Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In Which I Learned to Putt

Here's several phrases I've uttered:

In response to a close-in clang, "Oh, it's going to be one of those days!"
In response to a great, but not quite drop-in, drive: "Oh great, now I have to make a putt!"
In response to an outright miss, "Man, I gotta learn how to putt!"

I practice drives in the park and putts at my house, with my portable basket. No two putts were the same. No two putts in a row, much less days in a row, were the same. If I made a putt, and it felt good, I'd try to get it back, try to figure out what it was. No dice. Sure, maybe a round I'd hit a few 20 footers and feel good, but if it weren't 12 and in, it was an adventure. Practicing at home was little different.

Then, last week, going into my first A-tier (first tournament of any kind, actually), I knew I had to putt. And, not just putt, but I had to replicate the putt over and over, with people watching, with something on the line. I renewed my efforts, watching videos, studying styles, looking for something that I could do now from 20-in, but with a little more swing or weight-shift, would eventually be good from 30-in and 35-in. I now you aren't supposed to change up your putting style a couple of days before a tournament, but take it from me, whatever I came up with wasn't going to make my putting worse.

It was Biblical the day I found it. I read or saw something somewhere that clicked, practiced in the house, visualizing the putt. Then I rushed outside and set up my basket. The Biblical part was the rain. Out of nearly blue skies it poured rain. The clouds that were there were so soft and pale white that they almost shrugged and said, "Don't look at me, I couldn't rain like that." So, I moved the basket to the edge of the garage and walked to the back of the garage -- about 25 feet -- and started putting. Ching, ching, ching. Over and over. This Biblical part was how God Himself reached out of the sky, touched my arm and said, "Now you can putt. Sorry about all that other stuff, and all those other days, but we got a lot of laughs up here watching you!" A fully replicate-able, good from 35-in putt (note: not saying I make all of them, but it's not a stretch now).

I love moments where it all clicks and it comes together. In the A-tier, I nearly missed my first putt on my first hole, for birdie, from 10 feet (hit the very, very top and dropped in, whew!), then I missed the next putt and then I remembered and replicated "My" Putt. The next day, I started the same way, with an iffy putt for birdie that I barely made. Then I made probably 10 putts I wouldn' t have made the week before. 10 strokes, yes. I was on fire (relatively so, at least), because I had confidence. I've putted on three other days since, and can hit reliably from 20-in, nearly-always from 25-in and hit chains or basket from 35-in. Being able to replicate these putts and that feeling, means everything. Life seems so much nicer now, you know? Go ahead, cut me off in traffic, no problem.

If you can't putt, I don't really have much advice, nothing except this: when you find that motion that works -- you can tell, like you can tell when you are in love or who it was that farted in the car -- stop everything and figure it out. You gotta have balance, a motion toward the basket, THE SAME GRIP (I traced my grip on my putter), and confidence. Oh, and just use one putter. Your routine varies if you have a stack of putters. If you use one, it's like the real game; after all, you want to putt as well during a round as you do in practice, right?

Now, perhaps I just shot myself in the foot. Maybe I'm jinxed; I'm sure I'll have bad rounds, but just the fact that I've been able to make the same putt over and over 300+ times in a week when I used to not be able to replicate a stroke twice in a row, I'm confident finally found my stroke.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What's in my Bag #4

Bought a few new discs lately, so here's what's in my bag:

Distance Drivers, most overstable to most understable:

Discraft Force (ESP) (174g) - Just bought it, just thrown it a couple of times in a field. Feels pretty good, probably about the same feel as a Destroyer, which I also liked (and lost). This is a very overstable disc, and I think that will help me torque it into the wind. If not, I'm going to find a Flick, which is even more overstable than the Force. I'm hoping this will be my into-a-headwind distance driver and spike hyzer driver.

I've been wanting to play some Discraft discs, but I've had trouble finding them locally. I got this with my "winnings" in the plastic division of the mini-tournaments I've been playing in. Most of the forehanders I look up to play for Discraft so there is a feeling I'm missing out a little.

