Buckle up for my driving school!
I once said that putting comprised about 25% of my game. Drives are 40-50% of my game simply because most holes can be reached from the tee. Yes, it all comes down to the putt, but you must be able to set yourself up nicely for the putt. And that takes power and accuracy off the tee. What should beginners focus on, distance or accuracy? Beginners should always focus on control. Once you have c0ontrol you can out more power into the shot. But if all you have is distance it's harder to learn accuracy. So, buckle up for my driving school!
A BRIEF POWER PRIMER
Powerful drives are generated by the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, and shoulders. Let the bigger muscles move the smaller muscles. The transfer of weight and energy will be more efficient.
You really don't want to hold back on any shot. When a pro golfer plays he is trying to hit full clubs, meaning he is taking full swings as mush as possible and making the club change match the distance. I try to do the same. I try to make a full throw as much as possible. If the hole is 100 yards, I'll be throwing 75-100%.
How many drivers do players need? If you play a variety of courses that present a multitude of situations, you need seven to eight discs to cover all situations: a long range hyzer driver, a long range turnover, medium range hyzer, flat, and turnover drivers, plus your short range discs and a roller.
For shorter drives, I throw Rocs. In the 350' range, I throw my longer rocks or short-range Vipers. It depends on the angle and the trees. At 400 feet, I'm throwing Vipers and the new retooled Gazelle. It's a favorite of mine.
I've always felt larger discs (180g size) glide a little better than their smaller competitors. But, then the Cyclone came out and it glides very well. The new Gazelle also glides very well. You can put more rotation on a smaller disc and they are also faster. So today, you're better off throwing the smaller discs for distance.
For beginners choose stable to understable discs such as Stingrays, Hawks, or Comets. I do not recommend beginners choosing overstable drivers such as X-Clones, Whippets or Vipers.
One more tip on disc selection: a lot of players don't take into account the "out-and-around" length when choosing a disc. Say a hole is 320 feet with no straight path to it. You may have to throw 40 feet around to clear the obstacles. The disc has to travel 40 more feet coming back to the basket so now the hole is actually 400 feet. On holes where you have to go out and around, choose the longer discs.
WRIST BEND AND GRIP
In general, the bend in my wrist matches the amount of power needed for the shot. If I only am throwing 50%, then the wrist is 50% cocked etc. If I'm going to throw as hard as I can, then my wrist will be curled to the fullest. Not cocking too much on the shorter shots creates more control. It's progressive all the way down to the putt, where I don't cock my wrist.
Grip pressure goes along with the same thinking. Short drives require a firmer grip than putts. With longer drives I'm gripping hard. You need to grip harder because when you are twisting and turning and moving fast you don't want the disc to slip out.
PREPARING TO THROW
What should you be thinking about before the tee shot? Only the conditions: your footing, the tees, OB, the turf (will it make the disc skip?), and wind. You want to be a ware of all the factors that are going to make your disc move. Also you want to visualize the shot within these conditions. Whatever your favorite way to work a disc is (hyzer, anhyser, or flat), you need to see the disc thrown perfectly through the given airspace.
Get your body in line on the tee pad depending on the type of throw. Come at the tee at an angle. If you're for an anhyzer drive, you're starting at the right rear corner and your body and disc will end up in the front left corner of the tee pad. For a hyzer shot, you're starting at the left rear corner and your body and disc are going to end up at the right front corner. This is key in getting a good shot going. Your creating the angle you desire. If a straight shot is the best route, I'll start with a touch of hyzer to prevent the disc from flipping over and go straight down the middle of the tee.
On an anhyzer shot, don't bend at the waist. Arch high in the back under your shoulder blades. This gets your shoulders lined up for the left-to-right downward motion of a turnover. In a hyzer, your bring your arm upward.
Here's on more tip on disc angle: any time you introduce an angle to a drive, the disc will be more difficult to control. The hyzer drive is the most controllable simply because it is not changing an angle. But learning to throw a disc flat is one of the most important skills for any golfer to learn. All of the possible turns and variations are only slight angles. If you want to hyzer, you change it slightly one way. If you want to turn it over, you change it slightly the other way.
