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.
Pro's don't know as much about disc golf as they think they do. This is just a fact of discgolf life. Almost all the information on this forum is smoke being blown up your butt. THE KEY IS YOU GOTTA LOVE THROWING PLASTIC.
You gotta love manipulating the flight of discs, love watching discs go in the basket from all over the place. What's the point of being great and beating people at disc golf if you don't get off on making shots.
Is the point to gain respect from peirs or make a bunch of money? No, it's disc golf, theres not a lot of money in it and it's not like a bunch of rich business men go out in fanci pants and collared shirts to say,"oh, if I could drive another 100ft I would give up my high paying job and I could play in the pro's." That's not disc golf.
There is little more satisfying in the game of disc golf than simply discovering/learning and improving a particlular shot. Thats true for sidearm, turbo, approaches, wind shots, etc. Your game goes through growth sperts and your game gets funner and more satisfying. You see the fruits of your labors and naturally you're driven to want to learn and discover more.
It helps to play with and learn from experienced players, but the idea that a player needs this all the time is just weak. Players that think they can't improve there game or shoot there best when playing with lesser players are just plain slackin.
So don't limit your game to the what the pros think works. Just work on your runnup and figure out how to grip and disc. The rest is love baby.
I strongly agree that it all starts with the love of throwing discs, but I guess the answere depends on how you measure weather or not you are getting better, or "good". For some, its distance off the tee or beating your course record. For me its my PDGA rating, its making the cut, its throwing rounds that are rating above my average. My head is totally stuck in tournament discgolf. These days, I would give up the casual round to play the tournament round. Its just more fun for me, the pressure, the hype, the prep. I love it. The love of throwing has got me here, but the competition is what gives me the confidence to know that I can get even better. I feel like I have some momentum going and it all comes form exposure through PDGA events. Playing with the pros will show you how much you still have to learn.
Guys like Climo, Feldberg, and Nikko KNOW what works and they share eachothers secrets.
You don't have to listen to the Pros, you just have to watch.
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.