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…

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

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!