top of page
  • Writer's pictureChris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

12 Classic Mistakes in Disc Golf. No 5 - Classic Teepad Speed Issue

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Many disc golfers make the classic mistake of thinking that running on the teepad equates to added distance. It does not. Today Vortica takes a close look at why running on the teepad is bad, what the best way to extend your distance is, and how to perform an X-Step so that you can extract the maximum from it.

Coffee as served by Disc Golf Hall of Famer, Bob Gentil
Coffee as served by Disc Golf Hall of Famer, Bob Gentil

While it is certainly true that the X-Step is designed to add your forward velocity in the X-Step, to the forward velocity of the disc, it is also true that probably only the top 10% of all X-Stepping players are able to transfer any forward velocity at all from their body into their disc.

Why is this?

The reason is that the only way the X-Step can work to move the forward momentum from the body into the disc, is if the player brings their body to an abrupt halt before the disc is smashed. That plant foot is an anchor, which is designed to stop the body’s forward motion completely.

If the player comes up onto the plant leg, and then falls forward over the top of it like a vole-vaulter (a “falling drive”), no significant extra speed has been added to the disc by the X-Step.

New players tend to think that by running on the teepad, they will add their running speed to the airspeed of the disc when they throw it. But this is usually not true. And while you will see the World Record distance throwers literally sprinting in their 360 maximum distance drives, you will also note their foot plant is incredibly aggressive, in an attempt to stop themselves and shift that momentum up the body via the spine, and into the throwing arm, by way of the hips turning. And the hips turn because the left knee is turned inwards and downwards. All but the most talented and co-ordinated players in the world will always benefit from slowing down on the teepad, rather than speeding up. Speeding up makes the timing of things far more difficult, and mistiming results in low quality, and/or low power throws.

There’s a maxim from car racing which is highly relevant to disc golf; the concept of “Slow in, fast out”. In other words, you have to slow down a LOT, in order to be fast OUT of the turn.

Similarly, disc golfers need to bring the disc to the right pectoral region of the chest, using almost no effort at all, and then to apply every last bit of power available into smashing the disc out and on its way. You are trying to move from slow to fast as quickly as possible. The more proficient you are, the faster the initial part of the throw will be.

Waitawa. Champagne 9. South of Auckland
Waitawa. Champagne 9. South of Auckland

“Slow is smooth, and smooth is far”

The smash has to be hard and fast, so once the disc gets to your chest, you are giving it absolutely everything you’ve got – and it’s the timing of this which is much easier to get right when you approach it slowly.

And this is the other main function of the X-Step; to assist in the timing of the motions in the throw. A slow, regular step results in superior timing, and superior power in the smash/hit. This results in longer throws.

It is often the case that even for relatively short throws where an X-Step is not required for power, using a very slow X-Step will result in a better throw – especially if you do not practice standing shots. The X-Step forces you into your proper rhythm, and hence the timing becomes easy to get right, and good timing is essential for good throws.

Don’t Look Away in the X-Step unless you Absolutely Have To!

You only have to turn your head away for shots where you must reach back so far that you can’t possibly keep your eyes on the target. For ALL (and I do mean all!) upshots using an x-step that require less than full power, reduce your reachback, so that you never take your eyes off the Line Of Play.

David Keene playing at Bella Rakha, Auckland
David Keene playing at Bella Rakha, Auckland

I have trained myself to look ridiculously far to the right with my right eye, so that I can perform even a fairly powerful x-step without looking away. This increases accuracy so much more than aiming with the footwork alone.

In a standstill throw, you should never look away from the Line of Play, unless your stance is compromised and you need full power.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I have seen an intermediate player standing still, and reaching back, and the instant their hand starts to go backward, they turn their head 180 degrees from the Line Of Play, totally disconnecting themselves from the LOP, when there was absolutely no reason to do so. They could have easily reached back less, smashed just as hard, and made the distance without ever taking one eye off the line.

I can’t stress this enough. Keeping visual contact with your target line is so important in disc golf. Especially for less than superhero-talented people like me – and most likely you, too.

Watch Ken “The Champ” Climo when he is driving. Even when he reaches back fully, he still has his head on an angle where his right eye is still in contact with his line. Many years of training have allowed him to see far past the point at which most people can see things, because he has an unmatched ability to focus his brain on the low-quality, black and white image formed by the extreme left periphery in his retina.

Look Back Late! When you do have to turn fully away from the line, in order to extract all your power from the throw, make sure you keep in touch with the line for as long as you possibly can before turning the head back, to extend the reachback.

What you absolutely must NOT do, is snap the head around as soon as you begin pulling the disc forward, as that will usually lead to extreme rounding, as it will pull the left shoulder with it. (You can read all about Classic Rounding over here.)

Once you have turned fully back, then the spine rotating is what brings the shoulders and head around to be parallel with the LOP for the smash. It is the left shoulder turning which forces the head to come through.

Once again – that rotation is created by turning the left knee in and down – and it only works if the spine is poking vertically out of the hips. Any curvature left or right, of the spine, will prevent it turning, as it would require spastic motions of the upper body to all