Right now I'm thinking a noon kick off time. We meet right where Upas ends, and you have to go left or right. There should be a basket just kickin it next to the street so everybody knows where we are at.
I have learned through trial and error that there is more than one dimension to throwing a disc correctly. Unlike stick golf where all the golfer has to do is hit the ball hard and straight, in disc golf there are several other factors that if ignored will make success more difficult (although not impossible).
1. The grip
2. Speed and Rotation of the disc upon released
3. Nose angle of the disc
4. Wing angle of the disc
1. The grip is the single most important factor when throwing a disc. Ever throw a disc in the rain? You don’t exactly get record distance do you? Why is this? Because the disc has a natural tendency to slip even under optimal conditions. So how do you grip a disc? You pinch it utilizing the pointer finger and pinching the disc against the thumb at the joint of the thumb not on the end of the thumb. To test the effectiveness of your grip try putting your pointer finger and thumb together at the ends of the finger and thumb and then try to break the circle with your other hand….do it…not so hard is it? Now pinch your finger at the joint of the thumb and try to break the grip with the other hand…not so easy is it? What do a baseball player, a golfer, and a sharpshooter all have in common? They grip their respective equipment the same way each time. A correct and consistent grip cannot be over emphasized. Pinch the disc hard and you will begin to snap your fingers on a solid toss. This what is meant by “snapping the disc” you are actually snapping your fingers after the disc is ripped from your hand. Discgolfreview.com has an excellent tutorial regarding the grip and demonstrates the fan grip, powergrip, and the lock grip, each are equally effective you must find the grip you are comfortable with and use it EACH time you throw the disc. My motto is to do it consistently and correctly, when I do there is less potential for error.
2. Then lets look at the at the speed of the disc. From experience I have seen skinny little guys out throw the big beefy guys, and I had to wonder how this was possible. One would think that simple force would be enough to make the disc fly farther, but this is not so. Speed is the critical factor. More specifically speed at release, the faster the disc is moving at the end of the wind up the farther the disc will carry as long as the other dimensions are adhered to up to the release of the disc. Here gripping the disc correctly is one of the keys to success as noted above. Additionally one should not attempt to flex the wrist on the throw for this will either 1) cause the disc to flip to the right 2) make the disc uncontrollable 3) decrease the amount of snap on the disc or 4) make the release point very difficult to duplicate.
As noted and demonstrate on discgolfreview.com the wrist will create a tremendous amount of torque if the wrist is kept straight versus bending the wrist and attempting to throw it like a Whamo Frisbee. The tendons in the wrist will snap at the end of the wind up and rip the disc from your grip.
Another important aspect of generating speed is to keep the disc close to your body as you are driving. A good way to demonstrate this is to stand close to a wall with a disc in hand (of course) and practice your pull through while you are close to the wall this forces you to keep the disc close to your body. Just like a good power batter who has to keep his hands in close to generate power a good disc thrower keeps his hands in close too.
I will forgo attempting to explain the X-step, discgolfreview.com demonstrates this very well. That said unless you weigh 200 pounds and have the arms of a gorilla (a good example of a strong flat footed thrower would be Big D) you must learn the X-step to generate disc speed. If you are the 200 pound gorilla and you learn the X-step you will not have to throw as hard to achieve your desired results and when you do beware of the street on the other side of the pin.
3. A good way to visualize the nose angle of the disc is to think of it as a airplane. If the nose of the plane is pointed up the plane is going up, if down then it will hit the ground, and if the nose is parallel to the ground (assuming the ground is level) then the disc will tend to fly flat (depending on the disc of course). When throwing the disc one of the hardest skills to learn is to keep the nose down. This is because so many people do no grip the disc correctly. When using any of the grips mentioned above if you keep your wrist straight and apply downward pressure with your thumb on the disc you will have a much better chance of keeping the nose of the disc slightly down this way if you elevate the disc the nose will remain down and achieve the maximum glide. A good way to recognize if you are throwing nose up (which is generally bad) is if you can see the top of the disc while it is still in flight.
