Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mail from Norway

By Jason

When working on form, we get to a point, sooner or later, where we have questions. Some of these questions are relatively easy, and sometimes there’s a whole bunch of “it depends” in the answer.

I recently received an email from a reader hailing from Norway, and he had more than a few queries. I thought this would be a great place to flesh out some answers and hopefully help some fellow form hounds.

Nicolai, my Norwegian friend: Hopefully this gets you going in the right direction.

I’m really new to disc golf, started in early May this year. But as a former scratch golfer, I’ve taken to disc golf like a duck to water. What I loved about golf – the difficulty, the mechanics, the analyzing and constant search for “more” – is exactly what I now love about disc golf. I’m hooked.

While I’m certainly not a scratch golfer by any stretch, I also love ball golf. My grandfather sawed off one of his old drivers and re-gripped it for me when I was about 6 years old. He set me up at the driving range and very quickly I found a swing that worked. Finances have typically kept me from playing ball golf very often, so when I found disc golf I loved the fact that I could dive into the underbelly of progression and have lots to work on. And it’s almost always free!

When you take Heavy golfing!
I’ve made really good progress compared to others I know who started with me, and although I’m not fully consistent yet, I am getting the disc over 300 feet just standing still and I’ve got a good touch in and around the basket. I’ve made a comprehensive list of everyone from Dan Beato, to yourself, and all the best pro clinics on YouTube, and I’m also lucky to know one of the best players local to me. But while he chucks a Destroyer a long way, he struggles as a teacher. I asked him about what I’m about to ask you a few weeks ago, and he just looked at me blankly.

Welcome to the world of “good players, bad teachers.” I’ve had the exact same experience. I won’t out anybody, but many sponsored players that can throw a disc a country mile will say things like, “You just need to throw it harder!” I came to my swing by analysis and fieldwork alone. My initial ability was a hot mess, so figuring out all the little secrets was imperative. Unfortunately for me, I forget lessons I learned the day before, so I kept notes on as much of the little secrets as possible. I strongly suggest keeping notes during field work. Even just having a notepad on hand to keep track of how accurate your various shots are is a huge help in learning your own game.

So, here are some questions to start with: When you throw, what strength of pressure are we talking just before release? Are you gripping with equal pressure with all fingers and the thumb? What pressure equivalent are we talking? An analogy often used in regular golf is a toothpaste tube with the cap removed; If you’re squirting the paste out, you’re gripping too hard. But when I read or watch disc golf instruction, words like “overpower” (especially with the thumb) are thrown around, but getting an actual read on what this means is difficult. Grip too hard, and you grip-lock. Too soft, and you lose power and accuracy. But just knowing you have to grip “about this hard” would be cool for newcomers.

Grip pressure is going to change depending on the distance of the shot. A short touch shot at 80 to 120 feet will be held lightly with the index finger hooked in slightly, so that as the disc ejects forward you don’t accidentally pull it right of your intended line for a right-handed backhand thrower. Most players will have a natural feel for this type of shot developed from playing catch. I think of this as letting the index finger slip over the rim without much hooking.

As we move from a 100 foot shot to a 250 foot approach, we firm up the pressure point around the index finger and the thumb pushing down on the flight plate. A huge key is that the disc will be held firm enough that somebody can’t knock it out of your hand, but that you do not flex the forearm. This mantra needs to be repeated: Loose is fast. Imagine flexing your arm muscles and trying to throw a baseball pitch. It would be impossible. If you over-clamp the grip, you will at some point develop tennis elbow because you’re tightening tendons that are going to need to be loose or else they will develop micro tears.

Jared Roan digs into the hook upon release.
From 250 to 500 feet, we dig into the hook. That’s how to hold onto the disc through the ejection point. Imagine your index finger as a hook that digs into the inside of the rim and the thumb as holding the disc on that hook. As the disc ejection becomes more powerful, you’ll have to hold that grip more firmly or risk blowing off the rim early, but with the thought in mind that you want to keep the “hook” in the rim.

Spin is obviously important to the flight of the disc. If I understand the mechanics correctly, does it mean that if I throw a disc flat, with no hyzer or anhyzer – say, a Valkyrie (with flight numbers 9, 4, -2, 2) – if the flight of the disc is fairly straight out, then a fade (instead of high speed turn to the right, then fade back center), does that mean I’m not developing the necessary revolutions on the disc to give it its “normal” flight pattern? And when I overpower the disc (I take this to mean with spin), that the same disc will fly straight then turn right or hard right?

Spin happens when you’re throwing properly, but it is not a goal. Trying to spin a disc in any sort of shot, other than a specific touch shot, is putting effort into the motion that isn’t needed or helpful. For the sake of the vast majority of beginner to advanced players, the turn of a disc is a product of nose angle, ejection speed and hyzer angle, and of course the flight characteristics of the disc (which you can’t control).


