A Guide to Indoor Putting Leagues
Heading to the course in the winter isn’t for everyone. Cold hands, stiff discs, and a layer of snow that can swallow up drives has many put their plastic away until the Spring. Indoor putting leagues are a fun, snow-free solution to keep disc golfing year-round. Get your friends back together, bring out a few baskets, maybe have a beer or two, and putt the winter blues behind you.
Charlotte Putting League
Did you know that some putting leagues average as many as 70-80 players a week? Matt Cheney and Brandon Reed run the largest weekly indoor putting event in the world, the Charlotte Putting League. At their season opener this year, the league pulled in nearly 100 participants. While that is far from the norm, coordinators of indoor leagues can look to the Charlotte Putting League as an inspiration and aspiration. To get to such impressive numbers took time and hard work. The league has been running for 9 years. In that time, they’ve outgrown their venue and moved to new locations three times. As the event grew, they had to try out many different league formats to accommodate such a large crowd.
They landed at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. in Charlotte, North Carolina and settled on a random-draw doubles, cornhole-style format. They use a bracketing system in which teams from a given night play against other teams with a similar record for that night. By the end of the event, the top eight teams have been parsed out and will play each other to determine the winners. This system allows every participant to putt all night, but still keeps things competitive. Matt Cheney says that their format “takes a lot of pressure off of new players and makes the event ultra social. Chances are you meet all sorts of new people, from your partner, to the teams you end up playing against.”
Dominate Your Indoor Putting League
Looking to take down the pros at your local league nights? These tips will help you dominate your indoor putting league this winter and will help you drain them on the course when you get back out in the spring.
Aim Small, Miss Small
Instead of aiming at the basket generally, pick a specific chain link and try your hardest to hit it with the disc. If you miss your link, odds are you will still find enough chains that your putt sticks. For a right handed player, we recommend picking a link above center and just to the right of the pole. That’s the sweet spot!
Follow Through with Your Eyes and Your Hand
Many players know to pick a specific chain link, but just as the disc leaves their hand, they look down to watch the disc on its way to the basket. That last second break of focus causes players to miss the target. Make sure you keep your eyes locked in on your link until the disc contacts the chains. Follow through with your hand as well. Think about shaking hands with your chain link as you follow through.
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Accelerate Through the Putt
From the bottom of your arm swing to the top of your follow through, your hand should be constantly accelerating. It does not need to be a fast motion, just an accelerating motion. This helps your hand get out of the way of the disc as you release it. All too often players do everything right, but at the moment of release, their hand gets in the way of an otherwise perfect putt.
Use Your Legs
Putting is not just about having the correct arm motion. Especially from farther out, most of the power in your putt should come from a shift in body weight that starts in the legs. Load up on your back leg and then transfer your weight forward as you swing your arm. For 15 footers, the shift in body weight can be more subtle. For 35 footers, load up on the back leg more. This allows you to keep the arm motion the same from varying distances to make for a more consistent putt no matter where you find yourself.
Focus on Improvement
Putting Leagues are for learning. Don’t get down on yourself if you aren’t the best putter in the room yet. Focus on improving from one league night to the next and even within a given night. This is an opportunity to take a lot more putts than you get to on the course. You’re in a fun environment, with some really strong putters around you. Watch players that are better than you and ask them for tips!
Start Your Own Putting League
Thinking about starting your own Indoor Putting League, but not sure where to begin? You’ve come to the right place. Here is our step-by-step guide to help you get started.
1st- Ask for Help
If the idea of running a league by yourself seems too daunting, ask a friend from your local disc golf club to partner with you in running the event. You can split the work and if one of you can’t make it to one of the league nights, the show can go on.
2nd- Find a Venue and Pick a Night of the Week
Breweries are usually the go-to choice for putting leagues because they tend to be big spaces with approachable owners. Talk to them about which night they are least busy (usually Monday or Tuesday.) Explain that putting leagues can be mutually beneficial. Most leagues have a brewery that allows them to set up a few baskets and take over a section of the space for free, and in turn, the league brings in customers on an otherwise slow night for business. Once you have your venue in place, the hardest part of starting a league is behind you. Other good venue options include recreation centers, small music venues, bowling alleys, a league member’s basement/garage, or anywhere you’ve got the space and can get the permission.
3rd- Reach Out to Your Local Disc Golf Community
Now that you have a venue and a night of the week picked out, it’s time to find participants. You might be thinking, but I don’t even have baskets yet? Well that’s Matt Cheney’s biggest piece of advice for those just starting out. “Ask your players to bring their own portable baskets.” Many of your participants will be friends from your local course and if even a few of them can bring a portable basket, the entire putting league is off to the races. The number of baskets you can source, and the number of players that show up to those first few weeks, will be a factor in determining what format league you run.
4th- Pick a Format
There are countless great options for putting league formats and each has variations. Get creative here. Pick a format that fits your space, number of participants, number of baskets, and matches the style of your group of players. And don’t be scared to make up your own option. A few popular choices are:
This is how the Charlotte Putting League is run. Set up two baskets a given distance away from each other (say 30 feet). Create a bracket, either for individuals or doubles teams. Players get five chances to take two putts at the opposing team’s basket. Each made putt is worth one point. Make both and it’s worth three points. Total the scores. The winning team moves into the winning bracket and the losing team moves into the lower bracket. Matt Cheney recommends Challonge.com for an easy-to-use bracket system.
This option works well if you have fewer available baskets. Set up your baskets with marked lines of tape 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 feet away from the target. Each player gets five putts from each station. You can either make each putt worth one point regardless of distance, or make longer putts worth more points. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the night.
Set up your basket with marked lines of tape on the ground every 3 feet. Create a bracket. Players face off against each other one v one. If both players make their putt, they move back three feet. Once one player makes a putt that the other player misses, they have won that battle. This form of match play recreates the pressure of on-course putting. Every putt is must-make with no second chances.
We encourage you to go to as many putting leagues as you can to see all the different styles that are possible. You can also create your own format.
5th – Grow Your league
Now that you have things up and running, try to get new players involved! The Charlotte Putting League didn’t get to 80 players a week overnight. Encourage non-disc golfers at your venue who show an interest to come try taking a few putts. Have your regular members bring friends. Use your league to grow the sport of disc golf!
Make it a learning experience for participants. Help newer players with their putting technique. Offer prizes for the most improved putter from the first week to the last week. Use incentives to encourage players to become regular attendees. Anyone who comes to at least five league nights gets a free custom disc.
Have a winner for each night, but also a winner for the player who does best for the entire season. Collect seven dollars a night from each player. Five for the nightly league, one into a pot for the season-long competition, and one for a creative, ace-pot equivalent. In the putting station style, for example, any player who makes all five 35 footers wins the pot.
Offer up additional prizes each night by raffle that everyone who shows has a chance to win. This will encourage new players to keep coming back instead of feeling like they are donating money to the best putters at the league.
If you’ve been attending your local league nights for years, we hope this guide helps you sink a few extra putts next week. If you don’t have a putting league in your area yet, we hope we’ve shown you that getting one started is more achievable than it sounds. Don’t let the winter end your disc golf season!