Once a week Vortica examines what we consider to be one of the 12 Classic Mistakes In Disc Golf. They are as follows: Rounding, Lazy Off Arm, Dipping, Low Elbow, Teepad Speed, Crow Hopping, Throwing Too Hard, Nose Angle, Wrist Rolling, Over-Discing, Weight Shift, and Foot Plant.
What is rounding?
Rounding is when your body comes between the disc and the Line Of Play (The line the disc is intended to fly along), or the target. It results in a rounded pull, using mostly the shoulder, little elbow, and results in short inaccurate throws. The only way to be accurate when rounding is by the timing of the release, due to unavoidable physics: rotary motion always produces a tangent from an arc.
Typically, when new players “reach back” what they do is reach around their body, rather than reaching out along the Line of Play (LOP).
Rounding looks like the player is hugging themselves, and they sometimes hit their left shoulder or upper left arm with the disc during their throwing motion.
A good disc golf throw begins by pulling the disc along a straight line - The Line of Play. The Line Of Play is the continuation of the line the disc is going to fly along, traced all the way back to the furthest point in the reach back.
Pulling (and smashing) in a straight line means that early releases will simply drop a little short, but still be on the intended line, whereas rounding and letting go early results in a disc going strongly left.
Similarly, late releases on a straight line pull will cause the disc to fly a little long, but again – on the intended line, while a late rounded release results in an aggressive anhyzer going strongly right which often turns into a roller. This leads us to…
The Griplock Fallacy
Many pretty decent disc golfers (including yours truly) occasionally suffer from what is referred to as “Griplock”. Griplock is ostensibly when you hold onto a disc too long, and it spears off to the extreme right of your aim point, usually flying on an anhyzer line. But griplock is a myth.
What people are experiencing with “griplock” is rounding, and trying to throw too hard. The extra effort in a Very Hard Throw damages not just the timing, but the technique, resulting in a rounded smash.
How can I tell if I am rounding?
If once your pull begins, the angle between your upper arm and your chest ever decreases or is ever under 90 degrees, then you are rounding. Thanks to the Latitude64-sponsored player, Danny Lindahl, for this keen insight. Check out Danny’s great instructional YouTube Channel --> HERE.
Figure 1. The Line of Play, and keeping the chest to upper arm angle higher than 90 degrees.
The upper-arm-to-chest angle starts at 90 degrees (or more, if you rotate your shoulders further than square to the LOP) and it must increase throughout the throwing motion. If it decreases, then you are leaving the disc behind you, which means the only way to throw it is to bring it in an arc around your body, using mainly your shoulder.
Rounding looks like a player hugging themselves with their right arm, and the disc never reaches the right pectoral chest region, which is described as the “Power Pocket”. It’s where true power can be applied to a disc. (See Fig. 1, in the middle)
Another way to say this, is that as you begin to pull the disc forwards, you must start closing your elbow (from 180 degrees – straight), so that when the disc gets to your chest (right pec), your elbow angle is now around 90 degrees (or even less, if you want more power). This ensures that even though the shoulder may be turning, the disc is still coming to the chest because the hand and elbow are pulling it into the chest at the same time.
Another way to tell if you are rounding is to have someone stand behind you, looking at the line you are intending to throw along, and have them tell you if, at any time in the throwing motion, your body obscures the disc from the line.
A proper reach OUT feels like you are reaching well away from you and in front of you.
How to fix rounding
It can be extremely difficult to correct Classic Rounding, depending on how long you have been playing, how talented you are, and how aware of your body you are. The simplest and easiest way to correct rounding is to build one of my inventions - the Mobius Line Puller (Pictures here) or if you are not so talented with tools, using the following method:
Purchase at least 5 metres of rubber tubing from a Physiotherapist. These are used to create resistance for patients recovering from injury. The tubing you want is the lightest resistance possible – NOT THE HIGHEST!
Now, take an old midrange disc and drill a hole through the flight plate, the same size as the tubing, right next to the rim of the disc. Tie one end of the bungy cord through that hole.
Take a couple of large size Screw Eyes (with closed ends. Do not use hooks!), and screw into a fence post or similar, at the height of your hips, and another at the height of the base of your sternum. (The height simulates different types of throw: flat or hyzer with some height) Tie the other end of the bungy to the screw eye.
Now grab the disc with your normal power grip, just behind the tubing, so your thumb is almost on the rubber. Move away from the post, so that when you are standing in your fully reached back (reached OUT) position, the bungy cord only has a tiny amount of tension on it, and it is sagging slightly from horizontal.
It’s best to do this exercise in the middle of the day when the sun is highest. This casts a shadow of the bungy on the ground close to your feet. Depending on where that shadow is, use a piece of rope or a long board laid out on the ground, which aligns with the shadow perfectly. This is The Line Of Play.
You are going to watch the shadow of the bungy, to ensure you are pulling (and smashing) the disc along a straight line.
If you take the disc off the line at any time, you will notice that resistance rapidly increases – far beyond the tension created when pulling in a straight line. If you change the nose angle or hyzer angle, you will feel it, and it will be a result of not holding your elbow high enough.
Your shoulder, elbow wrist, hand and disc should create a flat plane, what I refer to as the Plane Of Play. The Plane of Play connects to the Line Of Play by way of the hand gripping the disc.
