Driving Form and Technique
by Rick Bays
If you are not able to throw your drives over 350 feet, you probably could use some improvement on your form and technique. With the technology of disc molds today, all healthy players should be able to throw in this range, most women will throw shorter, sorry gals.
My own form, admittedly, is not perfect. Anybody I play with on a regular basis will testify to this. But, I can throw over 350 feet and will endeavor to describe the proper form to you.
Many people have undertaken the project of writing instructions and descriptions on this subject. Most of them have done a very good job. The problem with written instructions for this is that good driving form is easier to learn by watching somebody do it and then trying it yourself, not by reading about it. After you read this article, you need to go to your course and watch other players who you know to be better than you. Of the "pro" players that I know will be very happy to let you tag along with them for a round of golf every now and then, especially if you tell them that you are working on your form and would appreciate their advice and critique while watching you drive. These people have spent many, many hours working on their form and are eager to subject you to their wisdom. There is also a good video on disc golf basics, "How to Play Disc Golf" by John Houck, which does show instruction on driving, among other things (I have this video, and it really is good). You can get this video by mail order through IFO, who happens to be one of our advertisers in this issue. See their ad to get in touch with them. I'm reminded of a current commercial about ball golf which features Tiger Woods. He starts off by saying how simple golf really is, and says all there is to driving a golf ball is teeing it up, and swinging through nice and smooth. And, oh, by the way, don't forget to have you left arm straight. And, oh, by the way, don't forget to lift your left heel. And, oh, by the way, don't forget to keep your head down. He then proceeds to give you about a hundred little things to think of during the 2 seconds of swinging a club. Disc golf is the same. Spend some time learning the right way to do it, so it will become second nature to you and you do not have to think about it. You will have enough to worry about when you are trying to aim between the two trees you want to fly between that are 350 feet away.
There are several aspects to a good drive: 1) grip, 2) run up, 3) arm speed, 4) pull back & pull through. All of these need to work together in a coordinated, smooth, and rhythmic manner which will produce powerful and accurate drives. One thing to keep in mind, when I first started trying to learn good form (10 years ago), I was playing everyday. It took me 3 months to get comfortable with the technique, and another 3 to become semi-accurate with it. If you are willing to dedicate yourself to it (it may take less time for you, as some would say I am uncoordinated) your scores will start to dive well under par. All descriptions given are assuming a right handed person throwing with their right hand, in a back hand motion (not side arm). Lefties just reverse the ideas, you backwards, wrong-handed, upside- down writing people.
You need to be using the "power grip." The power grip has the forefinger under the rim of the disc. If your forefinger rests along the outside rim of the disc, that is called a "control grip." Having your finger out there will rob at least 20% power from your throw when you release it. It is ok to use the control grip on up shots or very short drives, but once you get used to the power grip, you will prefer to use it on all shots (some even putt with it, but not me). You should grip the disc tightly when you drive. Not so tight that you distract yourself, but tight enough that the muscles in your hand and forearm are flexed well.
This is the part where you need to be coordinated, smooth, and somewhat rhythmic. Some players even take a running start before going into the classic run-up. I don't do this, nor do I recommend it, because I get out of control when I try it. For some people, though, it does help them get a rhythm. When I am feeling particularly out of rhythm, or unsure of a drive, I will bounce on the balls of my feet or shuffle my feet a little bit to get my rhythm before I start my run-up.
I have heard the proper run-up called a 3-step run-up, or X-step run-up, or Scissor-step run-up. They all refer to the same steps.
The 3-step run-up is really all about proper weight distribution and leverage to generate more momentum and power, and allowing for a proper pull back of the disc to maximize disc speed upon release. Being in control and balanced will also give you accuracy.
Start at the back of the tee pad. Whether you stand toward the middle, or right, or left will depend upon which way you want the disc to fly. You will learn this with experience. If you stand on the bottom right side, and make your run up across the tee pad and finish on the top left of the tee pad, it is a little easier to turn the disc over. Likewise, if you start at the bottom left, and make your run up across the tee pad and finish on the top right, it is a little easier to throw big hyzer. Straight run up makes straight shots a little easier. You can also do combinations of run up angle and the angle you release in order to accomplish different throws. For instance, I like to throw what I call a "straight hyzer" shot. I take a "turn over" angle on my run up, starting from bottom right and finishing at top left, but instead of throwing anhyzer angle, I release the disc with a little hyzer. In this way the disc flies very flat in a straight line with good distance. You will figure all this out in time as you experiment. Stand perpendicular to the basket/fairway, at the back of the tee pad. Your weight should be balanced between both of your feet. Your right foot should be closer to the basket than your left. Toes pointing 90 degrees away from basket or fairway. People with longer legs may have to actually stand off the back of the tee pad. You are going to take three steps and release. The smoother and more fluid (almost rhythmic) you can become at this, the better. Another thing to keep in mind... don't throw as hard as you can. Most good golfers will agree, best results are achieved when you throw at about 80% strength. Your accuracy is better and, believe it or not, your average distance is better too.
