This supplemental post was developed for our members to provide the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions, and also provide links to information/discs referenced in the video:

FAQ

Q: Where did you get the Speed / Spin data?

A: The primary source for the speed data was a detailed study conducted by Theo Pozzy at a distance driving contest using a radar gun. The spin data was consolidated from a number of different sources using different measurement techniques.

Q: Wait a minute, I can throw over 350′ at only 45mph — is your data wrong?

A: The speed vs. distance data points are averages.  In the study, some 65mph throws only went 250′, while several throws under 50mph went well over 400′.  The overall distribution of speed vs. distance results, however, fell into a very normal distribution curve.

Q: What are the details on the World Distance Records you list?

  • Backhand – 2016 – Dave Wiggins Jr. – 154g RPro Boss – 1109′
  • Forehand – 2014 – Jason Cortella – 168g Legacy Icon – 624′
  • Overhead – 2014 – Jason Cortella – 177g XXX – 483′

Q: If I can get 2.35 extra feet of distance for each 1 gram reduction in disc weight, shouldn’t I theoretically be able to throw 10 gram discs 399.5′ farther than I can throw 180g discs?

A: No. This average only works within typical disc weight ranges (130-180g), and with throws in the 40-70mph velocity range.  The variability is also more pronounced on the extreme ends of the scales.

Q: If I throw Forehand with an overstable, torque-resistant disc, am I just hiding my problem with off-axis torque (OAT)?

A: None of our disc advice is intended to replace practice, or to imply that you shouldn’t try to remove OAT from your throw mechanics.  In fact, when doing field work, you may even want to practice forehands with discs that are the most prone to OAT: tall, narrow-rim putters.  During competitive play, however, even the top pros rely on heavier, flatter, more overstable discs when throwing forehand shots.

Any Other Comments or Questions?

If so, let us know in the Comments section below!

Disc From Video:

Mold: Firebird
Plastic: Champion
Weight: 165-175

Ideal for reducing turbulence, resisting off-axis-torque, and preventing excessive turnover.

Get a Firebird with These Exact Specs Here

Video Transcription

Warning: high risk of transcription typos.

Welcome to Best Disc Golf Discs Video Guide Series!  I’m Bart Bird and this episode will be covering backhand vs. forehand driver selection.

Topics today will include the key differences between backhand and forehand drives, specific disc requirements for backhand distance, and specific disk requirements for forehand distance.

Let’s start off with a drive comparison of two drives of 300 feet. For these drives, we’re going to look at the throwing style, the release velocity, the initial spin, and the time in flight.

For a backhand throw,  typical data for a 300-foot drive would be 57 mph release velocity, about 2,000 rpm in initial spin, and time in flight of 5.4 seconds.

A typical 300-foot forehand drive, on the other hand, would be more like 62 miles per hour, 1600 RPMs, and only 4.9 seconds of time in flight.

Again both drives traveled 300 feet but with very different flights, and this video will be discussing how you increase the release velocity of the backhand throw, and how do you prevent the premature slowing of the forehand disk.

Beginning our analysis with backhand distance, it has been proven that the most important factor in driving distance in a backhand drive is the release velocity in miles per hour. Carrying the analysis forward: with the most important variable in flight distance being released velocity, the most important variable in release velocity is disc weight.

From studies that have been conducted we know that with drives between 40 and 70 miles per hour ( which encompasses about 90% of all players) for each one gram in weight reduction of the disk you’ll get an average of 2.35 additional feet of distance. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but extrapolating that out with a 20-gram weight drop, players could expect to see an average of 47 feet of additional distance driven by the increase in release velocity from being able to throw a lighter disc more quickly.

Looking at the world distance records for disc golf, it’s no surprise that the current world distance record for a backhand drive was done with a disk that weighed only 154 grams, with all of the top 5 throws of all time being with discs in the 137 to 157-gram category.

Going back now to our initial comparison, while we see that for backhand the key is selecting a dish that will allow you to increase your release velocity, for forehand discs when you have a high release velocity paired with lower spin RPMs, a totally new set of challenges arise.

Looking at our digital display, discs in flight rotate around their axis.  Any energy that’s applied to the disc during the throwing motion that’s not in line with the axis of rotation is off axis torque, which we see as disk wobble or flutter upon release.

Off axis torque is much more common with forehand throws, but it’s important to note that off axis torque is not caused by low spin RPM — it’s actually caused by the throwing motion.

Studies have shown that forehand throws with a clean release will show little or no OAT and have more than enough spin to provide stable flight.

However, lower spin RPM typically seen with forehand throws does decrease their torque resistance, and throws with higher release velocities are more impacted by the effects of off axis torque.

The results of OAT is increased air turbulence, which creates two problems. The first problem is excessive turn-over, producing suboptimal flight lines and less predictable flight patterns. The second problem is degraded aerodynamics resulting in a more rapid loss of velocity, decreased flight time, and ultimately decreased distance.

When selecting discs to fight against the turbulence caused by OAT, players have two options they can take.

The first is to manage the turbulence, which can be accomplished by using a disk with flatter profiles that produce less turbulence. Additionally, players can select discs that are more overstable to reduce the amount of turnover generated by the turbulence.

The second way to fight turbulence is to use disc configurations that are more resistant to off-axis torque. The first option here is to use discs with wide rims.

Widening the disk’s rim shifts the disk’s weight to the perimeter — increasing its rotational inertia and thereby also increasing its gyroscopic stability which in turn increases its torque resistance. The second option is to increase the disc’s total weight.

Many of you, of course, are thinking that we just discussed that heavier desks don’t fly as far as lighter discs — and while this is undoubtedly true in a general sense, when you’re dealing with the turbulence from off-axis torque, the benefit of reduced turbulence outweighs the benefit of reduced weight.

This fact even proves itself to be true at the highest level where the distance world record for forehand throws is with a 168-gram disc — 14 grams heavier than the backhand record holder.

As a practical example let’s say you’re experiencing off axis torque wobble, and your current driver is a 160 gram Valkyrie. A better option could be a 170-gram Firebird. It has a flatter profile to reduce turbulence, it is ten grams heavier to increase torque resistance, and has increased stability to fight the turnover caused by off axis torque turbulence.

Some, but not all, of these concepts can be used to explain why the overhand distance record was actually made with a 177-gram desk, but that’s another video!

Thanks for watching and have a great round!

3 thoughts on “Backhand vs. Forehand (Sidearm) Disc Selection

  1. Jake says:

    First let me say I really enjoy your videos and always get a lot out of them. The most recent video your team put out discusses the disc distance with relation to the velocity of the disk leaving the hand. In the video, RPM was mentioned but not the focus and I am wondering how important RPM is for disc distance? I think many people are able to accomplish arm speeds similar to pros but somehow still don’t get the same distance results. Perhaps a video of how disc RPM affects the flight would be a great follow-up to the velocity video and even suggestions on how to increase the disc RPM (grip type, strength, wrist involvement, etc.) if that is found to be an important factor. One simple example I can think of is a putting style (players seem to get a lot of distance in the spin put with relatively low effort compared to a push put). Thanks again for the awesome content!

  2. Andrew says:

    Do you know any resources on overhand throws (either tomahawk or thumber). My friends and I have never been able to figure out overhand throws. We take discs that we think will fade to the right, but then they spin loops and then go left at the end of the flight. Basically we have no idea what discs should do when we throw it.

    • Bart Bird | Site Manager says:

      Hi Andrew — we are working on a video now to explain the dynamics of Overhand/Overhead disc selection. As a sneak preview, I can tell you this for sure: Low Glide. We’ll send out a notification to members when the complete article and video are published.

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