disc golf approach

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

Improving Your Approach in Disc Golf

Improving your Approach in Disc Golf

I would like to share a few thoughts about one of the least talked about topics in disc golf. Many times this is the case because of level of courses available, the seeming impact on scores, and if there is a least flashy part of disc golf it is the

approach shot.  

As a new player I only focused on throwing drives and putts. Partly because those are the only 2 shots you are guaranteed to have to throw every hole (unless you ace everything, of course).

And while I agree they are important parts of disc golf I believe that as an amateur working on your approach game is important to every aspect of your play more than people realize.

Any drive where you can reach the basket should be treated as an approach shot where you want to leave yourself an easy putt.

Let’s look at the topic from this viewpoint.

When you throw a 250 technical shot off the tee, are you really throwing a drive?

Of course it is your first shot, so technically it’s your drive, but I would argue that any seasoned player is really trying to throw a placement shot.

An approach shot is a placement shot.

At that range many players are throwing putters, mids, or possibly forehand drivers depending on the shape of the hole, but they all have the same goal: 

Put yourself close enough to the basket to leave yourself a putt.

This concept is not new, certainly not original, and if you’ve done any reading about how to improve yourself as a disc golfer on a consistent and competitive level, you’ve heard this advice before.

The truth is that if you don’t put yourself in a position to comfortably putt, you’ve either not executed your shot, or you’re making bad decisions off the tee.  

Let us start with making bad decisions off the tee.

Most amateurs, especially at the intermediate and recreational level, are just throw something that they hope will go towards the basket.

Distance is a factor, but they really just want to “get it there." And by that I mean park it.

While it’s well and fine to have that goal in mind, it will likely not serve you well in the long run. I believe that you must try to throw that shot that will leave you with the best chance of making a putt you are comfortable making 90% of the time or better. If the hole is out of your comfort range, then at least try to leave yourself a clean jump putt.

The truth is you have to give yourself an opportunity to succeed more often than you fail.

Often times when trying to “park” a hole you throw harder than normal, or take a slightly riskier line. Then when something goes awry you are struggling to save your 3. It is chalked up to a bad day, bad disc, bad luck, whatever else you want to justify at the time.

I believe that an excellent tee shot is often time on blue level courses (90% of the courses most places are blue level or easier) is the shot that gives you a nice putt for 2 (maybe 3 if the whole length or shape is difficult enough).

When I turn in the best rounds in leagues, or even a tournament, I never feel as if I really had to work hard to do it. In fact, when I feel like I’m pushing myself past my comfort zone, every hole my score history would indicate I score significantly worse.

Executing the approach shot

When playing competitively, it’s best to come at every throw with the mentality of “how can I most easily put myself in range to make my putt comfortably.”

If the hole is challenging, change the last part to “have a putt." The difficult part of all this is actually thinking and doing it. When playing with others, it is easy to adapt your game to that of whoever is having a hot round. This “mimicking” is one of the easiest ways to get out of rhythm and have some melt down throws.

I struggle with this all the time and I imagine that is a common problem. There are great times to push yourself, but I would recommend those times to be field work or solo rec rounds.

Trying to execute a shot you managed on a perfect throw once, but have not managed to throw again the last 5 times is another example of a bad decision, not bad execution.

To execute a great shot, you simply need to throw a shot you can throw 90% of the time accurately that will put you in a position to generate the lowest reasonable score you can on the hole.

I took first at a league last week in which I had one goal off the tee every throw: Put it in the fairway and closer to the basket than you are now.

I did because there wasn’t any pressure other than hitting a line that I felt comfortable hitting, and trusting that I would make the best of putting or approaching from that lie. Guess what?

I even hit an ace trying to just “put it in the fairway comfortably!" 

The reason is simple: When you throw the right line, the disc may just do exactly what you want and even exceed your expectations!

Sure it feels great to try something challenging beyond your regular shot repertoire, but that leads to a dark path.

On a good day, you will be feeling on top of the world until something goes wrong. Then one tree kick turns into three tree kicks, and so on.

What I am recommending is that you only allow roller coaster disc golf when consequences are much lower (no money spent on beating the field).

If you need to make up a stroke or two in the last couple holes of a tournament, do what you will. Only you will know your game well enough to know if that is the right decision making process.

I will post my guide to better approaches in the next few weeks, as I have a few friends and fellow players that have been remarkably happy with the process I used to improve my short game and technical shots. Until then, happy decision making. 

Hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought, and I hope to see you on the course beating me with my own advice!

See you on the course,

Aaron