DISCS & ZEN – Aggressive VS Finesse Play

No doubt about it, all disc golfers want more distance on our drives. That’s part of the quest for faster drivers, more glide, and techniques that allow us to whip a disc like Simon Lizzote, effortlessly putting a driver out there 300-400 feet or farther. But let’s be real honest here – not every hole allows for that type of power and the most experienced player will tell you if you have a tight window that you need to make it through – power and aggression are not necessarily your best friend. On these tight shots finesse may be a better ally.

The word finesse has french origins and is derived from the word fine meaning pure and delicate. Websters defines finesse as follows:

Skill and cleverness that is shown in the way someone deals with a situation, problem, etc.

So, to put it another way – finesse means evaluating a situation for what it is and instead of using the same tool (disc) or trick (type of throw) you might normally go for, using the correct tool or trick for the job. In order to evaluate the situation you must be immersed in it and be able to visualize all possible tools, tricks, and outcomes (shots) .

Think about it as if you are some type of disc golf Terminator and have a cyborg-like lens in front of your vision, constantly drawing geometrical shapes and lines and coming up with figures overtop of your view of the shot. It runs through a sequence of possibilities, carefully, but quickly finding the best shot you could take. In order for the system to work though, it has to overlay your current shot, not the last one, not the next one. To evaluate your current situation you need to be absorbed it. This is called meditative focus. Breaking that down – Mediation is absorption in the now and focus is that meditation in action.

Having a sense of meditative focus allows you to step out of the box and make game based decisions rather than ego based decisions. By game based decisions, I mean what action or shot will work best RIGHT NOW and improve your overall score. By ego based decisions, I mean what shot merely makes you FEEL BETTER or LOOK BETTER than someone else. In this way you are playing the course, not your competition. In essence, sometimes that means throwing a putter off the tee and creating a new driver shot you are comfortable with. Sometimes it means playing par golf instead of going for the birdie. Sometimes it means not putting 100% of your power on a faster disc, or maybe discing down altogether. That’s what it means to make game based over ego based decisions.

So in a way, disc golf is always inherently a game of finesse, not aggression. Finesse is meditative focus and doing what is right in the moment. Aggression is trying to prove to yourself or someone else, who has the larger…ego.

This is just like life. Every obstacle, conflict, wall we find ourselves up against is not always a prescription to handle with aggression. Usually finesse is key. Newton’s 3rd law of motion is not only true in physics but also in human interaction:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This means that any energy you put into this world  is returned to you equally in order to oppose it. Most often, when we find ourselves in conflict the answer is not to respond aggressively but to respond intelligently – with finesse. Responding aggressively only makes the opposition dig in their heels and fight back harder.


There is an old analogy in Taoist philosophy that states when you reach a rockslide in the middle of the road that makes it impossible for you to cross or go around – you should become like water finding all of cracks to get to the other side rather than expending all your energy pushing, pulling or punching (ouch!) the rockslide aggressively. To be like water means to go with the flow and to find the cracks is using the flow to find the weakness of an obstacle.

On the disc golf course this is using meditative focus to make GAME BASED decisions instead of EGO BASED decisions. In life it is the same, finding the delicate flow that gets you to the other side.

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

Image by @westerbse on Instagram

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