DISCS & ZEN – How to Hit Less Trees and More Chains

“You simply can’t be a victim of your bad shots. A lot of players will dwell on a bad hole and carry negative thoughts into later shots.” – Erik Smith [Team Discraft]

How many times has this happened to you? You are playing the round of your life and feeling really good when all the sudden CRACK – you hit a tree right off the tee that turns a hole you’d otherwise birdie into a double or triple bogie. Now you feel like you have to make it up on the next hole. You are concentrating on all the work you are going to have to do to “catch up” and make up the diffrence. You step onto the tee box, mind still stuck on that stupid tree, and release your disc late, only to hit ANOTHER tree!

It happens to us all. The round is going great but that one shot just sends everything into a downward spiral. At the end of the round you tell yourself “Man, I was playing awesome until I hit that tree on hole 8. What happened?”

The answer is that you were in the moment on holes 1 through 7. Everything was going smooth and you were playing great because with each hole you were focused on the shot that you needed to make. Not a previous shot. Not a future shot. Your mind was in the now. And each great shot that you made was a result of your building confidence. Then somthing disturbed you. Your focus was changed. Now you lost some of the confidence. You were now on the teebox, thinking about hitting that tree, thinking about having to “catch up.” And the downward spiral began in your mind which manifested in your game.

Disc Golf is an “in the moment” game. Your mind must be in the now to throw the best you can throw. When you start thinking of hitting that tree, your subconcious doesn’t understand that is something you DON’T want to to do. It becomes focused on hitting a tree. Any tree. Have you ever notice that hitting one tree leads to hitting another and another until you feel more like a lumberjack than a disc golfer?

So what is the best way to recover after hitting a tree or any other poor shot? Regain focus by telling your mind what you want it to do rather than what you don’t want it to do. Step up to the next teebox, set your aim and rather than thinking of the obstacles – focus on the basket. That’s where you want to go, right? Tell your mind: “basket, basket, basket,” instead of “tree, tree, tree.”

Life, like disc golf, is full of obstacles. And our mind doesn’t understand what we don’t want, only what you are thinking about. Changing your thinking is the first step to any type of success in life. Always be focused on your goals and not the challenges that stand between you an achieving them. Stay focused on today and what you need to accomplish and if you hit a few trees, so what, stand back up and keep going!

Patrick McCormick
– Author of Zen & The Art of Disc Golf
– Host of The Zen Disc Golf Podcast

Image courtesy of IG @scott_dudek

9 thoughts on “DISCS & ZEN – How to Hit Less Trees and More Chains

  1. “In the moment” says it all! I’ve been trying to impart that knowledge to my son, who lets a bad hole or shot simply destroy the rest of his round in a spiral of frustration and poor decisions. Will be sure to have him read this.

  2. I KNOW this but for some reason I don’t DO this. I was a beginner about two months ago and I played one time and now I have 10 discs and I love playing. I’m hooked. But doggone it there are so many trees on this course in Alamosa, CO and it drives me nuts because there are not any other courses less than a couple of hours away. You would think we would play this course really well, right? Nope!! LOL You are completely right about focusing on the basket, basket, basket. I’m heading out to play right now and I’m only going to focus on practice this time and it’s going to be all about the basket and not the trees. I’ll comment when I get back. Thanks for the advice!!

  3. Just got back from playing 27. I did slightly better today considering the doggone wind out here. I managed to avoid most of the trees that I usually hit but started hitting the trees further out where the wind took my discs. Ugh! Had fun and I’ll use your advice every time I play. Thanks again.

  4. Yesterday I hit probably 70 trees in 60 throws. Seriously, I played on a new course with some friends and they laughed so hard at how often my disc hit trees.

    I think I was trying to impress them and I was overthrowing rather than focusing on accuracy.

    On one hole, I nailed a tree about 20 feet from the tee. Angrily I grabbed another disc and chucked it, trying to avoid that tree. It hit the tree behind it, bounced back, and hit the very tree I was trying to avoid before landing in about the same place as my first disc.

    All of us laughed for a solid minute.

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