All posts by Dan Laitsch

Return to Success: CanNats satellite

For 2021, the Canadian Disc Golf Association held the Canadian National Disc Golf Championships in expanded COVID fashion. Because the singular event was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, the CDGA shifted to holding satellite events in each province. On Sept 17-19, the BC satellite was held at Raptors Knoll disc golf course. The TD (Craig Sheather) brought a lot of creativity to the event, highlighting the diversity of Raptors Knoll’s multiple tee pads and pin placements. Day 1 we played 18 holes on a mixed course (6 red-tee short holes, 6 blue-tee medium holes, and 6 gold-tee long holes). The baskets had also all been moved from their BC Open positions. Day two saw play from the blue-tee pads for the open divisions, and interestingly, without any of the potentially punishing OB Raptors is famous for. Day three saw us on the gold pads with “all of the teeth” of Raptors in play (OB was back).

After my recent failings at the Stillwood tournament I was both nervous and excited about heading to Raptor’s. The course is much more open and suits my style play, but the mix of short and long holes was going to neutralize some of my distance advantage and force me to play holes I normally didn’t play. Stillwood also saw me running into some issues with putting, so despite a week of assiduous practice, I was heading into the event without a lot of confidence.

Friday broke dark, grey, cold and wet. Standing on the tee pad for one brought back memories of the previous week’s cold and wet event. My hope was to finish the round in the neighbourhood of 9 or 10 down–I wasn’t close. The best I could manage was a frustrating 3 under par despite two Eagles, one on hole 2, a 300 foot hyzer bomb through the woods driven by my over-stable Kahu (RPM’s primary long range driver) and the other on hole 17, where my under stable Pekapeka flew a beautiful anhyzer-S 340 feet to the basket, leaving me a 16 foot putt. An eagle on these holes is perhaps not as impressive as it sounds as these were eagles from the Red tees, and all pars at Raptors are calculated from the Gold (long) tees. Still, those shots felt good. We were playing in mixed groups, so I had no idea where that -3 put me in the division (MP 50).

Turns out the weather hit everyone hard–the three-down had me tied for the lead and calculated as a not unreasonable 940 rating. Day two was going to be exciting, playing from the blue tees and in much improved weather. The group was also going to be a fun one, with Graham Garlick (-3) and Dave Slater (even par) rounding out the top three in MP50 and Julie Moen (the event’s sole FPO also at -3) joining us. I’ve played with all of these folks before and both respect their games (Julie coming off a second place finish at Am Worlds!) and enjoy their company (serious players who also know how to laugh and enjoy the round). The moderate distances meant that low scores were achievable with good drives, but it wasn’t the birdie-or-die setup that the red tees offer. My round started slow with a par four on a hole that is an achievable three (my upshot flew wide and was knocked down by a tree well outside putting range). Hole two I missed my Eagle opportunity, but had a tap in birdie and hole three was a tap in birdie as well. Hole three my putt for birdie fell short, leaving me at -2 as we stepped up to the par 5 hole six. I promptly crushed my drive into the first available tree, locking up the bogie 6 and setting me back to -1, opening the door to another frustrating round. Graham was sitting at -3 by that point and Dave and Julie were with me at -1 . Reminding myself that hole six was the first hole of the rest of my round I picked up a tap in birdie that set up the start of something special–with me proceeding to score on 11 of the next 13 holes (10 birdies and an Eagle on hole 13). The final tally was a -13 1013 rated round (one point off my highest ever rated round), in the clubhouse with a 6-stroke lead.

The psychology of sport is a fascinating thing. I woke up on day three of the event playing out in my mind how I was going to fail on every hole. OB drive on one, into the trees on hole two, kicking right on hole three, etc. My putts were going to be short and my drives weak. 7:30AM saw me out in the park out back of our house throwing drives like Chevy Chase practicing the Caddyshack course the night before a big tournament (though my throws at least let me know I could still hit a decent drive). I had to do something to distract me and quiet my mind.

Which brings me back to last week’s post wherein I noted my undisclosed plan for putting warmup. I had envisioned creating a strip of cloth that I could hang from a tree or fence that would mimic the pole of a disc golf basket, with the chain area marked off at the appropriate height, allowing me to practice putting anywhere I could hang the contraption. A hour or so of peaceful distraction later, voilá!, the Pocket Putt 2000 was born.

