Practice and desire will only get you so far. You also have to have "it". There are all kind of names for it. God given talent, a natural, flawless technique etc... There comes a point were some people rise to the top. That ability to hit that same line, the perfect putt, hitting that link you are aiming for. It's that ability to see the shot and accually do it. If you take two people and have them follow the same practice routine, but one has that ability to perform what they see and tell their body to do it and be able to repeat it 99 times out of 100. That's that "it' factor.
A golfer can become good with either a lot of talent and modest effort OR a lot of effort and modest talent OR some mix of the two.
To become great requires a lot of talent AND a lot of effort AND the ability to excel under pressure AND the ability to overcome adversity AND the luck to have the right opportunity at the right time. Greatness, by its very nature, is limited to a small group and is defined by comparison to the other greats and near greats.
None of us know our full potential, in golf or in anything.
The drawing of lines between great and near great and good is open to much debate and difference of opinions. In my opinion there is a huge gap between good and great. We could fill an arena with good disc golfers. We could fit the great ones around a table.
practice,practice,practice,that develops muscle memory,then your shots become automatic. But, like Rescue said, there is the IT factor. some have it, and some don't. A certain amount of luck helps as well. Some have that, and some don't. At least that's my reasoning behind having played for 22 years and never hitting an ace. :(
What a great question. Believe it or not, sociologists have even studied questions of greatness and what it entails. Most famously, William Chambliss studied Olympic swimmers and in the end made an argument for the "mundanity of excellence." Basically, the point is that--beyond having a basic level of above-average talent--achieving excellence mostly entails lots of quality practice of little, mundane things. For Olympic swimmers it was working on cleaner turns, staying low in the water upon entry, better timing, etc. For baseball it might be practicing hitting the ball to the opposite fields, only swinging at good pitches, running the bases better, etc. As for disc golf, I'm still working on the 'good' thing, let alone 'great', so I don't have all the answers. But, as others have said, practicing mundane things such as hitting your lines, having good, consistent form--both with throws and putts--shot selection, hitting the tailwind side of the green, etc. may be a good start. This is just a short, ad-hoc list but I think it's a start on some of the mundanities of disc golf. (Feel free to add if you think of others that may apply.)
So, to Chambliss, excellence comes from an above-average level of talent and a lot of good practice on mundane things. Somewhat similarly, Malcolm Gladwell's claim in "Outliers" is that excellence comes from talent, extraordinary opportunity (know any world champs, or have a sponsorship from a major disc company?), and 10,000 hours of practice.
In short, to further Mark's point, it seems that hard work on the mundane details can be what separates great players from good players. Now if I could only put some of this to use on the course...
Raw talent infused with discipline and dedication. I just started a new practice regime. It consists of recognition and repetiveness. Disect your game down to the weakness, and then learn the 360 degree of spin. To be a complete player, you have to be able to throw out of any bad situation you may encounter. I recommend learning every throw and practicing each throw from a variety of situations. Through practice and perserverance you will begin to recognize the flight pattern of all your discs. Once this happens, then you can fine tune your shots by varying speed and angle of delivery. This wont happen over night but every throw is one more closer to your goals. I also suggest you learn to master the wind. Practice, practice, practice. Learn to play in all weather. If you dont need an ice pack at the end of day, you shoulda practiced a little more. Champions practice while others sleep.
To be good at a local level, consistant putting.
Good from great, usually a few strokes. One thing I notice is ams grouping all 1000 rated pros together. At that level is when the differences really show. I saw someone mention nikko, while I definatly respect his game, I can definatly see room for growth compared to say barry, ken, or dave.
I think the greastest potential would lie in a son of a japanese and finish couple.