Are you struggling to improve your disc golf backhand distance? Are you tired of feeling limited by your current skills?
Many beginner and intermediate players struggle with a lack of power in their backhand throws, hindering their ability to advance to the next level and improve their overall game. Feeling frustrated and stuck in your current skillset can be discouraging.
But what if I told you that there’s one easy trick that can change all of that? That’s right – with just a simple adjustment, you too can experience the same boost in backhand distance that I did.
In this article, I’ll share the secret that helped me take my backhand throw from intermediate to advanced and added an extra 80ft to 100ft of distance. Get ready to learn the key to unlocking your full potential and reaching new levels in your disc golf game.
Classifying Different Levels of Disc Golf Players
I hate to do it, but for the purposes of clarity and understanding, it has to be done. While some may balk at my simplistic categorization of player skill level, it should be taken with a “grain of salt”.
The PDGA provides a player rating based on the player’s average round scores compared to the course rating. A rating of 1,000 is considered a professional-caliber round.
But for our purposes, it’s nothing that serious. We’re simply using a rudimentary criteria of distance and average score to designate a players particular level in their current game. With that, below defines those levels:
Criteria for Classifying Different Levels of Disc Golf Players
|50 – 150ft||18+ over||Beginner|
|150 – 250ft||Par – 18 over||Intermediate|
|250 – 350ft||Par – 9 over||Advanced|
|350 – 500ft+||9 under – Par||Pro|
Note: This break-down was derived in about five seconds…it simply gives us a starting point to understand where I was to where I am without having to explain in detail every time.
Struggling to Improve Backhand Distance as a Beginner Player
Now that we have a break-down of player levels it should go without saying that as a beginner, you might not even be throwing 100ft yet. In fact, some of my students can’t throw 50ft…they literally have never picked up a frisbee, let alone a disc golf disc before taking my class. So perhaps there could even be a sub-beginner level.
However, as a beginner, despite the difficulties in finding the right techniques and tricks to improve your backhand distance, there’s one advantage to being new to the game – you have nowhere to go but up!
It’s also worthy of considering that regardless of where we stand in our game, we are all embarking on the same journey to increase our distance. Whether you’re just starting out or have been playing for a while, developing a strong and consistent backhand throw is essential to advancing your game.
Nonetheless, it can be difficult to know where to start and what steps to take to achieve that improvement. There are a ton of tips, tricks, and videos showing various techniques that will mislead you into believing it has some magical solution for your backhand improvement…I should know, I tried most of them.
But this trick is the first that I truly noticed a significant gain. Yet, as a beginner, it might not be for you. In fact, if I were to give some words of advice for a beginner, it’s to focus first on the basics of the backhand…
Understanding the Basics of Backhand Throws
Now I’m going to keep this short because this article is about helping the intermediate player start to break into advanced levels. But that doesn’t mean the information below isn’t good for all players…as with any sport, sometimes we have to be reminded of the fundamentals.
If you want to take a deeper dive into the motion of the backhand then check out our How to Throw a Backhand article. For now allow me to break-down the action of throwing a backhand with this summarized list below:
- Grip the Disc
- Do The x-step dance
- Reach back
- Rotate the Hips
- Snap the wrist
- Let it rip!
Factors That Affect Backhand Distance
Let’s keep something in perspective here…no matter what someone tells you, there are always outside forces affecting the distance one can hope to achieve. Some are more obvious than others.
So before I jump into the trick that easily boosted my backhand by 100ft be sure to consider these external forces as possible reasons results may vary. Here are a couple of factors that could be impacting your backhand distance drives…
- Disc selection: this one should fall under the obvious category, but as a beginner you may still not have an idea of what different discs can do…read up on what the numbers on a disc golf disc mean to gain a better understanding.
- Weight: gravity pulls down on objects with more mass, or in this case discs that weigh more. If your arm is weaker, a heavier disc will be harder to throw. Learn more about how the weight of a disc can affect your throw.
- Wind Resistance: throwing into the wind versus with the wind versus a cross-wind all have an impact on the distance your disc will fly. Try to pick a less windy day for consistent practice.
- Elevation: this one might be a little less obvious. Some courses have varying degrees of elevation change. If your tee shot starts up high and the fairway traverses a lower valley, you might see an instant improvement to distance as the disc has more time to stay afloat
Short of standing on stilts for an unfair elevation gain, your going to need to read on to find out my number one trick to massive backhand distance gains…
The One Easy Trick to Increase Backhand Distance
Ok, enough with the banter, as they say across the pond…onward to the good-stuff. I’ll stop teasing and dive into what I discovered to be the problem holding me back from breaking into the next level.
Explanation of the trick to increase backhand throwing distance
If you watch how-to videos for backhand power throwing you see the same suggestions over and over. Everything from punching the ground with your following shoulder, to rotating at the hips, pushing with your back leg, and lets not forget the power pocket.