By then it was time to pack up and head to the course, this time from the long pads, all ob in play, and in mixed weather conditions. Day three had the top three old guys running heading to head, as Julie apparently decided it would be more fun playing with her younger colleagues in MPO (OK, maybe that was the TD’s decision). I stepped up in the rain on tee pad one, ready to confront my demons from the morning, and promptly threw a weak hyzer straight ob, ensuring the bogie 5. Graham parred the hole, cut the lead to five, and I thought, ‘Well, here we go!’ That said, the poor throw strangely relieved the pressure I had been feeling and hole two and three were tap in birdies. After a brutal 45 minute wait to tee off on hole 5, I was able to score another birdie, putting me -2 for the day, now 11 strokes ahead, all but sealing the win barring a series of very unfortunate events (which happily never happened). I ended the day -1 (964), the event -17, and with my first win in a major provincial event since 2017.

Graham, myself, and David, post-event

Despite my internal mental stresses of the weekend, playing with Graham and David was, as always, a real pleasure. Everyone in our group was jovial and positive, even when running into trouble. The three of us also genuinely want our competition to throw well, and for the event to be determined based on our own personal performance, and not the misfortunes of our competition. Any given Sunday holds for disc golf too–and these comradely battles will continue.

Below are all the winners of the satellite events across Canada. And here’s hoping we’re all back together next fall at a truly national nationals in PEI.

Recipe for Success?

This past weekend (September 12, 2021) I had the pleasure of playing in an event at the new Stillwood Disc Golf Course. The course is largely a tight and technical course through the woods, with a few open holes and some holes that start open and funnel to a wooded upshot. There are a lot of artificial OB and hazard areas that make even relatively open holes more complex (mentally if not strategically). On the downside, there were a few holes with crossing fairways that slowed things down, and a number of holes where tees and baskets were placed too close together, requiring a wait for safety. As far as the event itself went, the folks running it were well organized and much appreciated spotters were present on most holes, keeping the pace of play steady and ensuring there were no lost discs, even on some pretty errant shots.

I also got to play with a great group of pros–Wes McIntosh and Chance Stad (both of whom I’ve played with before and genuinely respect as golfers and like as people) and Juju McLovin (I mean Julien Quenneville). The inside joke there is that many disc golfers have rather unique UDisc screen names due to the way the program rolled out. Spoiler alert: Julien dominated, cruising to an easy 12 stroke victory.

When preparing for an event, there are a few basic guidelines I try to play by. First, make sure you play the course, or at least walk it, beforehand. That way you can have a plan of attack for each hole. I also like to make sure I get to the event early to have a solid warmup of putting and driving. Finally, I find it important to maintain a regular training regimen between events to ensure consistency.

Let’s see how well I implemented my plan leading into this event…

YesNo
Play the courseX
Have a plan for each holeX
Systematic warm up before playX
Maintain practice skill practice
PuttingX
DrivingX

Any bets as to how the rounds went? The result of the careful lack of preparation was statistically the two worst rounds of disc golf (880 and 913) I’ve played in 15 years. What went most wrong?

First, the course does not play to my strengths–I am a distance player who favours a lot of side to side movement on my throws. Hitting a dead straight throw 250-300 feet is an area I need to work on. As a result, going into this course blind was a huge challenge. In the second round, I was able to drop six strokes off my score largely because I was able to attack holes differently based on the first round results. More experience on the wooded holes would have allowed me to further refine my approach.

Second, the failure to maintain a practice regimen before the event caused real problems with my putt. Over the last month I’ve really let my putting (and driving) practice lag and it played out in a strange new set of problems for me. I’m quite familiar with the yips (that internal feeling that there’s no way you’re going to hit the throw you’re lining up). This event, I would step up to the putt with confidence, and then whiff past or over the basket–just ugly misses. In similar fashion, some traditionally easy hyzer drives ended up coming out errant (rolling my wrist or sawing them off short). My brain and body were not connecting, and I blame that on my failure to practice over the last month (in part I’ve been recovering from a knee injury that kept me from practice).

The final issue for me is putting warm up. When I’m putting well, I putt slowly and systematically, with a slow drawback of my arm, focusing narrowly on a chain link on the basket, then exploding the putt. At events, there are normally a bunch of guys putting on the warmup basket at the same time, meaning the chains are jumping around, precluding that focus on a link, and using a slow putting stroke means I get in one or at most two putts before everyone else is heading to the basket to retrieve their putters. Which means I need to figure out a new warm up routine–either work harder at finding an empty basket, or bring my own (or perhaps something different?).

