How To Throw a Backhand: Quick Dash

In our first of several “Quick Dash” series we look to cut out the fluff and get right to the nitty gritty, serving you up answers to common questions. So without further banter, let’s take a look at How Do You Throw a Backhand?

What is the Backhand?

Let’s start with a quick definition of the backhand…because knowing is half the battle. The backhand derives its name from tennis where the sport defines the action as “a stroke played with the back of the hand facing in the direction of the stroke, with the arm across the body.”

This is similar to Disc Golf. I would caution between the difference of throwing “across the body” vs “around the body”. While this motion is somewhat subjective I don’t want to confuse beginners or get new players into a mindset of bad habits. Read on to learn why…

When is the Backhand Used?

Essentially this is the main throw a disc golf player utilizes, so it is used in almost every circumstance. Typically though this is considered a tee-shot throw or the first throw of every hole. The reasons vary, but one could surmise this is because we all learned to throw a regular frisbee this way and therefore are confident in this motion. Therefore, allowing us to put the most power behind our tee-shot when starting out.

How To Throw a Backhand Disc Golf?

  • Step 1: Grip the disc. Grab it like your shaking hands, with the flat logo side up. New players often leave their pointer finger on the rim of the disc for accuracy. This is fine to start but eventually you’re going to want to have all fingers wrapped underneath to generate more spin.
  • Step 2: Focus on the wrist snap. Most beginner players think the power comes from the arm motion. But without a snap of the wrist the disc won’t spin as much and ultimately diminishes the flight time. Practice snapping the wrist to make the disc spin and fly directly up in front of you. You will start to get a feel for it over time.
  • Step 3: Add the arm. Ok so you can snap your wrist and spin the disc…now let’s add that classic arm motion. But wait, there’s more going on than you realize. Reach directly back, across your body, but not around your body. You’re not scratching your back with the disc. Bring your arm forward in a level plane as if it was already in motion. Keep your wrist so that the back of the hand faces the direction you want the disc to fly.
  • Step 4: Power and momentum. Drive or lead the disc with your elbow first…keeping it as level as possible. This will naturally rotate your core, but focus on your abs rotating not your hips.
  • Step 5: Use your legs. To start with, throw it without the step up. However, you will quickly start adding the step up motion to your driving tee-shot. The step up is a whole process on its own worth practicing, but essentially it’s like a side stepping dance. Every player has their own unique “dance” motion. Your lead foot equals your throwing arm side. So right handed throwers will take one step with their right foot. This is followed by stepping the left or opposite foot behind the lead. And then concluded by finishing with the lead foot again.
  • Step 6: Release the beast. At the end of all this motion comes letting it fly. Be sure to follow the steps above of snapping your wrist and leading with your elbow all on a level plane. The last part of the motion is to follow through…in simple terms, leave your hand out in the wind facing the direction you want the disc to fly for a split second.

Types of Backhand Grips

Though there could be a multitude of grip variations, typically the backhand is thrown using two to three different grips:

  • Power Grip: Perhaps the most common grip for backhand throws, this technique consists of wrapping all four fingers around the disc to make contact with the inner rim, while placing the thumb on the top plate. Its important to not overgrip or hold the disc too tightly, but a good firm “handshake” should suffice. The first, being what’s known as the power grip.
  • Fan Grip: More used in mid-range or putter shots, the fan grip is executed by fanning the fingers out the underside of the disc with the thumb on top. In general this grip provides additional stability and control.
  • Modified Power Grip: The final variance might be more of a preference then a tried and true technique. Some players will start with a power grip and leave the pinky finger off for a three-finger grip. While other players may extend the pointer finger to the outside of the rim, as commonly seen used in ultimate frisbee. 

The Biomechanics of the Backhand Throw

After getting a grip on things (sorry couldn’t resist), we focus on the form, or movement of the action to perform a backhand throw. This alone could be a full dialogue of how to drive a disc using the backhand, but again, for the purposes of this conversation, we’re keeping it simple.

Starting with your backhand stance, and assuming your throwing with your right hand…the backhand stance starts with your knees slightly bent and feet a little narrower than shoulder width apart. The backhand throw motion can be broken down into 7-steps:

  1. Move 1: take a short setup step with your left foot.
  2. Move 2:  take a longer step with your right foot, toward the intended target.
  3. Move 3: Cross your left foot behind your right foot, to begin the “x-step” motion. This should allow you to rotate your spine as you load your hips, turning away from the intended target. Reach back with the disc, away from target. 
  4. Move 4: Take a longer step with the right foot toward the target and plant the right foot as you transfer your weight a little forward.
  5. Move 5: Open your hips, rotating them towards the target, followed by the shoulders and pivoting on the balls of your feet. The arm becomes bent and travels along the “power pocket”, not too far from the body, but not right next to your chest either. 
  6. Move 6: with your shoulders unwinding, your arms should start to follow, extending toward the target. The disc should “pop” out of the hand as you snap your wrist for some final torque.
  7. Move 7: continue the natural motions, keeping your body relaxed and loose to follow through. The arm should swing out in the direction of the rotation and the left, back leg should come around to the front. 

How To Improve My Backhand Disc Golf?

  • Tip 1: When gripping the disc, you can extend a finger or two underneath the disc to the center. This will help with stability in the throw when starting out. Eventually, you want to work on all fingers being wrapped to the underside of the rim.
  • Tip 2: Don’t curl the disc too tightly into your chest. Don’t arc the disc way wide away from your body either. Find the center of the flying path that is far enough from your chest to generate a nice even plane. Don’t arc the motion sending the disc into the pond, bush, tree, or heaven forbid crowd watching you.
  • Tip 3: For shorter throws think of not bringing the disc all the way back, as you lose sight of your target. The closer you get to the target the more accuracy is needed.
  • Tip 4: Don’t ignore the follow through.  Where you end is where the disc flying begins.  So pause at the end of your throw after your arm and motion have fully extended and the disc has been released into the wild!

Quick Dash: Disc Golf Backhand Throw

Obviously I am doing my best to keep this simple and quick. There are a lot of nuances to each step above and each step is often practiced over and over by both professionals or enthusiasts alike. But in this series, we want to give you a quick step by step guide answering the common questions beginners have and provide some tips to improve the technique. Stay tuned as we add more quick dashes to the site.

I am an avid rock climber, mountain biker, and disc golfer, who loves nothing more than a beautiful day to go play outside like a kid. I love to read and learn new things in order to gain a better understanding of our amazing world, and feel honored to share some with you. If you don’t find me at my computer typing away, you will find me outside exploring. I wrote this article because I am enthusiastic about helping you improve your disc golf skills and find a passion for getting outside!