Just for the sake of argument, where in the motion above could we imagine David Wiggins Jr. adding spin? Hint: He’s not. But the disc is coming out spinning properly. He’s adding power to the disc, and the way we properly throw discs will spin it. There are three important components to meeting this end:


  1. Nose angle: Drivers need to be thrown nose down in order to get their full flight. I often refer to this as “pouring a cup of coffee” – which I nicked from YouTube form master MikeC. Possibly the easiest way to gain 50 feet on a drive is to tip your wrist down in the backswing and keep it down through the ejection. You can adjust your trajectory or the height of your shot so that it’s flying 10 to 15 feet off the ground, but trust me: All discs will fly best when thrown nose down. Midranges and putters can tolerate being thrown nose up more than drivers, but more on that in a bit.
  2. Ejection Speed: Just like in ball golf, you don’t hit further by swinging your arms faster. You throw further by improving your weight shift, your brace and keeping the hook in as long as possible. As the disc speed increases to a proper level, the flight characteristics of the disc start to ring true. This can be extremely confusing for new players who have a disc (like a Valkyrie) that may be overstable or understable depending on plastic, weight, or level of wear.
  3. Hyzer angle: Another slightly confusing issue is that a hyzer release – even a relatively small amount on certain molds – can stop your disc from turning at all. It may “flip to flat” and then fade. A hyzer flip is just a shot that is throw with a hyzer angle that turns to flatten the disc. Some hyzer flips will have enough turn to flip to flat, then turn more. This confused me for some time because I thought I was getting “late turn” in my putter’s flight, but I was just releasing with enough hyzer that it was slowly flipping to flat and then turning late in the flight.

Taken together, those three elements are the contributions that we can add to get a disc to fly with its intended characteristics. There are other things, but those are the ones to start with.

In the same clip you talk about release angle (pouring coffee) but that the “nose down” applies to stable drivers. This is probably my biggest issue at the moment because when I get the odd one right I find I can hit 400 feet. But as I’m new and find using understable or just stable discs easier to throw, I’m wondering if understable drivers are even more sensitive to release angle and can’t or shouldn’t be thrown in a nose down attitude?

If you throw a disc nose up (so that you can see the flight plate of the disc while it’s in flight), you are effectively adding stability to the disc. I know it’s not making the disc more stable, but it’s an easy way to think of it. You’re slowing the disc down and it will behave with low speed stability sooner in the flight. Throwing it nose down, it will fly faster and behave with its high speed stability characteristics for longer during the flight.

So, if you want a long flight from an understable disc, throw it nose down with enough hyzer and good ejection speed. It should flip up to flat, turn to some degree and then, hopefully, fade. If you want a short straight shot, try taking a putter and throwing it nose up on an anhyzer line. That particular shot is a great tool for getting a disc to stall and drop out of the air.

What’s your take on blizzard type discs and throwing lighter discs? I get that they’re not as good in wind, but am I right in thinking that if my arm is not strong enough for a max weight disc then I can choke down and get better results on lower weight plastic (and even overpower them eventually)?

I like to have a lighter disc in my bag for substantial uphill shots, or if there’s a legitimate tail wind that’s knocking discs right out of the air. I carry one Star Teebird at 159 grams for those specific shots.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Heavy's Discs

I get asked from time to time about what I'm throwing: weights, plastics, molds and so I thought I'd do a run down on the most regular occupants of my bag. It changes quite a bit with wind conditions, but this is what I'm throwing. 



I own 2 bags - and like them both quite well.


Flak X - (Shop Link)
Price: $199
Recap: Great bag for fieldwork artists. Super easy to get a ton of discs in and out quickly. Well though out design - but lacks straps for stools or umbrellas. I use this bag most often because of the amount of fieldwork I do.



Flak 4 - (Shop Link)
Price: $199
Recap: Cushy, great room up top, straps for stool. Knock this bag over and the discs will not fall out. I use this bag for long courses where comfort is at a premium.


Gateway Organic Wizard - (Shop Link)
Recap: This blend is money for my putting putters. I have nothing but good things to say about wizards - like way they fly, but organics seem to be tackier than most other plastic types. They beat in fast and stick to chains - and you'll pry them from my cold dead fingers. Max Weight (175g)


Prodiscus Jokeri - (Shop Link)
Recap: Throwing putter. 170g Prodiscus Premium plastic. This disc isn't quite the glideless brick that DGA Breaker is - but it can take quite a bit of wind without any concerns of flipping. That's not an insult. I love a glideless brick: nothing is worse than staying up when you want to go down. Accurate upshots all day with the Jokeri. The premium plastic will take years of abuse without changing flight characteristics. I have hit plenty of trees and it looks like new.
Speed: 4.0
Glide: 3.0
Turn: 0.0
Fade: 2.0


