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  • Writer's pictureChris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

When in doubt throw a putter

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

Covid-19 Lockdown Day #3

This won’t be a lengthy piece, because the article title is the content of the piece, and what appears below is justification for the assertion: If you are confounded on the teepad, chuck a putter up the middle of the fairway, and see where that places you.

View through the Peter Crowther Memorial
View through the Peter Crowther Memorial

As a course designer, it’s often the case I want to test a player’s decision making ability, by keenly balancing the risk vs. reward offered on a basket. A birdie opportunity perhaps only comes with the risk of OB, while a conservative shot will always produce par, and never birdie.

That’s the ideal situation; bad shots are always punished, while good ones are always rewarded.

Christchurch Red Zone: Potential signature holes everywhere!
Christchurch Red Zone: Potential signature holes everywhere!

Not only do I want to challenge a player’s decision making about the type of shot to play, but also the kind of disc to select for that shot. Because on an elevated tee in particular, selecting the wrong disc is usually severely punished. Downhill throws have the largest landing area of all kinds of throws, because discs will hyzer or anhyzer to their doom, very far left, or very far right.

Players who have not learned to throw putters from the teepad are at a significant disadvantage to those who have, because putters are the most accurate disc in your bag – bar none.

The simple fact of the matter is that disc wing-size/rim-size/speed-rating directly relates to accuracy, in that the higher the speed of the disc, the further from the thrown line (the initial Line Of Play at release) it will deviate. Speed 14 discs will reach right and left of the thrown line far further than any other type of disc.

So, it is for this reason, primarily, you throw a putter from the tee. You know it’s going to go straight, or at least relatively so.

Another thing about putters which is not generally known, is that they have fantastic glide, especially the flat-topped ones. Here I’m thinking about low profile discs such as Envy, Pure, Spike, Ion and many others. But depending on conditions, you might also find a Sinus is capable of dead straight flight.

Bella Rakha, and a very downhill hole, ideal for a putter.
Bella Rakha, and a very downhill hole, ideal for a putter.

And while it may seem counter intuitive, even deep-dish putters like the Ruru and the Dagger are able to fly 100 metres with ease when the correct hyzer and nose angle is applied.

There's simply no denying the efficiency of putters properly thrown. Anyone who watched Simon Lizotte throwing putters over 140-metres in Auckland, back in 2015 understands this, I think.

But Chris, putters have low glide ratings!

Yes, but the glide ratings of discs are entirely arbitrary, and not based on any objective test. The good gliding of putters requires good control of height and nose angle before it becomes apparent to a player.

When to throw a putter from the tee, then?

Any time you can’t make up your mind, is the correct answer. You will probably be short, but smack in the middle of the fairway, and there are many holes where a player’s best advice is to simply throw a putter repeatedly until they are inside the circle, and then putt out with their putting putter.

We have all watched professional disc golfers throw high speed discs down tunnels, and managed to use the entire fairway width, and make incredible distance, but we also see them spear off into tiger country, such that the smart player might even choose to re-tee.

We sometimes make a mistake if we try to emulate what professionals do in their games. They are far more talented than the vast majority of us, and we can potentially wreck rounds trying to emulate their ability.

You are far better off throwing very slow discs down tight corridors, because as the great James “Jaguar” Smithells says, “Never belittle a shot up the middle.” Distance is essentially meaningless without accuracy, and throwing inaccurate, high-speed discs is often disastrous.

So, make sure you don’t ignore a putter when making decisions on the teepad.

But I can't throw my putter very far!

Putters reveal good form, and also promote it. Because they are so "honest" in terms of flight shape, they are the ideal disc to develop good distance form with. A poorly thrown putter does not stand any chance of making decent distance.

If you cannot throw your putter far, and with good accuracy, then your throwing motion needs work.

Putting Putter or Throwing Putter?

Good question! It seems unlikely you’ll ever want to throw your putting putter hard, because it’s your putting putter – but that’s a subject for another article.

Most advanced players will tell you that you need one or more throwing putters in your bag, and I am no exception. These putters won’t be for putting, unless you are in very specific circumstances. You’ll select your throwing putters specifically for their high-speed performance, and hand feel, than how they perform at the basket.

That’s it. Take care, everyone! -- Chris

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