Throwing disc golf discs far is not just a result of good driving form and practice. It’s also a result of how well you understand your discs and their flight patterns. In this post we analyze how disc golf discs fly and the factors that influence their flight so you can better understand how to throw disc golf discs far.
What is Disc Stability?
Before we start analyzing how disc golf discs should fly, we must first understand stability. We’ve talked a bit about stability before in our Ultimate to Disc Golf Translation Guide. However, it sometimes takes a few explanations to really understand it.
I found that thinking about an ultrastar’s flight pattern best helped me understand the concept of stability when I was first learning about it.
Ultrastars are very understable. What that means is that the disc “turns over” in its flight. For example, if I throw a flick huck, I know that I have to release it inside-out (hyzer in disc golf terms) and it will flip up to fly flat if I throw it hard enough. If I throw that same flick huck with the same power, but release it flat, the disc will “turn over” and fly down towards the ground at an outside-in angle.
Let’s now assume an ultrastar is stable (also called neutral). If I released it at a flat angle, then it would continue to fly flat. Now, if an ultrastar was overstable, and I again released a flick at a flat angle, it would fade out and go right (if I’m throwing with my right hand).
Knowing that an ultrastar is understable, and understanding what understable means, is the easiest way to understand stability in my opinion!
How Should Discs Fly?
Now that you hopefully have a better grasp on stability, lets combine stability and release angle to explore how discs can fly.
In ultimate frisbee, we have an encyclopedia of throws. Around backhands, low-release flicks, push-passes, outside-in-wide-release backhand hucks, etc. However, we don’t classify the way the frisbe flies in the air after we release it besides maybe saying “floaty” or “bladey”. In disc golf, the way the disc flies is just as important as the way you throw it. Understanding how your disc should fly will help you throw further and more accuratly.
There are nine main types of flight patterns in disc golf. You can see those flight patterns in the graphic below which I borrowed from Ultiworld Disc Golf’s article on stability and release angles. Take a second to study it and remember our discussion on stability above. Does the understable row correspond to the flight of an ultrastar when you’re hucking it?
It’s important to note that all of this is on a spectrum and as you adjust your release angles, release speed (more below), and the disc you throw, your disc flight patterns will change.
The following video from Danny Lindahl gives you some film of these different types of shots so you have a better idea of how they actually fly!
How to Throw the Disc Far
So that’s all well and good, but which shot type is going to let me throw the furthest? That’s a good question, and one that took me some time to find the answer to. It turns out there are three mains types of shots that are used for maximum distance. Those shots are an s-shot, flex shot, and hyzer flip shot.
For an s-shot, you use an understable disc and throw it flat slighty to the left of center (RHBH). Since it’s understable, the disc will turn to the right at the beginning of its flight. Then, as it slows down fade will kick in and bring the disc back to the left.
Throwing this shot with too much speed will result in the disc continuing to turnover and not fading back to the middle. As your arm speed increases you will find that this shot might not work with understable discs and you might have to adjust to more neutral flying discs. You can also opt to use the understable discs and throw hyzer flips to get distance!
A hyzer flip is one of my favorite shots when I execute it correctly. In fact, the first time I threw a disc to 300′ it was a super beat-in, understable, Innova DX Leopard [Infinite Discs].
To execute a hyzer flip, you’ll need to use an understable disc and throw it hard at a hyzer angle. Since the disc is understable, it will flip up to fly flat and then slightly fade out at the end of its flight. Sound familiar? Thats right, most big hucks in ultimate are hyzer flips. You’ve been hyzer-flipping this whole time and you didn’t even know it!
A flex shot is one of the cooler shots to throw in disc golf. You’ll need to use an overstable disc, and throw it at an anhyzer angle to the left of your target. The disc will start by traveling to the right (RHBH) but then the overstability will force the disc to change directions and come back hard/fade to the left.
As an ultimate player this is a very new type of flight pattern since ultrastars don’t do this. Therefore, you’ll really have to put your trust in the disc and believe it will fade back eventually.
A Final Element to Throwing Far: Speed
Hopefully you now understand how release angle and stability can affect the disc’s flight. There is however a third element which is the most important to throwing far: release speed. You have to provide some umph if you want the disc to fly far!
One way to think about how speed affects a disc’s flight is to again look at an ultrastar. If you release it too slow/soft it will fade out to the left (RHBH). If you release it too fast/hard it will turn over to the right. The same is true in disc golf.
Putting it All Together
To maximize your distance, you’ll need the right disc for your arm speed. You then need to understand the disc’s stability to know which angle to release it at. Combining the correct release speed, with the correct release angle, while throwing the correct disc will maximize your distance.
This doesn’t even include external elements like elevation, wind, and temperature which you’ll also have to take into account. Throwing far sounds complicated, huh? Yup! A lot can go wrong, and it often does.
As important as it is to understand a disc’s flight pattern and how to get it to fly far, you’ll still have to translate that knowledge into results. The only way to do that is to get out and practice. Hopefully though, by reading this post you’ll have a better understanding of why your discs are doing what they’re doing.
So What do I do Now?
Get a hold of an understable, neutral, and overstable disc, go out to a field, and throw all of the nine shot types described above.
Once you get a better feel for how the discs fly, try to throw an s-shot, flex-shot, and hyzerflip. Keep in mind that these shots aren’t always easy to execute, so you might not get great results your first time out. However, after just a few practice sessions you’ll be throwing hyzerflips for miles!
Let us know in the comment section below how it goes and if there were any A-HA! moments as you practiced all these shots!