Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Slow Down and Throw Far

It's one of the most difficult aspects of disc golf, because it's so utterly counter-intuitive.

This is what we call the 3:00 - 4:00 (on a clock) position.
To get the most out of your drive, you have to hold the disc as late as possible. A problem, with holding late - is that we mortal humans only have so much grip strength. It's easier to hold thinner rimmed discs for sure, in fact putters are the easiest to hold onto because the rim is deep and thin.

If you create a powerful amount of momentum with your hips, a solid arm extension that is getting boosted with a great plant and shifting of your weight... guess what?! You can very easily bring more hand speed through the extension, than you can actually use.

Case in point: me slipping the disc out of my hand. I shot some footage of my fieldwork to review, which I do religiously.

I'm supposed to be holding the disc!
Looking at that, I was immediately dismayed. I'd worked very hard on getting my form improved and what immediately caught my attention was the disc was NOT in my hand. This was a shot that used my standard back-swing guided to the right pec, hand on the outside and with a very slow and controlled x-step that ends with a balanced and upright stance.

So why is the freaking disc out of my hand?!

Now here's the clue that helped me out:

Now I'm holding it!
Hold the phone, what changed?! I'll tell you: I was working on throwing with this back-swing form called "the wide rail" that guys like Nate Doss, Barry Shultz and Mike C use with great results. I'd been messing with the wide rail and seeing some big shots that were adding 50' to my drives.

Click to see the full image of the wide rail.

The thing is, this wide rail pauses hand speed pretty drastically as the disc changes directions and loads up your wrist. That makes the disc substantially easier to hold later, because you slowed it down mid-motion.

Slowing down is GOOD? What has happened here people?


BWWWWHAT!? The easy way to understand it is this:

Straight line back-swing, it's very easy to over estimate what you can hold on to and the disc slips out early, before you get to the magic part of throwing the disc.

The magic part of throwing the disc happens at that last 2" of the disc rim getting held tight. HELD. You're fighting to keep the disc in your hand because at the end of the release, you're pulling the rim to the 3:00-4:00 position.

I believe that the loading wrist elbow extension (elbow smack) promotes a similar thing - in that you are bending the wrist pretty late in the process, which slows the hand speed down and often leads to some booming shots. Coming into the start of the disc arc, with very little speed is fantastic because it means we're giving ourselves the best shot of holding onto the last second - when all the velocity of the disc is going to transfer forward.

And at that point, it's like a monster rubber band unloading! PINGGGG!!!!!

The point though, is that slow hands are able to undergo that violent redirection and maintain grip on the rim. Fast hands will most likely blow off the rim when it comes time to pull back to 3-4:00.

"But you can't deny that the pros aren't coming into the extension with a metric ton of speed?!"

As your hands get stronger and stronger, you'll be able to take more speed into the extension and maintain grip on the rim. But if you're not holding onto the rim until 3:00-4:00 take the hand speed down until you can. You will 100% NO QUESTIONS ASKED get more distance by holding the disc later than you will be slipping out early with more hand speed. The difference between the first image of me slipping and the 2nd image of still holding was 50'. And it's that way every single time.

So each player will have to find the balance of how much momentum they can tolerate and balance with their grip strength so that they are not slipping early.

And that's just reason 103 that the disc golf backhand shot is so utterly confusing.

Paul McBeth throwing the wide rail hyzer.


  1. Great article! I think the next step is a video with some notes and pauses where the changes happen. Keep it up!

      It goes slip, slip, slow motion wide rail (holding it longer). It happens so fast that it's almost imperceptible and that's why I just screen capped it.

  2. Glad to see PDGA picked up your article, congrats! I have followed you on DGCR and have been visiting the heavydisc blog, hopefully I can get my vids going so I can get help. Thanks for the work you do!

    1. Thanks so much. Getting the PDGA promotion is awesome, love it when my torture saves people from the same mistakes!

  3. As always great post. I'm really struggling with this right now. I've been trying to keep the disc close my nipples but seem to be losing some serious D and getting some ferocious S-curves. This seems more natural to me, but appears to be what is commonly called "rounding", got a sec to explain why it isn't? Thanks again.

    1. I'm going to paste a great answer from a user named Auriyon (off Reddit):

      So like Will Schusterick said in his most recent clinic, your arm mirrors its motion on each side of your body when you pull the disc across - that's just how your body works most of the time. When the disc is behind your body on your reachback, your arm tries to mirror that motion across your body. However, since your arm is bent and the disc is behind you, you'd have to pull the disc literally through yourself to mirror the motion. However, your body still tries to do that, and this causes you to open up both your shoulders and elbow early, which causes you to lose a HUGE amount of accuracy and power.

  4. Great site, your analysis of the disc golf motion is spot on. I have one question that I am trying to get a handle on. Does the term "wide rail" refer to how the disc is taken back? It appears that the disc is taken back on a wider take back versus a more straight back pull.

    Keep up the great work.

    1. Just caught this question Bill, sorry for the delay. Exactly what it means! The backswing of the wide rail puts the disc out away from your body instead of on a straight line for the pull through.

  5. Unbelievable! After 6 months I struggle to throw 250' on the course and about 280' max in the field, until I read this article (actually all of them on this site) again yesterday for the umpteenth time. At this point I thought what do I have to lose. I mean this isn't going to work, but I can't keep doing what I am doing and think I will get some different result. I threw over 300' yesterday pretty consistently for about an hour. I left at dark hoping I won't lose that feel by the next time I can throw. I am recovering from a stress fracture in my lower right leg making it just about impossible to plant into my leg. These throws were with no effort other than trying to hold onto the disc. I am excited about the time I can at least start rocking my weight into my throw to see what that does. You have a great writing style that is very enjoyable to read and I really appreciate you documenting what you have found in all your work. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    1. Agree 100% with all you say about him!! Awesome guy!

  6. Heavy D,

    I find that I am able to maintain hold on the disc until the 3:00~4:00 position when I am throwing mid ranges in the 225'~250' range. It is totally effortless and the extra snap on the disc makes them fly properly. so I think I 'get' what I'm supposed to be doing with a driver.

    The problem I am having is finding a way to do the same slow-down-grip-it-to-rip-it routine when I am wanting to throw drivers for distance. As soon as I speed up, incorporate a run up, etc., I immediately return to strong arming and just keep throwing the same old 350~380' drives. I am letting the disc go to early, and it's annoying to be clearly aware of what is going on and yet I can't seem to do otherwise.

    I know I have the arm speed to throw a baseball 85 mph and am sure I could get a ton of distance with the backhand - yet only a few times have I gone over 400' . I am struggling to find a way to not strong arm the disc and to hold onto it to those later positions where all the power comes from.

    I re-read your post above and will try working more on the wide rail, but if you have any other tips to share for transitioning from effectively throwing midranges to throwing drivers, stuff you might have figured out since writing the above post, I'm all ears.


    1. Chris - it's really hard to diagnose slipping without seeing video, but a very common issue is opening the shoulders before the disc gets deep into the right pec enough. Shoot me some video at my email in the contact page and I'll take a look!

    2. Thanks for the reply. Will do.