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First Time Players
If you have any tips you would like to add or if you have any requests for tips that are not here, e-mail me and I'll be happy to do what I can.
I realize that I'm not a top pro, but I have played a lot and worked hard at developing my game. Here are some things I think are critical to developing a solid game with good technique and having it be enjoyable in the process.
Choosing the right disc. There's a very large selection of discs on the market and I know it can be overwhelming for newer players to try and find a disc that they will have success with. Beginners should generally start with lighter discs that will fly straight and have good glide. Choosing too heavy a disc or more overstable discs will probably be difficult to control and can lead to frustrating rounds. I have written a more in depth description of disc selection here. For questions on the terms used in describing discs check the section on Disc Terminology.
Developing good technique. If you get a chance to see more experienced players, you'll see that distance and accuracy comes more with proper technique and motion than with raw power. Newer players should concentrate more on keeping the disc flat than trying to rip long drives. Distance will come with time and practice. Developing proper grip, form, and release will aid you in the long run. I have linked to Rick Bays' "License to Drive" article in the Driving For Distance section and I feel that it is a very good article describing the mechanics of the distance drive.
Disc recommendations. I have fairly extensive experience with discs and I have also introduced a fair share of players to the game. In addition to a section on disc selection I also have compiled a basic comparative disc stability chart and some sample disc sets.
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Driving For Distance
There are two distinctly different driving techniques out there. The first of which is the most common and known as the "Reach Back Method." The other technique is known as the "Bent Elbow Technique." Success with each technique depends heavily upon your ability level and body shape. While I can't say which technique will work best for you, here is some info describing both forms.
Rick Bays has described the "Reach Back Method" very well in his article "License to Drive" and instead of regurgitating what he has already described in detail, I recommend you read this article to get a better idea of form. Some of the things he has described in the article might be a little much for beginners. If you are having trouble keeping the disc flat, the X-step run up should probably be avoided until you are able to do so. Scott Stokely's Instructional Video #1 is also gives an in depth description of this technique.
Dave Dunipace and another individual have collaborated and compiled info on the "Bent Elbow Technique." Originating from the "Distance Secrets" thread on the PDGA Message Board, I have posted the compiled "Distance Secrets" article for your reference. If you are confident with your current throw but would like to try to add more distance without changing your current technique, I have added a section to the technique troubleshooter that deals specifically with this subject.
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Gripping the disc happens before you even step up to throw. There are some general rules of grip, although later on in your game you may feel the need to modify it, here are a few basic tips to get you started. You should be using a grip that has all 4 fingers under the disc. Your grip should be firm and the disc should rip out of your hand rather than slip out. If you are trying to let go of the disc, a consistent release is near impossible. Your grip should be loose enough to let your forearm and wrist move freely before the disc rips out. When people talk about a very tight grip they are referring to tightening the grip right when the disc should rip out of your hand. Your thumb should as close to the edge of the disc as possible while still being over the soft part of the disc.
Footwork and balance will dictate the success and failure of your throw. If you are off balance and have a poor center of gravity a consistent and accurate throw will be very difficult to achieve without compensating in other ways. While it is possible to do, the most efficient techniques are those with good balance throughout the throw. You should be throwing with the X-step. If you use an extra run-up or stutter step, the X-step will be the last 3 steps of your throw. Try to stay light, quick, and smooth on your feet. Heavy steps will lead to mistiming and make shifting your weight more difficult. Make sure you get your weight over your front foot when you plant and start your throw. If your weight is behind your foot it will affect your throw in negative ways and also risk injuries to your knee and ankle. Use the explosion of your hips to start your body rotation. The direction of your feet will lead your hips, your hips will turn your torso, your torso will turn your shoulders, and your shoulders will lead your arm.
There are mixed philosophies on the reach back part of your throw. There are however a few things that are consistent between the various techniques. Your reach should only be as far as you feel comfortable with and can maintain good balance. You should reach in a straight line rather than swinging the disc back on an arc. You should also plan your intended throw during this time. For a flat line drive your hand should be on the same plane as the disc. For a hyzer, your hand should be under the disc and for an anhyzer, your hand should be above the disc.
