Several weeks ago, we posted a picture of the 12th hole at Hyzer Creek in Providence, NY on our Facebook page and asked the question — “Would you rather know the distance of your drive off the tee, or how far you are from the basket?” As expected, responses ranged from simple answers to less subtle comments like “It’s simple math — you can find one from the other!” As we did agree with this statement, what if you don’t remember the hole length and there is no scorecard to reference?
The picture we posted was from a long, open par 4 field hole measuring 711’ in length. In the center of the fairway were two large stones — one marked 400’ and the other marked 500’. Both distances expressed are how far players were from the tee. Coming from a traditional golf background, the only time you would see this is in a long distance driving competition or a driving range where the yardages were in the middle of the fairway. While it’s wonderful to know how far you threw a disc or hit your drive, it’s rather meaningless as you should be meticulously calculating how far you are from the basket (or green in traditional golf), and doing so without the need to subtract how far your drive was from the distance marked on the tee sign.
One of the main differences between disc golf and traditional golf that makes it a bit harder to mark distances to the basket is the fact that “holes” in traditional golf are relegated to greens, while basket locations can be moved in several different areas on a disc golf hole that provides a challenge and allows reduced soil compaction. The reason we bring this up is because in traditional golf all yardage markers — typically in increments of 50 between 100 and 250 yards from the green — are marked “OC” or “On Center” which is in reference to the middle of the green.
“On Center” yardages are important because “holes” or “pins” on a green are moved every couple of days. If you look at your yardage book and see the 5th green is 40 yards deep, and the pin is tucked 5 yards from the back right edge of the green, you have some calculating to do. As you stand next to the 150 yard marker in the middle of the fairway, you know you have your distance to the middle of the green yet the pin is another 15 yards past that. So in this instance, I, personally, would know that I have to smooth a 7 iron instead of ripping a 8 iron. I typically hit my 7 iron 170 yards with a draw (moving the ball right to left), but if the pin is in the back right, I don’t want to have to start the ball off the green and move it back, so I “smooth” it — which for me means taking off roughly 5 yards and hitting a straighter line where I can start the ball at the middle of the green and let it “drift” back to the tucked pin. Knowing the specific yardage to the pin allows me to know EXACTLY which club and type of shot to hit.
In contrast to this, I seldom know exact distances I can throw my discs, and am willing to argue that remains true for the vast majority of discs golfers. Why though? We think it has to do with the fact that players seldom know how far they are from the basket while on a hole. In the case of the Hyzer Creek hole, people are more into how far they just threw their drive than how far they have to the basket. Why would you care how far you JUST threw? What about the “one shot at a time” mentality that is so vital to your success in the game of golf? I’m pretty sure Tiger Woods could care less that he just pipe bombed his drive 315 yards — he wants to know where the pin is, what’s long, where’s the danger, which way is the “grain” of the green rolling? He wants to make birdie and move to the next hole; not brag about the shot he just hit off the previous tee.
It’s with these examples that we at Explore Disc Golf continue to integrate traditional golf techniques into disc golf course design. While, yes, you can do simple math of subtracting the distance of your drive from the total hole length – we believe that’s unnecessary. You should never be looking or thinking backwards. You should be able to look at a distance marker in the middle or side of the fairway, and know how far you need to throw your NEXT shot. You should be focusing on the surrounding context of the basket and where you want to leave your approacht. Many of the best disc golf and traditional golf courses encourage, and reward players who can best play “position golf.” It’s not always about how far you can throw (or hit it); it’s about where you put your shot and increasing the probability of making your next one — not looking back at your last.