In this disc golf clinic, professional disc golfer and coach Dave Feldberg discusses basic disc golf tips for beginners. These tips will help you to improve your disc golf skills and have more fun on the course.
Three Tips for New Disc Golfers
1. Choose a beginner friendly course. Disc golf is meant to be fun. It is not fun playing courses that are too difficult and frustrating for your skill level. It is not fun to lose, or even spend lots of time looking for your new expensive disc golf discs. Most disc golfers who learn to play on easy courses are the ones who become lifers and are still playing today.
2. Buy used and inexpensive discs when you start. Used discs are more understable and so generally work better for beginners. Until you have played enough that you’ve mastered basic control, you don’t really know which discs you should be getting anyways. Once you feel comfortable, head over to Infinite Discs where you can buy inexpensive disc golf discs. You can purchase on sale discs, x-outs, misprints, and bulk sets for extra savings.
3. Don’t Imitate but build good habits. Dave’s third disc golf beginner tip is don’t imitate. Everybody is different. You don’t have the same length arms, you don’t have the same body type, speed, height, or weight. Learn how to throw biomechanically, with the proper technique which does not have to be the exact same as the way someone else throws. When you throw biomechanically you are throwing like in any sport. There is a correct way to move your arms, your legs, your head, the timing and the whole thing. Be sure to build good habits as building bad habits is hard to break. If you learn the correct technique at the beginning it is harder to have moderate success in the beginning, but by the end you will be the better player.
Few people who play this sport don’t care if they improve their skills. Most of us would love to add a few more feet to our drive or increase our putting percentage. For those of us who play in leagues and tournaments, we would love to place higher and win more competitions. In fact, in a recent blog post, we learned that the number one thing that would motivate someone who doesn’t play tournaments to sign up for one, is if they were a better player. (Survey Results: Tournaments) One of the best ways to get better is with disc golf practicing. Whether we are improving enough to feel confident about playing in a tournament, or watching our PDGA rating climb high enough to step up to the next division, one of the more satisfying aspects of disc golf is to see improvement in our game.
Practice makes perfect?
To be clear, playing a round of disc golf is still practicing. The more you play, the better you will get. However, for this blog, when I say ‘disc golf practicing’ I am referring to field work and putting. From what I’ve seen and experienced, those will give your game the most rapid improvement. They take a little more discipline, because they aren’t as fun as playing a round. But, you will definitely see the most improvement with field work and putting practice.
Preparing to Practice
In this blog, I will talk about the best way to carve up your limited disc golf practice time, a couple of practice methods, and one aspect of practicing that I don’t feel is covered sufficiently, warming up. Most people, at the very least, try to get some practice throws and putts in before a league or tournament, if not some stretches. But, how many of us take the time to stretch before ripping some drives in a field or putting inside the circle? I believe that even before putting we should do some stretches. Although the risk for injury is practically nonexistent with putting, it is the consistency we are striving for.
Professional disc golfers suggest that we keep our routine consistent in practice and competition. Do the same pre-throw or pre-putt routine. Have the same mental thoughts and affirmations run through our head. Try to get the same motion in practice that we use on the course. The point of practice is to get that consistency. And if that is our goal, our muscles should be stretched and warmed up for practice the same as when we compete. That isn’t always easy. Most of us have to squeeze in some practice time in our busy schedule. Who wants to use that time stretching?
Seth Munsey of disc golf strong commented on warming up before practicing. He said, “It is very important to warm your body up properly before engaging in any athletic movement. This includes fieldwork and time spent around the practice basket. Warming up will help lower your risk of injury and allow you to tap into more of your athletic potential.”
Seth also indicated that warm-up/stretching routines don’t need to be extensive. He said, “You can complete a warm-up in as little as 5 mins, although giving yourself up to 10 mins will help ensure you don’t feel rushed or stressed to speed it up or end up skipping exercises due to time constraints.” I will talk more about stretching and exercise in an upcoming blog.
Drive for Show?
