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  • Writer's pictureChris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

12 Classic Mistakes In Disc Golf. No.3 - Classic Dipping

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Dipping is Classic Rounding but performed in the vertical plane instead of the horizontal. It damages both form and function. This week, Vortica Disc Golf thoroughly examines what it is, what causes it, and how to stop it. Plus some other semi-random stuff too.

You have all seen it; Dipping is when a player reaches back quite high (shoulder height or above), and pulls the disc down around their sternum for the smash. Often a player will compliment the dip, with an upwards curved motion from the chest onwards, (Lifting) causing the disc to fly upwards, where it stalls out short and fades hard left. It’s nothing less than the quintessential Beginner Throw.

Catrina Allen gets it wrong: this looks like an anhyzer or roller reachback, but it's for a straight upshot!
Catrina Allen's bizarre Reach-Up.

Dipping is a failure to successfully visualise the Line of Play, and to draw the disc along it. The Line of Play is the line which follows the disc’s flight, in a straight line, back to the point at which the player begins pulling the disc forwards using the throwing motion.

Technically, dipping is also caused by taking a massive final step when planting the front foot, because your Centre of Gravity drops precipitously. Only the very best disc golfers can turn a massive final step into distance, and for the rest of us, all it will do is damage our shot, and hurt our balance. Don’t take a massive final step!

Figure 1. Catrina Allen reaching back far too high.

You will read me repeating this mantra a lot in this series of articles; Pulling down the Line of Play is critical for good technique. It is important for all disc golf throws and there are two components of it; the horizontal plane, and the vertical plane

A straight line is defined as the intersection of two planes.

Deviating from the vertical plane is called Rounding (see the Classic Rounding Issue article) while deviating from the horizontal plane is Dipping. Both have an effect on throw accuracy and distance. To examine it closely means splitting it into 2 parts

Before the chest.

Dipping before the chest may not damage a throw’s outcome, provided the smash is directed along the line of Play – so in other words, it may be OK to pull the disc down to your sternum, but only if you are not lifting the disc up again during the smash. However, the chances are that if you dip, you also have a PDGA rating under 900.

After the chest.

This is the opposite of Dipping. It’s Lifting. Lifting nearly always results in a disc going very high, and very short, because the disc is nose-high, and it has been thrown up, rather than out.

So, why is dipping before the chest bad?

It is much harder to put the disc on the Line of Play during the throwing motion than it is to put it on the LOP before you begin your pull, and simply keep it there throughout the throwing motion. The best disc golfers set the hyzer angle and nose angle on the disc before the pull begins, and they set the disc on the LOP, and they maintain both angles and keep the disc on the line throughout the throwing motion.

Setting all three things before the pull begins makes it so much easier to be accurate, and consistent.

Figure 2. Valarie Jenkins demonstrate Dipping.
Figure 2. Valarie Jenkins demonstrate Dipping.

Recognising Dipping

If you reach back above the height of your shoulder, you are dipping. Reaching back at shoulder height is probably dipping.

Have someone stand behind you, and ask them what happens to your disc from the time you start pulling until it is released. Does it descend towards the sternum/waist area? That’s dipping.

Does it rise from the waist area onwards? That’s Lifting.

What causes dipping?

Reaching back too high.

You need to reach back to a height which is slightly lower (but only just!) than the height the disc is going to leave your hand. This is because we want 80% of all throws to fly relatively flat compared to the ground, and thus we need to pull (and smash!) the disc along the line on the horizontal plane which results in discs flying almost flat upon release.

We only throw discs high into the air when we need to see major changes to the flight path, with huge sweeps to the left or right – or to allow for a full flex for distance.

Elbow drop

Another factor in dipping is allowing the elbow to drop during the pull. This prevents using the elbow to power the disc, as opening it further will result in the disc ploughing into the ground a few metres in front of the thrower. It forces the disc to be thrown using only the shoulder, and this indicates the issue we’ve already discussed: Classic Rounding.

The elbow must travel along the Line of Play the disc is on until the disc gets to the chest. Once that happens, the elbow gets driven backwards as shoulder power is added to the throwing motion, and the timing of this keeps the disc on the Line Of Play until it is ejected.

You absolutely must not allow your elbow to straighten entirely before the disc is ejected. You have to use all your strength to bring the smashing elbow to an abrupt halt, just before it goes straight. There are two reasons for this, and they dovetail beautifully:

Hyperextension of the elbow is injurious. Your career as a disc golfer will be short indeed if you punish your elbow joint in this way.

