While I was out on a nearby disc golf course I got to thinking, is a backhand or forehand better for maximum distance? I’ve met some disc golfers that are avid proponents of forehands. And I’ve met some that are insistent on throwing backhand for distance. So, who is right?
I started doing some research on the topic to determine which was better. Surprisingly, its a controversial subject in some corners of the internet. However, after extensive reading I found that there was a general consensus on which was better.
So, when throwing a disc golf disc should you use a backhand or forehand for maximum distance? Most players would agree that using a backhand is the best throw for distance. While there are players that are able to throw a forehand further than a backhand, most players are throwing a backhand further most of the time.
Let me reiterate. There are disc golfers that legitimately throw forehand further than backhand. They certainly exist, but they are not the majority.
You could be one of these people, so it is good to try both through trial and error. However, let me explain further WHY backhands are better than forehands for distance. And even if you are someone that can throw a forehand further than a backhand right now, I believe you can still learn to throw a backhand further by understanding these points.
Lastly, I want to share with you the discs that you should be using for both types of throws, because it shouldn’t always be the same disc. Some golf discs are better for backhands. And other discs are better for forehands. I’ll explain why that is and specifically which discs I like to throw for each.
Let’s get into it.
Backhand vs Forehand Explained Further
There are three major differences between a backhand and forehand:
- The range of motion
- The muscle groups used in both
- And off axis torque
Range of Motion
The range of motion between these two throws are very different.
When executing a backhand, the disc is pushed back behind the body and then fully extended outward. The disc needs to travel a long distance from point A to point B, before being released.
When executing a forehand, the disc is also push back behind the body. When it is pulled forward, it travels less distance than a backhand between point A and B before being released.
If you’ve ever taken a physics class, then you may be familiar with the concept of levers and force. The concept is this: when applying force to move an object, a lever makes the job easier by dispersing the weight of the object across the distance of the effort and resistance arms. If you increase the length of the lever, you can apply less force to move the object.
When throwing a golf disc, your arm acts as this lever. By this logic, you’ll want the disc to be at the end of the longest lever you’re arm can produce. In this case, a backhand throw.
Of course, there is more to throwing a golf disc than simply using a long lever. If your technique and
Muscle Groups For Backhand and Forehand
When throwing a backhand, you’re able to utilize large muscle groups more effectively. For a forehand throw, you’ll inherently rely on smaller muscle groups to generate your power.
I believe a major reason for this is a backhand allows you to keep the disc closer to your body during the throw. Instead of relying on your arm muscles, you can use your legs, lats, hips, shoulders and core to a larger degree.
A forehand naturally takes the disc on a line that is farther away from your body. It still uses those large muscle groups, but not as effectively.
To understand this, you can perform a simple experiment if you have access to a cable and pulley machine.
Adjust the pulley to the height that your golf disc would typically follow when thrown for both backhand and forehand and perform each. See how much weight you can pull with both positions. I’m willing to bet that most people are going to be able to pull more weight in the backhand position.
I’m certainly not saying you need to workout to get larger muscles to throw a golf disc farther. What I am saying is a backhand throw can leverage your large muscle groups for an explosive movement.
Off Axis Torque
Off axis torque is terrible for your distance. It is also more commonly seen with forehand throws.
Have you ever thrown a golf disc and noticed it wobbling in flight? That is what is known as off axis torque.
Any time you apply force to an object that causes it to rotate, that is known as torque. When you throw a golf disc, you are trying to apply as much torque to the disc as possible to maximize the rotation or spin. If you were to apply torque to your disc that didn’t revolve perfectly around the center of the disc (the axis), you would call this off axis torque.
If your disc is spinning off of its axis and begins to wobble in the air during flight, it is going to have more air resistance. Instead of slicing through the air it will drag through the air due to stunted aerodynamics and eventually lose valuable distance.
Off axis torque (OAT) can happen with both backhand and forehand throws. However, it is much more likely with forehands because of the range of motion and wrist position.
To prevent OAT you need a clean release. Backhand throws typically feel more natural for players, which allows for a cleaner release, since the reach back and pull through is more conducive of this for most players.
If you refer to the diagrams above, you can see that a forehand typically begins higher before being brought down low for release. This action of high to low can create release problems.
Conversely, a backhand stays relatively flat throughout the throwing motion. This makes it easier for the thrower to keep torque on the axis of the disc.
Wrist Roll When Throwing a Golf Disc
Another point the bring up is rolling your wrist. It is much more common to see players roll their wrists as they release the disc with a forehand.
There are two movements we perform when rotating our forearms: supination and pronation. Supination is when we rotate our forearms so our palms are facing up. Pronation is when we rotate our forearms so our palms are facing down.
To throw a golf disc with a forehand, you need to release the disc while your forearm is fully supinated (palm up). This is what allows for a flat clean release on along the axis of the disc.
The problem with supinating our forearms is it isn’t a common position we hold throughout the day. We typically hold our forearms in a pronated position, so when you go to throw a golf disc with a forehand, it is common to find your forearm and wrist rolling into a pronated position as you release the disc. This will cause OAT.
Ideally, you want to concentrate on keeping your palm face up throughout the throwing motion and follow through. But this is easier said than done, which is why OAT is more common with forehands and why backhand throws typically go further.
Not only will you find OAT more often with forehands because of wrist rolling, you’ll also find your discs turning and flipping over more often.
Best Disc Golf Discs for Backhand vs Forehand
While I’ve spent most of the time in this article discussing why backhand throws can go further than forehand throws for maximum distance, I am a strong believer in developing both styles.
There are going to be times when using a forehand makes more sense than a backhand. And vice versa. When these situations present to you on a disc golf course, its going to be quite clear which throw you should use.
If you are ever presented with a hole that is completely open without obstructions on the fairway, a backhand is going to be your best bet. Of course, you won’t see this very often.
Regardless of what style you’re using, you want to be sure you have the best golf disc in your hand for the type of throw you’re performing. There are discs that are better for forehands and there are disc that are better for backhands.
Best Disc Golf Disc for Backhand
Since backhands are not as susceptible to the OAT and turning over, you won’t need something as overstable. I find discs that have a touch of turn to be the best for my backhands as it allows for a full flight. The top of my list for this category is the Innova Wraith.
It comes at a reasonable speed, so it is accessible to a large number of players. It is incredibly consistent providing a near neutral flight path. I’ll even throw this disc as a forehand in less windy conditions. Check out what people are saying about it over on Infinite Discs.
Best Disc Golf Disc for Forehand
Because forehand throws are prone to off axis torque and turning over (anhyzer release), you’ll want a disc that minimizes these effects. For this you’ll need a disc that has a wider rim width and lower height profile.
A wide rim reduces off axis torque by distributing more weight to the outside of the disc. A lower height profile allows the disc to slice through the air even when there is wobble. My favorite disc in this category is the Flick from Discraft.
I’ve never had a problem with the Flick turning over during my forehand. Even when I try to turn it over, this disc always fades back. I prefer it at maximum weight to provide even more stability to my throws.
I was able to pick one up at Infinite Disc for cheaper than most everywhere else I looked. Check it out here.