Hopefully we can make time to properly warm up before practicing. But, then what? What is the best use of our limited practice time? I asked touring pro Dave Feldberg about the best way to split up your practice times. He recommends spending the most time practicing your drives. He says, “If you don’t get a look (at the basket), it doesn’t matter how well you putt”.
At home, he likes to work on his driving form with his ProPull trainer. Then he likes to take a bunch of drivers to a field to test their flight and prepare his bag for upcoming tournaments. He will choose his discs based on the flights he will need. For example, if he is facing a 400-foot hyzer shot, “I know that I should (use) my pink Emperor”. Throwing a variety of discs helps him keep his shaping ability honed.
To increase power and distance, Dave said he likes to, “throw 80 times, as hard as I can”. Throwing at max power repeatedly is something you would want to warm up for. And for most of us, that many repetitions is something we would need to work up to.
When I work on my driving, I really try to throw at fields I’m familiar with. Then I have landmarks such as trees or light poles to mark the distances and note my progress. It feels great when your disc finally lands beyond a tree that you’ve struggled to reach in the past!
Putt for Dough!
The next most important aspect of the game to work on, according to Dave, is putting. He said, “Driving and putting are much more important to scoring and they are something you can practice exactly what you will be facing.” In other words, with the exception of large elevation gains, the putting you do in practice translates very well to game play. You can practice straddle putts, turbo putts, and jump putts, and you will be seeing the same basic shot in a tournament.
There are many theories and techniques as to the most efficient ways to practice putting. The ones that resonate with me have a few things that I’m looking for in a practice routine. First, they need to include many, many opportunities for you to experience success. For most of us, if we picked a point 40 feet from the basket and let 10 discs fly, we would likely have more misses that hits. I think there are great psychological benefits to having a lot more hits than misses. Therefore, starting your practice closer to the basket, then slowly working your way out, will ensure that we end up with a lot more in the basket. The starting distance varies from person to person.
Starting at the 12-15 foot range and putting 3-4 discs until I can get all of them in the basket is a great place for me to start. Then I will move back a little and try again. If I miss, I move back up to the short position and start again. It can be frustrating to have to move to the closer spot, but I think that motivates me to focus more. Which brings me to the second thing I look for in a practice routine, replicating the pressure of playing in a tournament.
Practice Like You Compete
If you take a handful of putters in practice and just start putting from anywhere, you really don’t have much incentive to ‘try’ to make the shot. In a tournament, you have lots of incentive. Therefore, if you can create that feeling of pressure in your putting practice, it will feel familiar in a tournament setting. If you know that a miss in practice means having to start over, you are somewhat recreating the pressure of a tournament setting.
The third thing I like to do for disc golf putting practice is to work on the routine that you will use during an actual round of disc golf. Marking your lie. Either holding an extra disc or not, depending on what you do during a tournament. Taking the same amount of time that you would in a tournament to do your entire putting routine. You could even carry a bag around during this porting of your practice time. I don’t do that the entire putting practice time. Instead, I make a little time at the end of disc golf practice to focus on my entire routine.
For me, I like to scatter a dozen or so putters around the basket at a variety of lengths. Then, I’ll pick one at random and go through my entire putting routine. I’ll mark my lie if I am further than 6-8 feet from the basket, take my usual stance, check the grip on my putter, pick a link, and let the putter fly. Then, I’ll retrieve the disc and go to the disc that is furthest from where I started, and putt again.
For up-shot or approach practice, let’s look at the practices of Dave Feldberg. He said that the look at the basket you get in a tournament can vary greatly from hole to hole, depending on where you land. To prepare for that, he likes to choose a mold, then get a variety of flights for that mold. Dave said, “I carry multiple Sinus’s, one that goes left no matter what , one that goes somewhat left at the end, one that goes straight , and one that turns over.” Then, no matter the situation, he has a disc that has the flight he is looking for.
