philo braithwaite lining up his shot at the wintertime open in 2019

Visualizing Your Shot

You’ve done the form work ✔️

You’ve practiced your putts ✔️

You’ve signed up for a tournament ✔️

You’re standing on the tee of a hole you’ve played dozens of times before. You go through your routine on the tee pad and you’ve got the correct disc for the drive. Your hand is dry so you grab the disc tightly. A perfect x-step with your arm pulling the level disc through the power pocket results in a clean release. You’ve spun on your heel and follow through perfectly so you don’t lose power by slowing your motion early.

And as your disc flies away, you realize it’s not going where it’s supposed to go. It’s a few degrees difference and you’ve hooked it into a tree or it’s fading early. Why is it not working when you've done everything right?

Visualization. That’s today’s blog topic. One thing that you need to be able to do is visualize your shot. It’s even more important on courses that you play consistently, where you might become complacent in your shot selection. If you’re already pulling out the disc before you get to the tee pad, you might consider slowing down your routine.

I have heard the story from my mother who has a Masters degree in exercise physiology, roughly a thousand times now. I’ll paraphrase it for you, Dr. Blaslotto conducted a study in 1996 where he would measure the effect of visualization on basketball free throws. He had 3 groups of people in his study.

Group A practiced free throws every day on the court.
Group B practiced free throws in their mind.
Group C did not practice mentally or physically. 

Group A improved their overall scores by 24% but Group B improved by 23% without ever touching a ball. Have a look at how basketball players are currently using this method to improve their shooting percentages.

So how can this technique from basketball apply to disc golf? Well visualizing your throw is going to be key to your drive, your upshot, and your putt. Visualizing your shot can be worked on when you’re at home or on the course. I know SDG’s Hawk Course pretty well, and I can see it in my head clearly, so I can do drives and upshots in my head any time I want to. Putts can be done anytime as well because you’re really just focusing on the basket and the path the disc takes to it.

If you’re skeptical, asking how can thinking about doing something make me better at it? But it’s worked in disc golf before, on the National Tour by a player who beat Paul McBeth! A few years ago back in 2016 at the Glass Blown Open, a 42 year old named Cameron Todd won. He decided not to throw the course and tire himself out with practice rounds before the event. Instead he went and walked the course, and visualized his throws. So it’s not unheard of for disc golfers to use visualization to practice and use it to win. Ian from Central Coast Disc Golf commentated on a Jomez video about how Cam walks courses instead of playing them.

If you’re at the course it’s an ideal time to practice. You see almost all pros visualizing before they do their actual throw; during their warm up they do a fake throw on the tee pad. Sometimes with a disc in their hand,  they then look out into the fairway when they’re aiming. Practice slowing down your routine on the tee pad and take a practice throw mentally, imagining where that disc is going to go. A drive takes about 4-6 seconds in the air so after you’ve thrown your imagined shot, watch where you think the disc is going to go and land for that same period of time. You’ve got 25ish seconds to take your drive so use a few of them to visualize that next throw.

I find that sometimes I just go through the motions. One arm swing, a look at the basket, then rip the shot. That’s not going to lead to consistent play. I sometimes play better at courses I don’t regularly play because I’m concentrating and visualizing my drive more. First let’s think about some drives.

eagle mcmahon follow flight image

Here is a screen grab of the follow-flight of Eagle McMahon and the flight path that his disc took at the Beaver State Fling. That’s what I think about my disc doing before I throw it. I find that in a wide open space it’s more useful for me to concentrate than on a wooded shot. On a hole with trees I’m already concentrating on which one I want to avoid by hitting the space to the left or the right of the tree(s). On open holes if I go through the motions, I’m more likely to have an early or nose up release. So when you’re on the tee imagine where your disc is going to go before you throw.

Let’s do some putting practice together. If you’re having trouble visualizing here’s a picture for you. Print it out and put it on your wall. (And be sure to thank Angie for taking such great pictures of our courses, discs, goats, everything, if you see her.)

hole 6 eagle course sabattus disc golf

This is a good looking basket, perfect for practicing your mental putts on. If you want a longer look move back from the picture. Now find the spot you want to hit. It could be the pole, or a specific link in the chains. I like to aim at the chain just to the right of the pole since I know I hyzer a little bit when I putt.

Now move your arm like you’re putting. Imagine your disc is in your hands, and that your putt is hitting the exact spot you want it to. Do this 5 or 6 times in a row, even imagining picking the putters out of the basket before doing it again. This is what you’re going to want to do for mental practice.

This isn’t a replacement for physical practice. As you might have read from Dr. Blasatto’s study, the people who put in the physical practice improved more than any other group. But if you’re mentally practicing your shots you are improving as well. Before you go out and practice, you should try some mental putts first. Or if you’re having trouble sleeping, visualize a couple putts before you hit the hay.

Let me know if you’ve tried visualizing your shot and how that’s worked out for you. I find that slowing down and really picturing the shot has improved both my drives and my putts. 

May your discs miss all the trees,

Andrew Streeter #70397

Streeter (PGDA #70397 )

He started disc golfing in 2011 and instantly fell in love with the flight of a disc. He has a degree in Sports Management from the university of Southern Maine and has been blogging for SDG since 2020, He writes about informational disc golf content editorials, and disc golf entertainment.

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