John Dawson is a longtime competitive racquetball player who picked up disc golf a couple of years ago. While muscle memory from his main sport made generating big power off the tee feel relatively natural right off the bat, putting was a huge source of frustration.
"When I first started, I had this idea that it should have been easy," Dawson said. "I could throw stuff across the room into a trashcan. Why wasn't it like that?"
Dawson was lucky that the group that helped introduce him to disc golf included experienced players who took the sport seriously. That meant that through observation and asking for pointers, he got a good idea of what he should do to feel more comfortable while putting.
But not everyone has that same luxury. Many disc golfers start playing with others who are also new to the sport. This often means they only come in contact with experienced players in competitive environments like leagues and tournaments where asking for pointers is awkward or inappropriate.
That's why we did the asking for anyone finding themself in that situation. Along with learning what advice Dawson has found most useful, we talked with full-time professional disc golfers Chris Clemons and Kristin Tattar to get their best advice on how newer disc golfers can improve their putting.
The tips in this section deal with the mental side of putting. Though there are just two sections, they touch on aspects our sources believe are absolutely essential for putting success.
Accept That Putting Is Hard
Like Dawson when he started playing, many people find it difficult to believe that putting a disc in a basket from short range is actually as hard as it seems. But Chris Clemons said this is a reality he often reinforces when playing with new disc golfers.
"If they see me throw a great drive and they're like, 'Oh man, that was awesome!', I say, 'Yeah, but I've still gotta putt, and that's the hard part,'" said Clemons.
One example of Clemons' point can be seen in a recent set of shots from a player filmed by Central Coast Disc Golf on a very uphill par 4 at the 2020 Challenge at Goat Hill tournament.
The player executes two long shots, the second of which is also very technically difficult, to put himself close for a birdie chance on a hole with the highest bogey rate on the course (34% of players bogeyed it). Watch the clips below to see those shots and what happened on his birdie putt.
Throws 1 & 2:
This sort of thing happens because putting, due to physical and mental factors, is, in fact, hard. Letting yourself believe this will hopefully help you accomplish two important things: 1) Realizing good putting requires practice and 2) Not getting overly frustrated with misses or slow progress.
Build Confidence & Stay Positive
Just because you realize putting isn't easy doesn't mean you can never feel comfortable doing it. With enough of the right sort of practice, anyone can feel confident about their chances of successfully completing a difficult task.
One way Clemons builds his confidence is mainly practicing from distances where he's sure to find chains often.
"I see so many people practicing from 40 feet [12 meters] and out of 10, they make two or three of them," Clemons said. "It's like, what's the point? You're just seeing the disc not go in over and over again. The majority of my practice is from 18 to 30 feet [5.5 to 9 meters] just because I want to see the disc go in over and over again."
Clemons says seeing repeated success like this helps create a positive mindset about putting that will carry over to rounds.
Kristin Tattar also pointed to positivity as key to feeling good on the green.
"I think it is very important to focus on the positive," Tattar said. "During my better rounds, I've noticed that whatever putt I'm faced with, I always step up and think, 'I can make this,' and usually I make it or give it a good run at least. So just think about the positive and focus on giving your putt a chance. If you only think about what could go wrong, it is nearly impossible to have a good putting day."
Now that you know more about achieving the right putting headspace, we're moving on to physical aspects of putting you can start implementing during your practice sessions and rounds.
Don't Throw; Putt
John Dawson said one of the most important realizations he had about putting was slow in coming.
"It actually took me awhile to wrap my head around the difference between a throw and a putt," Dawson said.
Interestingly, Clemons mentioned that this confusion is something he often sees.
"They might turn their chest away from the target almost like they're throwing," Clemons said of some newer players who've attended his clinics.
Disc golf throwing technique is meant to produce so much power that you're simply no longer able to hold onto the disc. In putting range, you don't want to create that much power. So if you use a throwing posture to putt, you're performing an awkward half-motion that also adds in unneeded body mechanics that make timing the perfect release point extremely difficult.
This all means if you aren't already doing so, follow Kristin Tattar's example:
"I always focus on lining up my putt straight to the basket—my hips and shoulders are straight to the basket," Tattar said.
The more moving parts there are in your putt, the harder it will be to time your release. Dawson, for instance, said some of the most useful advice he got was to lock his elbow through his putting motion to reduce the chance of his release point being off the intended line.
To help yourself in this area, you may want to film your putt and analyze the footage to see if you notice unneeded movements you're not even aware you're doing. Once you're conscious of them, you can work to eliminate them.
Additionally, you could make a game out of seeing how little movement you really need to produce the right amount of power on putts. It's likely less than you think.
Use Your Legs
Both Tattar and Clemons specifically pointed to incorporating the lower body as key to successful putting. This may sound counterintuitive given what you just read about eliminating variables, but using your legs actually helps you achieve that goal.
By using your legs, you rely less on arm movement to generate power. The less arm movement you have, the simpler it is to hit your intended release point.
Find Your Goldilocks Power
If you don't know the story of Goldilocks, what we mean here is that you need to figure out how to putt with an amount of power that's "just right." This advice stems from observations Clemons has made watching amateur players on the putting green.
"Most newer players I see just pitch the putt up there and it usually misses short," Clemons said. "But then I see a lot of high level intermediate and advanced players who putt super hard, and they're gonna have a ton of 20 and 30-foot [6 to 9-meter] comebackers. I think there's a happy medium."
Clemons' own style is an example of this. His putt is a relatively slow, smooth stroke that gives the disc plenty of forward momentum while also rarely leaving him far from the basket on misses. You can see an example of a successful Clemons putt in this clip from JomezPro's coverage of last year's U.S. Disc Golf Championships:
For more examples and advice on this topic, we suggest you check out the video featuring Ricky Wysocki in our article "5 Great Videos: How To Putt In Disc Golf."
Many players think they can only generate enough power on their putts by using quick motions. But high speed movements often result in inaccuracy.
"Make sure you don't do it all too fast," Tattar said. "Your hand must move quite slowly in a controlled way and always point to the basket after the throw."
This is another bit of advice you can find echoed in our 5 Great Videos article on putting, where all-time great Dave Feldberg explains how slowing down the putting motion helps you hit the right release point more consistently.
One player Feldberg points to in that video as a great model for a slow putting motion is five-time World Champion Paul McBeth. Below you can see a clip of McBeth putting at the 2019 World Championships:
You likely noticed in that clip that McBeth slowly drew the disc into his body before performing a very compact putting movement. It's a great putt to look to for inspiration of how to reformulate your own.
If you follow all the advice above, you could be well on your way to developing a stronger putting game. But of course you'll also need to practice to see the biggest effect.
Make sure you set aside time dedicated purely to improving your putt. One way to make that time fun and keep track of your progress could be to use the Practice Putting feature in UDisc.
If you're looking for tips like this on another topic, let us know! You can contact our editor, Alex Williamson, at email@example.com.