Thoughts from a 40 year old disc golf newb - warning excessively long

Tinkles

Birdie Member
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Location
Atlanta
Background
I'm 40 and I've been playing for about 8 months. I am completely obsessed. I played golf for the last 15 years and when I discovered disc golf I found a hobby that scratched all the same itches as regular golf but offered its own unique experience that I love.

I consider myself a 350' barrier thrower. The max distance I have 100% accurately measured is 360' on a football field. Its has been several months since I have been on a football field but I would guess my max is now probably closer to 380'+, maybe even some getting out to 400', but I still think my consistently thrown distance is closer to 350'.

I generally carry a lot of putters (because they are the best), a couple mids, several 7 speeds, 11 speeds, and utility discs. I stopped carrying/throwing mids for the most part because I can throw a 3 speed putters about 300' which is about where my mids go. For whatever reason I find 5 speed discs to be the least comfortable, most touchy, and nose angle sensitive.

In my journey to get here I have used a lot of info on this forum, particularly from sidewinder, slowplastic, HUB and a ton of others and I really appreciate all the work people put in to share their insights. I wanted to share some of my aha moments moving from the 300' barrier to the 350' barrier which might help others new to the sport but also open them up for critique to see if others further along than myself can offer some insight and improvement for me too.

Please keep in mind these are things that have worked for me and I'm open to any debate and know I am still learning.


Feeling the whip and overcoming the mental hurdle of strong-arming
I am not necessarily a proponent of this as a throwing style, but it helped me feel the whip for the first time and the power that could be generated from that so I could get over the mental hurdle of strong-arming.

My first few times playing, I was probably throwing 200'. After learning about some form basics, I was able to improve, but for the first 3 months of playing, my primary drivers were a leo3 and a star beast where 300' was an absolute crush, but I was more consistently throwing around 250'. I was trying to follow the form tips I was reading but knew I was still strong arming. Finally, one day I was in the field and frustrated with my lack of progress and I said screw it I'm going to try something different.

What I did was force myself into an extended standstill position. I started feet together, shoulders and hips aligned at the target. I stepped out with my right foot toward the target (rhbh) to about shoulder width and so that my right heel would be just in front of or even with my left toe. I had my right foot/ toe point in about 45 ish degrees, which also naturally turned my hips and shoulders away from the target. I let my hips do what they naturally did from this footing, but I made sure my shoulders/chest turned close to perpendicular to the target line. I extended my right arm out perpendicular to my chest and locked my elbow. So now my right arm is parallel to or on the target line. I extended my right shoulder out – kind of pushing my arm further away from the target and from my chest. This had me feel like my arm and shoulder are really extended. I think this part is important not because you need to do it when you normally throw but just to really get into a position where strong arming will be useless if you try for the purposes of this exercise.

My weight was mostly on my left foot. For my right foot, my toe/ball is on the ground and the heel is in the air, ready to crush the can. My legs aren't extended a lot but comfortable and balanced. My right arm and shoulder feel very extended and pushed away from the target. I have the disc pointed more down than flat which felt natural and helps get my elbow in a good position. My arm isn't tense but is locked and reaching away with the shoulder extended. From this position I said to myself, how are you going to throw the disc as far as you can. I literally just closed my eyes and let the disc fly trying to do it without thinking.

Because my arm/shoulder were so extended, strong arming didn't really seem like an option that would propel the disc far, so my mind kind of naturally overrode that tendency. What naturally happened was that my hips fired and my right heel crushed the can, my shoulders followed, my arm felt/went completely loose with my elbow collapsing bringing the disc close to my body, coming through and being flung out. I felt my hips/core drive the throw and my arm being a much more passive whip. I was almost instantly throwing my champ leopard3 300'+ from a standstill which was a big deal for me. Just from this, I was throwing 50' further than my friends who had started at the same time as me.


Basics that have worked for me to start getting out closer to 400'

1) Footwork, Hips, & Bracing?
This starts with what I explained in the feeling the whip section. Letting my feet/hips/core start the throw was the first key toward generating some power.

