Trees, without them disc golf would be boring.
This week in the blog I’d like to help you hit more gaps, tunnel shots, and be able to go straight at the pin more often.
Why is throwing straight important?
I’d argue throwing straight is just as important as distance, especially when you play wooded courses. It’s always frustrating when everyone else on your card pures a 20 foot gap for 300 feet and you’re 100 feet down the fairway having to pitch out sideways to the fairway. That’s like a 2 stroke swing!
Pros make a living hitting gaps and straight shots, and even they miss sometimes. Gannon hit lots of big shots to win the 2022 USDGC. His ability to throw a fairway driver straight 325 feet was one of those reasons.
Sure, there’s tournaments like the Las Vegas Challenge where they need distance over accuracy on some holes. But next year we’ve got Smuggs for worlds. Gregg Barsby won in Vermont in 2018 because he can throw straight shots consistently. Distance is important, control is just as important.
How far can you throw straight?
I’m not talking about that one time you pured a gap with a high speed driver and somehow missed every tree. I want to talk about realistic and consistent tunnel shots that you can hit over and over.
We’re all capable of throwing 10 feet straight. That’s a short putt that we’ve all hit before (and probably all missed as well). But for the most part we can all hit that regularly and with something that short we don’t really aim for any side to side action. We want to aim really straight at the pole, or maybe to the chain link just to the right or left of the pole. So that’s our baseline distance for a straight throw
I think the above average player can throw about 100 feet straight with a putter, 200 feet straight with a mid, and 300 feet straight with a fairway driver. There are no distance drivers that I can think of that consistently are straight (without hyzerflipping). They have to be thrown so fast to not hyzer out that throwing them straight is a rarity.
What’s the first step to throwing straight?
Throw the disc level. I can’t stress how important it is to throw the disc on a level release. It’s much more likely that you won’t flip over a disc or hyzer out early when you throw level.
This is a very time consuming and frustrating part of disc golf. Throwing a flat, level throw, with very little wobble is what really separates serious players from folks who just get out once a month.
Just like when I warm up for long distance drives, I throw my midranges to practice throwing straight. I don’t care about the distance. I don’t care if they go left or right. The only thing I’m going to be focusing on is that they come out flat, and no wobble.
Sometimes it’s 10 throws to warm up and get things right. Other times it takes 40 throws.
There’s not much of a science to it other than to do it until it feels right.
Once you have the disc flying level it’s time to pick the right disc for the job.
I think the 100-200-300 method is a great way to think about straight shots. If it’s about 100 feet pick a putter, 200 feet for a mid, and 300 feet for a driver.
Sure you can pump a putter 300 feet, but that’s a lot of effort! Try throwing discs the way they’re designed to fly and you’ll have plenty of success.
Here are my Innova disc recommendations at 100-200-300 feet for backhand and forehand discs. These are discs that I have success with at those distances. Notice that most of the discs when you add the Turn and Fade together have a rating of 0, -1, or 1. For a straight shot you want discs that don’t have lots of turn and fade. The exception is the AviarX3, which I believe is straight when thrown short. In my experience it’s much less fade than a 3, I’d say it’s much closer to 1.5.
Does a forehand or backhand matter for the distance you can throw straight?
Great question! The only difference that I notice is disc selection for players. Forehand players and backhand players can throw those 100-300 feet with the same level of accuracy, it depends on which throwing style is your natural one. I think forehand throws tend to need a bit more stability in their discs because of the initial torque of the forehand.
One example I’m going to give is of an Innova Aviar versus an Innova AviarX3. These are both excellent disc choices for the 100 foot straight throw.
The Aviar doesn’t handle the torque of a forehand throw as well as the AviarX3 will. There’s some folks out there who can do a short forehand of putters very well. I’m not one of them, and touchy upshots with discs that aren’t as stable are tough to throw.
So if you’re a forehand thrower for those 100 foot shots I highly recommend getting something a little flatter top and with a little bit of fade. Some “approach discs” like the Pig or Zone are very beefy and will hold straight only as long as they have lots of power behind them.
Last tip, something I learned from Philo Brathwaite.
When Philo was here teaching players in September I had a great time learning from him. The one trick that I took from him was to think about my disc as something different from my hips. In lessons I often tell people to stop after they throw and to look at where their hips and shoulders are pointed. You’ll find that lots of times you’re pointed right at where the disc is going to land.
Philo told the clinic that there has to be space in a gap for your disc to fly, not your hips. Oftentimes we point our hips down the fairway (for backhand throws), but the disc is a foot away from my hips when I’m throwing it. If you don’t adjust where you’re standing or where you’re pointing to compensate for that extra foot, you’ll end up hitting the trees. I compensate by aiming a foot to the right of where I have been and I’ve seen myself making a lot more straight throws. When you only have 10 feet of fairway to work with it really makes a difference.
Throwing straight in disc golf is an advanced disc golfer skill. It’s something that takes the commitment of time and practice, choosing the right discs, and making mistakes. If you play somewhere wooded you’ll need to learn to throw straight down the tunnel to improve your game.
I hope that this blog helps you hit more gaps and tunnel shots. Let me know if there’s a trick that you find helps you.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397