniversary after its inception last year, National Disc Golf Day is celebrated on the first Saturday of August. If you’d like to learn about how National Disc Golf Day began, Marty Gregoire recaps the process in this article.

We asked Jason Wilder, one of the founders of National Disc Golf Day, about his vision for the day:

“The whole idea driving National Disc Golf Day is that we wanted it to be something grassroots that no manufacturer would own. We wanted it to belong to the people. To make that work, we needed some central means to publicize what people are doing and to share their experiences.

I started the National Disc Golf Day Facebook page with hopes of getting people to post stories, pictures, etc.”

In a sport with so many different personalities and companies involved, it’s exciting to have a day to come together to focus on the thing we all work toward: growing the sport! If you’re interested in participating in National Disc Golf Day this year, here are a couple of tips for you!

  1. Bring your discs to work during the week leading up to National Disc Golf Day. It’s possible that your co-workers don’t know that you play disc golf, so they might know to ask you about disc golf if they’re interested. At Dynamic Discs, when we run clinics for businesses, the employees are often a bit skeptical, but they quickly warm up to the game once they try it. It’s possible that the only thing your co-workers need to become interested is for someone to share the sport with them!
  2. Buy a few starter sets to give to people who are interested in trying out disc golf. Most disc golfers have enough discs to let others borrow some for a round or two, but those discs are often too overstable or heavy for first time players to throw properly. Investing in a few starter sets will allow you to give discs to new players that fit their skill level, and they’ll be able to keep the discs for future rounds.
In the last few years, we’ve seen a notable uptick in celebrations of different days on the National Day Calendar, and due to the work of Jason Wilder, Sara Nicholson, Michael Downes, and Marty Gregoire, we have a perfect day to share the excitement we have for growing disc golf through National Disc Golf Day! Check out the National Disc Golf Day Facebook page to see how others are celebrating around the world and to share your own experiences. So get out there, invite some friends, and play some disc golf!