DISCS & ZEN – Are you practicing to MISS the chains?

Do you ever grab a handful of putters and go out to your favorite place to putt, only to leave practice thinking “I’m not really sure if I that session made me better or worse…” Did you start strong and quit weak? I know I have. In fact, I just left the backyard to type this post with a similar feeling.

Shouldn’t we leave practice feeling like we are stronger players than we started? That IS the point of practice isn’t it?

A little while ago I grabbed a handful of putters that I’m testing out: P1s and P2s from Discmania. I have a few different types of plastics and have been throwing them trying to figure out which plastic suits me best.

My backyard practice routine involves starting about 8 feet from the basket and moving outward while also changing my angle. The 8 foot mark is a “confidence builder” mark. That’s where I start myself to get a handle on my technique, a feel for my discs, and to hear the chains ring a little bit before I move out further. I hit those 8ft putts – boom. boom. boom. boom. My next mark is about 10 or 12 feet further at a different angle. I hit most of those putts – boom. boom. fail. boom. Then I head to about 15-18ft – boom. boom. fail. fail. Then about 20-25ft – fail. boom. fail. fail.

Okay, now I’m missing more than I’m hitting, so I start the process over. Back to 8ft – boom. fail. boom. fail. 

Wait a minute… Why am I missing so many 8ft putts now? Eight feet is a confidence builder, not a challenge! Try again – boom. fail. fail. fail. Whoa…What is going on here? My arm is not tired. Why am I missing?

Then it hit me. When I grab 4 putters and machine gun them at the basket, not taking time to setup each shot as if it is important, then I am not practicing to make putts, I am practicing to miss them. 

Even in practice it is important not to let your mind slip and go back to what I call in my book (Zen & The Art of Disc Golf), auto-pilot. If you do not setup each shot as if it is the first, then you are allowing your muscle memory to learn to miss, and by doing this you are practicing to fail. It is important to focus on making each putt instead of just machine gunning one after another. And it is especially important to refocus after a missed putt.  If you repeatedly miss a practiced putt and do not “reset” yourself, then continue throwing and missing, then you are training your body to miss chains, not hit them.

Leaving practice, you should feel as if you have achieved something. When we practice to miss because we go on auto-pilot for quantity of shots over quality of shots, we leave practice feeling burned. Without correcting that feeling we will carry it with us into the next tournament round.

Catching yourself involves coming off auto-pilot and practicing mindfulness.  The next time you find yourself practicing to miss, catch yourself, do a “reset”, and remember to practice every shot like it is the only shot you get.

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

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2 thoughts on “DISCS & ZEN – Are you practicing to MISS the chains?

  1. Eric says:

    Good stuff. One thing I always try to do no matter what my routine may be, is never finish putting until I have made some good solid putts.

  2. nebdisc says:

    Learned this concept in Jr High jazz band. If you play a phrase or a passage, or have a tricky spot and in the music then play it over and over until it’s right once then put the instrument down, you’ve just practiced doing it wrong even though it was right once. …When attending tournaments or at league, it’s interesting to watch others put from the circle and miss 90%. Feel somewhat out of place when I’m warming up at 10′, but at least I’m making 90% then will move out a little. … Thanks for the blog post!

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