Monday, January 4, 2016

Throwing for Distance: Why?

Nate's wide rail crush.
By Jason

Like moths to the flame, anytime there's a thread / post / conversation about:

How far you can throw?
How far is far enough?
Best things to practice?

... there's players that come out of the woodwork to say:

Nobody is really throwing as far as they say they are.
Throwing for distance is a waste of time and energy.
Drive for show, putt for dough.
Distance driving and golf driving are totally separate shots
Throwing far doesn't equate to useful golf skills

I've responded to about 20 of these conversations before, but I wanted to put my thoughts down on the matter once and for all.

Discgolf courses are notorious for bad signage. Who knows how the guy making the sign measured or if he measured at all. Elevation drops make some 400' shots - relatively easy putter shots. Did your disc fly 400' horizontally? Yes. Did you throw a 400' shot? Sorta. Will that same shot, thrown on flat ground, go 400'? No chance in hell.

So issue #1 - if you threw to the basket on a course that's listed as 400', you can't accurately claim to have thrown 400'. Sorry, it's just not that easy.

Then how do you know if you can throw X distance?

Purchase one of these (150' tape measure) and some of these:

Next, find some flat ground.

This isn't as easy at it would seem. Even the recreational soccer fields around my house are slightly up or down hill. Your best bet is to find some wide open spaces that have proper fields on them. Throwing on concrete will give you potentially a long slide - adding 50' of skittering, so don't think that a nice flat parking lot is a good place to measure, unless you have a spotter who is dropping a marker where your disc hits the ground.

Okay: issue #1 is resolved. You have your distance. Congrats, you're a winner - now go tell the internet.

Issue #2: how far is far enough?

For what? To win the USDGC in MPO? 500' of golf distance would be a good ball-park. Why? Because Paul McBeth, Ricky Wysocki, Will Schusterick  can all throw that far - and if you are throwing only 400' you're going to need to be able to putt lights out from 100' to keep up with them on a 500' hole.

We've seen this become a reality in the last few years. The top MPO players have stretched the high percentage circle out to 40' and have controlled distance that makes par 5 holes eagle-able.

Do they park a 500' hole everytime? Absolutely not, unless it's a really wide open course - and that's extremely rare. There are trees, doglegs, OB and mandos that make the game spicey. But if a top MPO player needs to pipe a laser beam 400' or get 500' down a wide open fairway, they can and will do that.

Will hitting some magic number mean that you can compete at the highest level of tournament play? You have to be delusional if you think that's the case. It's just one of the skill-sets, OF MANY, that are required to give you a fighting chance.

To complete in your local B/C-Tier tournaments and cash? 400' of usable golf distance will most likely keep you in the cash all season long. Putting 90%+ inside the circle and avoiding any bogey's will most likely keep you from donating your tournament fees to the guys on the top-card. I play with a number of MPO players that fit this bill. They are consistent and it literally pays to be consistent.

To compete in Intermediate / Advanced and take home some plastic, 300-325' of golf distance should be enough. You've probably heard this before, but in ADV it's all about playing par golf and screwing up the least. I didn't play a single tournament in 2015, but in 2014 I played a few in ADV and I felt that to be the case. The guys who won, stayed in bounds and didn't bogey. There were a few that could throw 400'+ but it rarely gave them a big advantage.

Last week, I finished out the year playing "Last Tags of 2015" and tied for 1st place with about 20 other players. NONE of the long drives that I could throw 400'+ netted me a stroke on the field. My putting did, as I missed just one putt inside the circle and I didn't have any bogeys.

I practice distance drives about once a week, with the other fieldwork mostly playing solo rounds where I can throw multiples and putt multiples. My distance drives are not "pure distance". Pure distance drives are thrown much higher, trying to break right as long as possible - hopefully getting a long stretch of flattening flight.

Claim: Throwing for distance is a waste of time and energy.

Are you having fun doing it? Yes. Then it's hardly a waste of time. There's certainly worse things to do: punch kittens, meth, yoga. I'm just saying - throwing far is fun. It may not shave strokes off your game like putting, but who cares. We didn't feel that sense of awe the first time we saw somebody blast a drive because it was boring. It's AWESOME.

I like it, so I'm saying claim is FALSE.

Claim: throwing far doesn't equate to any real golf skill.

What we're doing at the core development of max-d or golf distance, is to maximize our form for it's ability to impart controlled powerful force on the disc. The key concepts that heavyDisc readers are probably sick of hearing about: hand on the outside at the right pec, balanced and braced... mean that it takes less physical wear and tear to throw the disc.

If I can throw 18-21+ drives during a round that don't wear me out because I'm using my form to do the work, then playing a second round in the afternoon is much less difficult. I'll play better longer and I'm much less likely to find myself waking up with a stiff neck and sore muscles.

Spending time throwing "far", reviewing our footage and altering our form to match the best in the world pays dividends in all our shots.

This is my claim: if you want to improve, and I mean work on your whole game to be the best you can be... all aspects of your game need systematic and regular training.

Drive for dough, putt for dough, upshot for dough, get out of jail for dough, step around a tree out of a gully for dough. You get my point, it's not enough to just putt and think that because you're a world class putter - that you'll be leading McBeth in the final round.

He's spends his time putting too - but can uncork some monsters and works on it in the field to stay at the top.


  1. I absolutely agree with this. My question to all of the putting guys that say putting is 90% of the many MPO worlds has the likes of Yeti won? Or other world champ putters.