The Mobius Line Puller has shown that biomechanically, we MUST stop the elbow opening before it straightens completely, because if the elbow opens more than we currently (and comfortably, and naturally) do, then it has to start moving forwards again for the disc to stay on the line prior to the smash.

No human has the ability to reverse the direction of the elbow movement at the final instant of the throwing motion – so disc golfers are very lucky in this regard.

To develop full power, the disc has to rip out of our grip as far away from us as possible, while still protecting the elbow from hitting its limit or hyperextending. However problematic early release of the disc is the topic for another article.

Failure to shift weight fully to the plant foot

This is very common in new players, who often try to throw from their back foot, leaning backwards, and swooping the disc down, and then lifting it high like an offering to the gods, in some satanic ritual.

New players must learn that golf discs must be ejected OUT and not UP and that discs thrown 1 metre above the ground can easily reach 100 metres of distance, provided the nose angle and hyzer angle are correct.

Weight transfer from the back foot to the front foot is an integral part of every disc golf throw – adding power whether putting, approaching or driving, with the notable exception of the straddle putt. Straddlers regain some of that missing power by adding a strong vertical extension to their putting form.

Learning to stand with feet in the correct position, with weight being appropriately transferred backwards and forwards between them is arguably the single most important thing in disc golf, as every movement you make is informed by the positioning of the feet, and their weight distribution.

It is, for this reason, I once again link to HeavyDisc’s Jason and His Amazing Feet-Together One-Step Drill, possibly the most important disc golf instructional video ever made.

Figure 3. The opposite of Dipping; reaching back too low.
Figure 3. The opposite of Dipping

But some famous players are always dipping!

I know. Valarie Jenkins is shocking for it in her driving form, and Catrina Allen, who reaches back very low in her drive (and throws too many high hyzers as a result. See Figure 3.) is conversely a shocking Dipper in her midrange form. But critically, neither of these outstanding players suffers from Lifting, which kills a throw, completely.

Just because someone famous does something, doesn’t make it right. And this is why it’s important, that if you are going to base your form on a professional’s, that you choose a pro with good form.

Help! I can’t feel what it’s like to pull a disc along a flat line.

No worries. Go straight to your kitchen. Trust me here; the kitchen is the best place for this. Because it’s where you have your longest benchtop. It’s going to simulate throwing a disc at a height of 1-metre, and perfectly flat.

Now, stand parallel with the bench, in the middle of it, with your front foot about 20cm (8 inches) away from the benchtop, and your back foot about 40cm from it. The forefoot of your back foot should be parallel with the heel of your front foot compared to the Line Of Play.

Now, make a fist with your throwing hand, and stick your thumb out from it. Hook your thumb onto the edge of the bench. Slide that thumb along the edge of the bench to reach back to your maximum extension (Left side of Figure 4, below). Stick your ass out in order to achieve this. Ass out is very important for balance.

At maximum reach back, your shoulders will be at 90 degrees to the line of play (or more) and most of your weight will be on the front foot. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the edge of the bench IS The Line Of Play.

Figure 4. The Line of Play, and the upper arm to torso angle.
Figure 4. The Line of Play, and the upper arm to torso angle.

Stand there nice and still, and now I want you to do two things ONLY. When you want to initiate the throwing motion, turn your left knee inwards, and push it down, and at the same time, close your elbow to keep your thumb on the edge. Do not change your chest to upper arm angle – it must always be at 90 degrees or more. (See above.)

Do you notice that simply turning your knee inwards and downwards causes your entire torso to rotate to the right, drawing the disc along the edge of the bench (LOP)? Do you notice that keeping your upper arm square with your chest means that to keep the disc on the edge, you only have to close your elbow?

Congratulations, you just discovered how to fix dipping, pull down the line, how to engage your hips, and hence how to develop massive power in the future.

Now, once the thumb reaches your chest region, in this exercise, your shoulders must be parallel with the bench, and you are ready to begin opening the shoulder, and extending the elbow. This position is called the “Power Pocket” as it’s where you can apply maximum leverage to the disc, closest to your body core (Middle part of Figure 4, above).

When starting high isn’t dipping

It should be noted the only correct time to start your pull-through higher than your release point is when you are throwing downhill. Then it is extremely important that you pull downwards and follow through down. Throwing up when attempting to throw downhill always results in disaster.

Cheers for reading!


Coming up next week: No.4 Classic Low Elbow

If you enjoyed this article and benefit from it, you can show your support by buying a disc, or two… or three. We have an excellent range of New Zealand-made discs from our good buddy Simon at RPM, and plenty of souvenir discs and stamps for the non-Kiwi readers.

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