Innova Star Monster (175g) - I didn't like this disc at first, but I really do now. I think it's just a matter of time before you learn to throw any disc correctly. This disc works great into the wind if I don't try to throw it too hard. I can turn it over into the wind. In calm weather, which is not common in Corpus Christi, I can throw it really hard and it goes straight. I still am inconsistent, but when I hit it hard and right, it feels great.

Innova Pro Wraith (175g) x2 - bought a spare; I've lost 5 or 6 of these this year. I like this disc, for me it's a great tailwind driver but I can't thrown it hard into a headwind anymore. It used to be this big-impossible-to-turnover disc but now I can't throw it straight on a long drive. Into the wind it throws pretty flat but loops on an annhyzer (like the Roadrunner should, I think). It actually works pretty well as just a stand-there-and-whip-it disc; stand-there-and-whip-it is currently served by my Star Teebird, though. Eventually I might be able to do without the Wraiths or the Teebird.

Innova Star Roadrunner (175g) - right after I bought this, with the intention of using it as my left-turning forehand disc, I read a post by someone who said "there is no reason for any forehander to ever have a Roadrunner, period." I thought that was ridiculous, but I guess I'm getting more snap on my drives because I really struggle to not turn this thing almost on it's lid when I'm simply trying for a little anhyzer. My "little anhyzer" shots are now with Wraiths. The Roadrunner is a decent top-turning roller, but that's all it's doing for me right now. I don't trust it at all. Yeah, yeah, it's the bow not the arrow, but if the bow can't figure out the arrow... I have realized lately that this is a lower speed disc than the Monster, Wraith, TeeRex, Destroyer, etc, and so I've probably just been pushing it too hard, but I'm not finding a place for this except for long trouble shots where a roller is a the best option (and these are rare cases). Guess that dude was right. It may have to go.

Fairway Drivers most overstable to most understable:

Innova Banshee DX (175g) - This is a beat in DX disc, but it's still SO overstable. Amazingly overstable. I love it. I can only get it to go straight in a headwind and pushing it HARD. It will be a great barometer of how much snap I'm getting if I can ever throw it straight for 300 feet with a tailwind. Right now I use it for "guaranteed hyzers" -- from 250 on in. I use it for approaches more than my mid-range discs because it's so reliable. I don't know if this is an one-run abberation -- the Innova site doesn't talk about this being hugely overstable, like I'd think -- but if it's not, I'm always, always, always going to have a Banshee, just for my security blanket.

Innova Star Teebird (175g) - Ooo, but if you throw this right, you can thrown it straight. Last mini, I had two great throws with it. On one, I was worried about overdriving a 200 foot approach, didn't trust either of my mids (Shark & Cobra) to not turn over and roll somewhere unwanted, and the wind was strong left-to-right with a big tree there, too, so no Banshee. I only had a straight shot and it was either the Wraith or Teebird. I went TB. Since I was worried about over-shooting the hole, I just relaxed and tried to keep it low and straight -- and did I, wow. I overshot of course, but it felt great. If I'd relax like that more, instead of trying to crush everything, I'd be in pretty good shape, probably.

I don't really have an understable fairway driver and can't think of when I'd really need one. I'd probably just throw RHBH, which I can't do for big distance, but I can toss the Teebird or Wraith 250 feet on a sweeping hyzer easily, so that works.

Mid-range most overstable to most understable:

Innova Star Gator (175g) - I wanted a Discraft Drone but since I couldn't find one locally, I went for the Gator when I had a chance. I need -- badly -- an overstable mid-range because I'm always turning over my mid-ranges. I can't throw them at all into a headwind or right-to-left crosswind. I haven't thrown the Gator much, but I just took it out a field on a windy day and compared the Shark, Cobra & Gator and, wow, this is precisely what I wanted. I hope I continue to find it as useful as today. It's a huge problem for me, the inconsistent mid-range game. I can lay up from about 100 feet in with my putter (though I frequently miss the 15-footer!), but if I'm around 200 feet I often don't trust my mids and go for a sweeping hyzer with a Wraith or Banshee (sometimes the Monster). With the Gator, I'm hoping I'll have no situations where I can't play a straight-shot if I want. The Cobra and Shark do pretty well with tailwinds or calm days but I just can't put as much oomph on them as I'd like with shanking them badly. Yeah, bow not arrow. I got it.

