Backhand is the most common throw in disc golf, and it's the technique that can produce the greatest distance for the vast majority of players. But like most optimal athletic motions, the movements that create powerful backhands come to very few people naturally.
Our 5 Great Videos series makes it easy for disc golfers to discover great instructional videos on various topics without the typical slog through YouTube, and this post is all about helping you get a real feel for backhand disc golf throws.
Typically, we source five videos from various content creators, but one channel launched in early 2021 has produced such high quality instructional content on the backhand that we asked if its creators would help us curate this post by picking the five most essential vids from their extensive line-up.
Luckily, Overthrow Disc Golf agreed, and we hope what you'll find below will help you start unlocking your backhand's full potential.
Get to Know Overthrow Disc Golf
If you'd like to learn more about how Overthrow Disc Golf got started and the journey one of its founders, Josh White, took from being a professional tennis instructor to making a living coaching disc golfers, you can read all about both in "Disc Golf Lessons From Anywhere."
Tip for Deep Dives
To watch anything in the videos below frame-by-frame, do the following:
1. Pause the video. 2. Use the "," and "." keys to go backward or forward frame by frame (Mac or Windows).
This works on all YouTube videos and is a great trick to know if you want to see something specific about someone's form while watching tournament coverage, tips videos, or any other content.
Important Before You Watch
The techniques Overthrow teaches are very different from ideas about good throws that are still very common in disc golf today. If you've gotten tips on your throw before (especially from long-time disc golfers), there are two common misconceptions you may need to redact from your ideas of good form.
Misconception #1: Pulling is good For a very long time, it was second nature for experienced disc golfers to tell newer players that the key to strong, accurate throws was to "pull straight across the chest." In recent years, the proliferation of disc golf content featuring elite players has let people more closely analyze top-level form, and the general consensus among technique buffs is that forcibly pulling a disc like it's a lawnmower starter cord is a terrible idea. Instead, the arm should be relatively relaxed, turning it into a whip as the body rotates. Additionally, the whole "straight line" thing is inaccurate.
Misconception #2: You should intentionally "reach back" Another false gold nugget of wisdom is the notion that reaching back equals power. Yes, the arm and disc will extend behind you to some degree during any good backhand throw, but that shouldn't be because you're consciously reaching to put the disc there. Going into the "whys" on this one would take a bit more time than we want to spend here, but if you're interested to learn more, there's an Overthrow video that discusses it.
Box Drill for the Disc Golf Power Pocket
One of the most crucial things for generating power with a backhand is getting the disc into what's commonly called the "power pocket," which looks something like this:
The 90° angles you see in the image mean the shoulder and elbow of the throwing arm are in prime position to act like levers, ready to transfer the power the body is producing through rotation as efficiently as possible into the disc.
As we mentioned before, attempting to use your arm muscles to forcibly pull the disc into the power pocket during your throw won't get you very good results. The simple drill in the video below helps your body learn how to create the power pocket while keeping the lower part of the throwing arm loose as the rest of the body rotates.
Start-0:09 Intro to the video (no tips)
0:10-0:19 Extending both arms straight out in front of you
0:20-0:29 Example of a disc golf "swing" but with keeping both arms straight out
0:30-0:37 Step 1: Backswing with both arms extended
0:38-0:41 Elbow loose on throwing arm!
0:42-0:45 Step 2: Creating the "box" (AKA, power pocket)
0:46-0:47 Step 3: Finishing the swing (or "the unbox")
0:48-0:55 Explaining what the drill helps your body learn. Though it's an offhand comment here, don't overlook when Josh says "the disc staying in front of your chest the whole time." This is a key concept in modern disc golf technique advice.
0:56-1:05 Examples of steps 1-3 done more quickly
1:06-1:12 Demonstrating a common mistake where the throwing arm elbow is pulled too far forward. Something to look out for when you're performing this drill
1:23-1:46 More fairly slow demonstrations of the drill in full and a reminder to work on keeping the elbow and lower arm loose
1:47-End A little banter and outro (no new tips)
A final note before moving on here is that when you start really throwing, the off-arm won't be extended out in front of you. It will be tucked in fairly tight to your side to allow for a faster rotation.
Windwaker Drill: Improving Disc Golf Accuracy by Honing Backhand Release Point
Once you've got your swing down and that loose throwing arm forming the power pocket on the reg, you'll likely be achieving more distance. But greater power doesn't always mean greater accuracy. Precision comes from perfecting your release point (hey, that's the name of this blog!).
