I want to be better at disc golf. What should I do?
Field work. You throw a bunch of shots in a short window of time. You make form corrections on the fly. You try new shots. But good luck replicating in-round shots. It doesn’t translate well. The intensity and the pressure aren’t there. Not to mention the trees. Field work isn’t enough.
Rounds. You get to throw real-world shots. We all care about our scores – even if some of us don’t admit it – so each shot is a competitive one. Even during solo rounds. But you only get to throw one shot at a time. That means that on-the-fly form corrections aren’t going to happen. And rounds do not lend themselves to trying new shots. Doing so would mean compromising our scores. Rounds aren’t enough.
Putting practice. And then much, much more putting practice. But still, that’s not enough.
So what’s a motivated disc golfer to do?
Replace is a modified worst-lie doubles game wherein you are your own doubles partner. It’s a form of practice and it’s intended to be played solo. Play alongside others for a few holes to show them the game, but you’re probably not going to want to play a whole round with someone else. It’ll take too long and you won’t be able to properly focus on the improvements you need to make.
Replace is a general-purpose practice game with a focus on improving your weaker shots. Importantly, this game aims to develop your weaker shots without compromising your stronger ones.
Gameplay is simple.
- Start from the tee pad of any hole you want.
- Throw one shot using your preferred technique.
- Throw a second shot using any other technique.
- Choose one of your first two shots to keep, and one to replace. Then replace that shot with a third throw. The replacement shot must be thrown using the same technique as the shot it is replacing.
- You will now have two discs in play (one of the first two will not be in play). Choose the tougher of the two lies and play your next set of throws from that disc.
- Repeat steps 2-5 until the hole is completed. The hole is completed when:
- From inside the circle, both of your in-play discs are in the basket.
- From outside the circle, any of your throws is in the basket.
- Move to the next hole.
- Repeat steps 2-7 until the round is completed. Write down your score so you can track your improvement.
Rules and Clarifications
- The replacement throw is not optional. Even if your first two shots are both perfect you still must replace one of them.
- The tougher lie isn’t always the farther away disc. This is an honor-system game. Be honest with yourself about which disc will be tougher to throw from.
- When deciding on which disc to keep and which to replace, you can only use the information available to you from where you are standing. You are not allowed to go assess all of the lies before making your decision.
- The replacement throw must use the same general intended line as the throw it is replacing. eg, if there is an anhyzer shot to the left and a big hyzer shot to the right, and you chose the anhyzer shot originally, then you must throw the anhyzer shot again.
- Throwing techniques are backhand, backhand roller, forehand, forehand roller, thumber, etc.
- Outside the circle, straddle putts and staggered stance putts do not count as different throwing techniques. Time to get comfortable throwing finesse flick shots from 40 feet!
- Inside the circle, straddle putts and staggered stance putts do count as different throwing techniques.
How does scoring work? The same as a normal round of disc golf. The worse of your two in-play throws is the only one that counts for scoring purposes. So after your three tee-shots, for example, you are lying one.
Does an ace count? Yes. An ace is made from outside the circle. The hole is completed once any disc goes in the basket from that distance. You don’t have to throw three aces.
If I make my first two putts from inside the circle do I have to make my third? Yes. Just like any other shot, you must choose one shot to keep and one to replace. So when putting from inside the circle you must make at least one of your first two putts and your third putt.
If I make my first putt from inside the circle, what incentive do I have to make my second? Presumably you are more comfortable with one putting stance than the other. So, for example, let’s say that you make your first putt with a staggered stance and are going to attempt your second putt with a less comfortable (for you) straddle stance. You’ll want to make this second putt so that you can putt your replacement putt with a staggered stance.
What happens if I throw a backhand roller that doesn’t roll? Honor system. If you were attempting to throw a backhand roller then, for the sake of this game, you threw a backhand roller.
How do I know if I’m inside or outside of the circle? The same way you would know in a regular round. Use your judgment. Walk it off if it’s too close to call.
Which lie is tougher? The one that will cause you to get the highest score on the hole, on average. Keep in mind that you will have to throw two different techniques from each lie. So a lie where there is a beautifully-shaped forehand line, for example, could still end up being the tougher lie if there are zero suitable routes for a different technique.
Won’t this take way longer than a regular round? Yes. This is a game for people who are serious about improving. That means spending some time.
Theory and Purpose
Three months ago I threw 99% backhand. I worked on my forehand game a ton and now I throw 70% backhand. I’m a much better player overall, but my backhand game is worse now because I’ve been neglecting it. There are situations – mainly short, tight upshots – where I used to backhand confidently that I’m now uncomfortable throwing. This game aims to provide an alternative way to learning new shots. One that does not cause a degradation of existing shots.
Every shot counts.
You’re always incentivized to throw the best possible shot. You want to have a good first shot so that you can re-throw your second, more experimental shot if needed. You want to have a good second shot because that will allow you to re-throw your first, presumably more consistent shot, instead of your second shot. You want to throw a good third shot because it’s a non-replaceable shot.
In this game messing up on any individual shot – or nailing any individual shot – does not take away your motivation for achieving greatness on the subsequent throws. I used to play best shot and worst shot doubles with myself as a form of practice. It was helpful, but there were too many meaningless shots. For best shot doubles your second throw is meaningless if your first throw is amazing. For worst shot doubles your second throw is meaningless if your first throw is garbage.
New shots are encouraged.
Experimenting with new shots is encouraged. On hole #7 at my home course, for example, I’ve been dying to try a forehand roller. I know it’s the best way to consistently birdie the hole. But I never do it in a round because I don’t want to ruin my round with one bad shot. But I know if I have two tries at it I can get it at least once. And my backhand makes for a safe par at worst case.
How many times have you heard “I know I should throw a forehand here, but that’s not really in my bag yet”? How many times have you said something like that yourself? The idea with this game is that eventually you will get comfortable enough to always throw the shots you “should” be throwing.
Form correction is done on the fly.
Have a bad first or second throw? No problem. Think about what went wrong, then correct it while it’s fresh in your memory.
Consistency is rewarded.
You threw two great shots? That’s awesome, but you’re not going to be a great player until you can consistently repeat those shots. You should be able to replicate at least one of those two shots. And if you can’t, then maybe your good shots are on the lucky side.
Fun will be had.
You’re going to end up throwing some pretty stupid shots, especially if you play wooded courses. Where I’m from, stupid = fun.
Film yourself. Carry around a lightweight tripod and camera with you. After each bad shot, take a peek at the video and see if you can see why the shot went awry. Then repeat the throw with that fix in mind.
Photo Credit: Michael Cooper – a member of the Delaware Disc Golf Club – took the picture at the top of this post. It is a picture of hole 11 at Greenridge disc golf course in Newark, DE. You can find more of Michael’s photos on his Facebook page and his Instagram page.