May 15, 2012

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Tips for a Weekend Player

by Andrew Lovgren

Andrew Lovgren picked up some tips from professional disc-golfer Nikko Locastro. Find the full story in the June/July issue of Missouri Life on newsstands now.

Around the same time Nikko was beginning to play professionally, I was transitioning from ball golf to disc. As what Nikko would call a weekend player, someone who plays casually on the weekends, I was brimming with excitement to meet such an upper-level professional and learn from his abilities. I grab a few of my favorite discs from my small bag and head over to where he’s putting with a shoulder width parallel stance that I’d never seen before.

We head over to the first tee box, and I nervously throw my first drive, embarrassed to say I play the game after watching his far more picture-perfect shot sail directly between the rows of trees toward the basket. After observing my shot, Nikko says, “You released with a hyzer angle and you actually want to give it a little bit of an anhyzer angle,” A hyzer means the disc curves right to left for right-handed backhand throws, while anhyzer is the opposite, a right to left curve. So, I tilt the disc at an angle that feels awkward in my hands, and throw again, hoping for miraculous results from such a simple change. No such luck. I’ve got a lot to work on.

“Stay close to your body, tight to your body. You use your body angles to even it out,” Nikko says, as he effortlessly demonstrates the proper technique once more. “To get a little more distance, you’re going to have to accelerate through your shot a little bit at the end. I’m driving through my shot. I’m using my hips and my legs, not just my arms. Create momentum by using your whole body.”

After several additional attempts with little to moderate improvement, we continue downhill toward the goal. The incline couples with the dense trees around the basket to create a difficult shot, at least for a weekend golfer like myself. I step into the shot as I always have, letting my momentum power the disc where it needs to be. Avidly watching the master at work, I found there to be a much better way.

“If it’s not that long, I’ll definitely throw more of a planted shot where I won’t use so much lower body technique but more of your upper body and arm,” Nikko says, standing next to me, demonstrating the motions step-by-step. Rather than draw it all the way back like I would for a distance shot, he showed how to control the shot while adding enough power to get it where you wanted.

As we neared the basket, I knew that we were about to work on the weakest part of my game and perhaps the strongest part of his. Putting. My strategy has always been that close and low is better than far and high, allowing for an easy in on the next shot. This results in a par game, or strong bogey golf, depending on the course, either of which I had previously found satisfactory. Yet, I soon learned that good enough simply isn’t good enough.

“Make sure you give it a chance. Don’t just get it close and throw it low. That’s something a weekend player will do,” Nikko says, perfectly summing up my tactics. “Gotta throw it chain high to get it in.”

After several attempts, my putts begin to resemble actual putt shots instead of leaves falling daintily to rest below the basket. My drives and approach shots leave something to be desired, yet a slight shift in their trajectories becomes noticeable many attempts later. Much work remains to get to a strong level of play, but that only means I must go out and play the game, something Nikko Locastro gladly does almost every day.

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