How to Control Distance in Disc Golf
When it comes to disc golfers talking about their throwing distance, the conversation in most situations is usually dominated by just one single question,
How far can you throw?
And naturally so, as we typically measure success in this game as to who can throw the farthest and most accurately.
Throwing far in disc golf clearly has its advantages, especially on longer courses and holes.
But one thing you can certainly recognize is that regardless if you throw, 300 feet or 500 feet, is
How often are you going on the tee pad or from the fairway with the intent of achieving maximum distance?
I'll take this one step further and go out on a limb by saying that many of you out there play on courses regularly or have played on courses where you
didn't even need to take one throw that required your maximum throwing distance.
So why the emphasis on throwing maximum distance?
Well, because it's the competitive nature of any sport to be the best, so we strive to constantly be improving our skills, including our driving distance.
But since we can recognize that maximum throwing distance is not required in many situations, you may be asking yourself now,
"How can I control distance when when throwing a disc?
Which is a great question and one that we are going to help you answer in this article.
Even though you may be able to achieve 350 or 400 feet with your favorite distance driver, what are you going to do on the 250 foot, 160 foot, 190 foot, etc. holes?
Do you have a go to strategy to get your distance down to where you need or want it?
If not, keep on reading to learn!
How to Control Throwing Distance in Disc Golf:
Generally speaking, there are 3 ways that most players cut down on their maximum throwing distance:
1. Throwing with maximum or high effort on all throws, and changing distance with disc selection
2. Taking effort out of their throw with the same disc they'd usually use
3. A combination of the 2 methods above. Using less effort and choosing specific discs to limit distance
Let's take a look at how to do each one!
1. Throw max or close to max effort, but disc down to choose distance
This may seem a little confusing, but it simply means choosing discs with less speed and glide to decrease your overall distance.
For instance, if you can throw 400 feet with a distance driver, you may instead choose a fairway driver to drop down to 350', or even down to a mid-range or putter for a 150-300 foot shot.
How do you know how far you can throw each of your bagged discs?
Practice of course!
For instance, I know that I can throw most of my putters in the 240-250 foot range, and my Discraft Zone in the 270 foot range, and my Buzzz around 290-300 feet, with maximum power.
When used in practice,
If I'm faced with a 290 foot shot, I'm not going to try and adjust my effort with a distance driver to drop 100' on my drive, I'm going to simply choose a mid-range or fairway driver instead and go out and put full effort into throw in hopes that it sails to the 290 foot mark.
The upside of this technique is that if you know your discs and are confident in your form, then then it can be a very consistent method of throwing the distance that you need to throw with high precision.
The down side?
Throwing max power is typically not as accurate as throwing with sub-max power, which can especially come into play on the fairway or on shorter holes less than 200 feet.
You also need to be able to trust that you can keep your form consistent enough to throw close to your maximum distance each and every throw.
If you're inconsistent in max distance, you may be better off in learning your average throw instead to help choosing the right disc.
You may be able to throw 400 feet on a good day with your distance driver, but your average distance is closer to 375, keep this in mind when faced with any shot you take.
2. Use any disc, but decrease the amount of effort you place into the throw
On the flip side, you may want to stick with your distance driver or any disc that you know you can use for the specific distance you're throwing to, and them simply put less effort into it.
If you can throw a distance driver 400 feet, and the hole is 350 feet,
instead of reaching for your fairway driver and hoping to rip it for max distance, you could simply put less oomph into the distance driver, shave off 50 feet, and park yourself at the basket.
This sounds easy, but takes a lot of discipline and knowing your skill level very well.
If you don't, you may very well end up much shorter or longer than you anticipated, which is certainly a downside.
Another potential downside is that slowing down a disc can make it more overstable, so it's good to know how much more your disc will fade than usual when considering a specific shot.
The upside is that slowing down and using less effort will do wonders for your accuracy, which helps with technical shots that you're sure to face while playing.
Next time you're doing some field work, don't just work on maximum distance, but also play around with throwing slightly shorter, more controlled distances with the same discs you're working with and see how well you can manage distance.
You can do this my using an object placed at a known or random distance, practicing on an actual course where you know the distances of the holes, or simply by using measured lines on an athletic field to judge distance.
Using less effort could be something as simple as using less arm speed, or even throwing from a standing position rather than using a run up approach.
Either way, you'll be slowing down, and will be able to focus on accuracy.
3. Use a combination of both methods (Suggested)
The most efficient way to manage distance is going to be by using a combination of the previous two strategies, and to be the most upfront with you,
This. Takes, Time. And. Practice.
As mentioned, you're going to get your most accuracy when throwing with sub maximal effort.
Take the pros for instance, many of them can throw seemingly impossible distances of over 600 feet or more, but rarely are they using these shots during an actual round.
Because they're not accurate in the least.
They just have the talent and skill to take that much off their throws and still throw further than the rest of us mortal disc golfers.
So for them to throw "just" 500 feet, they may be using 20-30% less effort overall, which is very significant when you translate that to other sports.
Take the classic hailmary in football for instance, is the quarterback going to be more accurate throwing the football down the field as far as he can chuck it?
Or by throwing a short route over the middle to a receiver who is stationary?
When playing disc golf, there will be instances where you have a wide open fairway on a long hole and the recipe calls for maximum distance, and you get the green light to simply grip it and rip it.
But more likely than not, you'll be facing shorter, more technical shots that are going to require you to choose an appropriate disc, and then use the appropriate amount of power to get it down the fairway.
My suggestion is to always use a disc just slightly longer than what the hole calls for.
Varying wind, poor footing, wet conditions, fatigue, you name it can all make you throw less than ideal shots, so rather than hoping and praying for maximum distance,
simply set realistic expectations that are closer to your average distance throws, not just your best ones.
If you know you can throw a mid-range 300 feet and the hole is 270, simply throw the mid-range near, but not quite full power rather than throwing your putter for maximum distance, just hoping that it makes it there.
Treat it as if its a 180 foot shot off the tee, where rather than doing a full run up, you slow things down and put some touch on the disc without a run up at all,
Because accuracy is much more vital to success on these holes rather than how far you can throw it in a practice situation.
It's also worth noting elevation in these scenarios.
Some courses will tell you what the hole plays like based on the elevation change, but if it doesn't, expect the hole to play longer when throwing uphill and shorter when throwing downhill.
Using this knowledge will further aid you in proper disc selection and get you as close as you can to the basket.
This method is going to be the most time consuming of the three, which is certainly a downside, but when used correctly will ultimately be the most effective, which is a huge upside.
Learning your discs and technique intimately enough to do this consistently does take time, but there is no better time to start than now, you may even surprise yourself with how well you do it.
Just like in the last step, field work is going to be your friend here.
Dedicate full practice sessions to working with just a portion of your bag.
One day putters, the next mid-ranges, then control drivers, etc. etc.
Start by warming up properly with drills that also work on short distances before slowly working up to full distance throws.
See how far you can get your putters to fly, then slowly work them back in and see how close you can get them to your practice target that is at a less than maximum distance.
Do this weekly with your various discs until you know your bag better than ever!
As stated, field work and learning your discs takes time, but is vital in improving your overall disc golf game.
Throwing max distance is a lot of fun, as its rewarding when you make an impressive drive in front of your buddies during a casual round or can check off a distance milestone on your list.
Throwing for distance is just one cornerstone piece to the puzzle, and learning to control that distance is going to be the piece of the puzzle that gets you to the other corner stones of putting, approaching, and accuracy.
So grab your discs, head to your favorite practice place, and
Learn those Distances!
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