The pull-through is where you begin to generate the power needed for a long throw. For maximum power and speed your shoulder rotation should pull your arm through. Don't try to muscle or “strong arm” the disc it won't be nearly as powerful or fast as a whip driven by the shoulders. Also, keep the disc as close to your chest as possible and let your elbow bend. The extension of your elbow during the latter part of your throw will be your main power source. You should also have your off arm close to your body during the throw in order to let your body rotate as fast as possible. Also of importance, try to be as strong as possible at the point the disc will leave your hand rather than at the beginning of your throw. This should give you maximum snap as the power is focused on getting the most force on the disc at the release rather than during the pull.
A good follow-through is important for both a clean throw and to avoid injury. Although you should be smooth and loose during the first part of your throw, concentrate on finishing strong during your follow-through. A clean pivot is also good to avoid knee injury, as your body will continue rotating after the disc leaves your hand.
Disc selection is also a very important part of your game. Make sure you are throwing discs that are light enough and easy enough for you to control. Most of the modern “ultra long” drivers are designed with the pro player in mind. Most new players will have the best success with discs that are easy to control and have good glide and discs under 170 grams in weight. A rule of thumb is if your average distance is less than 200' you will probably have the most success with the larger diameter all-around midrange discs and drivers. If you can throw 200-250' on average the easier to control small-diameter drivers should be within your range of control. Once you can throw 250'+ you will be in a better position to control the faster overstable maximum distance drivers.
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Throw every shot firm. If you are slow and soft a consistent release will be more difficult. Shorten up and use less body rotation on shorter shots rather than throwing softer.
Don't try to overpower midrange discs. Long throws with a midrange are achieved through finesse, quickness, and a solid finish instead of raw power. Too much strength will turn over midrange discs.
Aim just short and slightly to the right of your target (for RHBH throws). The disc will curl to the left and slide/skip a little. Play this knowledge to your advantage.
If you are outside of your realistic make range, your goal should be for a drop-in putt. Although spectacular when it goes in, running at the chains from a long ways out is an easy way to lose a stroke by leaving you with a difficult comeback putt.
Throw your slowest/shortest disc that can get you to your desired target. This is the same idea as hitting a 9-iron vs. choking up on a 5-iron. Slower and shorter discs are more accurate than longer, faster discs. Use whatever can get you there with the most consistency and accuracy (this will often be your putter).
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Try to putt with the disc flat or nose down and go for a lofting up and down arcing flight path. This line is advantageous vs. a line drive putt by reducing the fly by distance of misses.
Learn to play the wind. Headwinds make the disc rise while tailwinds make the disc drop faster. Practicing your putt when its windy out will help you gauge the angles and trajectories you need for success in the wind.
Don't try to muscle your putts. The power for a putt is generated by a weight shift forward. On longer putts try to get more of a weight shift. Your putting motion should be quick. Slower motions can be inconsistent and have a tendency to putt low if you are afraid of missing. You want a form that is consistent and that you can repeat again and again.
Use the spring of your fingers to your advantage. Springing your fingers off the disc (like throwing a dart) will give you a clean release and generate enough spin on the disc to keep it from wobbling.
Putt how you practice and practice how you putt. If you spend a lot of time lining up your putt and focusing when you throw a round, do not rapid-fire putt during practice. If you prefer to rapid-fire putt during practice, do not spend too much time lining up your putt when you throw a round. Putting differently will cause changes in your putting stroke between practice and the round. Know your putt and try to feel it with every throw.
Know when the smart play is to lay up. Long putts are great when they go in but can be a nightmare if you miss. If your 50% make range is 25', don't run at the chains from 50' if you will leave yourself with a comeback putt longer than 25'. Play smart and know the right time to go for it.
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Tips For First Time Players
Go out and have fun. Don't let more experienced players intimidate you with their distance and accuracy. Throw an easy to control disc and focus on accuracy. Distance will come with time and experience so focus on putting your disc down in the middle of the fairway. Keep it simple and don't try advanced techniques until you have some basic form and control down. Throw with 1-step rather than trying to attempt a run up. Try to keep the disc close to your chest and keep it as flat as possible. Wait until you feel you are consistent and accurate before trying to add to your throw. Remember to have fun.
*Note* All statements will be made assuming a right-handed backhand (RHBH) throw. Left-handed backhand and right-handed forehand throws will result in a flight path opposite of the ones described here.
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