If you’ve been playing disc golf for any amount of time, you’ve likely been faced with a situation where you need to throw your disc dead straight down a narrow tunnel fairway. It is the most challenging type of throw. And frustrating.
There’s a good reason for this. Throwing a golf disc straight is hard.
At times even the most advanced professional disc golfers in the world have trouble throwing a disc straight. There are multiple things that can go wrong. Some things are before you ever step foot on a course. Other things are during the actual throw. You need to make sure you’re doing everything right before it can all come together.
Once it does come together, a straight flying golf disc is a thing of beauty. There is nothing quite as satisfying as seeing your disc fly exactly as you intended, especially when it is traveling on a smooth, unwavering line. That feeling of supreme control over flight is the ultimate gratification in this sport.
So, how do you throw a disc golf disc straight? I’ve come up with 10 reasons why your golf disc may not be flying straight, along with ways to fix the issues.
Read each one carefully. Some of the reasons might not seem like a big deal, but I can tell you I’ve put each one of these on the list for a purpose. That’s because I’ve made every single one of these mistakes. And I know each one DOES have an impact.
I hope as you read these you can learn from my previous blunders, so you can start throwing your golf discs straight as an arrow!
Reason #1 – You’re Using the Wrong Type of Golf Disc
The most likely reason you’re disc isn’t flying straight is because you’re using a disc that isn’t designed to fly straight. Disc selection is crucial in disc golf. If you try to use the same disc for every throw, you’re not going to find much success.
There are three general types of discs you can choose from. There are putters, mid-ranges, and drivers. In between those three levels there are a few other distinctions, but for purposes of this discussion we’ll focus on those three.
Putters are typically used for finishing off a hole in the basket within a short-range. However, putters can also be used over a relatively long distance if used correctly.
Putters are also some of the straightest discs that are created. This is because of the shape of the mold. These discs are designed with a deep and narrow rim, which allow for more glide. You could liken a putter to a traditional catch frisbee.
A mid-range disc is used for intermediate distances when approaching the basket. It isn’t uncommon to see a mid-range thrown from off the tee pad, but it is more likely going to be used as an approach disc for the average player.
A mid-range can also be a very straight disc, but not always. The disc mold will be a bit shallower than a putter with more aerodynamics. Because of this it’ll tend to go a bit further than a putter.
A driver is the most common disc used off the tee pad. This is because it has the highest potential for maximum distance.
Drivers have the thinnest profile of all the discs, allowing for more aerodynamics. However, the trade off for more distance is that the disc will not fly as straight. If your goals is to throw straight, a driver is likely to be your last choice.
Disc Ratings and Selection
When selecting a disc for straight tunnel shots, you’ll want to first look to the disc ratings. Putter, mid-ranges, and drivers all have their own general purpose, but the disc ratings is where you’ll want to focus your attention. You can take a look at my golf disc buyer’s guide here for a more complete look at the ratings
Specifically, look to the turn and fade ratings.
Turn rates how likely a disc will curve to the right at the beginning of its flight (rating of 1 to -5). Fade rates how likely a disc will curve to the left at the end of it’s flight (rating of 0 to 5).
If you’re throwing a disc with a high turn or fade rating, it isn’t going to go straight. You want low ratings here.
My favorite straight flying disc is the Polecat. Its a putter with a turn rating of 0 and fade rating of 0. Bingo. Just what you need to fly absolutely straight. It is almost built like a traditional catch frisbee, with a tall profile which makes it great for shots up to 200 feet. You’ll want to throw this disc very softly.
If you need something to go a bit further up to 250 feet, I recommend the Dart. The Dart is another putter that also has a turn and fade rating of 0, but comes with more speed and glide providing that extra 50 feet.
If you need something to go even farther and still dead straight, then you’ll need to go up to a mid-range. There are not many mid-range discs that have a turn and fade rating of 0. The best one I have found is the Mako3. I can get it go to 50 feet or up to 300 feet and it never deviates left or right.
There are other discs out there that can fly straight enough for a lot of tunnel shots. Even some drivers can do this. Just remember to find a disc with as low of a turn and fade rating as possible for the straightest throws.
Reason #2 – You’re Using the Wrong Type of Plastic
When I purchased my first Dart I was having great results. Exactly what I needed in my bag on tight tunnel holes. However, after a few months of heavy use I noticed the disc wasn’t flying like it once did.
What had changed?
I began to question my technique, disc selection, and everything else in my game. In my search for an answer I learned something very important about different types of plastics that discs are made from.
The more a disc is used, the wear and tear will tend to make the disc more understable. In other words, it will have more turn than a newer version. This was exactly the answer I was looking for because my Dart was curving to the right when I would throw it with a backhand. Whereas before it would never have an deviation to the right when I threw it flat.
I understood what was happening, but I had only been using the Dart for three months. Did that mean I would need to buy a new version every three months to have the result I was looking for? That could get expensive quick.
As I was reading more about different types of plastics that disc are made from, I found that my first Dart was made from the Innova DX plastic. DX is the cheapest type of plastic that Innova uses for discs.