The windwaker will help you get a feel for consistently hitting the optimal release point, which some disc golf instructors refer to as 10 o'clock (it's especially important in a coaching method called Spin and Throw developed by Bradley Walker). This comes from imagining your throw in reference to where numbers on a clock are, with 12 being the direction of the target.
In the video, Josh mentions "10 o'clock," so we wanted to give you a basic illustration of what that means before you dive in:
Hopefully that image will help you understand a little bit better where to set the plastic bottle you'll need for the windwaker drill.
Start-0:22 Amusing intro but no instruction or tips
0:23-0:36 Discussion of how this drill can be used before or after learning more about what to do with your off-arm during the backhand throw. We don't cover off-arm tips in this post, but you can check out an Overthrow video with them.
0:37-0:45 Explanation that the drill is meant to help with developing a consistent release point
0:46-0:55 Demonstration of when the elbow can extend too far doing the swinging motion taught in the box drill
0:56-1:12 Demonstration and discussion of incorrect release point caused by the elbow extending too far forward. When this happens, the disc goes more to the right than a right-handed thrower intends (more left for lefties).
1:13-1:41 Demonstration and discussion of correct elbow position and how it leads to the disc being released at the right time
1:42-1:49 Intro to how to set up this drill
1:50-2:04 How and why Josh came up with this drill
2:05-2:15 Setup part 1: How to hold disc at the start of the drill (throwing arm extended straight out as in the box drill)
2:16-2:29 Setup part 2: How to set up an empty or near empty water bottle at the right height and angle for the drill
2:29-2:39 Very slow example of the drill in full
2:39-2:49 Positive cue 1: Feeling the air resistance against the disc during the drill
2:50-3:09 Positive cues 2 & 3: 2) Hearing the air at the proper release point, 3) bottle falling off
3:08-3:30 Review of correct and incorrect hit/release points
3:31-3:40 Demonstration of full drill. The wind created by the disc reaching full acceleration at the correct point knocks down the bottle.
3:41-4:00 Discussion of how it may feel like you need to actively stop the elbow's progress to get the disc to right release point.
4:01-4:34 Importance of hearing the wind resistance only at the release point
4:35-4:57 How pros often do similar motions on the tee pad to get a feel for their release points before throws
4:58-5:30 How this drill was available to Overthrow's Patreon supporters for a long time before the video was made and asking viewers to share the video if it was helpful
Getting the Nose Down on Backhand Disc Golf Drives
One of the easiest ways to lose distance is by throwing a disc "nose up." This term refers to when a player releases a disc so that its front end (the one pointing in the flight direction) is at a similar angle to the nose of a plane at takeoff. When discs are released nose up, they lose all their energy traveling up in the air rather than progressing down fairways.
Nose up releases hurt both distance and accuracy.
The video below shows you two possible ways to achieve a nose down release so you can get the most out of your backhand drives.
Start-0:22 Intro to video. No tips.
0:23-0:32 Montage of clips with music. No tips.
0:33-0:50 Explaining that the first section of the video will explain what the "nose" of the disc is. The definition given is "the leading edge of the disc."
0:51-1:10 Josh puts disc on exaggerated angles to explain what nose down and nose up mean (1:02-1:04 nose up/nose down angles pointed out and extremely visible)
1:11-1:35 Josh begins to explain that figuring out what edge of the disc will be its nose when you release it during a normal throw is a bit tricky. Explanation interrupted when Josh shows that he's put numbers on the disc like it's a clock face to help with his explanations in this video.
1:36-2:00 Explanation of how to know what edge of the disc will be the nose during a throw continues. This section is mostly set-up, though, with one section where a speech error from Josh is emphasized for comedic effect.
2:01-2:34 Josh shows where the nose of the disc will be if players release at the right point (that roughly 10 o'clock point the windwaker drill helps with) versus at the wrong point (around 12 o'clock).
2:35-2:45 Intro to the idea that there are two ways pros consistently release at a nose down angle
2:46-2:59 Option 1: Keep the wrist and disc at the same angle throughout the throw. Example of how to put the disc's nose on the right angle at the right release point and then reverse engineer the throw to the beginning (the point where the throwing arm is extended out and back from the player).
Note: Though it's not specifically said in the video, you could simply do the box drill backward with a disc in hand to practice this movement.
