4 Common Driving Mistakes Beginners Make in Disc Golf

February 8, 2016

You’ve just begun Disc Golf. You’ve watched clinics and instruction videos on Youtube and a more advanced friend has shown you the basic technique as well. Maybe you have participated in a pro clinic too.

 So you know what you are supposed to be doing, but still, for some reason, the disc won’t go past that 200′, 250′, or 300′ mark. Why? You just don’t get it, you are doing everything as taught but that disc just won’t go further, no matter how hard you try.

This article lists 4 possible reasons that could be holding you back. These are pretty universal, but the list is far from comprehensive, so if you do not find an answer here you have to ask a more advanced player for assistance. Let the community help you out.

Ok, let’s get to it!

1. Smooth is far

You’ve probably heard this before, right? But what does it mean? It’s simple, really. It means being relaxed up until the last possible moment. When you try to throw far, usually you end up tensing your muscles up. Tense muscles don’t move fast, so you actually end up shooting a much slower shot when doing this. And slower shots do not travel as far. Not to mention those tense muscles also make aiming a lot harder.

You need to realize that you are trying to shoot the disc fast, not hard.
 Instead of tensing all your muscles as if you were preparing to hit a punching bag, keep them relaxed right up until the mid pull through, up until the point the disc is at your chest. That is when you exlode into the rest of the throw and ultimately the release. Practice this, and you will notice not only your distance increasing, but your aim getting better too.

2. Get a grip

This is probably one of the hardest things to learn. Your grip is supposed to be tight, but not “knuckles white” tight, and at the same time your wrist should be open, but kept unmoving to eliminate disc angle changes during the pull. How about your grip? Are you trying to strangle your disc? Or does it often fly out of your fingers before it was supposed to? A good grip is comfortable. It’s not loose, but it does not turn your knuckles white either. A good grip does not require you to tense your wrist nor your arm. A good grip is tight, but allows you to keep relaxed.

Grab a disc with your grip, make sure your wrist is not tense (and your arm is relaxed too), and ask your buddy to tug at it lightly. The disc should not come out of your hand unless your buddy really pulls on it. Too loose a grip, and you get grip-slips (early releases) and cannot impart momentum on the disc as well. Too strong a grip and you get grip-locks (late releases) and lose momentum imparted on the disc. When the grip is right, the release is on point and the maximum momentum is imparted onto the disc.

3. Walkthrough

The most common misconception is that you need the run-up to gain speed. This could not be further from the truth. At least in the beginning stages.
Once you have advanced technique, faster run-ups can produce a a little more power, but even then they reduce accuracy drastically. Which is why you don’t see them often.

When you are a beginner, it is much more beneficial to either shoot standstill and make sure you keep your technique pure, or to take a slow, walking x-step if you feel like you need to pace it.

The average running speed of a human is between 10 – 15 miles per hour. If you run through your x-step, you start from a standstill and you go sideways, so you probably reach 7mph at maximum. Before you throw, you plant leg, pivot on the heel and turn your body, so in reality the run up gives you maybe 2-3mph on the discs forward momentum.
The truth of it is that almost all of the momentum you can put on the disc comes from timing your muscles, bringing those hips around, then your torso, then your shoulderline and at the last point, the arm. How fast that turn happens decides how much momentum you give the disc, how fast it shoots out of your hand. That x-step is a fraction of it, and merely serves to pace your shot.

Psychologically you might not believe it, but it is likely you can shoot further accurately from a standstill than with a run-up. And even if we throw accuracy out of the window, your fastest standstill shot will not be that much shorter from your fastest run-up shot. The trade off is accuracy and consistency, not worth it in my opinion. So slow down, don’t do the run-up, do the walkthrough.

4. Disc jockey

This is by far the most common mistake I see on the course. I did this one too.
It’s the situation where the beginner has a way too fast, way too overstable disc in use.

You should be using lighter, slower and less stable discs at first. This is the right thing to do. You will get better shots off with them, and actually learn the correct technique while at it, when you don’t have to overpower your shots to get the disc down range.

Dynamic-Discs-Stack-of-Discs If you keep on throwing that Stiletto/Enforcer/Giant, it will firstly ruin your technique, making getting better at this sport a lot harder in the future, and secondly you will not enjoy the game much when the discs only fly 100′ and always hyzer out too soon. You simply cannot get such a disc up to the speed it needs to be traveling at to work as it is supposed to.

A rule of thumb is that you should start with putters, move on to midranges and touch drivers last. I can promise you that not many have actually followed this rule, but every single more advanced player will tell you they wish they had done it, and cut their learning curve in half.

If you simply have to go for a driver, then choose a disc that is slower than speed 10, and where the stability is -0.5 or even smaller.
 If you start with a disc that is speed 6-7 and stability -3, and it keeps turning over on you, try a speed 6-7 disc with a stability of -1 next. If that turns over too, go up on the speed scale.
 A good way to try discs is asking advanced players for pointers. Many disc golfers are happy to help and suggest discs to beginners, and usually they will let you try theirs if you’re nice.
 It’s much better to try out a disc from someone and then buying the one that works. Good luck out there!