While all of these hold true, or at least some truth, and have helped me on my journey to gain a bit of ground, I recently came across one suggestion that made the biggest impact on my throwing distance out of them all.
But wait! Before jumping down to the video, here me out, because there is a point or two not made in the video that helped me understand what is going on. However, I promised you the answer and in short it’s this:
Open Your Shoulders!
Step-By-Step Instructions on How to Implement the Trick
I’ll do my best to walk you through it, but essentially it comes down to the “reach-back” portion of the throwing motion. While most players at the intermediate to advanced level are doing the same things, because we’ve all watched those same how-to videos over and over by now, why do some get better results than others?
Now, If you’re a beginner you might get a bit lost here, but players that are consistently throwing in the 200+ range are surely performing the steps of the backhand throwing motion that has you twisting at the hips, reaching back, pulling through, and punching down the following arm to create force.
But the problem with the reach back and punch down method is two-factors:
- One, the reach back forces us to lock up our throwing arm, and if were trying to achieve a fluid “whip” like motion it can’t be so rigid.
- Two, the punch down is only effective if you give your punch somewhere to start…hence the opening of the shoulders.
Adding in this one action, with intention, immediately opened my game to the 300ft plus range. Sure, I had hit that mark a few times before, but not with ease and consistency throughout an entire round.
The motion requires you to rotate the trailing shoulder (my left as a right handed thrower) around your back. Essentially, opening both my shoulders and hips even more.
While I was twisting and opening the hips, I really didn’t focus on that back shoulder. But when I did it truly was like magic. This new found addition to my form allowed for a fluid like action for the remainder of my backhand throw. With the best part being my throwing shoulder didn’t feel like it had just been dislocated.
Demonstration of the Trick in Action
Ok, ok I get it…if you’re like me you’re a visual learner. Plus, I like to give credit where due. So without further adieu, here is the video by Robbie C that helped me achieve the best round of my life thus far…
Potential Obstacles and How to Overcome Them
There are, of course, a few gotchas that might hold you back from opening your shoulders. For one, if it’s something you’re not doing now than like any new trick it still takes practice. But here are a few things to watch for and keep in mind:
- Distance vs. Accuracy: Robbie hints at this tradeoff in his video…as with any technique for increasing power and range we might lose some accuracy. I recommend utilizing this technique mainly from the tee and on more wide open shots. But over time, I did find, my throw became more accurate.
- Flexibility and Injury: I have a herniated disc in my back, I’m not old but I’m not 20 anymore…so I feel ya if you can’t twist, turn, and rotate as much as you used to. As with any athletic activity, before even experimenting with this trick, I took extra time to warm-up and recommend you do too.
- Up and Away: This motion could cause your throw to release upwards as if you’re swinging a golf club. In fact Robbie demonstrates this sort of “swing low sweet chariot” motion as a practice drill to overcome some common problems with bad form. But, I found that keeping a bit of the reach back method involved in the motion helped me stay away from sending my disc to the moon.
Benefits of the Backhand Trick
Besides the obvious benefit of distance gain I learned three other things…
The first was how some of my faster discs, such as the Kastaplast Grym, could actually fly. The more speed you can put on your disc the more accurate the remaining flight characteristics of the disc will be true. This also was the first time I actually had to pull out a slower disc to make sure I didn’t overshoot the target and land in the water hazard.
Second, I mentioned this briefly above but perhaps for me the greatest benefit was the ease of power…another thing Robbie mentions in the video, stating that relying on the easy power is better because forced power is only going to get you so far. Essentially, my throwing or leading shoulder didn’t feel as sore after playing a round and half.
Finally, I learned to let it go and not be afraid to rely on a little luck. Sure I lined up my disc and tried to position my feet in a manner that should send the disc where I wanted, but the improved power and distance made for a different experience on a familiar course…and that meant letting it fly and see what happens. No layups here, go for those ace-runs!
Overall this improved backhand distance and increase in high-speed disc flight consistency led to a huge confidence boost and satisfaction in my game.
Putting the Trick to the Test
Obviously I’ve shared with you my personal experience in trying this technique out, but I didn’t include all of the results. Essentially I went and played a course I have played on many times so that I was decreasing the variables as much as possible.
I also happen to catch a beautiful day with little to no wind and few other players to jockey for space. But, where I normally bogey just about every hole on this course, on this day the results were different. I shot only 7 over!
But the real test of the trick came to using it on my students. A few were only throwing in the 50ft range. As soon as they bought into the idea of opening their shoulders, they too immediately gained distance!
Try the Trick and See the Results for Yourself
I would encourage you to give it a shot. Even if you’re already throwing 300ft plus you might not realize how much of your power is coming from the lead shoulder instead of the trailing.
If, like me, you focused on a smooth reach-back and pull-through motion, thinking that was the key to success, this could get you to loosen up a bit more and make those tee drives come with ease.
So cheers to Robbie C for creating his tutorial and here’s to hoping you’ll give it a shot. For now, keep improving, the game only gets more interesting the better you get at it.
Till next time,