3:00-3:20 Calls the wrist angle here "pouring the coffee" because your wrist should be at roughly the same angle when you release a disc as it would be when you're pouring a cup of joe.
3:21-3:28 Shows what it would look like to keep the wrist angle the same throughout the throw with very slow, simple motions.
3:29-3:48 Demonstration of how releasing at 12 o'clock instead of 10 or 11 o'clock makes the disc leave the hand nose up despite the wrist being at the "pour the coffee" angle. Transition to Option 2 to get a nose down release.
3:49-4:32 Josh explains that he personally doesn't achieve nose angle by holding the "pour the coffee" angle throughout a swing because it means the wrist stays fairly tense rather than loose. He notes, however, that pro Ezra Aderhold – who throws monster drives – uses this method, and it obviously works for him.
4:33-4:43 Introduction of Option 2, which is about simply getting the disc nose down at the point of release rather than holding it on the same angle throughout the throwing motion.
4:44-5:37 Explanation of releasing the disc on a nose down angle through supination, which means rotating the arm so that the palm of the hand turns upward.
5:38-5:54 Josh says the benefit he experiences from supinating to a nose down release is that the arm stays more loose throughout the throwing motion. He emphasizes, however, that both options for achieving optimal nose angle can produce great results.
5:55-5:59 Josh reminding himself what he's covered
6:00-6:11 The two reasons focusing on one of the methods might not work for you: 1) You're pulling the disc with arm/upper body or 2) You're not rotating enough
6:12-6:49 Demonstration of why pulling the disc will result in a nose up release even if you're "pouring the coffee"
6:51-7:03 Why if a player supinates at the end of their throw, the wrist and disc can be at various angles before the point of release without being "wrong"
7:04-7:35 Josh's theory on why players who started playing very young tend to supinate
7:36-8:07 Demonstrations of different degrees of supination you may see examining pros' form
8:08-8:42 Like, subscribe, join Patreon, etc. (no new tips)
8:43-End Outro (no new tips)
How to Practice Run Up for Disc Golf Backhand
Everything in the videos we've broken down so far is great for beginners because you can use it all in standstill throws, which is where players should start. As you get a bit more confident about how to finish your throw, you may want to work on adding a run up, which helps players more effectively transfer energy into their discs.
We want to note that the video is about the walk up, not the run up. We used "run up" because it's the more commonly-used term, but there's no need for a literal "run" to achieve great distance. In fact, moving quickly often makes timing a lot harder. Though some pros do move fast on the tee, many of the biggest arms in the game take just a few deliberate steps before launching their discs into the ether.
Learn what they're doing in the video below:
Start-0:20 Intro to video. Explaining that the majority of problems he's seen when analyzing amateurs' form stems from poor walk ups.
0:21-0:27 Explains that the colored strips on the ground are from his work as a tennis instructor
0:28-0:37 Three things are important to each step of the walk up: Feet, hips, and where your weight is.
0:38-0:50 Explanation of lead and rear foot. Righties lead with the right foot and the left foot is the rear. Lefties lead with the left foot and the right foot is the rear.
0:51-1:15 Step 1: should be straight with hips open to target. Turning too early can lead to timing issues.
1:16-1:24 Step 2: Rear foot moves forward and lands at a 45° angle
1:25-1:29 Step 3: Lead foot moves to be roughly perpendicular with the target
1:30-1:42 Note that you shouldn't do anything that hurts or feels uncomfortable. Do your best to copy what you see, but give yourself wiggle room if your body can't handle the exact motion.
1:43-1:54 What Step 3 accomplishes: Hips and head turned away from target, body weight centered
1:55-2:04 Warning that Step 4, the all-important x-step, is often done incorrectly.
2:05-2:23 Warning that the biggest mistake is taking a huge step with rear foot during the x-step
2:24-3:16 Explanation of how an improper x-step often leads to just walking backward, which isn't helpful for a disc golf throw. Multiple jokes about how it's like the moonwalk.
3:17-3:30 Step 4: Two options - the normal x-step or the crow hop. Demonstration of crow hop at 3:27.
3:31-4:07 How the rear foot can land in a range of correct positions during the x-step. Referring to the clock example in the windwaker drill, the rear foot can point between eight and seven.
