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  • Writer's pictureChris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

How to make the switch from Ultimate to Disc Golf efficiently and rapidly

If you have reached the age where sprinting and throwing yourself at the ground are starting to wear thin, then it might be time to hang up your Ultra-Star, grab some golf discs, and take up a more leisurely and less injurious way to enjoy the flight of the disc. Today Vortica’s in-depth article shows you how to quickly achieve that.

When I see Ultimate players on the DGC, I easily recognise them from half a klick away. That’s because they all make the same basic mistakes. Happily, however, Ultimate players can easily and quickly adapt and transfer their experience and skills to disc golf, and their playing ability will ramp up quickly if they follow the advice below.

So, what are the key ingredients to cook up a tasty disc golfer from the various parts of an Ultimate player? And what ingredients are missing, and need to be added?

Disc Selection

Selecting the right discs for golf as an Ultimate player is not an easy task. Golf discs differ greatly to the regulation Ultimate disc, and their variety and number are almost as bewildering to an Ultimate player as they are to a total Frisbee newbie.

It’s crucial at the start of the transition from Ultimate to get the right discs, as selecting the wrong ones will ensure your progression is not optimal.

Golf discs are often selected by how they feel in your grip, and there’s a list of discs below which are most likely to feel good in the hands of an Ultimate player, and fly very well for them.

Golf Disc “Flight Ratings”

The universal Flight Rating system for golf discs is far from ideal, and understanding it is essential in the long term, but not for a beginner. If you are interested in learning about the Flight Rating system, we have a very popular and in-depth article on the subject right here: Disc Flight Ratings Explained.

Putters and midrange discs ONLY to start with

Just as with all new disc golfers, you should not succumb to the temptation of throwing high-speed drivers. It cannot be stressed strongly enough just how important this point is.

Ideal golf discs for Ultimate players to consider

Approach & Driver – Innova Condor

THE secret weapon for Ultimate players: a very large diameter disc (241mm!) with a midrange golf disc profile. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in the game. Condor’s massive size, stability, and huge maximum weight (200 grams!) make it a unique disc. Ideal for throw-and-catch in lighter weights. Read our recent in-depth review of the Condor here.

Putt, Approach & Drive – RPM Ruru

40-years of NZDG; James Smithells commemorative Ruru

Ruru is a small-diameter, deep-dish, micro-beaded, hand-filling putter with admirable high-speed stability. With great glide, Ruru is an excellent choice as both a putting putter and a driving putter. Straight flights with gentle fades even under full driving power is a Ruru hallmark.

Ruru is available in a range of premium and base plastics, with a good variety of stiffness. Atomic and Cosmic versions are flat-tops, while Magma and Strata feature the dome which is a part of the mould. Read our in-depth review of the Ruru here.

Putter & Driver – Latitude 64 Dagger

Dagger looks remarkably similar to the Ruru, and has similar characteristics, except that the Dagger does not have quite the same level of high-speed stability as the Ruru. It has equal glide and feels very similar in the hand.

The Dagger was co-designed by 3x World Champion Dave Feldberg to replace his big-bead Aviars, and he required something with more loft, more depth, and a bigger hand-feel.

Putter & Driver – Latitude 64 Sinus

Sinus is one of the best-kept secrets in disc golf, and unique, with a very sharp bottom edge. We published an in-depth article singing its praises recently, and you can read all about it here.

Latitude 64 Sinus; brutally sharp bottom edge, and super-steep wing ramp. Glides like a brick.

The Sinus was one of the first three discs ever produced by Latitude 64 in 2005, and today remains one of their very best. It’s one of our most-sold discs. Owners would rather fight, than switch!

Putter & Approach – Innova Birdie

Not a common or popular disc by any means, Birdie is another unique golf disc, with a flat top, deep-dish profile, square-ish leading edge, and unusual “ThumbTrac” on the flight plate.

Innova Birdie w/ ThumbTrac. Deep. Slow. And good. Click to Zoom.

Birdie is strictly for putts and short throws and does not glide far. Birdie has a cousin called the “Polecat” which is a lot shallower and does not have the ThumbTrac feature, which might also be worth having a grabby-feely of if you are not concerned about the depth of your discs.

The throwing mistakes Ultimate players make with golf discs

Classic Dipping

The first thing the Ultimate player has to unlearn for disc golf is that no one is trying to interfere with their throw. Ultimate players have usually programmed themselves to release very low indeed or to reach out far from the side of their body to launch the disc.

Ultimate players often dip the disc drastically; starting their pull very high, and then swooping down very low to release, and possibly swooping back up for the release. We have a detailed article on the subject here: Classic Mistakes in Disc Golf. No.3 - Dipping.

Ultimate players need to understand the concepts of the Line of Play (LOP) and Plane of Play (POP) in order to change their form appropriately for disc golf. The above-linked article explains them in detail.

No X-Step in the throwing motion

Ultimate players can’t travel with the disc, and so it feels strange to them, to be walking or jogging with a disc in-hand. As such, the three-steps of the basic disc golf x-step are a weird experience for them.

Additionally, making the back foot pass behind the front foot for the cross-over in the X-Step is a fairly unnatural action to perform, but it is required to throw golf discs far, and when performed correctly, places the thrower into the most powerful possible position, bringing the disc all the way into what is known as the power pocket.

Teaching the x-step is beyond the scope of this article, however.

Why is disc golf form important for Ultimate players?

With a shot-clock of 30-seconds and no interference or distractions, you have the time available to consider and execute the shot you want to make, rather than the shot you are forced into playing by an opposing team member.

You don’t throw a disc many times in a round of disc golf, so each throw is vitally important, and so accuracy is crucial, and therefore form is critical.

What’s the best way for an Ultimate player to dial-in to disc golf form?

That’s an easy one! Grab a lighter-weight Condor, in the region of 165 to 175 grams, and have lots of stand-still throw-and-catch sessions with a (pure) disc golfing buddy, and always concentrate on the form, and the LOP/POP.

Most golf discs are not appropriate for throw and catch, while the Condor won’t injure you too badly. But beware the 200-gram Condor! It is a mighty fun disc for T&C however, and in a decent session you might throw it a hundred times or more, and that will rapidly aid you.

Disc golf terminology

Differs substantially to Ultimate as disc golf uses different terms; Hyzer and Anhyzer to describe I/O and O/I. Additionally, the variation in golf discs means the flight shapes of golf discs are radically different, and learning about the Flight Rating terms Speed, Turn, Glide, and Fade will take some time (see above).

Backhand and Forehand forms

Ultimate players have a distinct advantage coming to disc golf in that they have already developed both forehand and backhand throws to a high level. However, it is essential to adapt their existing form into disc golf form, and players should take special note of the form advice provided by former forehand and backhand world-distance record holder, Scott Stokely, who also was the first to break the 200-metre barrier with the backhand.

And all this should be just about enough for you, as an Ultimate player, to make the transition smoothly into disc golf, have a ton of fun, and progress at a rate which will satisfy your competitive desires. Good luck!

-- Chris

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