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  • Writer's pictureChris 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.

So, it benefits most players to play with 70% power when discs are wet, and make sure they are not rounding, so as to stay accurate, and keep sending discs straight up the middle, and a bit short. See our Winning When Wet article.

Time Out: Amateur style vs Pro style

If you think about the way the top professionals play, it is often in direct opposition to what I try to teach here at Vortica. This is because the world’s top players have physical talent and ability the rest of us can only dream about. Their ability to release the disc at a consistent point means they can use just about any sort of form they like to great effect.

You will sometimes see top pros rounding in the smash, or making outrageous wide rail reachouts, using bizarre Fred Flintstone-style run-ups, and utilising insane amounts of speed and power – BUT their ultimate co-ordination, power and skill level means they can not only get away with it, but even use “bad form” to their advantage.

The things I teach here on the blog are for ordinary people, with ordinary abilities, and bless-your-little-cotton-socks if you are some sort of legendary wizard with a disc due to outstanding genetic fortune. For us ordinary homosaps, it benefits us greatly to develop good, error-tolerant form, so that our natural tendency to muck-it-up costs our score less.

Ways to avoid Throwing Too Hard

If you have reached this far, you’ve probably figured out most of the things you can do. So just skip to the bottom and click the little heart icon, and leave a comment. But, if you want to keep reading, I’ll spell it out for you.

Assess your own condition constantly

To combat the negative effects of fatigue you can be your own best friend by constantly asking yourself, in your Pre-Flight Checklist, “Am I tired? How am I feeling?” and reminding yourself not to throw hard. Concentrate on form, and timing, and sending discs up the middle.

If you find fatigue is really getting to you, pull out of the round. Injuries are not worth it. There’s always another round of disc golf to enjoy, provided you are fit to play. You don’t get any PDGA rating points for a round you pull out of, so it doesn’t hurt your rating to do so. But you do score 999 for the round so it does put you at the bottom of the field – as it should. :P

If you pull out of a PDGA-sanctioned round, make absolutely sure you are doing so only to prevent injury, and announce your intention to your card, so that you do not risk the dreaded "888" score, which a TD may apply to a playing who is tanking, or withdrawing strategically to protect their rating.

If you want to be faster you have to be faster

Wanting to throw further is natural. In order to do so, you must move more quickly, especially from the power pocket onward. To be faster, you need to practice using more power and more speed than you normally would, so that you expand the range of power you can use successfully, and increase the total power of your Full Power shot. But don’t experiment with Huge Earth-Shattering Power on the course. Keep it for wide open fieldwork.

I feel I need to stress that unless you are using good form, it is pointless to go out and try to wreck yourself with long throws. Practicing form is, to my mind, a far better way to train, than to practice or try to enhance distance. This is because the side-effect of good form is longer throws, simply by way of increased efficiency.

And, if you have an accurate 100-metre throw, and you putt nicely inside the circle, then you can probably get very close to a 1,000 rating. As of March 2019 there are only 400 players in the world with ratings 1,000 and over.

Field Work

If you are heading out into the field be especially careful! It is likely that just 6 drives using every single joule of energy your body can muster, in just 6 minutes is all you can take. Maybe less. Maybe more, depending on your age and physical fitness. In any case, always be mindful of what your body is saying to avoid injury. You absolutely must avoid the mentality of “Just One More Throw”.

If you are practicing absolute maximum distance drives, please use a repeating timer on your phone, and set it for once a minute. Don't throw more than that. Driving takes huge energy, and involves your full body. Examine the conditions carefully between each shot, and mentally predict the wind's effect on the flight path. Compare your previous shot with its prediction, and try to refine each throw.

Spend that 50 seconds of recovery time productively.

In distance events, it is normally the first or second throw that makes your maximum distance. After that, distance is declining due to fatigue, no matter how fit or strong you are.

Powering Down and Discing Down In my Powering Down article, I teach you how to reduce the airspeed of discs using various methods. In other articles I have taught you to use the slowest possible disc you can reach your target with. Often this means throwing putters or midranges with full driving power – but that implies you have putters and mids which can handle your full power without turning excessively.

These are usually NOT the discs you want to use for finesse shots where accuracy at lower airspeed is required, as they tend to fade out, unless they are exceptional like the Axiom Envy, or Innova XT Nova.

You will benefit from using less stable discs and applying high amounts of spin to them, as opposed to high airspeed, to extend their flight shape, and prevent fade, and hence improve distance.

Consciously hold back on the power when throwing slower-speed, high-glide discs, to allow them to fly their natural flight shape. High-glide almost always means understable. Overstable discs always want to fade out and crash to the ground, and that is why they are preferred by the world’s fastest arms, for maximum distance with control.

Awareness is key to avoidance

Once you know about Throwing Too Hard, it is far less likely you will do so on any given throw. However, concentration can lapse, tiredness can sneak up on you, and if you are young and male, testosterone can cause your ego to flex too hard on the DGC.

Learn to recognise the symptoms of Throwing Too Hard: discs going all over the place but mostly to the right, unintended anhzyers, and turning more than intended, discs leaving your hand faster than you planned, discs going higher and being blown further than you intended.

Even if you catch yourself after just one instance of Throwing Too Hard you could save an entire round from turning to custard.

Stay vigilant. Don’t be lazy. Listen to your body. Trust your high-glide discs. Stay focused on accuracy. Good luck!


Now, please click the little heart icon, and share this article with someone who Throws Too Hard. And, if you have any personal experience in this area, please share it with us below, in the comments. Happy huckin' -- Chris/Mobius/Dingo.

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