4. The wing angle of the disc too can be visualized when thinking of an airplane. If the airplane is leaning to the left then the plane will usually go left and the same holds for the right. Now in disc golf we use the terms hyzer and anhyzer to describe these angles where for a right handed person hyzer is to the left and anhyzer to the right. A disc that turns to the left for a right hander is termed overstable and tends to hyzer. A disc that turns to the right for a right hander is termed understable and tends to anhyzer. So a disc that is overstable when thrown with hyzer will follow an arc to the left until it hits the dirt. If one anhyzers an overstable disc he has a chance of achieving an “S” route which should go substantially further than if it were thrown with hyzer.
5. Elevation of the disc describes the height at which the disc is flying. Elevation is important for several reasons. If one throws the disc to high the speed of the disc will die and the disc will fall to the earth prematurely. To low and you are going to hit the ground before the disc has used all of its speed. Ideally for distance one must elevate the disc some, but not beyond your ability to keep the nose of the disc down. If you keep the nose down and elevate the disc the disc has a better chance of achieving its full glide potential. You throw the disc but the goal is to make the disc fly, to use all of the energy you put into the drive as economically as possible. The next time you see a really good drive come in towards you observe the rotation of the disc you can see that the rotation is slowing and the speed of the disc has diminished dramatically “before” it hits the ground, thusly using the maximum potential of the energy put into driving the disc. Learn from the bad throws too, it is sometimes easy to see the throwers problems just from the flight of his disc. Each person who throws can teach you about how the wind is affecting the disc, if the disc is carrying well, if it is turning over discs…etc. watch and learn and you disc will not burn.
6. The wind. Don’t let it get into your head. The wind is your friend if you know how your disc will behave in different wind directions. If you don’t know then you should learn. First you need to normalize the conditions. The easiest way to do this is to find a large field, a football field, or a park where you will not kill anyone if a disc flies the wrong way. Then determine the direction of the wind. I frequently utilize a clock face to remember the wind direction, this way the next time I have a two o’clock wind and put some hyzer on my Orc I know that it will flatten out at first and then fade into a left turn. I will typically throw from at least four angles this way I learn how each disc behaves with each wind type so that I can adapt my disc selection to take the most advantage of the current wind condition on each hole (at least ideally, last night I had two penalties due to miscalculating the wind, no one is perfect).
I have learned that the most dangerous wind for me comes out of two o’clock this wind flips my stable stuff, makes my overstable stuff hyzer to much, and there is no chance of me getting a consistent roller off. My favorite wind is behind me but best from seven o’clock. If I threw with my left hand the two o’clock wind would not be a problem and the tail wind out of five o’clock would give me a nice glide too.
7. Targeting is one of the most critical aspects of throwing a disc and yet no one really talks about it. So here are my proverbial cats, they are now out of the bag. To be able to target your throw you must have confidence and commitment to the throw. First recall how your disc flew with similar wind conditions on the practice field. Then using that flight pattern as a template use it create a route to your most favorable lie, at Morley Field this is usually next to the basket, but on other courses you must manage the course to get you to a favorable lie. Now find where your release point will be for that lie. Next find something to look at that is on line with your favorable release point, this is what you must look for upon release and follow through of your drive, DO NOT LOOK AT YOUR DISC, THE TREES, NOR THE DIRT, you must fixate on your target. An analogy for this is a Marine shooting a gun, he does not look at his bullet as it flies through the air, nor the building, nor the tree in front of the building, he sights in on the target he is shooting. A pitcher does not look at the batter, the ball, nor his glove, he sights in on the glove of the catcher. Look at your target where you want the disc to go, never where you do not want it go, your hands follow your eyes, lead not your hands astray keep your eyes on target, and your disc will find a way. I have been using this “system” for targeting for the past four years and I have picked up eighteen (now nineteen) additional aces during that time, it works for me. That said even if you are not sure the path you have chosen is correct commit to it, for even when a bad plan is executed well it is far better than no plan executed badly.