Thumber vs. Tomahawk - Perfecting Your Disc Golf Overhand Throw

Overhand disc golf throws

I believe that they are some of the most underutilized tools in the average player's repertoire. I say this because one of the most interesting statistics measure in the Disc Golf Pro Tour event weekend was the UDisc “scramble” rate correlation to success.

The reason this has relevance is that I learned to throw overhand shots out of necessity during a disc golf tournament.

The amount of times that I use the overhand shot now is surprising.

I am never looking to throw overhand in favor of a backhand shot, but there are many times it saves me at least a stroke or two on a tough course when I miss my line off the tee.

There are times it is a very safe tee shot as well, but I try to not make a habit of throwing overhand.

I believe that my time and practice is better served practicing backhand and forehand off the tee.

A word to the wise - I am not the best overhand thrower around.

I try to use this on holes 250 feet and less, and I never try to throw an overhand more than 275-300 feet. I injured my shoulder in high school baseball, and trying to throw harder just hurts and rarely yields better distance.

As a right-hand backhand dominant disc golf player, I favor throwing the “thumber” over the “tomahawk." 

The reason is simply the direction of the fade. A thumber will end trending right for a right-handed throw, whereas a tomahawk will end trending left.

Also, I feel more confident gripping the disc in the thumber than the tomahawk.

If you are forehand dominant, the tomahawk is likely to be a better choice for you for as the grip is almost identical, and the fade will be left instead of right for you.

The main advantage is that you can circumvent the obstacles that are lower, focusing only on throwing above them.

With a little practice, the left to right variance and lack of huge skips can be a significant advantage. 

My approach article speaks to the advantages of this a little bit. There are a couple of courses here in the Midwest that having a competent overhand throw will give you a lot of confidence, such as Cedar Creek West and Axldog Acres disc golf courses.

There are players who use this shot as their primary throw type, and though I have seen it work to some degree of success, you will without question limit yourself, if you do not have a clean backhand and/or forehand shot to compliment an overhand.

When choosing a disc for an overhand, I choose overstable disc golf drivers.

Something that will cut through the air quickly and rotate in the normal “knot” look through the air after achieving maximum height.

The other benefit I’ve found in in throwing an overstable disc is that I can use this throw to help break in an overstable disc that I would like to throw later once it is stable to straight throwing.

Throwing slower discs with an overhand will have the effect of faster rotation in the air. Unless you have a specific reason for this, I believe it yields less consistency in distance and in left to right deviation.

So, when learning or trying to hone your skills, use overstable high speed disc golf drivers, to create the most consistency.     

When throwing a “thumber,” you are looking to have an overhand throw fade to the right for an right handed thrower.

The thumber is aptly named because your grip has the thumb on the underside or inside of the flight plate.

The way I learned to grip a thumber, and still do, is to have my thumb hooked on the inside of the rim, my index finger pointed straight parallel with the bottom edge of the disc, and my middle finger supporting the bottom edge of the disc.

Think of making a pinching motion between your thumb and index finger, and supporting the bottom edge with your middle finger.

It feels strange for a while, but when you get used to it there it becomes comfortable enough.

For a “tomahawk,” I would recommend using the same grip as a forehand throw.

This type of throw will fade to the left for a right-handed thrower. I use the traditional stack forehand grip for my tomahawks, and in order to not have the disc slip out, I try to not over throw for distance.

Especially with a tomahawk as I am primarily a backhand thrower, I only use when necessary as the fade direction is the same as a backhand hyzer.

I would encourage everyone to learn how to throw a 200 foot Thumber and Tomahawk disc golf throw.

Have it for when you find yourself in trouble off the fairway. If there is a short tight hole with a low tree line, know that you can effectively take the obstacles out of your way.

One thing the pros do quite well is get out of trouble. As we’ve seen in the UDisc statistics for the Disc Golf Pro Tour, the scramble statistic is heavily correlated to the success of the players. Solving left to right deviation is a primary goal in almost all technical shots for disc golf.

Let this type of throw be a tool in your bag or cart for many rounds to come. Remember you don’t need to be able to throw a far overhand to make it a stroke saving part of your disc golf game.

The main advice I will give in trying to throw an overhand disc golf shot is simple - throw in a similar motion as throwing a football, and right before you release pull down hard (as in throwing a curveball in baseball).

Start throwing comfortably hard and never try to strong arm the throw harder than you need to. The more the flight plate is facing up the more fade you will get on the throw. I prefer to try and keep the disc on a minimal fade for most of my shots. I find it easier to line up straight and release with less left to right variance planned.

Give it a shot and let me know in the comments below how you did!

See you on the course, 

Aaron