How to Practice Putting in Disc Golf
"Learn to putt!"
"Get better at putting!"
"Drive for show, putt for dough"
We hear these phrases from our disc golf peers all the time when players ask how they can better their game and lower their scores.
So it's no secret that superb putting is vital for being a great disc golfer.
Players know they need to putt as consistently as possible from as far away from the basket as possible to win holes, rounds, leagues, and tournaments.
But one question often remains for many players who aren't great putters,
How can I practice my disc golf putting so that I can get better?
These players, if they are practicing, may still not be seeing a significant improvement in the putting aspect of their game, despite a reasonable effort to do so.
If they're not practicing, well that's a different problem in and of itself if they are serious about improving their overall game.
But if they are, and not seeing results translate to actual rounds, then it could mean that they aren't practicing the right way to get better.
When trying to improve any skill, having a structured routine that adapts to your improving skill level is just as important as practicing in general.
If the practice session is too easy, you'll get bored quickly and not take many reps. You could also practice for hours and although you'd make a lot of putts, you wouldn't necessarily get any better at distances beyond your skill level.
If the session is too hard, you may be entertained slightly longer, but it won't be practical as your makes will be more by accident than design. In turn, you won't really be able to fine tune your skills and fix the small mistakes you are making that are preventing you from becoming more consistent.
When discussing productivity, it has been researched that working at 4% above your skill level is ideal for getting into the "flow zone". This is where your skill level matches the challenge at hand and you seemingly get lost in what you're doing.
What this means is that before implementing this, or any structure, you need to roughly figure out where this distance is. As a general rule of thumb,
This distance is where you're able to make approximately 85-90% of your putts.
Some days may be better than others, but this is your starting spot.
You'll learn this distance in time, and the specific distance doesn't matter all that much, you just don't want to spend too much time practicing at a distance that is too easy or too hard. So if you feel that you're making close to 100% of your putts you know you need to move back, and if you're only making 60-80%, you may be a little too far.
As you get better, and your percentage climbs, move a couple of feet back until you get back into that 90% range.
This may seem like a really high number, but moving back just 5ft can often be the difference between making 90% of your putts, and making 75% of your putts.
So master the distance at the end of your effective putting range before moving back.
Some players may opt for having a lower starting threshold of say 75% made putts, but I think for most this can and will eventually get frustrating.
Now that we have a starting point, let me show you how to structure your sessions!
In addition to my disc golf hobby, I enjoy the outdoors, including archery hunting.
With that, comes the responsibility of putting in hours of practice to improve by shooting ability so that I can be as ethical as possible.
Similar to disc golf, I would not take a shot that is outside of my comfort zone, just like I may not run a 70ft putt for fear of setting up a poor follow up shot.
The only way I can increase this distance is by practice, lots of practice.
And I model my putting practice after by shooting practice as there seems to be a lot of carry over.
What do I need to practice my putting?
For my practice sessions, you can use as many discs as you want, but I prefer to use 5 putters, all in the same mold of the disc I putt with, which happens to be the Emac Judge.
You can use 1, 5, 10, or 20, it doesn't really matter, but too few and you spend more time retrieving than walking, and too many can clog up the basket after a few makes. There isn't a right or wrong amount, simply choose a number that works for you.
If you aren't sure what putter you want to use or haven't chosen one yet, read our simple guide to picking a putter quick and then check back in!
Also, while not a must, as a practice session can take place at any disc golf course, having your own portable disc golf basket puts practice sessions right at your finger tips!
So we definitely recommend getting one!
The good news is you don't have to break the bank to get one, and in a previous article we give you some of the best options to consider, that you can CHECK OUT HERE.
The Perfect Disc Golf Putting Routine!
Now, what you've been waiting for, the putting practice structure that will make you better!
This is not the only structure out there, but it works for me and will for you too. Feel free to change it to suit your needs and goals as you see fit but try and incorporate most of these principles if possible!
Step 1: Warm up at easier distances first
This can be as few or as many reps as you need, but generally I recommend 10 putts or so just so you can get your body warmed up and a general feel for the conditions for the day so you can adjust your starting point if needed.
You can also use this time to familiarize yourself with your putters again, but hopefully this isn't needed.
Step 2: Practice at distances just outside your comfort range
Once you're warmed up to your liking, you're going to want to immediately go to the edge of your comfort zone.
At this point, you should be mentally focused and have no mental or physical fatigue.
Spend a good bit of time here and within 5-10 feet of here for a solid amount of time. If you can make 85-90% of your putts at 15ft, then 18ft-20ft is a great starting spot for now.