Did anything go well? About the best thing that happened for me was mid-way through the second round when we were talking about folks having tough rounds (hmmmm, I wonder why that subject came up??). We’ve all been in groups where someone’s having a rough go and it can really bring down the spirit of the entire group if said player is externalizing their poor play. Julien mentioned that he was chatting with someone at lunch about how well I handled my worst round in years (my description at the time)–that you wouldn’t have known I wasn’t having fun out there. To me, that meant a lot. Good sportsmanship is an important aspect of the game, and I am a very competitive guy, so when I’m not competing well, it’s still important to me to A) figure out how to get back on track and B) not wreck the fun for those around me. Julien’s positive reinforcement was a highlight of the day and really did help me continue to keep it fun.

I have a week until my next event at Raptor’s Knoll. I know that course very well and already have a plan of attack for each hole (although a busy week at work means no time for course practice). The course is also one that largely plays to my strengths in that it is relatively open and requires long drives. That said, I’m also committed to returning to daily putting practice, and hope to slip in a few days of driving and upshot practice. And, I have a new plan for putting warm up (more on that latter). So, here’s hoping for a better showing, and a lot more fun, at CanNats.

And, thanks as always to RPM discs for their support!

BC Open

And event number two post-pandemic closure is in the books. The BC Open was held August 14/15 at Raptors Knoll DGC in Abbotsford, BC. The event was a three round test that challenged me mentally and physically. Raptors Knoll is a course that provides opportunities and challenges on every hole–of the 18 holes there isn’t a hole I haven’t birdied at some point. At the same time, there isn’t a hole I haven’t double bogeyed (or worse) either. My normal division (MP50) was collapsed into Masters, so of course I went into Open. Time to see what the young bucks were throwing! With the course set up in the long positions, my goal going in was to shoot a 3-4 under par.

Round 1: Unexpected Achievements

I accomplished my goal in the first round—4 under par which had me tied for second, one shot out of the lead. In hindsight, that goal was an aggressive one–that round was about as close to flawless as I could throw it. I started hot, birdying the first five holes, including a technical hole 3 that had been out of reach for me recently–RPM’s new Pekapeka turned out to be the game changer there (a softly thrown straight line up the middle leaving me a 25 foot putt at the top of the hill). My putter (a Tui) also contributed when I hit a 65 foot putt on hole 2.

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Pleased after round one!

The rest of the round was spent trying to protect that start. The par 4 hole six is a brutal lefty hole, with a tight 220ft +/- RHBH drive off the tee needed to hit a landing spot that will give you a 250ft +/- uphill run at the basket. Not having a reliable forehand (I’m working on it), my plan was to lay up a 160 ft straight shot with the Tui, then sneak a big hyzer bomb around the corner to the edge of the hill, leaving a 90 foot upshot to the pin. I’ll never get a birdie, but hopefully I avoid the bogie. Well, the layup drive was short, so I had to layup to the RHBH landing zone. A still achievable par, but my Piwakwaka, which loves to glide, did. The 250 ft shot went 280 ft (right over the top of the basket), to land OB long. Happily, I banged the comeback putt for a nice bogey save.

The rest of the round was uneventful–a birdie here, a bogey there, and boom, I found myself on the lead card for round two, one off the pace. As I noted on Facebook, I may not be there at the end, but it was nice to be there then. The round was my first thousand-rated round since 2018 (1003), so all-in-all, I can’t complain.

Round Two: Revenge of the lead card

One of the unintended consequences of throwing well in the morning was a long delay between rounds. The lead card, teeing off last for the day, set out at 6:30PM. We knew we would be racing the light and spoiler alert, I squeaked in the last putt of the day under moon light, ending the round at 9:02PM. It was an interesting round–not nearly as good as the morning round, but a lot of stories to tell. I finished at even (966 rated, so still better than my player rating, but well below that 1003 morning round) but that’s not the story.

The lead card waiting on hole 13

Even par for the round with just five pars is the story. Five pars, five bogies, one double bogie, and seven birdies. It was a Dickens of a round… “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” The highlight of the round was hitting an edge of the circle putt in the dark on hole 18 for a birdie to get back to even on the round. My Tui saved my bacon with a bunch of clutch putts all round, and I’m still digging the Pekapeka! It gives me lines that just weren’t available to me without it. Even dropped me from 2nd to a tie for 7th, but all in all, it was a round I wasn’t unhappy with. Each bogey was followed by a birdie and I was able to stay mentally strong throughout. The mantra, “This is the first hole of the rest of my round” kept me from sinking into despair after some bad bogeys.

