By Jason Southwick of Marshall Street Disc Golf Store
Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about missing half your 20-footers. That’s considered bad putting in some circles, but here we’re talking about being fairly incapacitated from five to 10 feet, and missing the entire basket a lot of the time. And of course being terrified before the putt, and mortified afterwards. What happens during the putt is hard to remember, due to your little nervous breakdown. You can try covering it up with self-deprecation, but truth is, most people on the planet – and many of them have never even seen a golf disc – can putt way better than you right now. Then again, most of them don’t have brand new facial twitches and a loud ringing in their ears.
And it’s not something that comes quickly. You can’t just walk onto a disc golf course and be a hideous putter. It takes thousands and thousands of putts over many years, covering dozens of putting styles and any number of putters. Hideous putting also requires brooding, and attaching your self-worth directly to the shortest of putts.
With the proper negative energy, nurtured by a deep-seated fear of failure, we can make our putting so hideous that people look away. And the one friend who’s not giving you the silent treatment asks, shocked, “What was THAT?”
Well, it’s not easy. Here are a few ideas for climbing into the abyss.
Bad Posture, the Key to Sucking at Any Sport
A few years back I gave a disc golf lesson to a big strong man, and we began with putting. Right off the bat he’s all kinds of nervous, and can’t reach the basket from 15 feet with his straddle putt. He somehow looks like so many bad putters, just worse. It dawns on me he’s making the classic mistake of reaching the disc toward the basket – to make the putt shorter and, presumably, easier – while necessarily sticking his butt out in the opposite direction.
Problem is, in that position, it’s difficult to muster enough coordination for even regular bad putting, never mind enough oomph to actually reach the target. It can be mind-boggling to witness otherwise normal disc golfers reaching forward in this awkward standing broad jump pose, eight feet away from the basket, as if they’re trying to defuse a basket-shaped bomb with a disc-shaped remote control.
So if you define success as failure, remember to maximize the distance between the release point of your putt, and your rear end. Guaranteed to raise your score while amusing your friends. And one of the bedrocks of hideous putting.
Jason demonstrates extreme “Reach Closer So You Won’t Have to Throw it as Far” putting, the perfect stance for unearthing that truly humiliating stroke that resides in all of us.
Footfault Every Single Time
Develop the habit of stepping on your mini upon release, and stepping over it afterwards. The idea here is to send the subliminal message to Captain Brain that you’re unworthy. While disc golf will naturally rob us of our confidence, we can greatly accelerate the demoralization process by making our bad putting also illegal, the way Shaq used to step over the foul line after every foul shot.
The fact that cheating brings you a little closer to the target won’t help one bit, and chances are, like poor Shaq stepping over the foul line, you won’t be called on it that often. Why? Because what you’re doing is so obviously not helping.
And because, as fellow disc golfers, we recognize that you’re suffering enough already.
Thought flashes are the opposite of mantras. A mantra is something you repeat in your head over and over, in a calm, slow Keith Oberman voice: “Put the bisquit in the basket.” Thought flashes are much more sudden, involuntary, and sound a lot like Sam Kinison screaming words so offensive they’d make the most hardened PDGA Monitor blush — even if you wrote them without vowels.
No putting can attain true hideousness without well-timed thought flashes.
When the Psyche Goes Bad
The psyche is the whole shebang. It’s what you’re thinking and what you know and don’t know, what you remember as well as everything you’ve forgotten. And if your body isn’t part of your psyche, it’s the car the psyche’s driving, often erratically, especially on those short putts where your skin crawls right off of you, stands up on its own with holes for eyes and laughs in your face. And it’s not a nice sort of laugh, either.
Whatever messes with your psyche, is guaranteed to mess with your putting. They are reflections of each other.
“Hurry up and miss,” says my former skin, suddenly bored with the inevitable.
And of course I clang the front of the basket from nine feet and, since my skin’s new job is to mock me, my blood and organs spill out of me onto the ground next to my poor putter.
You can improve your posture, avoid footfaulting, suppress some of the more shattering thought flashes, start actually practicing, and visit a sports psychologist. All of this may help. When you’re in hideous putting mode, however, your best bet is to simply surrender to it and accept it.
Sooner or later the vortex in your head will settle, your confidence will return, and you’ll be putting as well as the first time you ever picked up a disc.