If you are looking to improve your disc golf skills and achieve more consistent tournament performances, practice makes all the difference. This is true whether you are playing as an Open professional or a Recreational amateur. Mental and physical preparation are both key to success in disc golf, just like any competitive sport.
You Against the Course
The best players in the world see themselves as “playing against the course” in the early rounds of any big tournament. Ultimately, you can’t control how your competitors play, so it pays to focus on one hole at a time and play the best you can. Some strategies may change in the final round of a tournament if you are in the lead or trying to chase someone down. Either way, you should come into the round with a plan for each and every hole on the course.
Home Course Advantage or Disadvantage?
The more you know the disc golf course, the better. It can definitely be an advantage playing a course you know and love. On the other hand, playing your “home course” can also have its disadvantages. You may feel more pressure to put up a low score because you know how well you have played there in the past. You may be indecisive on certain holes because you’ve played them so many different ways over the years.
Do you throw forehand or backhand? Overstable or understable? High-speed distance driver for max distance or fairway driver for more placement control? These kinds of thoughts can get into your head, cloud your judgment and lead to uncommitted shots. Before long, you find yourself scrambling just to save par and it’s hard to get back into your rhythm.
Developing a Hole-By-Hole Game Plan
Having a hole-by-hole game plan helps significantly. You can try different shots during practice rounds, but go into your main round with a specific shot shape and disc selection in mind. Know what you plan to throw on each tee shot. For par-4s and par-5s, plot out your strategy for each shot and pick out your desired landing spots/angles. You won’t always hit every line you imagined, but it still keeps you from being indecisive when heading into each tee shot.
Most professional disc golfers will plan for the best-case scenario on each hole. They know the line they want to hit and the disc they want to throw. If it doesn’t go exactly as planned, then they know how to go into scramble mode to make the most of the hole. Practicing your scramble shots is also beneficial. Don’t just throw 10 tee shots on each hole in a practice round and play out the one that’s closest to the basket. Practice from the bad lies and awkward angles, too. This will enable you to prepare for different situations you might encounter on the disc golf course.
Remember that nobody is perfect and disc golf is a game where just a couple inches can be the difference between a birdie and a bogey on a tough hole.
Focus on the Shots in Front of You
Having a hole-by-hole game plan will also help when you do have a bad hole. It can keep you focused on the next shot ahead. You know exactly what you need to do, so put the bad shots behind you and focus on the next hole in front of you. Remember your game plan and stick to it as much as possible. Just because you threw a bad drive with your Shryke on the last hole doesn’t mean you should retire that disc for the rest of the round. If you know it’s the best disc for another hole, throw it again. Don’t completely change up your whole game plan because of some bad luck or poor execution on a previous hole.
Learning the Course
If you are playing a course that you don’t know very well, make an effort to get out there and practice the layout ahead of your tournament. Even if it’s just playing a few holes the morning of the event, it is better than nothing. Look at the course maps and hole distances on UDisc. Study the caddie book or tee sheet if provided one by the TD. Do what you can learn more about the course. You may not be able to have a perfect game plan for each hole, but mentally plan out as much as you can in advance.
If you are able to play a practice round (or multiple practice rounds) before the tournament, try multiple shots, angles and discs. Take mental notes (you can literally even take notes on your phone or a notepad) about what worked best and what shot you plan to play when the tournament rolls around. Make a little note that says “Hole 2: Forehand hyzer, Destroyer” so you don’t overthink it too much during the round. Indecision almost always leads to uncommitted shots, which can lead to big numbers.
If you are playing a course blind, then obviously it’s trickier to develop a hole-by-hole game plan. In this situation, we recommend keeping it simple. Sometimes it’s best to take a few discs out of the bag and lean on the your most dependable discs and shot shapes. As you are playing your first tournament round, make your notes about how you might approach certain holes differently in the next round(s). You may not have a hole-by-hole game plan in round 1, but you’ll have a better idea the next time you go around the course.
Prepare for Anything
Lastly, you do have to think about some variables like wind or rain. The wind may be blowing harder/softer or a completely different direction when you play your actual tournament round compared to how it was blowing during practice. You may have to call some audibles in this case, but again try not to overthink it too much. Maybe you planned to throw a Tern because there was a strong tailwind during your practice round. Now, it’s a stiff headwind. Your shot plan may be the same (same angle, same line), but now you might want to switch to a Destroyer for added stability in the headwind. You are changing your game plan some, but not completely panicking and attempting a crazy shot you haven’t practiced at all.
If you are serious about improving your competitive disc golf skills, course practice will help and developing a game plan for each hole on the disc golf course will certainly make a difference. Plan your shots, know your discs and stick to your plan, but still be prepared for any surprises (wind, rain, bad kicks, bad shots, etc.) that may come up during your round. These techniques will help you become a better competitive disc golfer.