The United States Disc Golf Championship is typically a mark of the ‘end’ of the disc golf season. Without a slew of sanctioned tournaments to whet our disc golf pallets, what are we to do? Talk disc golf of course. In hopes of keeping dialogue open on the sport during the ‘off-season’ we’ll be covering, over the course of a few months, some things to think about when practicing, or evaluating your game at the individual level.
I’d like to start with something that many of us either do NOT think about, do out of habit, or a bit of both: your pre-throw orientation on the tee pad. Two things play off of each other when it comes to pad placement: the route in which you intend to attack the basket, and from what angle is best for that route when going through your footwork on the pad. These will be from the point of view of a RHBH player, so flip/flop accordingly if you’re a southpaw. Disc Golf Kyle has a simple, and quick video to give you a visual of what I’m talking about.
What are you looking at on the tee pad?
Something that has always fascinated me is that so many different sports have very similar concepts within them. For example: tee pad placement/orientation almost matches up perfectly with the approach in bowling, and the painted dots on the walk up. Just because a disc golf pad doesn’t have those little arrows/dots on it doesn’t make it any different in conceptual terms. The arrows are literally aiming points for your steps. When you set up on the left, trying to pick up a spare, you are likely going for the ‘10’ pin. The way a RH bowls, snagging that pin is difficult if the bowler does not prepare his roll accordingly with proper footwork. This tactic lets the bowler utilize the majority of the lane to achieve the objective. Obviously a bowling ball spends its time on the ground surrounded by gutters, so the space in which to work is limited. Is a fairway not a lane? I submit that it is, so keep that in mind.
Now back to the tee pad. Without any critical thinking, it makes perfect sense that if you want to groove a drive straight down a fairway, your footwork should find the center of most tee pads. Prior to writing this article, I’d never even thought about my footwork location on any tee. I know the importance of solid footing when performing in sports, and cement is typically more reliable than grass. When it came to my drives I went down the heart of the pad, every time, without fail. Sometimes baskets require a more indirect approach, so I would alter my release point instead of gearing my body toward the shot. As a former collegiate pitcher, my shoulders have been conditioned to being perpendicular to my target. In baseball, this was great; however, in disc golf, I have since found out the glaring inconsistencies throwing in this fashion.
I took the time to practice Kyle’s advice. Trying to throw hyzer when taking my X-step right down the meat of the pad caused me to, sometimes, over torque my upper body. This frequently caused oblique soreness after rounds, and another unfortunate result was the likelihood of ‘grip-locking’ my drive was much higher. I would pull my front shoulder down to manipulate the disc instead of letting the disc do most of the work. Moving with a hyzer step line made the discs I threw more consistent in their flight. The occasional grip-lock still happened, but I was able to rely on the disc doing its job more frequently. My Enforcers would fade back, my Defenders would fly straighter for longer before finishing.
As a predominantly forehand driver, anhyzer drives have always been frustrating to me. They are easily replaced by a quick forehand. The forehand can be a bit strong at times, so I went ahead and experimented with this as well. My early forehand preference was two fold: 1. trying to throw that route from my current pad orientation led to early releases, and discs not doing what flight numbers suggested (understable discs fading out early); 2. as mentioned earlier, my ‘down the middle’ footwork had consistency issues, and the same shoulder pull on the frontside came into play. I was simply not properly setting up my body for the anhyzer throw, and, again, not letting the disc do the work. This issue continued to snowball with a shift toward trying even less stable discs that compounded the mechanical failures of my throw. In short, when trying to throw an anhyzer drive, certain molds would veer so far right that the anhyzer throw (even upshots) got eliminated from my game entirely. With this happening, and my comfort with forehand, nearly EVERY disc in my bag went from mixed stability into the stable/overstable spectrum only. I was unknowingly, pigeonholing my game.
In a quick afternoon’s work I found out, with a bit of experimentation, some better ways to attack the basket off the tee. Versatility is a huge advantage when it comes to nearly every sport out there, and disc golf is no different. Whether or not I start giving anhyzer drives another shot, in favor of my trusty forehand, is up for grabs; but, at the very least, I’ll have a better way to position myself when tossing those pesky upshots around mandatory obstacles.