Another thing that helped was a video (I think sidewinder linked) on posting/bracing on your right side. It was a pitcher working on mechanics and showing how they straightened the lead leg and sank into the lead hip as they turned into the throw. I started trying to do this as part of my hip turn.

I could feel my right hip raise up a little higher and right knee straighten up and I would naturally apply my weight to my heel. This is how I started turning on my heel. At one point I was actively thinking about and trying to get onto my right heel and this was not working. Now, as my right hip and glute go back, my leg straightens and my weight naturally shifts onto the heel more than the front of the foot. This reminds me of a ball golf move where you post up on the front side transferring power from hips/core to swing.

I still tend to do this a little too early in the throw which saps some of the power. I think if I can delay the posting until the disc is closer to the power pocket, it would be more optimal but the timing isn't natural yet. My hips start the throw but I think they need to start slower with the big push coming later in the throw, timed with the power pocket.

I think this is what slowplastic means when he says:
"Problems:
-starting the throw by crushing the can with the plant foot (dragging the body into the throw), rather than shifting into the can crush


I still haven't figured this out but know I need to do better getting off my back foot, transferring weight, and following through.

2) Grip
There are several great videos/posts on grip but what I was really failing to get was the pressure and pivot point. The first breakthrough I had in grip was moving to a fork grip (Climo grip?) for everything 7 speed and lower. This just worked so much better for me. Even when I am power gripping an 11 speed driver, I start by putting it in a fork grip and then fold the 2 fingers in.

More importantly for me was figuring out pressure points. For a long time, I was gripping too hard and really locking my fingers in against the rim. I would occasionally have throws that would catch my pointer finger and really tug on it causing pain and swelling. I was focused on applying pressure up against the bottom corner edge of the rim with the first knuckle of my finger while my finger tip pushed against the inside of the rim. This was not working well.

I kept seeing pros play with their disc very loosely on the tee pad pivoting/rolling the disc (just their thumb and pointer finger holding it) before taking their full grip and starting their run up. That got me to thinking that there is no way they are gipping like I am or with the pressure I am.

I started doing what they were doing and realized what felt right and seemed to matter most is the pressure point between your pointer finger and thumb. I started to really focus on that and let the other fingers go where they wanted naturally. This had 2 affects. First, pressure was primarily applied at the pivot point and second, I was holding the disc much more in my fingers rather than in my palm. My thumb pad was no longer pushed down on the flight plate of the disc. For slower discs, the thumb pressure point is closer to the thumb tip and for distance drivers its more on the first knuckle of the thumb. I also started focusing on keeping my wrist loose and springy. Since working with the bouncy wrist and pivot point focus, I noticed immediate gains, I think possibly maxing out closer to 380-400' on a perfect toss.

I think this also makes you "feel" more like you are leveraging the outside of the disc. I can also feel the "wrist bounce" in the throw. The bounce is not something I try to do. My thought is just keep it loose, but when I feel it bounce I know it loaded and is going far for me.

I was much more inclined to throw this way when throwing putters for whatever reason and now that I am actively incorporating it into all throws, I am seeing improvements.

3) Shoulder Turn & Angle
Just like in ball golf, I think shoulder turn is key. In both sports you want to maintain the angle of your lead arm relative to your chest and not let it collapse (hugging yourself). In ball golf this leads to getting "stuck" and usually hitting a huge push about 20 degrees right of your target. Both sports rely on the hands staying in front of the chest and not collapsing against it. This is something called the "arm swing illusion" in ball golf where what you think you see when you watch a swing is the arm collapsing into the chest but the reality is the club is kept in front of the chest.

In disc golf, I also get stuck and either "round" (I turned my shoulder but hugged myself collapsing the angle) or I just pull the disc (hugged myself and shoulder never turned and has nowhere to go when you start the throw except out to the right). In both cases, the disc usually is pulled to the right.

