There’s a lot of great feelings in disc golf, one of my favorites is seeing my disc lay 3 feet away from the basket after my upshot. While I work on my putting and I’m confident in it, I don’t mind not having to hit a big putt. So this week let’s look at some ways to practice upshots effectively so that you can learn to park them and take the easy tap in.
First things first we have to change our mindset. It’s very tempting to want to give your disc a chance to go in, but that often leads to a comebacker putt that’s longer than you want. So the first thing you have to accept is that you’re not trying to throw this disc into the basket. Your goal is to get it close. I’m comfortable jump putting at about 75 feet, anything outside of that I’m usually throwing an upshot.
- Find a distance that’s comfortable for you where you can lay up to. Don’t worry if that’s 35 feet, everyone is different and we’re all just trying to get our lowest score against the course.
- Make sure you have an approach disc. Something that’s a 5 speed or below. Any mid range or putter can work for this, although I recommend getting something stable or overstable because they’re a little more predictable.
- Jump Putting. This is one of my favorite ways to get close to the basket. It uses your legs and lets you see the basket the entire time. Your legs are far more powerful than your arms, about 4 times as powerful. I plant my feet about shoulder width apart, bend my knees and bring my arm straight down. Then I jump forward and swing my arm up at the same time. It’s out straight the entire time so I only focus on the release height. It’s important to point out that your hand must release the disc before your feet leave the ground, otherwise your putt is illegal. It takes a few practice sessions to get the timing down but it’s very accurate.
- Forehand. There’s a reason discs like the Zone and Pig have been flying off the shelves lately, people want a good forehand upshot disc. Place the foot of your non throwing hand so that the toe is pointing at the basket. Now swing your throwing arm back and push the disc forward toward your target. You’ll be shocked how far a forehand can go and you can see the basket the whole time. I love throwing a Caiman for this shot, but anything overstable works. If your disc fades to the left, aim to the right of the basket. Aim a couple of feet in front because when your disc hits the ground it will have forward momentum.
- Anhyzer Swing. Here’s a video of one of the best to do it, Holly Finley. She’s a master of the anhyzer swing putt. Now it goes against my philosophy of not trying to throw into the basket, but she’s a touring pro and I’m not. This method involves starting your putter high up and swinging it in an arc. Doing this lets the disc glide against its natural motion and keeps it in the air longer. It’s an important upshot to practice because there’s always a tree in the way of your forehand or jump putt and you’ll need an anhyzer release.
- Push Putt. Players like Eagle and Simon are famous for their push putt, it holds height really well and it’s much softer hitting the chains than a traditional push putt. I like it a lot as an upshot technique, because I’m not as comfortable putting that way. One reason I like it is the high RPM you can achieve and how floaty the shot can be. What you’ll do with this shot is draw the disc in towards your belly button. I like to stand with one foot forward for this, straddle stance loses a lot of energy because you’re only using your arm for this upshot. Now that you’ve got your feet set and your arm in you’re going to push away from yourself quickly. That disc should be a straight flyer, so I tend to aim right at the pole. If you aim high, this disc is affected greatly by the wind so you may be blown all around. I like a somewhat stable disc like a P2 or or MD2 for this upshot.
- Half Backhand. This is something that lots of players will find comfortable and it’s likely you already do it. Instead of that big backhand throw where you face away from your target this time you face it. Reach back but don’t turn your head away from the basket. You still rotate your hips and shoulders but this backhand should be smooth. This is a much more precise shot than your drive, so you want to look at the basket the entire time. You may even spread your fingers out in a fan grip instead of a power grip.
All of them! Practice them all because you’re going to need all of them. Unless you’re playing on a flat ball golf course with no OB or trees, you’ll probably have to throw these at some point. Remember you’re not trying to throw the disc in but get close enough to have a good putt.
How do I practice?
This is the fun part. I genuinely enjoy upshot practice, maybe as much as I love playing. We have a short 9 hole course at SDG called the owl where I practice all sorts of upshots. Now if you don’t have that, I suggest a basket or some kind of object to aim at and read the drill below.
A great drill I think you'll enjoy is to set up a small area with cones or extra discs about 10 feet by 10 feet. Put the square in front of, to the right, the left, or behind the basket. When you can land 4 upshots in a row in that square move the square to another location around the basket.
Make sure that you don’t just throw, throw, throw, throw, pick up your discs. You’re not going to get better if you don’t treat each throw as its own. Take a step away and reset your feet, roll your shoulders, treat each time you step up to practice that upshot as if you’re not getting the same shot over and over.
If you’re getting frustrated with this drill (I do too) I suggest either making it fewer in a row, or moving closer. I want you to succeed when you do this drill. If you’re not getting any in, move closer. The point of this drill is to challenge you, not for you to fail. I’ve been a soccer coach and now I give lessons in disc golf. Every time someone succeeds in a drill, or in a round/game it brings a big smile to my face. If you’re not succeeding in a drill it’s time to adapt the drill. Last week I went up in weights, weightlifting and clearly wasn’t ready. So I went back to the same weight I used previously and added two extra reps in each set. Now in a few weeks I may go up again, and you may find that you’re crushing this drill at 50 feet and you can move back to 60 or 75.
So now you’ve got some techniques to practice, some disc suggestions, and a drill that you can modify to your skill level. Let’s get out there and get some practice in.
Let me know if you have any questions or a drill that you like to practice when you’re throwing.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397
A little side note, this marks my 54th blog, so now I’ve been doing this for over a year. We made it through 2020 together! I just want to let you all know I appreciate the constructive criticism, entertaining conversations, and when people come in saying they’ve tried the tips I’ve written. I’ll keep writing as long as you keep reading, thank you.