Dave also has four midrange discs and four fairway drivers with the same variety of flights. He said, “This way no matter what position I am in I have a disc that can make that shot. Sometimes I take a full run up and throw a Sinus, other times I stand still and softly throw a fairway driver. It depends on the condition, terrain, run up, and weather. ”
To practice, he recommends taking those discs to a field and keep throwing them until you are comfortable with how they fly. Then you have a variety of tools to cover the wide range of upshots you might face.
One other effective and productive way to practice approach shots is to play catch with someone using a putter. You get a lot of throws without having to retrieve discs. It’s a great way to get ready for leagues or tournaments.
Time to Practice Disc Golf!
Although field work and putting practice are not as fun as a round of disc golf, they are the mundane tools you need to improve your skills. So, get warmed up with some stretches, grab those discs, and hit the field/basket. Let us know about YOUR disc golf practicing routines in the comments.
Support Dave Feldberg by checking out his Stash on the Infinite Discs Site:
Sometimes we step up to the tee, very confident in our shot selection. But then, we noticed the wind picking up from right to left… and we started second guessing our plans. Which disc should we throw now? How do we adjust for the wind?
David Feldberg is here to help. He talks us through the basics of reading the wind and shot selection. Let us know if you learned something in the comments!
In this quick clinic, professional disc golfers and UPlay Disc Golf founders Zoe Andyke and Dustin Keegan teach us basic tips of how to throw the disc farther and get more driving distance.
The number one thing that new players want is driving distance. Here are a few tips to help you get more:
1. Line up your arms to see how far you can reach back. By reaching back all the way, you have potential for more hit speed and much more power.
2. Turn your head, hips, and shoulders with your throw. Line your head up with your reachback and throw
3. Load your body for that perfect line by maintaining a perfect 90 degree angle.
4. Allow your bodies to pull through your arms utilizing the muscles in your legs and hips.
5. Allow your off hand (the one not holding the disc) to follow through.
6. Stay “springy” at the legs in an athletic position to maximize leg power. Don’t stand up straight when trying to throw for distance.
In this quick disc golf tutorial, Dave Feldberg discusses the differences between different putting styles. There are advantages and disadvantages to each putting style. Depending on the conditions and scenarios, to be the best disc golfer you can be, Dave recommends that you learn and implement both putting styles. He also gives additional tips and explains why Paul McBeth is the best disc golfer in the world.
A “spin putt” is where you spin the disc by rotating your wrist at least 90 degrees during your putting motion. Spin putts are more effective when putting into headwinds and for longer distance putts. The spinning motion helps the disc travel farther and makes it less susceptible to movement from wind.
A “push putt” is often the preferred choice for closer putts. This putting style is also referred to as a loft or shovel putt. With a push putt you simply open your hand and let the disc come out. The push putt is recommended for short term accuracy. A big advantage of the push putt is that when these putts miss they generally stay much closer to the basket and require shorter comebacks.
In this quick putting tip, Team Infinite member Drew Gibson gives us advice to help improve our putting accuracy.
By focusing on spreading his fingers out along the bottom of the disc and thumb towards the center of the flight plate, Drew feels that he’s able to get better control of the angle and trajectory of the disc when he putts.
As you can see from this video, for Drew, this gives him a nice clean release and accurate putting stroke. Perhaps this tip can help you improve your putting as well.
In this two minute putting clinic, disc golf legend Dave Feldberg explains the importance of consistency when putting. To be a more consistent putter, you need to hit the mark. Start your motion at the same point where you will release the putter. When you drop the disc back, a slower drop back will provide more consistently to help you hit the mark. When you’re hitting the mark more consistently, you will make more putts.
We met with Nate Sexton at the 2018 Las Vegas Challenge and asked if he could teach about the Sidearm throw. Nate is one of the the best disc golfers in the world, and has one of the most accurate and powerful Sidearm throws. He most often uses his sidearm throw with a Nate Sexton Firebird (aka SexyBird). In Vegas, he made a short video with us explaining how he grips the disc, his run-up, angle, and release. Hope you enjoy! Leave a comment if you learned something that will help your game!