Just don't take off your finger.
June 8, 2016 by Jason Liebgott in Instruction with 5 comments
The first time I threw a disc and it felt noticeably heavy, I knew something was different and, judging by how much further the disc went, it was a good thing. I’d stopped playing rounds in order to take to a field near my office and try to emulate Will Schusterick’s form, which he’d been kind enough to post on YouTube.
I’d stumbled into the process of changing my own form. For those of you that have spent time trying to fix form problems, you know how hard this can be. If you are new to the sport and want to do things the right way from the get go, then welcome aboard.
What I didn’t know at that time was the size of the can of worms that I was opening. I didn’t have anybody to take lessons from, so I began to head to a field each day, armed with a stack of putters and a stubborn streak to keep me from giving up.
I started documenting my findings during each fieldwork session on note cards. Sometimes my cryptic hand writing would say “SLOW” or “HOLD THE RIM.” At others I’d just draw a picture of a hammer and then lay awake in bed at night, trying to imagine what would be the best way to throw a hammer as far as possible.
No joking, I dragged a hammer out to a field and most likely scared the high school kids who were busy smoking cigarettes and nervously laughing at me on their lunch breaks.
It turns out that the correlation between a disc and a hammer is very strong. The way we throw a disc is more like applying leverage to a lever than it is flipping a beach Frisbee. Once you start visualizing things like levers and hinges, it actually makes quite a bit more sense. You can see it pretty clearly in this slow-motion Paul McBeth drive:
One thing that slowly (and I do mean slowly) started to click in my head was that just swinging the hammer alone was only going to eject it at a certain speed, and that speed wasn’t impressive. In order to accelerate the hammer, I was going to have to use my arm in a way that would bring the hammer head inward, toward my right pectoral. The hammer would load up substantially as I caught it on the inward pull if I timed it with bracing my weight against my plant foot.
The inward pull would max out with my elbow in front of my leading shoulder, and if I then opened my shoulders and extended the hammer forward I’d created a strange little physics experiment. The hammer would eject forward and – here’s the kicker – it would fly twice as far.
I even inadvertently pinged a putter off a car in a parking lot by getting the physics experiment very right. I’d been intending to hold the disc, but it turns out that was impossible. Luckily, there was no dent.
I realized that grip lock could not be an issue for me any longer because, quite simply, I couldn’t hold the disc anymore. It was coming out, even if I clamped down on it. It was violently ejecting from my hand.
And that’s where “HeavyDisc” was born. When a disc redirects properly, it feels very heavy for a split second.
To be perfectly clear, I’d watched all the videos I could find and read Disc Golf Review’s archives over and over trying to grasp what was happening, but it was a bust. I was lost and frustrated. The existing information on the internet was not helping me, and so I started my own site in order to document what I was trying.
I’d spend hours in a parking lot near my office recording videos, trying to slow down this little physics magic trick and pull it apart. I started teaching it to my disc golf buddies and spent countless hours hemming and hawing about what I should do with my wrist and how best to grip the thing. We debated it endlessly on DGCourseReview.com, drew diagrams, and conversed with people all over the country who’d emailed me asking for more help.
Most commonly I refer to it as “hand on the outside of the disc at the right pec,” assuming you are throwing right hand backhanded. It is the single most powerful mechanism that a disc golfer can develop. It is the bow to our arrow.
All of the rest of the back hand motion is about adding power to the physics experiment, or the “magic.” Whatever gets added, it must be added in a way that protects the magic.
So let’s get to the goods.
The easiest way to feel the magic for yourself is to grab an empty water bottle that has a loop on the lid for your finger. Find a nice open area where you don’t have any TVs or windows to hit and start by swinging the bottle back and forth.
Keep your arm and shoulder loose and get a feel for what kind of pendulum you have for an arm.
Initiate the swinging motion with your hips, with your knees squeezed together, and leave the arm loose. It’s key to learn what this initial motion feels like.
Next, bring the bottle inward, as if you want the bottom of the bottle to hit your right pectoral. As the bottle gets to the right pec, the forearm begins to extend forward, redirecting the bottle and unleashing the momentum forward.
In this case, the water bottle emulates the inward pull of your drive, where the disc comes into the right pec. The outward ejection finds the disc redirecting to extend forward.
The reason I said empty bottle is because force equals mass times acceleration. We are now accelerating the snot out of the bottle, and if you have water in it, that force is going to be big. I inadvertently did this drill with a half full bottle and nearly took my index finger off.
What’s truly shocking about this drill is how distinctly we can feel where the acceleration takes place. It has nothing to do with the back swing and everything to do with the arc that happens from the right pectoral forward.
I’d like to address the many versions of the “snap the towel” drill that have been suggested by some prominent names in the disc golf world. I personally don’t think it is a good idea. A disc is basically a lever, not a loose towel. A water bottle and a hammer are levers. How a lever redirects and accelerates is very different from snapping a towel.
Finally, I will strongly suggest that you don’t do this drill in your office, house, or near a Ming vase. As you start hitting the angles right, that bottle is going to start taking on some serious force, and I don’t want anybody putting a bottle through a window on my account.