If you have 5 discs, throw at least 5 or more sets at this distance, trying to make as many as possible. Ideally though, you'll throw at least 50-100 reps.
Focus on aiming at a specific spot and having your form, release angle, and release point be the same each and every rep. Consistency and repeatability in your form builds muscle memory and most importantly, confidence.
Remember to change your position and throw from different directions as well. When you do this, the back drop changes, as well as the conditions. Some putts you may have a head wind, others a tail wind, and the rest a cross wind.
At this range, you'll have to contend with wind, but it's also a great time to work on putting around obstacles or any other type of putt you may have trouble with, such as straddle putting.
As you throw, you may even venture back to 35ft to extend your range.
In time, your starting spot will slowly move back, even if it is only 2-3ft at a time, but eventually, you may hit a plateau as most players aren't 90% accurate outside the circle, even the pros. It’s just a matter of your maximum effective range being say 20ft vs 60ft.
Step 3: Back up to farther distances
After taking reps at that range and working on some trickier shots, you may start to lose some of that mental edge and you may be getting a little fatigued as well.
Now is a great time to work on those longer distances, to increase that challenge.
You can go as far as you want, but it should still feel like a putt and not like a throw in. If you can't reach the basket with a jump putt, you're probably too far. Save these shots for field/approach work.
This may be 50 feet for some and 90 feet for others, but mix it up and try some of these significantly harder distances.
In time, you'll learn when you may need more hyzer, more speed, more loft, more touch, or when to lay up, etc. These longer distances also make short distances seem like a breeze.
Step 4: Practice random distances
Up until now, you've likely known the distance that you were throwing from, unless you weren't measuring out the putts of your longer attempts.
At this point in your training session, take time attempting putts from several random distances that aren't too easy, but not too hard either.
Somewhere generally in the range of your confidence level is a great starting spot. So if you started your session at 25 feet, picking a range of 20-40 ft for your random distances will work well.
Remember to change distance and position if possible just as mentioned before.
This will teach you to judge distances more quickly and to allow practice without too many adjustments. I suggest taking just 1-2 shots per distance before picking another spot.
When taking 5 or more shots, you can often make immediate adjustments. When you only get 1 or 2, the pressure of making the first is much higher and more realistic to an actual round.
Step 5: Finish with easiest distances
Depending on how long your session lasts, you're probably experiencing physical fatigue, but some mental as well. You could be bored (hopefully not), or just ready to move on to something else.
At this point, it's finally ready to work on those easy putts of 0-20ft, some may even opt for Circle 1 (32'8") and in.
Start at the farthest distance and work your way in by 5 ft increments, taking 5 or shots or more per distance.
Not only will these putts feel extremely easy compared to the rest of your session, but it's a great confidence booster to finish a session.
Even though you're tired and these putts may seem tougher than usual because of it, they should feel much easier than the 50ft. shots you were practicing earlier.
If you practice these shots earlier in the session, you won't get much out of it or ever see significant improvement overall because you wouldn’t be challenging your skill level.
You can spend as much or as little time on Step 5, but 5 putts per distance is a great place to start.
As a parting note, be sure to practice in all winds and conditions, not just the perfect dry days.
Course conditions will vary greatly when you play enough, so you don't want to be taken a back by a wet or windy day because you failed to practice in those conditions.
The course will show no mercy during an event, so you’re better off being prepared for such conditions rather than avoiding them or figuring it out mid event.
How long should a putting practice session last?
A practice session can last 15 minutes or an hour, and is going to vary from individual to individual based on goals and free time.
If you're trying to go pro, then an hour a day may not be enough.
If you're just a weekend warrior, 15 minutes may be enough.
Regardless of time, the majority of your practice session needs to be focused on Step 2. So if you set aside 30 minutes to practice, 5 minutes may be a warm up, 12 minutes will be Step 2, 5 minutes will be backing up to longer distances, 5 minutes will be random distances, and 3 minutes will be doing the easy distances.
These are very specific times and simply an example, but you get the idea, work on those distances just outside your confidence level!
Keeping in mind that the more you practice, the better you'll get in a shorter amount of time.
As you practice more and more, you may slowly change this routine, but the great part is this structure will always keep you right at the perfect level of difficulty and required skill, even as you get better.
Even if you're making 90% of your 35 foot putts (which would be great!), you'll be starting just outside that at 38-40 feet and still challenged.
If you're a beginner and only able to make 90% of your putts from 10 feet, who cares, that's where you start!
The important part to remember is that we're all on our own journey with our own goals. As long as we're working towards improvement, it's a win win situation.
So get out there, practice that putting, and let us know what your progress is!
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