In many of our articles, we repeatedly encourage practicing all of your skills.
Putting, driving, and everything in between, it should all be practiced with regularity.
But you may ask yourself,
What specifically should I be practicing?
What skills should I practice?
Should you be going out and just throwing discs haphazardly?
or should you have more structure in your practice sessions?
in this article, we are going to break down each phase of your disc golf game, and tell you exactly what to practice and what you need to know to get better at this crazy sport we call disc golf.
We will break things down in 3 sections.
Before, During, and After the Throw, as there are aspects in all 3 that will have room for improvement.
Let's get started!
Section 1: Before the throw
Everything you can do to improve your game before you actually throw
1. Learn Your Bag and Choosing the Right Discs
We have referenced this tip before, but the first way to get better at disc golf is to simply learn your bag.
Knowing your discs and knowing how you throw them makes shot selection much easier when out on the course.
A side of effect of knowing your bag inside and out is that you will also know of what "holes" your bag has and can figure out what discs on the market will help fill these voids.
Every disc you choose for every shot you take should be very deliberate and with purpose. If it isn't, then you're likely not optimizing every throw to be as close to the basket as possible (not to say that you wont' get lucky!)
The only way to reach this level of understanding is to, ah,
Which takes us back to the problem at hand,
How do I practice?
So here is a simple exercise to learn your bag that is actually a method used by world famous disc golfer Paul McBeth.
This technique can be used as a quick warm up exercise or a stand alone practice session.
Simply head to an open field that gives you enough room to throw your maximum distance, 300 to 400 ft. is usually enough room for this.
Once you're properly warmed up with stretching and warm up throws, it's time to start.
We suggest going from slow to fast or fast to slow, but you can choose any order you please. But you're going to effectively throw every disc in your bag, and you're going to do so several times.
The first time through your bag, try to throw every disc with a flat, stable release.
What this will do is allow you to get a firm understanding of how each disc flies according to your individual throwing style. It will also let you know how beat in each disc is and how close it is flying to its assigned ratings.
From there, you should next try to throw each disc as straight as possible.
If the disc is understable, you'll need to throw it on a hyzer line, an overstable disc will need to be thrown on an anhyzer line, and etc. etc.
After this round, throw all of your discs on hyzer lines and then on anhyzer lines, regardless of their stability.
And lastly, experiment with various shots to see how the discs react.
This could mean throwing a stable disc on an anhyzer to see how long it holds, putting some hyzer on a understable disc to see if it still turns over, seeing if a particular overstable discs makes for a nice hyzer flip disc, and everything in between.
By throwing your entire bag on every line imaginable and doing so often, you develop a strong understanding of:
- how far your discs can be thrown
- what lines they hold well and which ones they don't
- what shots certain discs are best suited for
-what shots you're missing with the discs you have
and much, much, more!
A secondary benefit to practice sessions like these is that you will further develop your arm strength and endurance, which will certainly not hurt your disc golf scores!
A fun way to learn specific discs in your bag is to play a full round with just a SINGLE DISC!
It's a bit more time consuming, but a great way to learn how versatile some discs in your bag really are.
If you're looking for some beginner friendly discs, then check out THIS ARTICLE. We got you covered.
2. Learn to Size Up Your Shots
Once you have a grasp on how the discs in your bag actually fly under varying circumstances, its time to apply what you know to each and every shot you take.
To improve your game, it's not enough to casually grab a disc you think will work and let it fly.
Sure, things will work out from time to time, but if the goal is to get better,
Pick your discs with purpose.
If you asked an amateur or recreational player why they chose a specific disc for a specific shot, you'll likely get an answer such as,
"well its just a disc I throw well and the shot is too long for my mid-range"
Ask an advanced player that same question and you'll likely hear something more like this,
"I considered this disc but it will fade out too quickly so I opted for a more understable option because of the slight tail wind and because with some hyzer it will stay straight"
As you can see, the advanced player not only has a specific use for every disc in their bag, but they also know how to size up every aspect of the shot they're taking so that they can choose the proper disc.
Things you should take into consideration when sizing up a shot include:
The length of the hole
The angles of the hole (left/right/dog legs/harsh turns/etc.)
