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PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 3:23 pm    Post subject: Distance and Accuracy Reply with quote

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Friday, November 15, 2013
Improving Back Hand Distance

I watch an absurd a reasonable (depending on who you ask) amount of disc golf on youtube and the one thing I've noticed in the difference between the top pros and the top Am's is how consistent the pros are. Top pros will put a 200' shot within 30' of a pin 9 out of 10 times.

At the core of consistency in most sports is creating body mechanics that are reproducible. Consider a pro baseball pitcher throwing a pitch or a pro tennis player hitting a serve: each repetition is nearly indistinguishable from the next. Once it's completely reproducible - it's much easier to be consistent and can be counted on to go where you want it to.

Can I say that about my disc golf form?

But I can say that about the top pros and while I know I'm not ever going to be pro - I am constantly working to improve my game. I think everybody enjoys disc golf more when they're playing better and these pros are some of the best.

Improving my backhand is not about just adding distance. Adding distance at the cost of accuracy is at best a wash and at worst a huge loss. I'm focused on increasing distance and improving accuracy but that's much easier said than done.

A fantastic video popped up on youtube that shows Paul McBeth (TopLeft), Will Schusterick (TopRight), Jeremy Koling (BottomLeft) and Dave Feldberg (Bottom Right) in slow motion on a distance drive. Being able to really see what they're doing is a fantastic tool.

Take a look at the video of the top card from EO2013: Watch this clip and tell me these guys aren't smoother than hot butter on polished ice.

Everybody is built a little different - but for the most part - none of these guys is looking back further than about 90 degrees off the target during the reach back. Will Schusterick does take a slightly further look back - and McBeth takes slightly less. It's just a split second, but by keeping eyes on the target does seem to improve accuracy. Less look back should help accuracy but comes at a cost if it stops your shoulders from turning back squarely. You can see that McBeth doesn't turn his shoulders back nearly as much as Will. Will and Big Jerm both have their shoulders squared up like they're leaning against a wall at the front of the teebox.

For me, getting an open shoulder turn and a strong upper body rotation is important but I try to balance it with keeping my head from dipping too far back in the reach back. McBeth makes it work and throws just as far as anybody - because whatever he loses in having less shoulder rotation he makes up for in accuracy and a monster snap.

In the frame above - the disc is at the furthest point back in all of their reach backs. They've all set the front foot and now all of their run up momentum is beginning the transfer to the front leg. Paul and Will are both noticeably bending their knees. I have had more success with keeping my knees more bent versus less bent - it makes transferring weight smoother and puts me in a very balanced and athletic power stance.

And a big takeaway is that from this position - they are set to use all the main muscle groups in their bodies to transfer their energy into the disc. You can tell that if they were pulling your hand, they'd rip your arm off.

It's also worth noting that w/ the exception of big Jerm in the bottom left, everybody has their front foot planted at an exact 90 degrees from their trajectory during the weight shift. Jermey is huge and keeps a more open stance.

So the disc travels back in the reach back smoothly and relatively slowly, comes back to the chest relatively slowly and doesn't actually start to accelerate massively until it it's pulled into the center of their chest. Dave Feldberg has talked about the fact that you want your disc to remain on the angle you plan to release it through the reach back. If you are throwing a flat release, the disc should be flat in the reach back.

Next screen capture - all their weight is now on the front leg ready to go into their arm. Back foot is up on the toe (weight is fully off the back leg) - and you can see that they're all leading with the elbow. Feldberg is the anomaly here - he creates more of a tightening arc with his pull. The rest are all driving their elbows forward - chins down and very importantly their disc-hand is on the outside edge of the disc. You aren't pulling the disc forward with your hand on the front of the disc. Hand on the outside when the disc is close to your chest.

And here's why: this shot perfectly show the levering action of the disc almost coming out of their hands while their arm is opening up and your hand rotates to the front of the disc. Squeezing your grip extra hard right before you release it with a small thought of "I want this disc to lever out between my thumb and index finger" has helped me. You want to fight the torque as long as possible, keeping the wrist straight as late as you can.

From the point where your hand is at the front of the disc, the wrist extends open maybe an inch, and at that point you aren't going to be holding onto the disc long. Clamp down like a monster, and let the disc lever out between your fore finger and thumb.

Lets dig in a bit into WHY does all this make the disc fly further. What each of the pros above are doing is throwing a disc faster than their arm speed. They're imparting huge spin on the disc by pulling their hand very quickly from the outside of the disc to the front. The longer they wait to have their hand pop through that distance - the faster the disc will spin and the more it will accelerate. Furthermore, the faster a disc is spinning - the longer it will stay spinning. Once a disc stops spinning at a certain rate - the force keeping the left edge of the disc up will start pointing down and your disc will fade left.

A very accurate analogy that I've read about is if you were to consider yourself throwing a hammer. If you held the end of the hammer and swung it so that you were whipping it out of your hand - you could throw it much faster than your hand is traveling. If you don't whip it, it will only travel at your hand speed. We're throwing discs the same way, but our whip comes from moving our hand from the outside of the disc to the front before it's ripped from our fingers.

In getting my drives to go further, I realized that there was basically no more physical exertion in the action. I don't do anything faster, stronger or much harder. I simply had to start delay the release more and make sure to keep the disc nose down and squeeze harder on my grip right before the hit.

My run-up is slow and doesn't generate a ton of energy. It's something I know I need to improve - but the more I try to put into my run-up the worse things get. It adds hitches in the giddy-up as they say down south. Getting from 400' to 500' is going to be much harder I'm sure.

Lastly, choosing the right disc is important and unfortunately it's extremely dependent on personal preference. Everybody has a disc they'll tell you is awesome for this or that, but the reality is that a disc that I liked 8 weeks ago for distance is now too flippy. As you gain snap and power - you're going to overpower discs that you used to be fine with. Adding weight to the disc will add stability to a disc, so if you find yourself turning over a disc mold that you love - try throwing one that's 5-10 grams heavier.

Learning how to throw further and more accurately is frustrating and hard, and ultimately it comes with throwing for hours in a field and using what works. Many people have argued that throwing longer distance is not really needed. That being accurate trumps distance any day of the week and that's very true in certain places, but if I'm trying to improve all aspects of my game - and this is part of it. Being able to park a 350' hole so I don't have to sweat an approach or long putt means I'm way more likely to be able to birdie it.

Lead card driving at EO2013
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Ken Darcovich
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Joined: 14 Jun 1999
Posts: 2724
Location: Ottawa

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Shane.

I always appreciate detailed analysis on technique.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really enjoyed this Shane! Thank you! Actually made me start to think a little more about my form and my game
"You gotta to do what you gotta do."
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