Arguably THE most important aspect of any golf game, and that includes the disc variety, is the player’s putting ability. It might look easy only being a fraction of the distance your drive was, but ask any disc golfer about what a ‘chain-out’ is, and you might want to take a seat for story time. There are two main schools of thought when it comes to putting at the professional level: the spin putt, and the push (or pitch putt) techniques. The poor Dwight Schrute reference aside, these are the two most popular styles of putting, so if your friend has found a way to hybridize the two please keep in mind that I realize that is a possibility. There is no way to find out which is right for you outside of practice, but maybe you have been contemplating a change in your methodology and need just the right push. Keep in mind that there is no rule saying that you must putt the same way on every hole every round, so like in many sports, versatility can be your best friend.
The Spin Putt
Spin putting is exactly how it sounds: you putt by putting some touch on the same kind of spin release as a drive off the tee pad. This style of putting looks much more deliberate than its counterpart; as the flight line of your disc when spin putting looks to be more linear right out of the hand (this will make more sense later). This method is much easier for new players to both learn, and potentially be successful at. Why should you learn to spin putt? Well first off, the spin putt is far less likely to be adversely affected by wind conditions. Correctly assessing, and playing the wind is always important; but when in flight, the disc is literally doing what it was designed to do: fly whilst spinning out of your hand. Because of the straightforward flight path these putts tend to be ideal for low ceiling shots, and putts from distances outside the putting circle of 10 meters/30 feet. This is because it is easier to keep a disc in flight for longer with a spin putt, and the spin on the disc is what gives it glide to stay airborne. Putting this way may be easier to learn, and obtain some success at; but it’s far from perfect.
The nature of spin putting makes the thrower put a higher velocity on the putt, and this can cause problems at the point of basket attack. The added velocity can cause chain-outs. This is basically when your putt hits the basket a bit to the left or to the right of the center mark, and is spit out of the basket likely causing frustration. The velocity also can potentially cause your disc to simply split the chains, or as I like to describe it: that awesome situation when your disc just squirms through the chains, and out the backside of the basket. If you know anyone who has had an ace run that ended up on the ground, they know how this works. None of these speed detriments quite measure up to you missing the basket completely, and watching your shot soar past leaving you with a worse shot afterward. Putt carefully.
The Push/Pitch Putt
The Push/Pitch Putt style of putting can more accurately be described as a ‘lob’ shot because of how it looks in the air. It typically derives its forward momentum from starting below, or at, the waist, and releasing the disc with a bit of arch. Similar to shooting a free throw in basketball. For many golfers it is easier to be more accurate INSIDE the circle with this style, but it lacks much dependable accuracy at distances from beyond. The idea is to make contact with the chains on the disc’s way down in the hopes that maximum disc surface area catches the target. The likelihood of chain-outs, sneaking through the chains, or basket blow-by is largely negated with push putting; however, don’t count on these never happening. After all, baskets are fickle beasts to tame.
This putting mechanic can be ineffective when attempting putts with a low ceiling as the arch is far more important here than with any other putting style. The arch also poses a potential problem with adverse wind conditions. The flight path requires the nose of the disc to be upward facing, and when a gust of wind tastes the underside of any disc during a putt you’re in for a bad time. Even when push putting there needs to be a degree of disc spin, because of disc flight physics, so many individuals consider push putting to be a hybrid style in nature. It’s different enough to garner a separate classification, at the very least, because I doubt you find a player who tosses knuckle-putts around with much success at all.
Ultimately, the only person who can decide which way works best for you, IS you. Being able to practice is the real key no matter the decision on tactics. Watching some videos on the differences between the styles to get an idea of what fits into your individual game can also help, but videos are half measures to actually getting out on the course. Emulating how your favorite pro putts looks easy on paper, but the reality is that it’s your disc golf game. Go experiment a bit, find out what works best, and let us know what works for you.