Two things helped me here. One was the picture of hugging yourself vs hugging someone else. The concept of feeling like you are dancing with someone helps me. Second, during my throw, I focus on turning my right shoulder away from the target, not moving my arm. I generally think of my shoulder/arm angle as not changing much which has been discussed in these forums and my arm just kind of follows where my shoulder goes.

My biggest issue now is pulling the disc right which I can usually attribute to the following:
o Getting lazy with my shoulder turn
o Collapsing the angle between arm and shoulder
o Not staggering my feet
o Trying to throw hard and standing up opening my chest early

If you got this far, wow you are a masochist.
 
Yes, really long post but big cheers for writing it all down. I think everyone that is regular in the Improvement sub-section on this forum has gone through very similar process and maybe started a draft like this but probably not as thorough or coherent. Hell the thread you were referencing was part of SP's process.

I've kept thinking of doing some videos of my own on the learning points and ah-ha moments from all the drills. Part of my big problem is doing 0.1% as much field work as I should or would recommend to someone like me and doing only a small amount more filming.

I love reading about people's progress.
 
After your comprehensive soliloquy I thought I should come up with something.

Disc golf! Woooo
 
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In disc golf, I also get stuck and either "round" (I turned my shoulder but hugged myself collapsing the angle) or I just pull the disc (hugged myself and shoulder never turned and has nowhere to go when you start the throw except out to the right). In both cases, the disc usually is pulled to the right.

Two things helped me here. One was the picture of hugging yourself vs hugging someone else. The concept of feeling like you are dancing with someone helps me. Second, during my throw, I focus on turning my right shoulder away from the target, not moving my arm. I generally think of my shoulder/arm angle as not changing much which has been discussed in these forums and my arm just kind of follows where my shoulder goes.

Spot on with my experience.

My biggest issue now is pulling the disc right which I can usually attribute to the following:
o Getting lazy with my shoulder turn
o Collapsing the angle between arm and shoulder
o Not staggering my feet
o Trying to throw hard and standing up opening my chest early

Be careful of number 3 there. I was actively trying to add stagger to my throw too. A little bit of stagger comes naturally with the hip turn, but actively trying to add it can really screw up your balance... I, for example, was using my head to move my center of gravity towards the hit point to add stagger. This made it really difficult to get my head stacked on my knee/hip/spine and screwed with my brace. Simon does it because he has the ability to manipulate his center of gravity very quickly. Watch Paul throw, his stride is often alarmingly straight.

You also mentioned actively turning your foot back 45 degrees earlier... Your foot doesn't cause the hip turn, the hip turn causes the foot turn. Your foot should be at a natural angle, so don't try to turn it back.

Those were two mistakes I was making that made me more likely to jam against my brace like a wall (and collapsing over it) rather than stacking balanced on the front leg and rotating that outer hip and wiping the butt.

I consider myself a 350' barrier thrower. The max distance I have 100% accurately measured is 360' on a football field. Its has been several months since I have been on a football field but I would guess my max is now probably closer to 380'+, maybe even some getting out to 400', but I still think my consistently thrown distance is closer to 350'.

Isn't it strange how a theoretical limit (like a football field) can limit our distance potential? I think about how fish will grow to the potential of their container. I find the same thing when it comes to throwing a disc in a field. If I'm throwing on a field with a marker at 425', I throw to that distance almost every time. Suddenly, in an open field where I can't judge distance, a drive goes out to 477', and on holes when I need to reach 450, it's not really a problem. Really fascinates me the power of our mind that is so difficult to control. This phenomenon always reminds me that I have less of a grip on my mental game than I think I do (then I reassure myself I'm in complete control :hfive:).

Great post. It's cool to realize all of these things, share them, and grow together. I love watching people discover the same things I did, and even more fascinating is hearing them talk about it. EVERY time I learn something because they looked at it differently or found something I didn't/couldn't. Makes this forum special.

If you got this far, wow you are a masochist.