Conveniently, it is also the most inexpensive. Inconveniently, it has the lowest durability which leads to quicker wear and tear.
If you want your disc to retain it’s flight characteristics for a longer period of time, you need to upgrade to a higher quality of plastic. My golf disc buyer’s guide goes into more detail on the different types of plastics and durability grades here.
Eventually, when I went to buy my next Dart I purchased it in the Innova Champion plastic. It isn’t the most expensive, but it still lasts for a long time while retaining the original flight characteristics.
Reason #3 – You’re Using the Wrong Disc Grip
There are so many different ways you can grip a golf disc. I don’t believe there is just one type of grip that everyone should use. It is a personal preference.
Your hand is unique from mine and mine from yours. However, if we were to both pick up two separate Innova Mako3’s, the discs would have relatively the same dimensions. That’s why I can’t tell you which grip is going to work best when you want to throw your disc straight.
That being said, there are some general guidelines that I believe everyone should keep in mind when it comes to disc grips. Especially if you’re trying going for a controlled line
There are two general types of grips: power grips and control grips. And then there is everything in between there. You’ll utilize a power grip when going for maximum distance potential. However, if you are going for accuracy you’ll likely want to use a control grip. You’ll lose some distance potential, but it is worth it.
You can use a power style grip when you want to throw your disc straight, but you’re going to have a much more difficult time. The likelihood of you missing a tight gap is much higher with a distance focused grip.
With a control grip, you’re chances of releasing your disc on a straight line will dramatically increase. For this, I like to use a fan grip and I am confident that most (not all) players out there will find success with this when wanting to throw straight. A fan grip is performed by fanning your fingers underneath a disc’s flight plate, with you thumb on top.
I wrote a article you can read here where I walk through the fan grip in more detail, as well as a TON of other grips you should know about.
Reason #4 – You’re Using the Wrong Release Angle
If you’re using any of the three discs I recommend above, then you’re going to want to release the disc flat out of your hand. This is easier said than done. It takes an incredible amount of muscle memory to release a golf disc consistently.
When starting out, it was very common for me to think I was releasing my discs at the correct angle. However, I was usually wrong. My natural tendency (and this is true for most people) was to curl my wrist outward just before the end of my throw. This would send the disc veering off to the right when throwing a backhand.
To combat this habit, I needed to really focus on curling my wrist inward upon release. This can felt a tad unnatural at first. This is because your wrist and forearm muscles are not used to this type of position.
Another mistake that players can make (and one that I’ve made) is using drivers that are too overstable and fast. If you don’t have the arm power for a high speed disc you’ll tend to release the disc on an sharp anhyzer angle (wrist turned outward) in order to get the disc to go any distance.
This can exacerbate your already existing inclination to turn your wrist outward. So when you next go try and throw a disc flat, you’re muscle memory will work against you.
If you’re having trouble getting your disc to fly straight, really hone in on this to ensure you’re releasing your disc at the correct angle (usually a flat angle when throwing a putter or mid-range). To do this, I like to have someone film me while I throw. Later on I will review the video to see how close I was to releasing the disc at the correct angle.
Reason #5 – You’re Rounding
Rounding refers to when you swing your arm out away from your body to throw, making a rounded motion with the disc.
A golf disc should be thrown by reaching back with the disc and pulling it through close to your body. Essentially, the disc should travel in a straight line. This action is commonly likened to starting a lawn mower or generator.
When you go to pull the cord to start a generator, you keep the cord as close to your body as possible to make the pull easier. If you were to swing your arm out away from your body (like a pendulum), it is almost impossible to get the cord fully pulled out. That’s because it is using small muscles to accomplish the task.
By keeping your arm and disc close to your body, you can tap into more powerful muscles and levers. Not only this, but it allows you to aim the disc more accurately.
When a disc is pulled through on a straight line across your body, it will rip out of your hand and continue on that straight path. Conversely, rounding forces the thrower to attempt to time the release. Time it wrong and the disc will veer off the path.
To determine if you are rounding, you can use a simple hand towel. Hold the towel as if you are preparing to throw a disc. Perform your throw with the towel in hand. The towel should have a whipping sound at the end of your throwing motion rather than a whooshing sound.
A whooshing sound indicates the towel is swing around your body and not being pulled through. Continue this exercise until you can achieve at solid whip with the towel consistently.
Reason #6 – You’re Throwing the Disc Too Soft/Hard
All discs are given a speed rating, which is the first number displayed in the ratings box on a disc. This number will be anything from 1 to 14. 1 being the slowest and 14 being the fastest.
The speed rating is simply an indicator for how hard a disc is intended to be thrown to achieve the desired flight path.
Take the Mako3 disc we’ve discussed above. It has a speed rating of 5 and is designed to fly in a straight line as indicated by the fade and turn ratings of 0. In my experience, you do not need to throw this disc with that much power to get it to go 200 – 250 feet in a straight line. For me, the 5 rating means I’m throwing it with a maximum of 60% – 70% power.
However, if I were to throw it with all of my power trying to get it to go over 300 feet, it would no longer fly straight. Why is this?
