Play Angry – A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf – Chapter 2

Note: This is part 2 in a series of posts which make up the chapters of a tongue-in-cheek look at the game of disc golf and why we love it so much, despite the lack of reciprocated affection. It is not actually intended to improve your game…unless it does…in which case we’re happy to take the credit.

Chapter 2 – Be The Basket / Be The Disc

“Be the basket.” We’ve all heard that before. It’s a popular sports motif that makes whoever is saying it sound instantly wise…or at least like a clueless coach that doesn’t have any real advice to help their protégé improve.

“Why do I keep missing, coach?”

Coach scratches his head for a minute, then says slowly, in a tone slightly deeper than his usual voice, “You need to be the basket.”

“Wow! Thanks coach! You’ve helped me turn the corner into a new realm of being!” He takes a shot, and misses it.

You know what? I don’t want to be a disc golf basket. It’s a thankless job. You just sit there in all kinds of weather, waiting for the next hard piece of plastic to rattle your chains. Come to think of it, the basket is probably relieved when I come around.

“Oh good. This guy isn’t coming anywhere near me.”

Two horrible drives and two missed putts later…

“No…no…NO! It isn’t my fault! Don’t get angry! Ouch!” As I throw a putter in full-force from three feet away and yell, “SLAM DUNK!”

Maybe I’m getting this wrong. I don’t need to be the basket. I need to be the disc. That is the appropriate variation of “Be the ball,” which is even more of the sage wisdom that helps amateurs the world over feel like they’ve found the secret to becoming pro.

What they really mean to say is that you need to visualize the ball, or in my case, the disc, doing exactly what you want it to do. The key is in the positive visualization of your throw before it leaves your hand.

Now let’s be honest. I can visualize a lot of things that aren’t ever going to happen. When I’m out playing a round and get myself into a tricky situation, I can visualize the disc taking that perfect angle around the first tree, just low enough to miss the branch that is reaching to swat it down, then skipping off the trunk of the second tree just hard enough to ricochet at the perfect angle into the basket. I can visualize a tomahawk throw high enough to hit the gap between the lofty branches of both trees to then flip and drift gracefully down and into the waiting chains of the basket. I can even visualize flinging my disc in the opposite direction to where Fernando, my trained peregrine falcon, swoops to grasp the disc in its strong talons. With a majestic cry, Fernando carries it overhead, delivering it into the chains of the awaiting basket. But I promise you this– once the disc leaves my hand, it is much more probable that it is going to hit tree number one and drop unceremoniously to the ground.

I once took a friend disc golfing for his first time. New players always take a few holes just to get the feel for throwing a disc golf disc. By hole eight he was finally getting a feel for it, though he certainly lacked any real skill or experience. He was about 100 feet from the basket after a few sloppy throws and was ready to fling the same driver he’d been using the entire game. I pulled a disc out of my bag that I never really use. A heavy, off-brand, overstable, mid-range disc with an ugly purple marble design.

“Here. Try this instead.”

“Uh. OK.”

I walked toward the basket where my disc waited within slam dunk distance (I’d of course missed my initial putt). Suddenly that purple monstrosity whizzed past me and clanged right into the basket. I turned to see my friend in joyful disbelief, pumping his fists into the air and cheering.

It was a great moment. But here is the relevant question: Did he visualize that thing flying into the basket before he threw it? No way! When asked what he was thinking at the moment of release, he said, “I was just praying that your disc wouldn’t go over the fence into the road.” He was actually visualizing the worst case scenario!

But you know what? Mission accomplished! From that moment on, he was a disc golf junkie. He was hooked! To this day he frequently shows up to play with me, and I’ve had the privilege of witnessing him miss countless putts well inside 100 feet of the basket. Plus, we both shared a memorable experience watching another player with much more skill and experience than both of us as he threw the same hole, only to have his disc fly over the fence and into the road where it was immediately run over by a passing car.

Those are the simple joys of the game. The unexpected is always more fun than I could visualize anyway.

Coming Soon: Chapter 3 – “It’s Always the Disc’s Fault”