Welcome to the backhand.
 
Thank you all for taking the time to reply.

Be careful of number 3 there. I was actively trying to add stagger to my throw too. A little bit of stagger comes naturally with the hip turn, but actively trying to add it can really screw up your balance... I, for example, was using my head to move my center of gravity towards the hit point to add stagger. This made it really difficult to get my head stacked on my knee/hip/spine and screwed with my brace. Simon does it because he has the ability to manipulate his center of gravity very quickly. Watch Paul throw, his stride is often alarmingly straight.

Yeah there is definitely some variation in how pros do this. Simon appears (at least to me) to really stagger whereas Paul can be much straighter. When Im practicing, I try to just think about adding enough to naturally close my hips to the target without doing an exaggerated motion. My thought it keep it simple enough now to just lock it into your muscle memory and then you can experiment.

You also mentioned actively turning your foot back 45 degrees earlier... Your foot doesn't cause the hip turn, the hip turn causes the foot turn. Your foot should be at a natural angle, so don't try to turn it back.

Those were two mistakes I was making that made me more likely to jam against my brace like a wall (and collapsing over it) rather than stacking balanced on the front leg and rotating that outer hip and wiping the butt.

Agree completely. I only think about the foot pointing in when I am doing that standstill/one step throw. For a while I tried to incorporate it into my normal walk up throws but it just doesnt work biomechanically and just made for an awkward and unnatural motion. The reality for me and for what I have seen watching youtube clips is that it lands pretty close to perpendicular to target, just a hair pointed in relative to that.


Isn't it strange how a theoretical limit (like a football field) can limit our distance potential? I think about how fish will grow to the potential of their container. I find the same thing when it comes to throwing a disc in a field. If I'm throwing on a field with a marker at 425', I throw to that distance almost every time. Suddenly, in an open field where I can't judge distance, a drive goes out to 477', and on holes when I need to reach 450, it's not really a problem. Really fascinates me the power of our mind that is so difficult to control. This phenomenon always reminds me that I have less of a grip on my mental game than I think I do (then I reassure myself I'm in complete control :hfive:).

I wish I was there but I think that football field limit is still pretty close to my actual, but things are improving.


Great post. It's cool to realize all of these things, share them, and grow together. I love watching people discover the same things I did, and even more fascinating is hearing them talk about it. EVERY time I learn something because they looked at it differently or found something I didn't/couldn't. Makes this forum special.



Welcome to the backhand.

Thank you. I tell you what I am most excited about right now is that Im getting to the point where my muscle memory is kicking in and I can limit my thoughts to one or two. Ive recently been reducing my right pull tendency by only having two thoughts in the downswing. Let my wrists stay loose and load/lag the disc, and to remember where I want the disc to go. I tend to get so caught up in the mechanics that I forget the to focus on teh one thing that any athlete propelling an object needs to think about which is what you want it to do and what direction you want it to go.

I grew up playing baseball and i never thought about all this stuff when throwing, just that I wanted the ball to go to a certain place. My mind said I need this to happen, and my body executed. Unfortunately, picking up disc golf at 40 means I have to focus much more on mechanics, but after months of doing that it feels good to now remember to really focus on the objective of the throw rather than every detailed mechanical movement.
 
Thought I'd update my thoughts from a 40 year old thread which was like 6 months into my disc golf journey, and share some insights from a now 45 year old.

Context
Most is in the original thread but some new stuff. I started at 40, got to a consistent 350 ~55mph within 6 months. Effectively stayed there for another 3.5 years with occasional pushes out to 400+ but really stayed in the 350-380 consistent range. So many false starts and breakthroughs that petered out during that time… For the last year and a half, I have slowly worked up and gotten to the point that 400 is my general floor, with some flat ground throws out to 450+ on what I would call golf lines, and can hit north of 65mph on a speed gun.

350' Thrower
Doing Right
- The main thing that got me over 300' was reps (this is an awkward new motion to learn) and the don't hug yourself threads from sidewinder.