Innova Star Shark (175g) - Man, this is my back-and-forth disc. I sometimes wonder why I have it. I love it some days, hate it others. Most rounds, I don't use it. It goes: Driver, maybe another Driver (if I shanked the first drive, or if I am spiking a 200 foot approach), then the putter, putter putter, however many times I need it (way, way too often!!). I bet most rounds the Shark doesn't see the light of day... but I still keep it in my bag. It's got this hold over me. Anyway, it flies a lot like my putters, though it seems a bit more stable and can be thrown a little harder & farther. I think it's a good wood-holes mid/short disc; you know, holes where you'd throw your DX putter but worry about tacoing on a tree. That's what the shark would work for.

Innova Star Cobra (CFR) (175g) - I don't use this one much in rounds, either, especially on roomy courses. I just don't trust it that much... don't feel like I can put it within 20 feet of the basket reliably. But, I really like the feel of the Cobra and it's flat inner lip. This is the most comfortable disc. I really want to get reliable with it, as I think it offers me the most versatility.


Innova Aviar Putt 'n Approach, DX (175g) x4 - I have one I really like, but the other three are different molds or something. No two feel the same (some stiff on the rim, flopping in the middle, one rock hard throughout, one just right). I bought four to practice putting with, but after months of not getting any better, I've gone to a practice routine where I use only one putter. I think the putting routine is more important right now -- more important that making it, yes -- get in a game with some friends or a mini and I don't do my routine and I stink. I've spent a year trying to figure out what putting style is comfortable and I'm confident I've found it. Probably is, it often takes me three or four throws to remember exactly what to do to get the right "feel." And, of course, I get one chance.

When I'm practicing, I'm hitting everything 12 feet in, 9 of 10 from 15 and probably 6 or 7 of 10 from 20. I know that's not great, but wait for it... it's better than what I do in a round, where even a 12 footer seems like a football field away. By concentrating on my routine and reliably getting that "feel" the first time, I think I'll be good. When I settle down during a round and do my routine, I putt really well (this usually happens about hole 16 when I think, "crap, I'm sucking AGAIN... oh, yeah, I forgot about my putting routine!!"). So, for practicing, instead of have 2 or 4 discs and holding several in my hand while I do the routine half-assed or only sometimes, I just use one, putt, go get it, go back and do another. No bang, bang, bang. All routine.

The other three putters are all but useless unless I lose my Peach colored APnA and need to replace it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

1st big tournament

I just paid my entry fee for the 1st disc golf tournament I've ever entered. It's on the weekend of the 18th/19th. I have a written goal to take top-10 in a rec/sport division of a major regional tournament by Summer 2009. I might be able to do it well before that. I hope so. I've played in a few minis, but never in something as big as an A-tier event. I got my PDGA #, too: 37439. Yay!

Based on the PDGA rating, and knowing how I compare to some of the local players listed on the PDGA.com web site that I've played minis with, I'm guessing my rating would fall between 750 and 790. The guys rated around 930 beat me by 12-15 strokes most times, depending on the course. The rating system is fairly complex, though very interesting and fun to think about if you're me, but here's the basics. They use top player's scores to come up with a baseline -- the baseline is exactly 1000 -- and from there scores are compared to what you'd shoot or probably shoot against a person rated 1000. 10 points is about a stroke. So, if I'm 750, I'd generally score about 25 strokes worse than a top player during a given round. The best players are around 1040, meaning that they'd score about four strokes better than the really-good-but-not-quite-"best" players. The major flaw is a good player can get a sky-high score by playing easier courses against easier competition, but hey, if they want to travel that much maybe they should get that perk. Lord knows there are not that many other perks to a professional disc golfer, excepting open-awed respect from their peers.