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  • Chris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

Common Mistakes in Disc Golf: Throwing Too Hard

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve thrown a disc too hard. After an estimated 600,000 throws, I think I’d have a big enough pile of money to bathe in. So today I want to break down what Throwing Too Hard is exactly, what causes it, and how to avoid it, so you can do it less frequently than I have.

The various stages the author goes through after Throwing Too Hard

Throwing Too Hard is a disease which can infect good players of the game, but it usually attacks beginners and intermediates, as they struggle to properly understand the game, their discs, and themselves, with an ever-improving but inconsistent ability. Throwing Too Hard - in all its forms - is almost always followed by wishing you hadn't. Perhaps the only chance Throwing Too Hard has of a good outcome is for the disc to turn into an unintentional "throller" which stands up and rolls under the basket.

It can be broken down into five basic flavours;

  1. The automatic reaction to tiring and losing strength

  2. Trying to throw harder than your normal full power distance shot

  3. Throwing too hard for the disc

  4. Throwing too hard for the shot

  5. Throwing too hard for the conditions

There’s some overlap between Numbers 1 & 2, and 3 & 4, but they are distinct enough to deserve their own item number.

The automatic reaction to tiring and losing strength

Even some experts can suffer this kind of Throwing Too Hard, if they find they have overexerted themselves in practice, and the last round of a tournament can see them scraping the bottom of the barrel of their energy reserves. Professionals have usually eliminated this entirely from their game, with proper preparation, rest and match fitness.

If you run out of energy in tournament play, whatever the cause, the result is the same; your normal full power shot is not reaching the distance it normally does.

When this happens to you, I can guess that you will automatically try to throw harder than your normal power shot. This will never work out like you hope it might.

Trying to throw harder than your normal full power distance shot

PDGA#61990 Katka Bod'ova's huckface: crushing it with her normal, full-power drive
Katka Bod'ova's huckface: crushing it

This is a Very Bad Thing to try to do. There’s a reason your normal full power shot is called that: it’s the power level you are comfortable applying while still being able to maintain good form, and accuracy in execution.

You almost certainly do have more power you *could* use, but why would you try?

Going beyond what you practice is going to ruin your form or your timing, or both, due to you trying to perform the throwing motion faster than you normally would.

Additionally, when players attempt to throw with more power than they can control, they almost invariably apply extra power at the start of the throwing motion, instead of the end, where it might (possibly) do some good. Whenever I see players who are tired, and trying to throw hard, they almost invariably go with the body rotation early and hard, and leave the arm behind, which is of course the dreaded rounding, and this causes much sadness and dark mutterings.

On top of this, you risk injury if you muck up it. Ask Simon Lizotte about that. I am certain that after his injury, and the discovery that he is not a Master Of The Universe (and actually mortal) he pays much more attention to what his body is telling him, than he did beforehand. But you do not need to lose a season due to serious injury because you wrecked yourself when tired:

Simply listen to your body. It knows when it is done, even if you do not!

Will Schusterick with the world's longest reachback. Image courtesy of JomezPro.
Will Schusterick with the world's longest reachback. Courtesy of JomezPro.

A few paragraphs up I asked an important question, and then left you hanging...

So, why WOULD you try?

Well, there are a few reasons apart from tiredness. You might get a little mentally lazy, and skip some steps when performing your full Pre-Flight Checklist, which always includes an accurate assessment of your own energy levels, and ability to perform properly at the level you’re going to ask of yourself.

You might be facing a big headwind, in which case you could make an error of judgement, and try Throwing Too Hard.

You might be the last person on the card, and your card mates might be throwing further than you, and you might be tempted to do something silly, like try to keep up with them.

The Testosteroni has caused many young men to crash and burn
The Ferrari Testosteroni

You might be the longest thrower in the group, or get caught up in the temptation to show off, or enter into some sort of pissing match with your group. That would be a mistake; you’re competing against the course and the conditions, not against other players. And while it’s always nice to be the longest thrower in a group, it’s often not an indicator of the lowest score overall.