Round Three: A happy ending

The third round finished solid–two bogies and four birdies. Looking back at it, all three rounds I played mentally tough golf–that’s very different from my normal game of run everything, all the time–and I liked it.

My putt was on all weekend long–and I credit the Tui (such a sweet straight flyer) and the BC Open Champ, Stewart, who reminded a friend of ours (Chris) to putt slower one recent tournament (it worked). I tried it myself, and it works like a champ–eavesdropping is awesome. Thanks Stu whether you know it or not.

There were two highlights of the day. The first was getting one of only two birdie threes on a par four hole that actually averaged 5.16 for the round. The hole is a tight downhill shot to one of two possible landing zones (one high, one low) around 275 feet out, around a mando on the right side of the fairway. Then another 275 shot uphill to an island green. My shot is to go right at the mando with my Piwak, flip it slight left and let the chips fall where they may, then try and chip up to the island for a long run at birdie but a more likely tap in 4. If you go off the fairway, you’re looking at a struggle for par (which explains the three 6s, three 7s, and two 8s thrown by open players that round).

My drive went exactly as planned, running just left of the mando and heading toward the ideal landing spot (lower on the hill and closer to the green) when it went out of sight in the trees. Just as the disc made it’s turn into the trees, a surprised spotter jumped out of the rough and looked at me….then at the disc….then at me…then at the disc, and then gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up! When I got to the disc, it was perfectly placed for a Piwak anhyzer-bomb around the guardian trees to the green…so, that’s what I did. The good news, I did not miss the 15 foot birdie putt.

Top ten in BC!

Even better though, was getting a par on the next hole–hitting a 25 foot putt to save par after a less than stellar upshoot. The kind of putt I would often doink under the pressure. And did I mention there were actual galleries out there today? That’s was frighteningly awesome! Again the Pekapeka was a butter disc and an over-stable Kahu navigated the wind, which was up today, like a hot knife through butter. The two down was a 984 rated round–so played over my rating (947) all three rounds. Also cool was the fact the people were watching on line! It was awesome to hear from folks rooting me on–actually made a real difference in keeping me focused and motivated. Ultimately I finished 8th in Open, top ten in BC! Better than I expected, but about the best I would hope for (score wise). Really pleased to be back playing tournaments and competitive disc golf. As always, thanks to RPM Discs for the support! It’s great to be a part of the Team!

Return to sport!

Dave Ross, from Mundy Park, on his way to CTP on the signature Raptor hole at Raptor’s Knoll
Ken Nelson, out of Whistler, trying to catch Dave’s vapour trail

After a 16 month hiatus, we finally got back to competitive disc golf in BC at the Welcome Back Warm Up, held July 24 by the Raptors Knoll Disc Golf Club.

To give you an idea of how our sport has exploded during COVID times, 126 players registered for the event–only 15 in Open divisions (Open Men and Open Masters). Intermediate had 31 players and Recreational had 40 . There are a lot of energized new players out there!

For this event, we had four players in Open Masters, which was collapsed from Grandmasters (my normal division). I got to play with two friends from Mundy Park (Dave Ross and Craig Sheather) and Ken Nelson from Whistler.

Raptors Knoll is a great, awful, frustrating, wonderful course. There’s not a hole on the course that I haven’t birdied at one time or another. Of course, there isn’t a hole I haven’t bogeyed (or doubled or tripled or we-don’t need-to-talk-about-it). Of the 11 holes I birdied over two rounds, I only hit one both times (hole 14). Of the 8 holes I bogeyed only one bit me twice–twice. I double bogeyed hole 15 both times (once with an out of bounds penalty, once with a yip-induced three putt). My goal going in was a three down each round, and both rounds I was there at some point (-4 through hole 11 in the first round and -3 through 14 in the second). Full scoring stats are available from the PDGA. All in all it wasn’t a great return to tourney play, but it was acceptable–shooting over my player rating both rounds (948 and 958). Dave took the trophy, and Craig and I tied for second (his second round was perfectly balanced, Raptors style–six pars, six birdies, and six bogies), with Ken keeping us honest and pushing our game throughout.

