Most disc golfers think predominantly about their throwing arm, but the off hand is just as important in the backhand drive. Vortica Disc Golf takes an in-depth look at the role of the Other Hand.
In disc golf, it is extremely common for new players to almost totally ignore their off hand and arm, particularly after the disc has been released. The left hand (off hand for right handers) is very important in every backhand throw, as it is critically involved in balance, and counteracting the rotational force you create, during a throw.
The reason there is a rotational force at all is because the straight line the disc is pulled along has an end; when the arm is almost fully extended, and the disc rips out of the grip, the hand and arm have no choice and must travel in a radial arc around the shoulder. But, this is only 50% of the follow through. The other 50% is completed by your left hand and arm.
So, straight-line energy is converted to rotational energy by the shoulder joint after the release. This makes the shape the throwing hand travels in an X-Step power throw, look like a capital letter P or D, when viewed from directly overhead. The release point is the top left corner of the letters.
I carefully say “arm almost fully extended” because, we do not want to damage our elbow, so we bring our arm to an abrupt halt just before the elbow goes completely straight. This protects the elbow from painful and injurious hyperextension. After the disc is released, the elbow and arm typically relax, and the arm straightens completely during the follow through.
Failing to properly engage the off arm and hand in a throw prevents a full reach back, stops a natural follow through, causes the thrower to fall out of balance, and looks terrible. The hallmark of a good disc golfer is finishing balanced on the plant foot with the off elbow pointed pretty much pointed down the Line of Play (see Figure 3).
What is the best off hand form possible?
In this writer’s opinion, Will Schusterick has the finest backhand form of any person to ever play the game. His frankly beautiful form is permitted by his ectomorphic body type and his extreme flexibility. It is indeed unfortunate that mesomorphs and the obese, are physically unable to entirely replicate his form due to the biomechanics of larger bodies.
However, there are three aspects of Will’s use of his left arm in his driving motion, which anyone can replicate to improve their game, regardless of their body size or shape.
Firstly, during the reach back, Will pumps his left elbow behind his back, (Figure 1.) and this rotates his shoulders more than 90 degrees from the Line of Play. Consequently, his reach back is extended by at least 100 millimetres, and perhaps as much as 150. You should do this too if you wish to extract more from your already excellent form.
Coincidentally, this huge reach back of Will’s is matched by a huge final step. Will can get away with this, because of his exceptional skill and talent. You should NOT attempt such a long final step until your form and balance are also exceptional, as it will drop your Centre of Gravity precipitously, putting you out of balance. (See the Classic Dipping Issue topic).
Secondly, as the disc is drawn towards his body, he drives his left knee inwards and downwards (engaging his hips, as seen in Figure 2.) and he moves his left arm downwards towards his crotch. His upper arm is fully down and tucked in tight to his body by the time the disc reaches the Power Pocket (Right pectoral region) for the smash. This is what you need to do, too.
Will keeps his left arm extended vertically downwards until the disc rips out.
Thirdly, the instant the disc leaves his right hand, he fires his left arm upwards and outwards in exactly the same way a skater lifts their arms from their sides, and extends them horizontally, to slow down their spinning speed.
As the arm swings up and out, to fully exploit all the counter-rotational power it contains, Will’s hand swings around the end of his arm, such that when he finishes, he is balanced perfectly on his plant foot, with his elbow pointed down the Line of Play (Figure 3).
What happens if I don’t use my off arm like Will do?
You will find it difficult to finish a throw well. You will be out of balance, as soon as the disc is released, and you may slip or fall.
I throw with my left arm up high, is that bad?
Yes. There are some famous throwers such as ex-world distance champ Garrett Gurthie who pull-through with their left arm horizontally extended. And to the untrained eye, it sometimes looks like Dave Feldberg has a high left arm, but he buries it for the smash, just like everyone else.
The truth is that a high off arm robs you of distance as it prevents the shoulders turning freely right at the point where you want them to move as freely as possible. Gurthie was able to break the world record **despite** his form, and not **because of** it!
I tried pushing my left arm down in the pull-through but it doesn’t work!
It took me a long time, too. This is what I did. Maybe it’ll work for you. Put on some tight pants. Stuff your left hand in the left front pocket and make a fist. Do a bunch of flat and straight midrange throws with the left hand stuck firmly into the pocket.
This will not make you throw well, but it will give you the feeling of a low arm during the pull.
Later, use some slightly less voice-raising pants, and pull your hand out of the pocket as the disc rips out, and punch it outwards, using a lot of strength, and swing that hand around the elbow at the same time, for increased effect. After that, just practice pumping your left elbow backwards to extend your reachback, and putting it in your pretend pants pocket as you pull the disc in to your chest. Voila
Help! I push my arm downwards, but it goes behind my back!
This can actually work, but the timing will be more difficult than if you push down in front of your body rather than behind. As long as the arm is properly down, you can rocket it up and out from behind you as the shoulders come through, but your form will be pretty quirky, and people like me will tease you mercilessly. :)
Take it easy.
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TL;DR – Do It Like Will Do: pump left elbow backwards on the reach back, bury the left hand in your crotch for the smash, and rocket it up, out and around to finish and balance. Now get out there and rip it a new one!
1) Will’s video from which the screengrabs are taken. Well worth watching.
Please take the time to open this video in a new tab, and Like and Subscribe to Will’s YouTube channel.
2) Feet Together, One-Step drill by Jason @ HeavyDisc.
One of the most important disc golf training videos of all time. Learn how to balance, and stay balanced.