No, I’m not saying for you to tee off at the basket and try to land your putt on the cement tee pad. I’m talking about a strategy that legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus
employed. Nicklaus often talked about starting his thoughts at the perfect location on the green to hole a putt. From there, he would determine what spot in the fairway gives an opportunity to easily find the selected location on the green. His strategy moves backwards all the way to the tee. This is a simple concept, but how does it apply to disc golf?
Choosing a line through a tree filled park can be difficult. One of my favorite practice round techniques is to walk up to the basket and look back toward the tee. You’ll often be surprised at how many different lines could be used for a given hole. Or, you may notice certain lines that have very little chance at success. Playing the hole backwards makes it much easier to find the path of least resistance.
Remember, however, that you aren’t always looking for a line directly to the basket. Aces are certainly fun, but they are also very unlikely in the woods or on holes longer than your maximum throw. In that case, your best chance is to set up the next shot for the highest chance of success. Look for easily attainable landing zones that leave an easy line to the basket.
I recently played a round of disc golf on a difficult course that combines long holes, elevation, and tunnel shots. Often times, your disc must travel 100 feet through a narrow opening in order to find a solid location for the next shot. The first few rounds I played on this course, I’d see that the hole is 700 or 800 feet long, pull out my longest driver, and apply the “heave and hope” strategy. Sometimes this works but more often it leaves me in an awkward position with no chance at carding a par.
This next round, I determined, would be played differently. I decided that I would rather throw a shorter disc accurately in order to set up the next shot. Thinking back to the Nicklaus strategy, my goal was to throw the shortest shot that would still give me an opportunity to find a good line on my next shot. So I knew my choice of disc would often be a mid-range or putter, likely throwing from a standstill instead of a run up.
This strategy allowed me to play this challenging layout without hitting many trees. The slower discs don’t go as far off line on a bad or unlucky throw while these shorter lines are easier to see and easier to replicate. Keep in mind that mid-ranges and putters don’t skip off line as much as a driver, which allows you to better predict the eventual resting place of a shot.
I will warn you however, this strategy takes a lot of willpower. When your opponent steps up and throws a perfect line with his Destroyer that sets up an easy 100’ approach, you may be tempted to reach back in the bag and grab your driver. But, you need to remember that the round is played over the course of 18 or more holes. You may give up some distance and a few birdies, but you will certainly mitigate risk and par a few holes where a driver would’ve left you out in the woods.
My round went rather well with a lot of pars on difficult holes. I didn’t have as many birdie opportunities as previously, but I also didn’t card anything higher than a bogey. Overall, this was a relatively stress free, uneventful round on my way to scoring my best number by far on a difficult track.
Maybe you’ve tried this same strategy before. Or more likely, you think I’m crazy for even suggesting a putter off the tee on an 800’ monster. The only way you’ll know is to give it a try.