Disc Golf Instruction: 2 Seconds: How to Use Your Eyes to Become a Better Disc Golfer
by Adam Stine
The “Quiet Eye” is the idea that an athlete’s eye focuses on a specific point for a long duration before an action is performed. The commonly heard anecdote for disc golf putting is to find a link on one of the chains and focus on that. The idea of “aim small, miss small” quite possibly has less to do with the frame of reference that we are using and more to do with the eye having a steady focus on one point for an extended period of time. So how do we use this idea in disc golf?
A piece of advice that you will hear from many top disc golfers is that when they are throwing a shot, they are finding a point in space that their disc should pass through. If you understand the flight path your disc will take with the shot you are intending to throw, you can draw a mental line from your hand to where you intend the shot to land. You then need to pick a point along that path that you will focus on, and observe if your disc passed through that point. Your point of focus is more likely to allow for success if you are aiming for your “break point”, the point at which your disc is going to begin changing direction. For short putts you can focus on the chains. As you move further away, your putt will need more height to reach those chains, so you must adjust your focus higher and higher. As you move far enough away, your putt might begin to fade and so you account for this by moving your point of focus more to the right (for right-handed golfers) to the break point. Depending on your putting style and the distance of the putt, your point of focus might need to be above and to the right of the basket. The key is that you are finding a focus point and keeping your eyes steady on that point for at least two seconds before the putt, through the putt, and for a good half second after you putt.
When you are driving or throwing an upshot, that point of focus will almost never be the basket. Why? Most holes on a golf course have some feature that needs to be avoided like trees, bushes, or miles of yellow rope. In order to navigate those features we throw hyzers, anhyzers, s-curves, etc. If you are aiming your disc at your break point (in the case of a helix or s-curve, aim at the first break point) that point is likely not even close to the basket. Sometimes you will find yourself with a tunnel shot, that has a bend in the middle. In that case, finding a break point is simple, just look at whatever feature you would run into if you kept going straight down that tunnel shot. Aim directly at that feature but using whatever shot technique (hyzer, anhyzer) knowing that the disc is going to turn before it gets there.
But what about the fact that a drive or long upshot requires your head to turn away from the target in order to allow your shoulders to rotate? The fact is, by the time you take your first step for your drive, your chance to accurately aim your shot has passed. A drive or upshot is done by memory. All the information you need to accurately throw that shot should be in your mind and you are using very little vision while throwing that drive. Ever notice where a top disc golfer has their head pointed at the hit? It’s not at the target. In fact their head is usually turning at about the same speed as their shoulders are at the hit. That tells you that the eyes are not tracking anything at the hit. If you have ever shanked a drive because something in the distance caught your attention, it’s because suddenly you started to track something with your eyes in the middle of a drive and it confused your brain. The last part of your pre-shot routine should be focusing on that point you are aiming at for a solid two seconds. That must be the last thing you truly “see.” You won’t focus on anything again until the disc is out of your hand and then, you should be re-finding that focus point and watching to see if your disc passed through it. If your disc passed through that point and landed where you wanted it to, great. If not, you can now adjust your focus point the next time you are presented with that shot.
With practice, this technique will greatly improve your consistency on the disc golf course. The key is that your eyes are focused on that one point for two full seconds before a shot. In the case of putting or shots that don’t require shoulder turn, your eyes should remain focused on that point through the shot and after the disc has left your hand. If you picked the right point in space, you can simply start watching your disc as it passes through your focus point and goes into the basket.
For more info on the “Quiet Eye” and other topics, read the work of Joan N. Vickers.