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

Ken,
Every putting style I try doesn't work. Even if I find something that works for a week or two, it suddenly disappears. I know I don't practice as much as I should, but are there other things I could be doing to help my putting? I skip a lot of events because I struggle with short putts.
-Paul Stephens, Lewiston, NY

This is a tough one to answer. Putting is finicky. Everyone goes through slumps where you're missing everything or making everything. Find something that feels the most comfortable and try and learn that style. Choose a style where you feel like you can release the disc and hit metal - a style that is online, and not off to the side. Then all you have to worry about is height. This will increase your consistency in hitting your mark.

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Ken,

What kind of grip do you use and what benefit does it have? Please also talk about wrist snap.
-Joe Bernard, Colorado Springs, CO

I don't grip the disc with all four-finger pads touching the underside. That means there are four variables for you to release from. I will roll three of my fingers over on top of my pinky as if I am holding a fork. Only my index finger and my pinky are touching the inside of the rim.
Here's an analogy: You're in a tug-of-war with me. Do you grip the rope in a Berkeley Grip or a rolled finger - fork grip? They would be rolled for power. The grip is the most important thing. It's the only thing separating you and the disc.
The rolled finger or fork grip is a natural hand position. You write and eat like this. The fork grip also promotes more tendon elongation in the forearm than a Berkeley Grip. The tendon elongation is what enables you to follow through at the end of the throw. You're totally extending and once you are at the end of the movement you can follow through. A lot of people with all finger pads go up and pop, stop, and don't have a lot of follow through. They're throwing with the outside of their forearm muscles that run across the top of the forearm. When you grip a disc with fingers rolled you can feel the muscles underneath the forearm working. That's a major difference in the way many people throw the disc.
On to wrist snap. Hold the disc and your wrist firm and solid like you would hold a hammer to drive a nail. Keep everything firm throughout your throwing motion and then uncock at the point of release. Just a short powerful movement. Think about this: You wouldn't bend a hammer all the way back with your wrist to get more snap or power would you? You just hold it straight out in front of you and drop it. Bam! It's the same thing for the release power in the snap. You see people cock their disc and get their elbow up in a big knot and it's unnatural.
I use the same rolled finger grip for putting where a lot of pros switch to a more open, looser finger on the rim type of putt. I want consistency - same grip for every throw.

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Ken,
You're having the worst round of your life. How do you stay focused? What are you thinking about?
-Mike Walker, Shelby Township, MI

The biggest thing to not focus on when you're playing like that is your competition. If they're parking holes and you're teeing off last, throwing bad drives and are leaving yourself long putts…forget about what they are doing. Just play the course. Figure out what you have to do to play the course well.
Concentrating on what your competition is doing puts you in the wrong state of mind. There is nothing you can do about the shots your opponent is making. Golf is golf. It can be a game of inconsistencies and unnatural events. Anything can happen. You're going to have bad rounds. There is really no way around it. Focus on the next shot and don't let a mistake bother you.
I made two bogeys to start of the semi-final of the World Championships in 1997. I didn't cuss myself out. I was a stroke back and stepped up and fired an ace. The ace was luck, but before I threw I was completely focus on the next 16 holes.

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Ken,
What kind of shoes do you wear? Do you wear different shoes depending on the conditions?
-Rodney Gardner, West Des Moines, IA

I prefer Nike cross training style shoes. They generally have a very nice wide front for maximum stability. The tread is perfect for Disc Golf. When I first started playing I used cleats on natural tees that were wet and/or muddy, and sneakers on concrete tees. Now, I really don't feel that I need to change shoes and all and I've gotten away from cleats. When it becomes muddy I just slow down my footwork. One thing I want to add is that I like to lace up tight during a round so there isn't any wobble between the foot and shoe.

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Ken,
What specific techniques did you use in your early years to develop distance and accuracy and how long did it take before you could throw 400 feet?
-Mike Homan, Huntersville, NC

I don't know about specific practice techniques, but it was continuous practice. In the early days, I played an amazing amount of golf every day. Sometimes 8 to 10 rounds per day. And not just throwing for score, but throwing 3 or 4 drives per hole.
In the later years I've gone out to a wide open field with a buddy and we just try and push each other back. You're throwing to the other person for accuracy but also over his head for distance. You get a better feel for what discs do if you throw multiple shots at a target where you can make adjustments. More so than throwing one drive per hole.
The 400-foot barrier was broken more because of the plastic that came out than my technique. When the Stingrays and Cobras were introduced in 1988, I could throw 400 feet.

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Ken,
What should the PDGA do about sandbagging? When do you think a player should move up to the next level?
-Wilbur Wallis, Rantoul, IL

This is a really tough subject. I feel if there were some kind of chart or scale that would move players up it's better than them being taunted into advancement. Anything in black and white that showed what constituted advancement such as a top 3 finish more than three times in an A-Tier event, or something similar.
Personally I feel a player should advance a level when they are holding out for the Amateur World Championships. They should advance right then. Go ahead and play pro, and just turn down the money if you cash. At least you get the experience. Then if they want to play in the Amateur Worlds they can and in the meantime benefit from the better competition. The other reason to advance would be a player dominating for merchandising purposes.