  2. The way I see it, the ability to throw big hyzers is a great asset on the course. This ability is closely related to disctance because you need to be able to throw the disc very hard. You WILL shave strokes by having the ability to throw an overstable disc on a hyzer all the way to the intended target. Throwing a less stable disc on a turnover line, or S line is less consistant. Dont get me wrong, those are shots that need to be in the bag to succeed, but if you have the option to throw a hyzer it is usually the better option.

    1. I completely agree. OS discs in the wind or ANY disc on a hyzer for that matter are very predictable and safe, but an OS disc that is going to get to the ground with no chance of flipping is a very safe play.

      thanks for chiming in with that.

    2. I think the poster makes an excellent point. Being able to throw 300-350 on a huge sky hyzer would improve my score more than being able to get to 400 with an S curve shot. I guess HD would say that the 350 sky hyzer will come when I can hit 400 with an s curve. But I still think I could use some tips on throwing that big high hyzer shot.

    3. And you're better served when you can put a disc on a straight line to where you need it. Being able to throw the big hyzer is fine when the line is available. Being able to throw a line drive between the trees and under the canopy is a much more useful skill to have. I value it much more than I do big hyzers or flexes and S-curves.

  3. Thanks for another great post. BTW: 'Drive for show, putt for dough' is statistically more important in Ball Golf than in Disc Golf. In our game, a long accurate drive can OFTEN get you a birdie putt, maybe even a gimme putt. In Ball Golf that is rarely the case. Even on the 3 to 5 par threes per course where you COULD drive well enough to putt, you will likely have a much tougher putt than a gimme. Meanwhile, the majority of ball golf holes are long par fours, so the best that even a Bubba can do is get it further down the fairway for a shorter pitch. He'll still likely have to make that a good pitch and then more than a gimme putt for birdie. Disc Golf is heading in that direction for sure, but for now, driving accuracy, as opposed to distance, is an even bigger part of our game than it is in theirs. Want a lot of birdies? Learn how to throw pretty long and very straight in-bounds.

    1. Great point Robert... long and accurate and reproducible.

  4. Robert M has a good point about making birdies. Basically it is about at what level are you trying to compete. If your competition is birding 2/3 of the fairways, then you need a drive distance that gets you within reasonable putting distance, plus a long putt that has a chance to go in, plus good upshots for a third of the fairways where your competition does not reach the basket. Plus the get out of trouble shots. Seen Paul McBeth make some incredible throws from some horrible positions. He does not have to do it often, but it is in his tool bag. Those shots do not get into the tool bag without practice. Only a fool practices only long drives.

    I am a poor player and still learning how to throw. Yes, do occasionally get caught up trying to improve my max D. But most of the time trying to improve my bad technique into something better that reduces wear and tear on an aging body, 60+. Recently helping a friend learn a course for a team event had my best outing from the short tees. Did less than a handful of run-ups due to icy pads and ground. Maybe the adverse conditions forced me to concentrate more. Had better accuracy doing upshots instead of drives and shaved off 6 stocks off my best tournament round there and 15 stokes off my recent tournament there. My drives were shorter but they left me most of the time in better positions for my upshots. And yes, still had to do some desperate upshots.

    I agree with the author, that if a person wants to compete with the best in their division, then they need to work on their whole game. Being lazy, I find it hard to practice those shots that I need maybe once every other tournament. But that points to that I need to set up a multi-week practice schedule where I work all my shots, but prioritize time-wise the ones I use most until I am very consistent with them and then reduce their practice time to focus on other throws.

    Guess that goes with something that Paul McBeth said. He said he rarely practices sidearms, since he started his career throwing only sidearms. He fully trusts them. Of course he didn't say what shots he does practice. :)

    Sorry about the long wind... also just want to say that I am an avid reader of the HeavyDisc posts. Enjoy reading them and they usually leave me with something to think about. Thanks!

    -- Leroy __

  5. Great article, I think another benefit of good form that equates to more power is the ability to disc down. I have pretty good power for an AM1 player (controlled 400-425 ft), but the ability to reach holes in the 300-350 ft range with putters and mids has really improved my scores. Its much easier for me to control those discs than fairway and distance drivers. For that reason I think its an advantage over other players if you can reach a hole with a putter/mid whereas other players may need a 7+ speed disc.

  6. I know a guy that shows up once or twice a year with 3 or 4 discs, no bag or anything. Always places in the top two or three. The rest of us work on, practice and play all the time to gain the three or four stroke better average to stay in the top of the group. We have more fun with it all, i think, lol.

  7. "Claim: Throwing for distance is a waste of time and energy.

    Are you having fun doing it? Yes. Then it's hardly a waste of time."

    Training distance is fun ... until it isn't. It is incredibly frustrating when the development plateaus, especially at distances that are nowhere near what you are targeting. I got stuck at around 350 feet and I was to close to quitting the whole disc golf hobby, because this frustrated me to no end.

    Sure, there are few obvious flaws in my technique, but fixing them seems pretty much impossible and I'm not sure fixing them will necessarily bring significant improvement to the distance.

  8. Developing form goes a long way to longevity in playing. I'm a, um, gentleman of a certain age--a grandmaster. I'm old and fat. Since choosing the nuclear option and rebuilding my form from the ground up, I've found that my arm doesn't get worn out and sore, regardless of how many throws I make (and I can triple-play many rounds--3 drives, approaches, etc.). My ankles and knees and hips may get stiff and achy, so after long rounds on hilly courses I'm beat and know I'll ache later--it just won't be my arms and shoulders. The aching ankles and such are the same as if I were walking around doing most anything else. When I was young, I'd often get a sore arm and shoulder from playing; improving my form has eliminated that.

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