Doing Wrong – biggest thing was I was walking backwards and spinning. Tell tale signs, if you watch a video and your butt is facing the target during your x-step. If your trail foot is close to parallel with the target line. You feel like you are bracing because your lead foot touches and then heel and then you turn on that heel but I was actually just spinning on that heel.

This throw was for me at least pretty repeatable and low impact, but I couldn't really hit over 350 consistently.

For people throwing 300 and less, hugging is generally the biggest mistake I consistently see. This is why I personally feel people should focus on that part of the motion to start, without really worrying about legs yet. You just can't throw far with t-rex arms or a disc stuck behind your body.

Consistently over 400'
This is really a bigger jump than it seems. I really went from a consistent 55mp to a consistent 63+mph and it really happened in the last 18 months after 3.5 years of being stalled. So what can I attribute it to?

Fixing the spin/walk backwards took a lot of reps. It is hard and every time I thought I fixed it, I would video and there it was again… What ultimately worked for me was incorporating a pump. As my trail leg is coming through the x-step, I pump with it. That is the cue, pumping forward as my rear leg goes forward. It makes it impossible for me to get into a position where my hips and head are facing the opposite of the target.

Another thing I started working on was just trying to throw harder. I have taken two lessons in my life, both in the first year I think, and the one thing I got out of it was one guy who told me "your positions are all good, but it looks like you are just going through a checklist and hitting them one by one. Let all that go and just throw it hard." @drk_evns comment above about fields or targets limiting your distance mentally was also something I was thinking about.

I'd use some different visualizations to get me in the right mindset. I played centerfield growing up, so one was to picture myself picking up a ground ball and just launching it to home plate. My walkup was picking up the ball and then just throwing. Another was trying to break the mental limit we set and to think that I need to throw 600, not 400, I betcha I can throw a disc over them mountains. Another was to summon my autonomic and sympathetic nervous system – this disc murdered my family and I'm going to throw it through a brick wall. These all worked and what ultimately happened is that I started to throw faster. It wasn't just my ceiling that improved when trying to rip, my floor came up significantly. My comfortable, non-max power shots went way up.

I think this is an important part of the process. I am not a kid and I have to convince my body to throw hard. I have to get my unconscious to sign off on it - that I won't get hurt, that I can go faster without breaking something - and it worked. I think everyone should spend time just dropping all other swing thoughts (after you have decent form) and just try to mash the disc telling yourself that you can throw faster, especially if you started sports later in life or just disc golf later in life. Just pure speed work, though everything else may suffer short term. It feels like I've broken a psychological barrier here.

I also pseudo-reincorporated a hop. I say reincorporate because I was originally always a hopper. I was effectively hopping backwards but a small hop on the x-step was natural to me. I say pseudo because I am more of a slow walkup strider now. But what helps a lot is mentally feeling the hop while I stride. It is hard to explain but I can feel the hop weight transfer while doing a more standard x-step and plant. This helps me feel my weight shift, plant, and timing more and I can just throw faster than if I don't think about feeling like I'm hopping – hope that makes sense.

Another thing that happened is I started to work out and eat a lot more protein. Some cardio but mostly weights. I lost 15 lbs and put on a few lbs of muscle in about 18 months.

I have also experimented with my grip A LOT.

I do now also start my walkup with my core engaged, my lead shoulder extended, and the disc in the pocket where I roughly want it to be in the downswing.

As a headcase, I stopped trying to think about too many swing thoughts. Preshot – grip, core, preset into pocket, elbow up and pointing out. During the walkup and swing I generally only think about the line and feeling the hop. If I am working on throwing fast, I might think of murder, but I limit my thoughts once I start the walk up to one thing rather than, x-step, stagger, toe heel, swing into pocket, explode out, etc…

I also did a lot of reps. I play two or three times a week and am always working on something.

For people throwing under 400, a lot of what I see is the walking backward. The rest of these are hard to "see" in a throw but maybe some of these visualizations will also help you.

