Unfortunately, one thing Disc Golf and Ultimate don’t always have in common is the way you aim towards a target. In Ultimate, you are always aiming towards someone, or out to an open space where someone will be. Only in a zone are you ever focused on throwing around, over or between defenders, for the most part. In Disc Golf, many drives off the tee require hitting a small gap. Usually this is between a few trees and oftentimes the gap continues for the length of the fairway. Aiming to hit this gap with accuracy and some power is challenging. It is extremely frustrating to hit the one tree you were trying to miss. In this post, I am going to share a few physical and mental tips for improving your success rate with hitting small gaps off the tee.
In the video above we see four top pros going after a tough hole with a lot of trees at the Idlewild open. A hole like this is extremely challenging not just because the gaps are small and hard to hit, but because there are so many trees. The number of trees makes it more likely to hit one of them and it also is more likely to get in your head.
Tip 1 (Physical Tip): Keep an eye on the target.
When you hit a baseball do you take your eyes off the ball? A golf ball? No. Unless you are throwing for max power on a wide open hole, you should always keep the target you are aiming for in your eyesight. If this means a slightly shorter reach back then that is fine. Hitting the gap is more important than power. But what is the target?
Tip 2 (Mental tip): Pick an aim spot.
This depends on the angle of your shot! If you are trying to throw it flat between two trees, find something farther down the fairway – a rock, bush, leaf on the ground – to aim at and dial in to that spot. But if you need to hit the gap on some angle (anhyzer or hyzer), then you can aim at one of the trees in the gap to properly account for the flight path.
Tip 3 (Physical tip): Aim with your run-up
Once your head is set, you now have to get the rest of your body to work in sync with it. This is where the run-up comes into play. In your run-up, you should be stepping out in front of your body, so this is not as simple as stepping towards your target. Aiming your run-up means aiming the angle of your run-up. So if you are trying to hit a gap that is to the left of the tee pad, running up from the back right of the tee pad to the front left of the tee pad will aim your run-up towards that gap.
Tip 4 (Physical Tip). Tone the power down.
The higher the speed disc and the more power you are trying to put on it the more left and right you could end up going. This is where good professionals really exceed, they slow down their run up and throw a lower speed disc with confident arm speed. Generate power with good arm speed and a good follow through when hitting a gap, not a big, fast run up. Everything should be in control to synchronize your body with your head.
Tip 5 (Physical and Mental tip): Commit to the throw.
Committing to the throw takes mental and physical actions. On the mental side, you have to be confident and focused on what you are going to do. A good way to commit is to visualize the line your disc is going to take (Jomez FollowFlight in your head!). On the physical side, you have to commit to your follow through. Too often, people miss the gap with an early release because they try to “aim” and as a result release it too early because they are stopping their body from following through. Commit to your follow through to get the proper release timing and angle on the disc!
In this clip, Paul McBeth does a great job hitting the gap. He keeps his eyes on the gap the whole time, slows down his run-up and commits to a good follow through. It looks easy!
At the end of the day, a lot of the success behind hitting the gaps comes from confidence and consistency in your throws. As you are learning and practicing, don’t beat yourself up when you miss a gap because it certainly will not help your confidence in hitting the next one. Let us know in the comments which tip you found the most helpful and if there are any other tips that have helped you!