MVP Ion -(Shop Link)
Recap - If ever there was a putter that thought it was a mid-range, it's the Ion. MVP plastics across the board, kick butt and simply take abuse for years. I like them around 170g, with the max weights being slightly more stable. I bought 5 Ions and 5 Anodes at the beginning of my fieldwork season of 2014 and threw them a million times. At this point, I give the nod to the Ion over the Anode mainly for being more predictable.
Speed: 3.0
Glide: 4.0
Turn: 0.0
Fade: 1.0


Innova-Gator - (Shop Link)
Recap: My buddy Ian Millard turned me onto the Gator and for that, I'm ever grateful. A 175g Champion Gator will stand up to any wind and get to the ground safely. You can MASH a Gator with 400' of power and it'll drop out of the sky at 300' over and over. This disc makes a 300' hole absolutely brainless and has lowered my score by at least 2 strokes on windy days. ABG... Always Be Gatoring.
Speed: 5.0
Glide: 2.0
Turn: 0.0
Fade: 3.0

Emac Truth - (Shop Link)
Recap: FINALLY Dynamic Discs has fixed the Truth. The EMac Truth is everything that the original Truth was known for. I like to joke that the Truth thinks it's a fairway driver. Predictable, long, and fits in the hand like magic. Love this disc at 173g in Lucid.
Speed: 5.0
Glide: 5.0
Turn: 0.0
Fade: 2.0


Innova Roc - (Shop Link)
Recap: Tried and true the Roc is impossible to ignore. I bag an older DX Roc that is warped to the point of absurdity for low power hyzer flips and anhyzer shots. I also bagged a new KC Pro Roc 168g that has beat into a nice turning midrange disc very quickly. KC Pro will take more more abuse than DX so I would give that disc the nod.
Speed: 4.0
Glide: 4.0
Turn: 0.0
Fade: 3.0


Discraft Comet - (Shop Link)
Recap: If beating a KC Pro Roc until it turns to your liking is too much of a pain, the Comet is the turning midrange of choice. The glide on a Comet is like nothing you've ever seen. In a tailwind they will stay afloat like the goodyear blimp. Having a midrange that will turn under power or flip to flat is essential for shaping shots.
Speed: 4.0
Glide: 5.0
Turn: -2.0
Fade: 1.0


Innova TeeBird - (Shop Link)
Recap: I typically have 3 TeeBirds in my bag: OS Star 175g, Neutral GStar 171g and turny EchoStar 159g. The Brinster touring TeeBirds and the AJ TeeBirds are going to be seriously overstable. GStar makes for great laser straight shots and a lighter EchoStar will be great for uphill shots.
Speed: 7.0
Glide: 5.0
Turn: 0.0
Fade: 2.0


Legacy Phenom - (Shop Link)
Recap: If you want to try something other than the TeeBird - the Phenom by Legacy is slightly longer with a touch more turn off the shelf. I've been very impressed by the Icon plastics and 171g is a great weight.
Speed: 8.0
Glide: 5.0
Turn: -1.0
Fade: 2.0

Innova Tern - (Shop Link)
Recap: Champ plastic... 175g... this disc will go far. They fly like a well beaten Destroyer but with more glide. This disc feels like cheating. I've gone as low as 165g for tailwind shots and been very impressed.
Speed: 12.0
Glide: 6.0
Turn: -2.0
Fade: 2.0


Discmania DDx - (Shop Link)
Recap: Newest disc to my bag. Discmania NEEDS to get more of these on the shelves. They're playing the "build the suspense" game and it's stupid. People want them - let us buy them. Stable and long. Very long. I bought 2 before they went out of stock and I wish I would have bought 10.
Speed: 12.0
Glide: 6.0
Turn: -1.0
Fade: 2.0


Innova Destroyer - (Shop Link)
Recap: I wish I could say that all Destroyers were created equal, but that's just not true. I think that's one of the reasons that Legacy created the Outlaw. They wanted a consistent destroyer! I have been bagging a Star Destroyer (Avery Jenkins mold with the signature) for about 2 years. It's overstable and can take full power in 15mph headwinds. If you play in the wind, you know how important it is to have a driver that can take power and not decide to turn into the ground. 175g for my wind disc. Echo Star and G-Star Destroyers are nothing like star or champ destroyers... it's a shame there's not more consistency, but there's still a ton of great Destroyers to be had.
Speed: 12.0
Glide: 5.0
Turn: -1.0
Fade: 3.0

Innova Firebird - (Shop Link)
Recap: REAL WIND? Get a fire chicken. Thumbers? Flat-top 159g Champion FB will make you a believer. Meat HOOK city.
Speed: 9.0
Glide: 3.0
Turn: 0.0
Fade: 4.0

Latitude-64-XXX - (Shop Link)
Recap:  171g Opto - hands down the longest thumbers of my life have been with this disc. I'm no thumber master, but 300' consistently with the XXX is pretty common for me. (Video) Probably the best thumber disc I've ever seen.

Speed: 7.0
Glide: 2.0
Turn: 0.0
Fade: 5.0