My common issue is still the same as it was at 40. Pulling the disc right due to lazy shoulder turn (this was less of an issue when I walked backwards and spun), getting too aggressive with my shoulder turn during the downswing - collapsing pocket, standing up out of the throw – I was a serious goat humper as a golfer and it rears its head here too.

Things I have seen other people deal with but that I haven't run into

If these are issues you face, this thread my be less helpful or maybe the thoughts and visualizations will help remedy these...
  • Starting the downswing with their head leading the way forward. Some folks kind of like dip their front hip/knee and tug their upper body over. I think this is usually a symptom of trying to throw too hard too early and pulling down to start. I'd try to feel a stable spine angle from backswing to downswing.
  • People not getting off their rear foot and throwing everything high. This is probably one of the things most people new and/or without having played other throwing sports do.
  • Planting open - this feels very foreign to me
Things I never think about
  • What my off arm is doing
  • Squishing bugs
  • Spinning my hips
  • The plant
Closing
I don't think I can pinpoint one thing that got me here at this age. I think all these things worked in concert to get my speed up. I think the mental part was a large blocker. I would speculate that it went roughly in the order of importance this list was in, though the reps are as important as the rest.
 
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I think this thread was posted just before I joined, never saw it :)

I vibe with a whole lot of what you are saying. Posts like this make me wonder how short of a timeframe one can learn to have a proficient back-hand in. Its a question that actually bugs me because there are aspects of the process that strongly FEEL like it can be learned really quickly, but this might be an illusion.

I landed exactly where it sounds like you did - with complete disillusionment for trying to break the swing into smaller parts that you do in a certain order. But, maybe going through that stuff helped in the end. Maybe being so dead wrong about ideas made it all the more pronounced when I started to 'get it'.

I don't know but posts like this are a big reason why I like this forum, always interesting to read about how people progress lol.
 
I think this thread was posted just before I joined, never saw it :)

I vibe with a whole lot of what you are saying. Posts like this make me wonder how short of a timeframe one can learn to have a proficient back-hand in. Its a question that actually bugs me because there are aspects of the process that strongly FEEL like it can be learned really quickly, but this might be an illusion.

I landed exactly where it sounds like you did - with complete disillusionment for trying to break the swing into smaller parts that you do in a certain order. But, maybe going through that stuff helped in the end. Maybe being so dead wrong about ideas made it all the more pronounced when I started to 'get it'.

I don't know but posts like this are a big reason why I like this forum, always interesting to read about how people progress lol.
I love these kinds of posts too. I referred to slowplastic's great plateau thread a lot starting out but his journey was just different than mine. I'm much more of a feel type learner - like the feeling the hop mentioned above as a cue to optimize weight transfer and brace rather than thinking about hip, behind knee, behind ankle. I have realized that we each have to figure out what our body naturally will do right and work on the other parts and that picture is going to be a little different for everyone.

I do think a good coach can dramatically accelerate things but almost all the coaches I have seen locally are stuck in old dogma which is effectively the outdated "bro science" of our sport, teaching straight lines for example. We're in an interesting place instruction wise where I think the introduction of measurement devices like tech disc, and the money involved dramatically increasing, will really accelerate the coaching progress.

I have been teaching my daughter and have played with world champ kids a few times now and also see kids like Eliezra (if you haven't watched that distance showcase please do), and definitely see that they have an inherent willingness to unload that I as an adult have to consciously work on. There is a part of the equation that hasn't been a part of technique discussion much which is speed/explosion work.

I do think I could progress a dedicated newb pretty far pretty fast but maybe that is hubris or ignorance or both.

We also are starting to talk more like golf does about the impact zone right, the moment of truth. Ultimately the goal is to get there consistently and at the fastest speed and I think the focus on minutia (which we love to nerd out on) that exists will start to fade away as we get coaches that understand applying general principles to optimize individual learning styles and body mechanics toward that end.
 
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