You have all heard it before, “Drive for show and putt for dough.” An obvious ode to your short game. But there is another saying, “Chicks dig the long ball.” An ode to the excitement of a disc (originally a baseball from a commercial in the 90s) flying far into the cosmos. It’s obvious both of these skills are important to a well-rounded game, but which one is MOST important? We’ll take a look at both sides of the coin, check statistics for each argument, give you the outcome and provide practice guidance. Let’s break it down.
Advantages of Throwing Far
For starters, throwing far can get you in a position to putt when many others would still have to throw an upshot. This means more birdie opportunities than players with lesser arms. Throwing far puts you in a better position to score. This means a player can throw slower discs for their upshot and allow the disc to settle closer to the basket, this is a huge benefit.
Throwing far gives players confidence. Just look in the eyes of Garrett Gurthie or Simon Lizotte when they step up to throw a bomb, they love it! They know that everyone is watching with bated breath and they are going to outdrive everyone on their card. This gives massive confidence and allows for ease.
Throwing far allows players to get out of bad situations. Say a player hits an early tree on a longer hole. This player is able to make up ground with a huge shot that others simply could not produce. This is a stroke saver that does not show up in statistics.
Another advantage is throwing lines that shorter arms are not capable of. Think of “Simon lines.” Bigger arms are able to look at the course differently. They can simply throw hyzers when shorter arms have to throw flex shots. They can disc down and throw slower speeds into greens to control skip. They can take OB and hazards out of play with creativity.
The ability to throw far is a huge asset in disc golf. It is the fruit of sound mechanics including tempo, timing, and touch. These all take time to develop and when combined, offer a powerful feeling that brings us all back to the course.
Advantages of Consistent Putting
You putt on every single hole. This cannot be said of throwing as far as you can. Putting gains you strokes because you simply do it more.
You can save many more strokes around the green than you can on the fairway or off the tee. For example. You throw 500 feet and then you miss the 30 footer. Did it matter that you threw 500 feet?? Two shots at 250 feet and a solid putt would have gotten you the same score. Consistent putting will always shave strokes.
Consistent putting also gives players great confidence. There is great strength in knowing that you do not have to park a hole in order to make a putt. It allows for ease in your mental game as well as in your body. This simply produces better shots. Confidence leads to ease and ease leads to better shots all over the course.
UDisc broke down putting numbers for the 2021 season of Circle 1X (putts between 11-33 feet) for touring pros and the results may surprise you:
- Best Circle 1X Putting Percentage: MPO
- Best Circle 1X Putting Percentage: FPO
Beyond Eagle McMahon, these aren’t the big names you might expect at the top of the list. These aren’t players that are winning big tournaments consistently. This goes to show you that while you may be a solid putter you may not always be putting for birdie!
There are no stats for distance drives leading to lower scores. It is hard to quantify when a long throw makes for an easier birdie or even eagle. But we can simply look at the top players in the world and see if they are long throwers. The answer is a resounding yes. Courses have become much longer over the years and many tournaments are even played on ball golf courses. These give a huge advantage to long throwers. The majority of the top touring pros can reach 500 feet on their drives. According to a survey from 2019 that is in the top 2 percent of disc golfers worldwide. But luckily you do not need to throw that far to have fun and compete locally.
Most of us will never throw as far as the pros. In a 2019 “State Of Disc Golf” survey Infinite Discs polled players about their throwing distance. Note that over 50 percent of players max out between 301-400 feet while only 10 percent throw 400 feet or beyond. It simply takes time and commitment to gain distance. If you give both of these aspects to your disc golf game you will see it improve.
We have come to the final decision. Which is better, throwing far or putting? Putting of course! For the skill level of the vast majority of players putting will always be the most important. Even though the numbers prove that the best putters in the world do not win many big tournaments, so what?! Without consistent putting, it does not matter how far you throw. Putting will always be the most important because you gain and lose the most strokes in disc golf on the putting green.
What Does This Mean For You?
It turns out you’re on the hook for both throwing far AND consistent putting. If you want a well-rounded game this means you must put in practice time at the field and in your backyard. Fortunately, putting is the easy one to practice. Due to the simple logistics of how much space you need for practice putts, you can gain consistency much quicker than throwing far. Buy yourself a basket and set it up in your backyard, basement, or green space close to you. Then putt and repeat. In this video, Eagle McMahon explains how he putts. He says “Putting is 99 percent confidence.”
For gaining distance, the most important aspect is learning the correct technique. Remember that slow is smooth and smooth is far. Less effort can gain you more distance. Spend time doing field work and place awareness in your body. What feels right? What feels off? Try to work on one aspect of your mechanics and build upon a foundation. Check out Simon Lizotte’s “Form Critique” video for an exceptional rundown of proper form. Then take what you learn out to the field and start practicing!