Discs can be overpowered. When a disc is overpowered it will tend to fly as if it were understable, meaning it will turn to the right out of my hand. A Mako3 shouldn’t turn to the right at all since it has a turn rating of 0, but it definitely will if you throw it too hard.
The same goes for throwing a disc too soft. If I were to throw the Mako3 with only 30% power it wouldn’t go very far, but it would also fade to the left. Once again, this disc has a fade rating of 0. However, it will act as if it is overstable, meaning it will fade to the left out of my hand, if I were to throw it too softly.
Every disc has a spectrum of how much power you can throw it with while still retaining the intended flight characteristics the manufacturer designed it for. For the Mako3, I’ve found that to be between 150 – 250 feet when thrown flat.
If I want to squeeze out more distance from this disc, I could always put it on a hyzer angle, tilting the disc inward to my body. This has a way of counteracting the effects when the disc is overpowered.
If you’re finding your disc is turning or fading when it shouldn’t, try varying the power you use to see if that corrects the flight.
Reason #7 – You’re Not Accounting for the Wind
Throwing a golf disc straight down a narrow tunnel is difficult enough. Adding wind to the equation certainly doesn’t help. Even the most calm wind can send your disc down the wrong path. Instead of viewing it as unfavorable, you can harness the wind to your advantage if you play it just right.
Let’s establish the basics and then discuss how each affect the flight of your disc. I’ll be explaining this from the perspective of a right hand backhanded player, using one of the three discs I recommended above: Polecat, Dart, and Mako3 each being thrown on a flat plane.
There are four general directions the wind can come from: left to right wind, right to left wind, headwind, and tailwind.
- Tailwind – since the wind will be blowing from behind you, it will fly further but move toward the ground sooner.
- Headwind – since the wind will be blowing directly in front of you, counteracting forward motion, the disc will tend to lift into the air.
- Left to right wind – since your disc will be spinning into the wind, the disc will tend to drop sooner and move in the direction of the wind.
- Right to left wind – since your disc will be spinning after from the wind, the disc will tend to lift more and move in the direction of the wind.
When there is wind present, you’re never going to get your disc to fly perfectly straight. However, you can make a few adjustments that will give you as straight of a flight as possible. You’ll need to adjust your release angle and nose tilt.
Adjustment for tailwind – upon release, angle your disc outward with the nose slightly tilted up.
Adjustment for headwind – upon release, angle your disc inward with the nose slightly titled down.
Adjustment for left to right wind – you’ll handle this similar to a tailwind, but you’ll want to angle your disc outward a little more with a little more nose up tilt.
Adjustment for right to left wind – you’ll handle this similar to a headwind, but you’ll want to angle your disc inward a little more with a little more nose down tilt.
Remember that you’ll need to play with the degree of release angle and nose tilt you use given the severity of the wind.
Reason #8 – You Never Practice It
Due to the difficulty associated with straight tunnel shots in disc golf, courses do not commonly add too many of them. There are some courses that do. Its just not that common to see more than a few on any given course.
Most of the holes you’ll play will likely be designed for a hyzer throw (right to left curve). Personally, I’ve found this to be detrimental to my game because I don’t get to practice the straight tunnel shots very often.
When I am presented with a hole that requires a straight throw I’m not accustomed to the circumstance. I needed to find a way to practice it more often.
Luckily, I had an actual concrete tunnel not far from my house that I could practice on. The tunnel was used for drainage under the road. However, it was perfect for me to place a portable basket on the other side and begin practicing.
A great alternative to this is to find a soccer goal that doesn’t have a net installed. This is fairly common at public parks. The two sides of the goal make a perfect tunnel that you can practice throwing through.
Start by staying close to the goal. If you can throw it through the tunnel from 50 feet away, move back to 100 feet. And so on, until you can move back to 300 feet and still hit that narrow tunnel.
I’ve found that this has trained my throw to have much more precision for straight tunnel shots than any disc golf course I’ve gone to. When I am on the course, I visualize the concrete tunnel near my house or the soccer goal that the public park.
Reason #9 – You Have the Wrong Mindset
If you have a line to the basket that is narrow, you have to commit. Fully. There should be no doubt in your mind that you will hit the gap toward the target.
You’ve gone through everything on this list and perfected your game. You’ve practiced and practiced. Now is the time to perform. Pick up your disc and just do it with unwavering commitment to the shot. If you execute your throw with any doubt in your mind, your chances of success are very low.
Instead of focusing on the things that could go wrong, focus on all of the things you’re going to do right.
Lost your favorite straight putter in the water on the previous hole? Good. It’ll give you the chance to work on throwing your mid-range straight.
The wind is blowing harder than usual? No problem. You know exactly how to manipulate your disc to account for the wind.
It just started to get windy? You’re ready. Pull out your other plastics for just such an occasion and let it rip.
The conditions are never going to be perfect out on a disc golf course. There are always going to be things working against you and reasons why your disc isn’t going to flying straight. You need to always have a plan for how your disc is going fly straight. Preparation and confidence is key.
Get out there and start crushing your golf discs down the tightest tunnel shots you can find.