These straight pulling exercises are all done extremely slowly, from a standstill position. You are NOT using an X-Step here. Simply stand and make VERY slow throwing motions, but do NOT let go of the disc, otherwise you could easily get that disc in your face. I speak from my personal fat-lipped experience here; Take Heed!
In order to pull a disc along the Line of Play, and having it accelerated by a set of levers aligned along the Plane of Play, such that the disc does not deviate from its hyzer or nose angle at any time during the throwing motion, requires that your body is in very specific positions. You remain fully balanced at all times throughout a disc golf throw, and so it is easy to perform the throwing motion slowly so that you can teach your body how a straight pull actually *feels*.
In order to adopt the right position to start, and to maintain balance throughout, you absolutely must watch this great video made by Jason at Heavy Disc:
One of the greatest disc golf training videos of all time. Jason @ HeavyDisc: The One Step Drill
The idea behind using this bungy cord is for you to FEEL what it’s like to pull in a straight line and to reach OUT along the line, rather than reaching AROUND your body. The “reach back” is an inappropriate name for it, and I propose it be referred to as the “reach out”.
Now, this technique is very good at forcing you to pull in a straight line vertically, but it does not address the *Classic Dipping Issue*, which is where the disc is pulled downwards at the start of the pull, and then (often) upwards at the end. The Mobius Line Puller addresses both issues simultaneously, and the angle of it can be adjusted to simulate flat, high hyzer/anhyzer, and downhill shots.
Why is it important to pull down the Line Of Play?
If during your pull and smash you take the disc off the LOP, then in order for the throw to be accurate, you must put the disc back on the line while you are making a tremendous effort. This is very difficult compared to simply keeping the disc on the line the entire time – thus ensuring maximum accuracy at all times.
Additionally, “pulling down the line” is very efficient, resulting in less effort for more accurate throws. Less effort means easier timing. And disc golf is nothing but timing and technique. But as I always add; the other 95% is mental.
What are some other things which can help prevent rounding?
Do not try to throw hard
You know how much power you develop in your normal full-power drive. If you try to accelerate that throwing motion beyond what you normally would, then you will mess it up. It is extremely common for people to round the disc whenever they are searching for that little bit more. It wrecks the timing of the throwing motion.
Whether it is due to tiredness, or simply being too ambitious and trying to bite off more than you can chew, Trying Hard is almost always the kiss of death to a disc golf throw.
Being aware of your shoulder
and never allowing it to close relative to your chest is critical. The shoulder only comes into play once the disc reaches the chest, and then, when you apply power, you apply it to the elbow and then the shoulder, giving it absolutely everything.
And because your body positioning and balance has been correct throughout your pull and smash, the disc can only be ejected along the Line of Play, so you CAN put everything into it.
Keep your elbow stupidly high
If you feel like your elbow is stupidly high, then it is may be almost high enough. In order to create the Plane Of Play, along which energy can be transferred efficiently, it is necessary to keep that elbow crazily high. The Mobius Line Puller demonstrates the fact the keeping the elbow high maximises the power delivered to the disc and maintains the correct hyzer and nose angle throughout the throwing motion.
Close the elbow to initiate the throw
Simply closing the elbow brings the disc into the Power Pocket, where the elbow and shoulder can smash the living crap out of the disc.
Turn the hips, not the shoulders
Just as the full weight transfer to the heel of the plant foot begins the forwards motion of the disc, it also informs the left knee to turn inwards and downwards.
Applying power very late
Most players apply power to the disc far too early. None should be applied until the disc reaches the Power Pocket – the right pectoral region of the chest. This results in the levers on the Plane Of Play being as closed as possible, while the body is positioned in its most powerful possible position for the backhand throw.
The later you can apply power the better. If you can wait until the very last instant to hit it with everything you’ve got, then everything you’ve got will result in your longest throws.
Until the disc gets to your chest, all you are doing is turning your left knee inwards and downwards to rotate the hips. All you are doing with the throwing arm is closing the elbow at the rate needed to get the disc to your chest just as the shoulders becomes parallel with the Line of Play. No effort is required to do this. [Note 1.]
Accept that timing and technique, not strength, make discs fly far
Working to become physically stronger to improve your disc golf game will only yield results if you are already a 960+ rated player. For everyone else except the 90lb weakling, working on form and timing is the best way to improve your driving.
Use a camera.
Film your self from behind when you throw. You will easily be able to see if the disc travels along a straight line, or not.
Under no circumstances should you ever upload a video shot in Vertical Video Mode.
Other videos and exercises which help cure rounding
• Driving with Dan Beto:
Nine years old, and still the very best X-Step training video.
• The author, trying to demonstrate straight pulling from a worm’s eye view:
Finally, does a straight pull create the most powerful shot?
Yes. And no. :P
If you are a beginner or intermediate player, there is no doubt that pulling along the Line Of Play will result in superior throws with superior distance. But, expert players may well generate more absolute disc speed using the Wide Rail technique, which results in the disc moving in the shape of a reversed question mark (?). The Wide Rail results in a rounded smash, which applies more power to the disc, but which also relies on pinpoint timing of the ejection point. But that’s for another Blog post, I think!
Now get out there and rip it along the Line Of Play!
At the top end of the sport, big distance throwers put in huge amounts of energy from the instant the disc starts moving forwards, including accelerating the disc in to the chest region for the smash. But this is required, because of the overall speed the throwing motion is performed.
To perform at such a level requires training at the very limit of performance in order to refine the timing.