As many of you know by now, I come from a background of ultimate frisbee. I am still fairly new in disc golf but have gotten enough time out on the course to start to feel pretty comfortable throwing a disc golf disc, understanding the lingo and general etiquette/rules of disc golf. It wasn’t the easiest of roads to travel, however, and has been filled with quite a few different hurdles that I have had to overcome to get to the point that I’m at now.
I would like to share with you guys some of the ways that I learned to adjust, both throwing and playing as well as getting used to the disc golf scene in general.
Disc golf Throws vs Ultimate Frisbee Throws
To start off, going over the basic throwing mechanics and their differences between disc golf and ultimate frisbee. I’ve covered a bit of this before in other articles where I have mentioned the basic differences between flight paths and behavior of the two types of discs in the air, but today I will be talking more about the form and what to expect when you actually wind up to throw the disc. To show this I have a couple of visuals for you:
You will notice on the four pictures above they are sort like the stages of a disc golf wind up.
- First, we have the run up where you start to square your body up to your target, next the windup itself where the player is bringing the disc back parallel with his chest and shoulders.
- The next image is what many refer to as the “power pocket” which is the small little “pocket” formed by your arm as the elbow leads out to your target with the forearm still cocked, then we have the release.
- The release isn’t fully pictured here as there would be a follow through added to the end of the shot much like in ball golf the golfer swings the club behind their back. In this follow through the player would let their arm swing out behind them as cutting short can lead to a throw going awry or losing power prematurely.
Now let’s compare an ultimate frisbee windup
In this series of photos, the player has the familiar windup, however it is down lower and not as level with the chest and shoulders.
The “power pocket” isn’t nearly as prevalent as the disc golf form because the player takes a step outward rather than forwards to get the throw off.
The release is similar to that of the disc golf release in that there is still a big sweeping follow through at the end of the throw.
You will also notice that his body isn’t nearly as lined up as the disc golfers in the previous image as in ultimate it is much more difficult to throw in a straight line due to other players playing defense and having to get around them.
Going over the main differences of ultimate and disc golf throwing we can see that one of the biggest changes is how to step. Ultimate players step to the side instead of straight forward and they tend to not keep everything as square and tight as disc golfers do. Obviously, they are two different sports with different goals and so a unique throwing style is needed for both sports.
How to Transition From Ultimate Frisbee to Disc Golf Throws?
So how do we transition from an ultimate frisbee throw to a disc golf throw?
To start, it is good to practice releasing from a higher point on your body than you might be used to. Throwing from the stomach area or the hip just won’t cut it for disc golf, so get used to throwing high and tight in the chest area when you are practicing your disc golf drives. Footwork for disc golf is very similar to the footwork needed for a pull in ultimate and there shouldn’t be much confusion there.
The next big thing is practicing getting your elbow to lead and forming that power pocket. In ultimate the forearm and elbow come out at about the same time making that large familiar sweeping motion, but for disc golf you have to keep that forearm cocked back just a bit longer so that you can really whip the disc out and in a straight line from where you stand. This will help to keep the disc aloft and even get it to turnover a little bit before it tries to fade back and dive into the ground.
The other thing to keep in mind when throwing a disc golf disc is to keep your wrist as straight as possible. I know it sounds like every beginner course of throwing frisbees you have ever received, but it is very important in disc golf as most of the time we ultimate frisbee players tend to put a bit of hyzer (inside-out) angles on our throws naturally.
Lastly, make sure to follow through! When I first made the transition to disc golf I became so focused on all of the mechanics that I have listed for you above that I kept forgetting to follow through. It plagued my throws for so long that I got pretty discouraged and almost quit playing.
What helped me out was watching a few videos of pros throwing and I instantly recognized that I wasn’t following through and that I needed to start doing that. Once I did, I immediately put almost 100 extra feet on my drives and was getting the results that I wanted again.
Disc Golf Tips for Beginners
Now, having gone over basic throwing mechanics we will talk about another part of the sport that you have to get used to if you are going to take your disc golf career beyond playing by yourself or with friends.
The most important thing to do in disc golf is BE SOCIAL. That really shouldn’t be hard for most ultimate players as the community of ultimate is a wonderful place full of really cool people, but a lot of the social interactions are on the sidelines and aren’t much longer than for a game or two.
Social interactions with people you don’t know in disc golf are much longer than that since in most tournaments you are paired with people you don’t know even if you bring friends along.
There is no need to worry though! In my experience I have met many awesome people to talk to and get to know while participating in tournaments who have actually helped me improve my game.
While there is always a competitive part to a tournament there is also comradery and a sense of fellowship while playing on a card with other people. You are all there to enjoy a game of disc golf and all want to do your best, so remember that when you are playing even with people you don’t know.
Keeping that in mind will make your disc golf experience that much better and you won’t regret having made the decision to pick up the sport!
If you play ultimate and have been thinking about playing disc golf, do it. You seriously will enjoy it a lot. Even if you never fully transition to disc golf it is a great way to explore beautiful scenery wherever you have an ultimate tournament, and it can really improve your throws a lot.
It can also open you up to a whole new community of really great people! So get out there and go bang some chains!