Arguably, the most important shot in disc golf will be the first one for each hole. For holes that are longer than two or three hundred feet, this will generally be called your drive. Disc golf driving is a coordinated effort that incorporates balance, speed, agility, planning, and strength, as well as your ability to use your body in the most economical way possible during the throw and release.
The first thing that any disc golfer needs to do when he or she steps up toward the tee box is to determine what they are dealing with, as far as the hole is concerned. How long is the hole? What are the reasonable landing areas? Are there trees or limbs that threaten to knock a decent shot down? What about the wind? Is it going to cause your shot trouble, or will it be beneficial? You’ll also want to consider the number of shots you should reasonably plan for this hole.
That does not always mean the number of shots that is considered par. Instead, it means that you need to be realistic about your abilities and whether you can reach the basket in the proper number of shots to attain par. If you know that your skills are less than ideal for the hole’s scoring, then plan on making a bogey, or even a double bogey, if that is more in line with your abilities. There is nothing wrong with scoring bogeys or doubles, especially when you are starting out. Even seasoned disc golfers continuously score above par, and they have grown accustomed to this and incorporate it into their game.
Why is it important to approach your drives with this in mind? The most important aspect is that when you attempt to do something beyond your normal ability, beyond the scope of what you can actually accomplish at the moment, you will tend to try to over-throw, and this causes a number of problems –many of which will end up costing you even more shots that you might be able to afford.
For example, if there is a safe, wide open landing area approximately 325 feet from the tee box, yet your driving distance in around 250 feet, then attempting to reach that safe landing area with one throw will mean you will try too hard, likely sending your drive into the woods, behind obstacles, and far shorter than your average distance, putting you in a precarious position of wasting more shots or taking penalty strokes just to get back to your original goal.
Stay within your normal, comfortable range. If there is a landing area 200 feet from the tee, aim for that. Then you will be 125 feet from the longer range landing area and in a comfortable position for your approach shot. You will still have a chance at par, too. Put yourself in a bad spot off the tee because your drive was off line and you could be scrambling just to save bogey, or double.
How to Deal with Obstacles in Disc Golf Driving
Even the most wide open fairways of any disc golf course offers a number of obstacles that you will need to overcome. Water hazards are quite common. So are trees. When you throw your disc into a water hazard, then not only will you have to fish it out, you will be assessed a penalty stroke. If you throw your disc into a copse of trees, then trying to maneuver through them, especially if they aren’t maintained regularly have a high number of limbs congesting them, you may find that going backward is the better option to get out, which will cost you more strokes.
Storage sheds and shelters are also worth noting when assessing your first shot off the tee.
Choosing Your Landing Area
As a result of this assessment, you will want to decide on two things. First, where you want your disc to land and second, where you don’t want to be. Your focus should be primarily on where you want the disc to land, but at the same time, you want to also make sure that you stay as far away from the worst possible positions as possible. On more challenging courses, you will find that these two are in close proximity. This is designed to tempt the more experienced disc golfer to try to reach the ideal landing area, and many will fall into the trap and end up in a hazard or behind an obstacle.
Again, be realistic about your abilities. It’s better to take three throws to achieve the distance that two from a more experienced golfer will do, than struggle with five or six because you ended up in a bad position.
Ask Questions of More Experienced Golfers
When you are out playing, you’ll likely encounter a number of more experienced disc golfers on the course. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about certain holes. ‘Where is the safest place to land?’ ‘Do you have any advice for this hole?’ and ‘How thick are the tress over there?’ are some decent questions that will give you some insight into the hole itself.
Some golfers will scoff at the idea of helping you, but most will be more than willing to share their experience and wisdom. As long as you ask.
Stretch Before You Play Disc Golf
Before you take any throw in disc golf, as with any sport, it’s important that you stretch thoroughly. Your legs, back, and arms will be pushed during your throws, especially your drives because it is these shots where you will exert the greatest amount of energy and force. While many people wouldn’t consider disc golf to be a strenuous activity, there have been many golfers who have suffered from pulls, strains, tears, and even more serious injuries, such as knee, ankle, and back injuries.
If your playing partners laugh at your stretching routine, remind yourself that you’d rather be safe than lose any playing time on the course because you didn’t stretch properly.
Disc Golf Driving Distance
The distance to the basket on each hole will be important to know, but it’s more important for you to focus on the distance to the landing area instead. That is where you need to concentrate. Put the distance to the basket out of your mind, unless you are on a shorter hole that you can reach from the tee.
When you heed these recommendations, you will already lower your score.
Image via nffcnnr on flickr.