Tero Tommola
Team Dynamic Discs

Bonus Tip: When you find a good disc, buy 3-6 of them, same plastic, same weight. Why?
 Because when you do field practice, it’s beneficial to have multiples of the same disc, so you can correct mistakes and get repetition in when not having to run to get your discs after 1 or 2 throws.

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23 comments on “4 Common Driving Mistakes Beginners Make in Disc Golf

  1. Solid advice. I especially like #1 and #3. Smooth is always better and learning to slow down that X-step ,as you say “walkthrough” , is usually a noticeable difference for me for sure.

  2. I think that when we introduce people to the sport, we need to “over-encourage” them as they get started. Letting a new person know that their shots are “normal” for their skill level and longer, straighter shots are coming as they progress.

    Another thing I think we can do is to keep tips simple and single-dimension. Disc golf is a hard sport – there’s a lot going on and to master it requires a lot of experience. Giving new players too much information at first will confuse and overwhelm. Let them ask and respond in bite-sized amounts of information.

    Great tips – keep it up!

    • Tero Tommola Feb 10, 2016

      Well put Steve!
      Mirrored my own thoughts 100%.
      It is easy to confuse a beginner, so keep the tips simple.

      A more advanced player can easily pick these apart, saying that I missed a thing here and another there, but that is not the case – I left things out to keep it simple.

      Like you said, bite-size amounts of information form up better. 🙂

  3. Paul Chen (#68446) Feb 10, 2016

    Dear Sir, a small question confused me quite a long time that hoping you would solve for me, please!
    The problem is when I do distance-throw should I turn my body with the moment of the disc out of hand in sync or a second later? It is also meaning that when should I lift up my left arm?
    Thank you!

    • http://gfycat.com/MiserableAdeptGentoopenguin

      Look at this video and maybe it will bring you some pointers on how to drive. It’s a slow-motion drive comparison of Mcbeth, Koling, Feldberg and Schusterick (not a spam-link).

      Hope it helps!

    • Tero Tommola Feb 17, 2016

      Hi Paul!

      I am supposing you are a right-handed player?
      I don’t quite understand what you mean by the question, but you should check youtube for this video “Lead card driving at EO2013”, I am sure it will answer both your questions.

      Remember that there is no single 1 right style, find what works for you, and use it and make subtle changes to it if necessary to get the most out of it.

  4. Skip Grady Feb 10, 2016

    I have only been playing a year and a half. I learned to throw with a putter….and moved up….kinda slowly. That being said, I have 5 kings and 5 freedoms as my main drivers now.

    • Tero Tommola Feb 10, 2016

      Well done!
      It’s also a good idea to throw a putter or midrange only round here and there, no matter how advanced you are.

  5. Ken Trock Apr 4, 2016

    Great article. Came back to the sport after many years off. Throwing backhsnd righty with a bum right knee; so I don’t like the run-up. You say you don’t need it for distance. I had a pro tell me he would lose maybe 50 feet without it (on his massive drive). Does this seem about right to you; maybe I’m losing 25 feet then?

    Ken Trock #2633
    Hamilton, NJ

    • Tero Tommola Jun 14, 2017

      This seems about right, you can generate momentum and thus distance on your drive with the walk-up or run-up, but for a beginner the technique just isn’t there, so a stand still shot will travel most likely just as far as a walk-up/run-up shot will, and often way more accurately.

      Most important is that what is comfortable to you will also work the best for you.

  6. #4 is super important, in my opinion. Using lighter and less stable discs helped me refine my technique. I’d already invested in a bunch of heavier discs and decent disc golf equipment but it was definitely worth my time to go back and get some lighter discs.

    • Tero Tommola Jun 14, 2017

      I have also selected lighter discs of late too.
      At first it was like “I am a guy, I will throw max weight”, but pretty soon I had to face the fact which was that with lighter discs I got more distance, and more importantly I got that distance without having to rip on the disc.

  7. I think that when we introduce people to the sport, we need to “over-encourage” them as they get started. Letting a new person know that their shots are “normal” for their skill level and longer, straighter shots are coming as they progress.

  8. I’ll keep these in mind when teaching beginners. I personally fell for #4 and bought discs based on speed. Luckily my arm was already pretty strong, and I’ve recovered from the mistake, but it definitely led to some frustration.

    • Tero Tommola Jun 14, 2017

      It’s very common to fall for #4.

      I went through most of the starter problems myself, or got to see others fight with them.

  9. Thanks for all the information. Enjoyed all the tips. Hopefully I will get the hang of it

  10. Petri Oksanen Jul 20, 2017

    I have also heard that it is better to start with easy drivers (like Breakout) because putters/mids are too forgiving about the nose angle. Another Team DD member Danny Lindahl said that when he started with round nosed discs it took him years to get the nose down after starting to use sharp nosed drivers.

    So, what do you think, should one start with putters/mids and forget the nose angle or start with easy drivers and try to get the nose down from from the start?

  11. Rori Marston Aug 2, 2017

    Comment I’m just starting only played one game. This is very helpful. Can you recommend a specific putter I could buy to start learning. Thanks. Rori

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