Obstacles and obstructions
Out of bounds
Wind speed and direction
Your personal skill level and knowing which shots you are capable of
Take these into account, and you will see your scores improve.
3. Improve Your Overall Fitness Level
Most will agree that strength and fitness benefits athletes, and disc golf is no exception.
It's a no brainer that improving your strength AND flexibility will help you create more power in your throws.
But cardiovascular conditioning is also important so that you are not fatigued by the end of the round.
How many times have you been at the end of an 18 hole round and simply felt that you had nothing left in the tank? It's safe to say that if you have felt like this, you were likely not playing to the best of your ability either.
That being said,
Lift weights, go on runs, increase daily step counts, bike, do push-ups, whatever it takes to improve your fitness,
Do It, and watch your scores improve.
Section 2: The Throw Itself
Everything you can do and work on within the throw itself to improve your skills
For this section, we are going to work in order from the beginning of the hole, to the end.
In other words, starting with the drive, moving to mid-range, and finishing with the putt.
1. Improving Your Drives
There are several things you can do to improve your drives even after you have chosen the RIGHT DISC.
For starters, it's a must that you are regularly improving you technique. Yes there really is such a thing as the right technique!
During practice sessions, spend some time working on the small things you do during your throw, including but not limited to the:
driving of the legs
use of the hips
All of these steps can and will affect the quality of your throw and should therefore be worked on both individually and collectively.
Back in my college days, I threw the javelin for the track team. While full throw days were the most fun (as are when you are playing an actual round on the disc golf course),
I saw most of my technique improvement from practices both inside and outside where I never even had a javelin in hand.
So start slow with walk-throughs and gradually speed things up until you are doing full speed dry throws and finally, full releases, with the disc in hand.
A great exercise for this if you have the room available is to do your drills in front a large, full length mirror. With a mirror, you will get instant feedback from yourself regarding where you think your body is in space versus where it actually is in space.
This allows you to fix positions that you are not hitting, but think you are in your mind. It may sound silly, but these drills can significantly improve your technique.
Learn to Use Your Body
When doing drills, train yourself to not just use your arm to throw the disc, but to use your entire body.
You will naturally use your arm to the fullest, so in order to increase your drive distance without improving your actual arm and overall body strength, you MUST learn to use your entire body.
Using the whole body means:
Increasing speed in your run up if you use one
Driving fast and hard off your back leg
Engaging your hips and using them to initiate your pull through
and then finally pulling through as hard as you can with the throwing arm
Improve any of the steps above and you will see your distance increase. Additionally, these steps are all included in the drills you should be working on during your training sessions.
Find drills and rep aspects of these steps when practicing!
The key to these drills working however is going to come down to how often you actually do them.
Consistency is going to be crucial if you're serious about seeing improvement in your game.
You don't have to work on these things every day (not that it would hurt), but make an effort to set aside time 2-3 days a week where your practice does not include having a disc in your hand.
Without a disc, you can focus on the little things and not the outcome of the throw itself.
2. Improving Your Mid-Range Game
Everything discussed in the driving section will still apply to your mid-range game.
One thing that can be added however is experimenting with various footings that you may experience while out on the course, while staying within the rules of course.
You never know when you will have to throw around a difficult terrain feature or obstacle that you wouldn't have to worry about from the tee box or fairway.
One thing you can work on is your approach shots and how you attack the basket.
In other words, experiment with varying distances and approach angles to ones similar you'd experience while playing.
To simulate this in a practice session, you could go out to a course and throw at a basket from different directions. But you can also do so in an open field with the use of small cones, like THESE ones.
Simply place the cones scattered all over the place, being sure to have some to the right, some to the left, and some straight on.
From there, use all the mid-range, fairway drivers, and even putters in your bag and try to lay your discs up to the cones as closely as possible.
Speaking of Lay-Ups...
You can even work on your lay up game and experiment with different discs in your bag to see which ones just have a knack for "sticking" the landing near the basket. There's not much worse of a feeling than throwing a perfect shot near the basket, only to have the disc skip 40 ft away.
