Disc Golf Etiquette

“Zen Putting” by Joe Parent for Disc Golfers

Zen PuttingI’ve read Zen Putting by Joe Parent twice – once for my game and the second time for this blog – and I can confidently say it helped my game both times.   The first time, last season, the advice really helped me define my pre-shot routine.  It helped me gain an understanding of the mental things I was doing – or not doing – while I prepared for my next shot.  I defined my routine and gained a few strokes.

The second time, a couple weeks ago, it really helped my over-all mental stability.  Having already defined my physical process, I was able to work more specifically on the mental things that were working against my score, or worse, the positive things I was failing to do at all.  I was able to see the way my negative self-talk affected my score because of the perspective I gained.  I realized how often my mind and body worked against each other; my mind screaming “don’t three putt” but my body remembering all the putting sessions where I was on fire and drained everything inside 25 feet.

What follows is a review of Zen Putting specifically for the disc golfer.  Parent’s strategies are based in the teachings of Zen Buddhism and there is a lot of wisdom in the first half of the book for any golfer.  The second half is comprised of specific ball golf exercises and is not reviewed here.  I recommend reading the exercises to see how many you can tailor to the needs of your game.

1. Unconditional Confidence.  “Zen Putting is about maintaining an attitude and committing to a routine that allows your mind to be free of the interference that obstructs your intuition.” (12) Parent wants us to be in the present – only thinking about the decision in front of us – what shot to make?  Not to think about how we shot before, how great a birdie would be, or how bad a bogey.  This is the most Zen principle and is clearly stated, “Zen means waking up to the present moment, being open to information, holding no fixed idea.” (5)  Play without judgement.  I’ve derailed holes, rounds, and tournaments by not thinking about the shot in front of me but rather wondering about my score or that guys score or what’s for lunch.  Give this a try the next round you play: Consciously think about how you want each shot to look while you take it and nothing else.  It is incredibly difficult.  All of this advice is extremely useful to this disc golfer.

2. How We Get In Our Own Way.  This was the most fun part.  I often found myself nodding while reading.  Parent describes how hope and fear battle within each of us, “You become preoccupied with hope of a good result and fear of a bad result.” (36)  That preoccupation interferes with the physical routine we create.  We rush our shots out of fear, over-think our shots out of hope and either way we drop strokes.  We have many mental ways to prevent the stress of having a great round.  We explain away every miscue, all the while, slipping further and further away from Zen.  I’ve said things out loud after a silly miss like, “I have one of those every round.”  But why do I?  Upon reflection, it was almost entirely because I did not focus on the moment in front of me.

Parent suggests counting the times you say something derogatory about your game and eventually counting the times you think something bad about your performance.  I was stunned how often I did it and pleased with the stroke I picked up when I stopped doing it – mostly stopped doing it. He also describes the Action-Reaction.  How often do you miss right and then follow it with a miss left?

There are ways this book can be more helpful for disc golfers because this putting advice often works for tee-shots as well.  “Thinking about the birdie from the fairway interferes with your process of executing the shot your playing.” (25)  The fairway approach, birdie set-up shot in ball golf is the tee-shot in disc golf.  When I think too much about the birdie I want on a hole I frequently miss my line.  I’m usually looking at the basket instead of the arc of my shot.  The idea of a “birdie-hole” is dangerous.  We should be focusing on the moment, the process, and the “birdie-shot” because it is the golfer that makes the birdie, not the hole.

3. Training Your Mind.  Parent next goes into several exercises for clearing your mind, for finding the state where you can process information without qualification or expectation.  He describes breathing exercises, posture exercises, and “Panoramic Awareness.”  I lost many of the details in this section and I did not have too much patience for some of the more involved exercises.

What I did find useful was a suggestion to divide one’s play into two sections: decision and action.  Parent suggests that we do not proceed to the action phase until all thoughts and decisions have been made.  When I step to any throw, I try to have committed to the exact decision about my shot.  Once I thought about it this way, I was amazed how often I stepped to a shot with only a vague idea of what I expected to happen.

I recently played a tournament where I had two competitive rounds and one terrible round.  While my buddies were waiting for their pay-out, I played another round with a golfer from the next division.  We started talking and it was clear he was more comfortable with his game than I was.  At one point, while I lined up a shot that had to go through or around a wall of thin saplings, he asked me what I was planning on doing.  The best I could do for an answer was that I was gonna try to power it at one of the small gaps in the thicket.  I hadn’t thought which gap I planned to hit or what kind of hyzer I would use.

Using this technique also means that you don’t psyche yourself out with a negative thought on the tee or on the green, “A thought generated by your own mind during your back swing can distract you even more than the sound of someone else talking.” (61)  You’ve done all your thinking, now it is action time.

4. Make Every Putt.   “It is far better to focus on how well we execute what we intend rather than how it turns out.  That allows us to base our confidence on something we can control rather than on something that is beyond control.  Success is determined by the quality of execution, independent of the outcome.” (75)  In this sense, Parent argues, we can make every putt.  We can make a decision, fulfill our routine, and make the best putt we are able, every time.  When we are satisfied with and enjoy the process the result is less significant.  It also turns out that I golf better when I am happier.  Golf Happy.

That was a long one but I really enjoyed the book and plan on reading it several times this season.  Maybe you can get something out of it as well.  Next week will be a change of pace and not nearly so involved.  The 2013 season is cranking up; The Auburn Rain or Shine Pro-Am on Feb. 2nd is the next event on the agenda.  Also hoping to make the Lava Creek Classic Feb. 23rd.  Golf Happy and remember:

Don’t be the Douche Bag on the course today.


Categories: Disc Golf Etiquette

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