Image by @holydiscgolfclub on instagram.
Image by @holydiscgolfclub on instagram.

I was playing a doubles round at Newport News Disc Golf Course the other day with some friends of mine when I suddenly I had a new revelation.

Most of  this group are players I have recently introduced to the game and even though they had played the course several times from the short tees, they had never played from the long tees. We decided to try the long tees for some added variation and also decided that doubles would be a good starting point for playing a slightly longer course.

We paired up stronger players with weaker players to ensure some balance in the game and everyone was playing extremely well. I fully believe that switching up the tees, baskets, or even the course is a great way to step outside of the box and really see what you can do. For some reason, forcing yourself outside of routine seems to help you break out of complacency and help to influence the mindfulness and focus that disc golfers need to play well.

When we stepped onto the long tee on hole 8, everyone looked stumped. For the first time they encountered a tee box with no real clear line to the basket, just jail bars of trees and limbs. I watched as their confidence broke and my friends resigned themselves to double bogeys on the hole before ever driving off the tee. Then I stepped up to the box and launched a right hand back hand throw. The disc threaded through the trees and made a line closing in on the basket when all the sudden it hit a tree and ricocheted hard left into what appeared to be the thickest part of the woods and almost ended up on another hole. Everyone immediately laughed with me as they imagined how bad my current lie must had become after the ricochet.

My partner got ready to step up to the tee box and asked me “What should I do? Should I play it safe and just try to thread it though and get it in the open?” I replied telling him that sounded like a good idea. He step up on the box and gave a nice soft toss and landed the disc in the open about 75 feet ahead. The shot was not far but it was safe. Everyone congratulated him on the throw and the group began to push forward. “I guess we will be using my shot!” he said, believing he was stating the obvious. I answered him “Maybe. Let’s see.” He laughed believing I must be joking. We both walked up to his disc and noticed that while he was in the open, we still had about 125 feet to travel and that there were trees surrounding the basket that might pose a problem. He got ready to put his mini down when I said “Wait a minute, lets see if mine is any better.” He said “You must be joking!” looking at me like I had horns coming out of the sides of  my head. “Just hold on!” I replied laughing and headed toward my disc which had cut hard left and laid in what appeared to be the thickest part of the woods.

When I got to my disc, much to my surprise, I realized that my lie was not bad at all. As a matter of fact I had a clear 30 or so foot shot at the basket. What I thought was my worst drive ever on this hole turned out the probably be one of the best. I yelled back “Let’s go with mine.” Again, my partner swore I had to be joking with him. He headed my way leaving his bag and disc behind, swearing his disc had to have the better line. When he got to my disc, he looked at the clearing to the basket and simply said “Whoa. Great shot!” He returned to his  bag, picked it up and headed back to my disc in the woods. Together we birdied the hole.

The moral of the story is you can’t always judge a shot from the tee box. You must see the shot from your disc’s perspective before you can make any judgements about your lie.

After throwing my disc from the tee, and watching its beautiful flight being knocked off it’s line, I could have gotten mad, kicked my bag, and cursed at the tree for disrupting my flight, but I didn’t. I have seen many times in this game what appears to be a bad shot from the box might just become one of the best shots you’ve ever made because winning isn’t always about relying on your perspective on the tee. It is about taking each shot as it goes and seeing each shot from the discs perspective.

In life we believe we make judgements solely based on our 5 senses: touch, taste, smell, hear, and see. In fact, our actual judgements using our sense input are then run through a filter of our experience and what we have learned in the past:

Beginning with my senses:
I watched my disc having a beautiful flight.
I saw it hit a tree.

Filtering through my past experiences:
In the past hitting trees has been bad for my game

Final judgement:
This shot went bad. I probably have a bad lie.

While our senses are the only way we can receive information, our final judgements may not necessarily reflect the actual situations in our lives. With our eyes we may not see clearly. With our ears we may not hear acutely. My hands are cold I may not be able to feel something perfectly. Our senses are never perfect, yet they form the basis of our understanding of the world. Then they get even more messed up as we filter them through experiences that have nothing to do with our current situation. This leads to so many misunderstandings in our lives and when we must make a judgement or decision based on this, it may be clouded and downright irrational.

So what is the solution?

One word: understanding.

Understanding means knowing that you don’t always have perfect information. That none of us are perfect in general. That just because you see something is wrong, doesn’t mean another person does. Understanding means coming to terms with our own imperfections and imperfections of those around us by stepping off of our personal tee pads and into the perspective of the disc or another person. And it means compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and others.

Don’t be so hard on yourself when things aren’t seeming to go your way. When you lock yourself in your own perspective, you may not see how great you are doing, how far you have come, and how close you are to achieving what you want.


This blog originally appeared in ZDGP EP25.

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