The depth of the rim, the type of plastic, and condition of the playing surface can all effect the quality of your lay up, as can the type of shot you take and the disc you take it with.
Faster discs will be able to be thrown further but will also have a higher tendency to skip away. Likewise, shots such as overhand throws and hyzer spikes will stick more easily than discs that are thrown flat.
So try out all your skills and see what works best for YOU.
3. Improving Putting
Lastly, we come to the end game in disc golf, Putting.
Putting is probably one of the more difficult disc golf skills to master, and understandably as it takes the most amount of consistency from throw to throw to be a good putter.
When it comes to putting practice, there are many tools at your disposal, such as Perfect Putt 360, but not much will beat going out and just getting in your repetitions.
As mentioned, putting is all about consistency and comfort, without either or those components, your game will suffer.
In some sense, putting in disc golf is similar to the free throw in basketball. There is a distinct technique to increase your percentage, but every player has their own "routine" to execute the actual shot.
In order to find this routine and comfort, you will need to practice enough to find your grip and personal style that works best for you.
Like mid-range shots, you'll want to practice awkward footing and stances for those unique times where you need to putt around an obstacle. If you plan for everything, then you'll always be prepared out on the course and will be able to PUTT WITH CONFIDENCE.
To help make your practice sessions more efficient, we do suggest grabbing a putter pack, like the ones seen below. Not only is it cost effective, but being able to rapid fire putt after putt with several discs at a time can make practicing a breeze.
Additionally, having your own portable basket can also make a big difference in your putting performance as you would have the ability to putt rain or shine, inside or outside.
Because putting does not require long distances, it is the perfect skill to practice year round, even when winter weather drives you inside for months.
For the aspect of the throws as just discussed, you will also want to routinely be working on getting a good feel for your angle of release.
Not only does this help you more effectively throw the shots you're attempting, but it also helps you realize when you just miss the angle and know when/how to fix it for the next throw.
Practice sessions can also be great times to work on skills that you may not be as comfortable with and ones you wouldn't test out during an actual round. These skills could include things like:
tomahawk and thumber throws
and anything else you wish to try out!
Section 3: After Your Throw
This wraps it up! You've thrown your disc, what can you do now to learn from your mistakes and get better?
Well when you're actually playing a round, the first thing you can do, and probably the most simple as well, is to reflect on the throw you just had.
Was it the right disc? Could I have used a better one?
How was my technique? Was my release angle what it needed to be? Did I round too much?
Could I have attacked that shot differently? Was my approach good or should I try a different way next time?
These are all valid questions to ask yourself whether the shot goes your way or not. You should always be learning from your successes and mistakes if you want to regularly improve.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, and disc golf is no exception.
Film study has been a major aspect of all sports in recent years, and can also be highly utilized in disc golf.
Similar to doing mirror work, filming your throws and analyzing it for breakdowns in your form can be invaluable in improving your game and second only to having a coach on hand to fix things in real time.
In some ways, recording yourself is better than watching it live because you have the ability to infinitely slow things down and pick apart your form frame by frame.
Any old camera or cell phone will do to record your throws, but you may need a mini tripod for when out on the course.
In addition to watching your own film, take the time to sit down and watch videos and film of the top professional disc golfers.
Pick out what they do differently than you. What positions they are hitting. How they're using their full body in their throws, etc.
If you're watching a full round, pay attention to how they break down a shot and why they chose the shot and disc that they did.
There's a reason they're the best in the world, and even if you don't think you'll ever be that good, you can always pick up things that can improve your game.
Lastly, Practice Year Round
In order to be the best at your craft as possible, you need to be working on your skills for as much as the year as possible.
Staying sharp all year and maintaining your physical fitness can be invaluable and means that you'll come out in the spring season without missing a beat from the close of last season.
Practicing year round means that you'll likely have to take your game indoors at time, but don't worry, we covered that topic COMPLETELY IN THIS ARTICLE.
And that's it!
What's important to keep in mind is that you can always be improving some aspect of your game. It may take days, it may take months, or even years. But your game and skills CAN improve with enough hard work and determination.
You just gotta go after it!
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