4:08-4:26 Why the rear foot pointing directly away from the target negatively affects the throw
4:27-4:35 Brief look at why putting the rear foot at the correct angle sets the body up well for producing power in the final step of the walk-up
4:36-5:03 How doing a step rather than a crow hop can make it easier to push the head too far forward
5:04-5:16 How a crow hop can help keep the body weight in the right place a little more naturally than an x-step in Josh's experience
5:17-5:31 A tactic many players use to keep their weight in the correct place when doing an x-step without hopping (popping the hip forward)
5:32-5:41 Aerial view of all walk-up steps
5:42-6:32 Step 6: The final part of the walk-up called "the plant." Again, the foot (lead foot) can land within a range, but it should be at about the same angle as the rear foot. Turning the toe of the lead foot toward the target means the hips can't fully rotate, and most of your potential power is lost.
6:33-7:04 Demonstrations of why your weight should be toward the front of both your feet and not your heels when you plant.
7:05-7:16 Josh checks his notes
7:17-8:07 Explanation of why you may see some pros whose form doesn't look exactly like what Josh describes in this video
8:00-8:27 How the taking the steps at the angles Josh has suggested sets the body up to release at full power at 10 o'clock
8:28-8:47 Why taking the steps to release incorrectly at 12 o'clock doesn't set the body up for a powerful throw
8:48-9:00 Quick run-through of all walk up steps leading to 10 o'clock release point
9:01-9:51 Slow overview of all the steps in order with recaps of what they help accomplish
9:52-10:27 Like, subscribe, join Patreon, etc. (no new tips)
10:28-End Outro (no new tips)
Side-by-Side Analysis of Simon Lizotte and Drew Gibson
You've now got all the basics you'll need to get started practicing proper backhand technique. But what does it all look like when they're put together to perfection?
That's what Josh's frame-by-frame breakdown of two pros with massive power will show you. The main focus is on the walk ups.
Start-0:20 Part of intro. Josh notes it's their third take trying to film this video.
0:21-0:47 Rest of intro (no tips)
0:48-1:02 Explains that Simon and Drew are throwing different directions and uses arrows to indicate where each is throwing. This matters because their bodies will move in relation to their targets.
1:03-2:01 First two steps of each player's walk up. They match exactly to the first two steps explained in the video featured in the previous section.
2:01-2:42 Showing that both pros have large x-steps but it doesn't cause them to turn their hips full away from the target like it does when most amateur players take large x-steps
2:43-3:19 Josh uses an analysis tool to show that the pros' hips are both around 120° from their targets when their rear feet touch the ground during their x-steps.
3:20-3:57 Discussion of foot position when the rear foot of the x-step lands
3:58-4:38 How the pros are distributing their weight toward the toes throughout the x-step and not to their heels. Brief mention of back legs being slightly bent.
4:39-5:38 Emphasis that both pros' hips stay closed (i.e., turned somewhat away from the target) as they stride out of the x-step. Keeping the hips closed until the lead foot starts planting is of utmost importance for power.
5:39-5:58 Josh mentions the word "brace," but this is mostly Josh sifting through images.
5:59-7:23 Looks at how both pros brace with their lead foot, allowing them to transfer a huge amount of the energy they're generating from shifting their weight and rotating their hips into the disc
7:24-8:18 How the shoulders turn farther away from the target than the hips but by the time of release, the two have caught up to each other. Brief mention of the word "lag" that some people may know as visible in good form from other sports.
8:19-8:26 Josh says he'll show that the pros' centers of gravity are centered with their body, not their lead legs.
8:27-8:37 Reset after small setback in visual analysis
8:38-9:06 Analysis of how pros' left hips start rotating at the same place the right hips end up once the disc is released
9:07-9:23 Explanation of what Josh calls "door hinging," which is when someone centers their weight on their front leg and then rotates around it rather than keeping their weight centered and bracing against the front leg.
9:24-10:25 Visual example of an amateur player with a YouTube channel (a very well-known online gamer/YouTuber named Michael Holt or MOLT) who documented his journey to reaching a 500-foot/152-meter disc golf throw door-hinging early in his improvement attempts. This is compared with Drew Gibson's form.
10:26-End Outro (no new tips)
It's only appropriate at the end of a post focused on YouTube videos to do a few plugs.
If you'd like more from Overthrow, check out their extensive library of tips, drills, and form analysis on YouTube. You can also browse their Patreon page to see how to get personal form reviews, join their Discord channel, and even one-on-one virtual coaching sessions.
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