The first step is your right. Step outward toward the basket at about a 45 degree angle with your right foot. As you step, shift your weight onto your right foot. This can be a big or small step depending on what is comfortable. Keep your eye on your target as you make this step. Start to lift your disc to your chest height.
Second step is your left. You need to step your left foot behind and past your right foot. You also need to turn so your left foot points behind you, in the direction of your pull back, opposite the direction of the basket/fairway. This will cause your legs, hips, back and shoulders to swivel. This is a good thing. As you swivel, you will need to execute your proper pull back of the disc and you will feel the natural shifting of your weight onto your left foot. In order to do a proper pull back, you will need to rotate your head with your shoulders, thus taking your eyes off your target. That's ok, you already knew where you planned to throw when you started this. You should now be reaching backward with the disc, with your back turned to the basket/fairway.
Third step is the right again. You accelerate as you go through this step and release. Allow your momentum to shift your weight toward the basket. Lift your right foot and move it forward. Swivel back around toward the basket. Your plan is to plant your right foot toward the front of the tee pad and release the disc. The swivel starts with your left foot, moves through your legs, hips, back and shoulders, the disc is already moving across your chest as you start to plant your right foot. Shift your weight to your right, release, and allow yourself to follow through. The follow through should end with your chest pointing down the fairway and your right hand palm up, arm straight behind you.
Three: Arm Speed
Arm speed refers to the speed with which you pull the disc across your body when you execute the run-up. In this part of disc golf, some players will have a genetic advantage over others. The more speed you can put on a disc, the farther it will fly. Although discs are not merely projectiles (they do actually fly), still the faster you can throw them, the further they will fly with that inertia. The proper driving technique will generate more than enough disc speed to throw over 350 feet. So, even if not genetically blessed, you can achieve enough distance to be a competitive player by using good form and technique. But remember, use 80% off your strength, and 100% technique for best results. Also keep in mind disc selection. Depending on your throwing style, discs that have a little more glide at the end of their flight (and sacrifice some speed) may actually work better for you. Or, discs with more speed and less glide (that fall off hard at the end of their flight) may work better. You need to experiment.
Four: Pull Back & Pull Through
During your run up, you need to execute a proper pull back and pull through of the disc. You do not want to curl your hand and arm around your disc. You do not want to windmill the disc around your body. You do not want to stop your pull back at your left shoulder. All of these are bad, they rob arm speed and disc speed and accuracy from your shot.
You want to extend the disc toward the back of the tee pad, with your arm fully extended and parallel to the ground, the disc up about chest high. During your run-up, you will have to rotate your chest and shoulders away from your target, as discussed earlier. Ideally, your shoulders will be almost perpendicular to the hole.
Once you extend the disc backward far enough, you then rotate your feet, hips, back and shoulders (in that order, kind of like a batter hitting a baseball, but the opposite direction) and pull the disc straight across your chest. You need to pull the disc in a straight line, not in an arc going out from your body. In order for the disc to be pulled in this straight line, you will need to bend your arm at the elbow, and then straighten it back out as you go toward release, in fact, you'll know when you are getting the line correct because you will start to hit your nipples with the disc once in a while, which is really annoying because it hurts, and messes up a good shot. Accelerate through this motion to the release. With a good release you will hear an audible "pop" as the disc sling shots out of your hand.
You want to release the disc flat. If the nose, or leading edge during flight, of your disc is up above the trailing edge, the disc will "stall." It will fly upward, slow quickly, and fall short left. If you can see the hot stamp of your disc as it flies - then the nose is up. Some discs. Rocs come to mind, even fly better with the nose slightly down. If the fairway allows it, you want to throw line drives with discs. On flat ground most discs fly best when thrown somewhere between 10 to 20 feet off the ground. LET ME STRESS THIS POINT, it is a very good gauge to tell you if you are throwing properly: Your disc needs to travel like a line drive in baseball, not a pop up. Watch the good players and see what lines their discs are travelling.
Another thing to keep in mind, is that you aim your drive with your right shoulder. When you take the first step of your run up, you should be guiding your shot with the tip of your right shoulder.
Now go back and read this article again. All of these things need to work together, you will have a better understanding the second time through, because you will know what a pull back is while you are reading about the 3 step run-up. Good luck. Like I said, this does not come easy. Go to your course and learn it from people who are good at it. Ask them to look at your form, and most will be happy to criticize you. Dedicate yourself to learning this, or improving on it if you already know it, and your drives will go further and straighter.
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