BY MATTHEW ROTHSTEIN
Fortune may favor the brave, but it is clear that at some point every golfer should probably just lay up and take par. Of course, there are certain do-or-die situations like in match play or the final few holes of a tournament when you know that you need to hit a long one and the risk of a three putt doesn’t matter. But most tournament scenarios call for playing the odds – if the chances of hitting a birdie are greater than a three-putt, then it makes sense to go for it; if not, then – statistically speaking – it makes sense to be conservative.
Of course, it may not be exactly clear to you where this ‘make or break’ line is. Should you be running your putts from 40 ft? 50 ft? 60 ft? Because this is one of the more crucial decisions a disc golfer needs to make during competition, and because the answer is not always clear I’ve developed a drill that will help you determine when to hold’m and when to fold’m.
For the purposes of this article we will assume that players are advanced enough that it makes sense for them to always run putts that are inside the circle (less than 10 meters from the basket) – but this may not be true for new players.
The drill will consist of sets of 18 putts – all of which you are to run aggressively. No laying up! Start at the 10-meter circle (approximately 11 average-sized paces). Throw your putt. If you miss, proceed to play from your new lie as you would during a round – continuing to putt from each new lie until holing out. Next, return to the spot at the 10-meter circle and begin again. Do this 18 times, and record your score for each turn.
When you have completed all 18 turns, total up your score. If your score is above 36, then you three putted (or worse) more often than you made the putt from 10 meters. Diagnosis: not worth it. Prescription: you may want to consider not running these putts in competition until you can show improvement during practice.
If your score is below 36, then even though running a 10-meter putt may result in a three-putt some of the time, on average it makes sense to run them since it will benefit you more often than it will hurt you. Continue to repeat the drill several times to increase your data set and get results that more accurately reflect your ability level. Repeat the drill moving progressively out from the 10-meter circle until you find a distance where you struggle to make more long-putts than three-putts. This is the point where, again – statistically speaking (we don’t want to assume it’s the right choice in all situations), you should probably consider waving the white flag and, as they say, take your medicine.
Knowing just where your make or break line is can aid decision-making easier during tournaments and give you a reliable foundation on which to make good judgments. Try to incorporate various scenarios such as uphill/downhill putts and windy conditions, as these will have a notable impact on how far from the pin your make or break line will be. Keep checking back with this drill as you work on your putting because progress in skill and confidence can change the formula so that you will want to start attacking on longer looks.
Matthew Rothstein PDGA# 51515
Matthew Rothstien is a disc golf writer for DiscStore.com whose work has previously been featured in Ultiworld, DiscGolfer Magazine and Rattling Chains. He has been playing disc golf since 1997, and currently resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Contact him at mrmatthewrothstein@gmail.
Sources: Photos provided by John Apsey Instagram: @john_apsey_photography