The last three steps are the most important for the set-up and run-up. For the right-hander, it would be the right foot setting up for the left foot to go behind, then the right foot going forward and planting. You'd be amazed how far you can throw if you get these three steps in sync.
The initial step before you drag your left foot behind the other sets up the power turn. When you put the left foot behind, your hips and shoulders rotate to the left. That's when you reach back with your arm. The more you can twist and reach back, the more potential power and speed you are going to have moving forward. As you are doing your approach, you're pretty straight, but as you are coiling, lower your body a bit. You can't get much power if your legs are completely straight.
Footwork is your base power source and the uncoiling of power moves quickly upward and slightly forward: your legs power or hips, and your shoulders power your arms. It's an uncoiling of all your muscles together. That's where you get booming drives - when all the muscles explode as a unit.
A lot of players throw outside their body - they pull their arms around their body fully straightened.. If you would stop that motion halfway through when your arm is straight in front of you and attempt to pull start a lawn mower, you would have no power. Instead start the power down deep and pull across your stomach or chest as you would normally start a lawnmower.
BALANCE AND FOLLOW THRU
Good balance is key to any golf shot. It all starts with your head. A lot of people drop their heads or yank it over when doing a turnover. When your head moves, your torso moves, throwing you off balance. Slow don and achieve balance and power. I try to keep my head as centered and stable as possible. On the long shots my head is naturally going to turn away for a split second. When I'm pulling through, my head is up and this keeps the back straight. If I'm throwing a big hyzer I might drop the head a little. I try to keep my eyes on the target area as long as possible.
Right-handers can get the proper feel of correct follow-through by executing a left-handed baseball swing. Your wrists have to let go and pull over, turning your forearms to the sky because the bat is coming through. You're not going to be able to stop your wrists. This is the same type of felling you should have in disc golf. It's a release of the muscles. You need to extend outside the body after release.
TOUGH DRIVING CONDITIONS
Low ceiling tight holes that are fairly long (over 100 yards) are some of the most demanding driving holes. You have to be confident and visualize the shot. Don't be weak. I'll hit a 10-foot gap much better if I throw fairly hard. And don't be jerky - be smooth on tight shots. Finally, throw lower to create less area for the disc to kick into the woods.
Uphill holes are also demanding. Just picture yourself standing on flat ground and throwing up a tree. Discs are more stable if you're throwing up a hill, so the higher you throw it, the more you have to turn it over.
Water. Assess the situation and try to play away from trouble. You want your shot to enter the putting area moving away from the water.
One thing I do before I start a practice round is throw each type of shot repetitively: flat shots, hyzer shots, and turnover shots. Throw until you're comfortable with them and practice more on the shots you're having trouble with.
Another good practice tip is going out to an open field and throwing distance with someone close to your ability. Get four or five discs and just heave at will. It's a good way to throw a bunch of discs in a short period of time without having to chase after them. This type of practice will inspire you to throw farther than your partner. Back him up! It also gives you a chance to learn how to throw a disc in a wide open situation.
FINE TUNE YOUR DRIVING MACHINE
Keeping your body in top shape is very important for successful drives. I try to do a mixture of stretching, aerobics, and weight-lifting.
I ride a bicycle anywhere from10-40 miles a week for leg strength and cardiovascular work. I always include some off road stuff with hard pedaling.
My weight training includes dumbbell butterflies, arm curls, wrist curls, and bench presses. I also use the Equalizer™ pretty regularly. I go through slow controlled motions concentrating on extension.
Finally, focus on strengthening your stomach with crunches and keeping your hamstrings loose through stretching. If you have a strong stomach and loose hamstrings, your back is going to stay more healty.
Staying relaxed will always help you throw farther. Know your own ability--play within yourself. Knowing what you can and can not do creates confidence. I hope my driving school will accelerate your game and take your tee shots into the passing lane!
YOUR WRIST AND FOLLOW-THROUGH