Throwing too hard for the disc

This is a mistake I still sometimes find myself making, especially when considering understable discs and on shots where less than full power is required. LINKY: How to dial down power.

It is easy to forget how well understable discs glide, and to put too much airspeed on them, causing them to turn too far, and crash into something early, instead of gliding out to achieve your target landing area.

It’s not an error of execution, because you put on exactly the power you intended, but that was simply too much power, and therefore was an error of disc assessment or flight shape assessment.

When we consider high-glide discs in the Speed 7 to 9 range, we need to understand that it is almost never appropriate to apply full power to such discs, unless we are determined to force the disc into the more radical flight shape such power/airspeed will create.

Straighter and more desirable flight shapes will usually be achieved by backing off the power on these discs, and leveraging your consequent increased ability to be accurate with direction, height, nose angle and hyzer angle. These discs usually have a relatively broad range of useful airspeeds, such that they are often called “Easy To Throw” – just as Latitude64 does.

Here I'm thinking of discs like the Jade, River, Saint,

Hatchet, Fury, Roadrunner, Sidewinder, et al. Basically discs with

Glide of 5 to 7, Turn of -1 to -4, and with fade of 1 to 2.

On the other hand, high-speed drivers normally have quite narrow ranges of target airspeed, especially if they are overstable.

As a concept, “throwing too hard for the disc” is a bit of a misnomer, and we should probably call it “throwing too hard for the desired flight shape”.

When passions collide. Bella Rakha private DGC, Auckland.
When passions collide. Bella Rakha private DGC, Auckland.

Throwing too hard for the shot

Typically, when you are faced with a low ceiling from the teepad, and a longish shot, your natural desire is to want to get a long way up the fairway, to give yourself a birdie look, or at least an easy par. You’ll choose a high-glide disc to try to max-out your range, but you might also make the mistake of underestimating how far a well-thrown disc will fly, (as above) and put too much power into it, resulting in an inaccurate throw which hits an early tree, yielding a tricky par.

Or, you’re facing an apparently wide double mando, and you lose sight of the fact it’s essentially to make the gap, and you spaz out, missing the mando completely, because you are trying for too much distance up the fairway.

Always consider what the most important aspect of a shot is; and then throw it so the disc glides out and does the work for you, rather than try and muscle it up the fairway. I can’t stress this enough: get the Plane Of Play right, and the disc will do most of the work for you.

Throwing too hard for the conditions

In high winds it is devilishly difficult to correctly evaluate the effect the wind will have on your disc unless you have a lot of experience. Players who are unaware of how extreme Wind Gradient can become will often overthrow their target because of how the disc behaves when it gains altitude. By “overthrow” I also mean, “blown 35 metres left or right of the basket”.

Headwind throws require good control and low altitude, with pin-point accuracy of nose and hyzer angle, as I have already discussed at length in our Nose Angle article. Because if you can keep a disc low to the ground, with a flat nose angle and no hyzer angle, then the disc can penetrate a long way into the slower wind at low altitude before the disc shows the wind a surface it can begin working on.

So, in headwinds you’re best to concentrate on form and not power, because a headwind shot that goes wrong can do so in fairly spectacular fashion.

Now we move onto throwing in the cold and wet. Unless your hands are warm, and unless you are able to completely dry your throwing hand and your disc to the point of 100% confidence in your grip then it should be obvious that you must not throw with full power.

Cold hands are arguably worse than wet hands. So, make sure you keep a few re-usable hand warmers in your kit for the really cold days.

Wet discs thrown at full power almost invariably result in early or late releases. If a player has spent some time concentrating on a properly straight pull and smash, and they are not trying to throw hard, then an early or late release usually doesn’t affect the direction much, only causing a disc to fall a bit short or fly a bit long.

This is the real reason we want a straight pull (and smash!), along the Line Of Play, and on the Plane Of Play; we are attempting to reduce the effect of natural errors in execution, via the use of error-tolerant form.

However, the vast majority of players have a rounded smash, and hence early or late releases result in discs spraying left or right as accuracy in a rounded smash is limited to release timing. This is due to the tangential nature of the disc being flung from an arcing hand.