On the day, I really appreciated my RPM midranges: the Kotuku, Piwakawaka and Tuis. When the wind kicked up, my Kotuku was money in getting me safely to the pin. My Taniwha got me an unexpected birdie on the well-protected hole three (hill placement). That said, the weekend also made apparent that I need to work on my upshot game. From 200ft my game was inconsistent as the pressure to park the shot had me trying to guide the throw in rather than authoritatively throw the shot.

Next up is the BC Open on August 14/15. Then we’re looking at the BC Doubles Championship, where Neville Collett and I will defend our Open Masters title. Thanks to the folks at Raptors Knoll for a fun day!

I hope your discs are flying well for you!

The Rapture of disc golf

In 2020 I was interviewed by Thrive Magazine (a publication dedicated to the pursuit of living well with limb loss) for an article on disc golf, published in early 2021. The author does a great job looking at disc golf’s accessibility, as well as its growth and development as a competitive sport. It was great to also see my friends Carver Whitford and Christopher Lowcock in the issue. Check it out on page 28.

Tui time!

Tui (putter). the Tūī are “unique to New Zealand and belong to the honeyeater family, which means they feed mainly on nectar from flowers of native plants.” If the basket is the flower of disc golf, then the Tui is the best disc in my bag for feeding on its nectar! Like the other RPM discs, the Tui is fast for it’s class, but it is a straight flyer. Using a spin putt from distance, I can put the Tui on a dead line to the basket that will always make a run from 45 – 60+ feet. Inside the circle that disc is easy to use with a push putt style and it’s straight line run means few side to side misses. All in all, the most valuable tool in my bag!

Kotuku

Custom dye from the Art of Discs (New Zealand)

Kotuku (midrange). the Kotuku is valued by the Māori for its elegant white feathers, and has long legs and a long, thin neck, “which has a distinct kink when flying.” As a solidly over-stable midrange, that describes the Kotuku disc perfectly.  Like the Piwak, it is a fast midrange and perfect for a hyzer approach when you don’t want to risk running long. It’s stability also makes it a useful forehand approach disc. I never have a question as to what line this disc will take, or where it will land.

Piwakawaka

Ace, from the gold tee on hole 7 at Raptors Knoll

Piwakawaka (midrange). I’d put this one in the bag solely for its awesome name! “What was that you just threw?” “A Piwakawaka!” It rolls off the tongue!

On a more serious note, Piwakawaka is the Māori word for the New Zealand Fantail, a smaller bird more appropriate to a midrange disc. The RPM site aptly describes the disc as a reliable straight disc, that will easily hold a line, with a sneaky long glide. I was surprised at how  fast and long the disc flew. Made with a comfortably soft plastic, I was  able to use a fan grip, rather than a power grip. For midrange throws, I much prefer the fan grip for added control, but traditional hard plastics can get a rough edge that scrapes on release. The soft plastic used for the Piwakawaka makes it easy to grip and comfortable to throw.

For me the flight had more flip to it than the promised straight line, but that is fine with me as I prefer using a flip hyzer line for most of my midrange tosses. The disc runs quite fast, again out distancing most of my current mid-range discs with very little effort. While I am still fine tuning the lines I take with this disc, it’s become my mid-range staple.

The Kahu

Ace on hole 9 at Langley DGC

Kahu (Distance Driver). Kahu is the Māori name for the largest hawk in New Zealand. Like its namesake, the Kahu disc is super fast and extremely powerful, easily matching the other long distance drivers in my bag. What set the Kahu apart for me was the ease with which I was able to put it on a line and control the disc flight. Thrown flat with a traditional power grip, it was easy for me to put the disc on a straight line that stayed true for the entire flight, with a typical tail off as the disc speed dropped. With many long-range drivers I rely on the disc running an S-pattern to maximize distance.

For me, the Kahu achieved the same (or more) distance with very little bend in its flight. This opened up new lines on a number of test holes since I didn’t need to allow for substantial back-and-forth movement in the flight. With a bit of added snap, I also found the Kahu to fly well on a flip-hyzer line (released on a hyzer angle, intended to “snap” up and fly straight). All in all the Kahu, for me, is a superfast, very reliable, long distance driver that has quickly become my go-to driver.

The only draw back to your run-of-the-mill Kahu is the way it handles a head wind, where it can be vulnerable to flipping over. The Kahu comes in three flavours–under stable, stable, and over stable. Make sure you use the OS version for headwind shots.