Ask The Champ
With Ken Climo, Eleven-Time World Champion
(Courtesy of Ken Climo and Disc Golf Journal)

Hey Champ,
Consider this situation. Having marked my lie and completed my pre-putting routine, I am focused on the exact link I want to hit. Out of the blue comes this negative feeling. Sometimes it is fear that I may miss the putt. Sometimes it is an inner dialogue that debates my ability to hit the putt. Sometimes it is just an uncomfortable feeling something is not right. So, I turn around and take a deep breath, tell myself I can hit this with my eyes closed, wiggle my shoulders and arms to loosen up a bit and resume my putting stance. My 30 seconds are just about up, and unfortunately, I did not succeed in clearing my mind of the negative vibes. Assuming you occasionally confront this dilemma, what is your formula for regaining control of the correct mental focus? Thanks.
-Stan McDaniel Indian Trail, NC

Stan,
You covered basically everything I try to do – step away, look the other direction, and take a good, deep cleansing breath. Then approach the putt as if it were the first time with a new focus. But just standing there while you’re having negative thoughts is the cause for a lot of missed putts. You have to go with the mental frame of mind that “I haven’t stroked the putt yet so this is the first time.” It’s the nature of the game to sometimes be distracted. I don’t take too long to putt, so I don’t often push the 30 seconds. The only time I encounter that is maybe when I’m waiting on some wind. When I know my time is getting near 25 seconds I just go ahead and trust myself. That’s the key – having trust and confidence in your abilities.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ken,
The most incredible shot I’ve ever seen under pressure was your roller out of a farm shed during the finals of the 1995 PDGA Worlds in Port Arthur, TX. Mike Randolph was catching you and having a perfect round. After your drive landed on top of that building it looked to me like Randolph was going to win. It’s easy to throw shots when you’re not under pressure. How did you make the shot and can someone actually practice pressure situations? Being a mediocre myself, I create all kinds of games to practice pressure with the hopes that when I get to a tournament I will be better prepared for it.
-Mark Ellis Farmington Hills, MI

Mark,
It’s tough to practice the exact tournament situations, but something I’ve been doing for a long time is play singles against a doubles or a triple team around my local course. That’s a way for me to practice to keep my edge up every shot. With the farm-shed situation I really didn’t take much time to think it out. I’ve been in those high-pressure situations before and I seem to excel at them. Pressure affects people differently. Even in my early days competing against Akins, Monroe and Slasor, I was more caught up in the moment, not the pressure. Like, “Wow, I’ve got a chance to win, I can’t let up now.” Keep everything positive. That’s the key. If you’re there for so many rounds and you have a chance to win or to cash – whatever your goal is – you just tell yourself you can do it for a few more holes or whatever is left. Positive brain waves are key on the golf course.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ken,
What goes into your decisions to go to an event today compared to when you started touring in the early 90’s?
-David Sporleder Kennewick, WA

In the early days I’d base my travel plans around other people going to a big event to make sure I wasn’t driving by myself for 20 hours. These days I do more flying so it’s easier to travel alone, and I decide which tournaments to go to based on the ones I like and the courses I like to play. The Master’s Cup – I really like that course. The Great Lakes Open is a great venue. Super Tours are getting more enticing with the bonus situation, and the competition is getting tougher. I love the competition. The course and payout are probably 80% of the decision if I decide to go to an event. The other 20% is location. I have a son now too. I didn’t have a son when I started touring and that’s making a big difference in my life and my decisions. I generally don’t stay on the road for more than three weeks – ever. It causes burnout when you’re on the road too long. I don’t want to do that to myself and I enjoy giving my body rest – things I didn’t think about earlier in my career.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hey Champ,
I’ve been experimenting with different putting styles and finally stuck with one very similar to yours. I like it because it’s not a push putt, butt more of a pitch putt, like pitching a horseshoe. It has the up and down trajectory with little spin and no blow-by.
I have isolated my problem to my hand and wrist position at the release point. If my thumb is at the 9 or 10:00 position, I get good hyzer and spin. But, when I roll my thumb to 12 or 1:00 it comes out nose down with no spin and ends up short. I notice in photos I’ve seen of you putting that your thumb is at 7 or 8:00. Any suggestions?
-Andy Caris Germantown, MD

Your thumb position is really to create the hyzer angle. A lot of people putt with wrist – they’ll turn their wrist, snap and release. I’m pretty much locked throughout the putt. On the way down when I take the disc back I don’t curl the disc with my wrist. I want the disc to come out of my hand due to forward momentum, not spin. I want the weight shift to take over. It’s easier to do a weight shift putt if you have a locked wrist. I line the disc up with my push foot, which is my left foot, and the pole. I get all three on a line. I’ll push from the back of my left foot through my body on the line of the disc and extending to the pole. If you pitched a 5-pound weight from a barbell it wouldn’t go left or right – it would go straight. And that’s what I try and envision – I have a weight in my hand, not a Frisbee that’s going to turn. You push the weight and the weight will go straight. The release is almost like you’re extending your hand to make a handshake, not flipping or spinning too much. Obviously the disc has to have some spin but not much. You see a lot of potential aces fall out because of speed and spin. If the drives came in with less speed and spin they’d stick more. That’s my goal with the putt, not so much less speed but less spin. When the disc hits the chains you don’t want much action.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Champ,
I actually have two questions. The first concerns distractions during putting – what keeps you focused? The other question would be any tips you could give me on throwing uphill? Thanks.
-Paul Larson Lakewood, WA

When I putt I look at a specific link. That’s all my focus is on. Distractions such as car horns and people moving are a part of life. If the distraction is during the stroke there’s nothing you can do about it. If it’s before the shot you can back away, turn around and approach the shot fresh. As far as throwing uphill, slow down a little bit and use more leg power. Not a lot of people get the maximum power they can from their legs and it really shows when driving uphill. Most people just try and wing the disc around with their arms rather than pulling it through with legs, hips and shoulders. If the hole is just a straight incline an anhyzer release will work best. And remember to get the nose down. Don’t throw uphill with the nose up.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Champ,
I hope I am not getting too personal, but are you in a relationship right now? And what sacrifices have you made in your personal life in pursuit of being the #1 Disc Golfer? Does your drive to be #1 tax the personal areas of your life?
-Doug Opiela Hamburg, NY

Hi Doug,
No this isn’t too personal for me. I’m pretty loose right now and not in a serious relationship. I don’t see my son as often as I would like but when I am at home and not on tour I see him quite a bit. Sacrifices have to be made such as not being able to go to a tournament because of obligations.