I'm compiling information on the forehand (or sidearm, or pistol, or flick, or whatever you would like to call it), which doesn't receive much attention in this forum. Of greatest interest to me is identifying the fundamental elements that make for a good form and productive technique. There are a variety of very brief descriptions of the technique available on the web, some on this site, but they are always short on specifics. Like the backhand, there doesn't seem to be many reasons why, in principle, you can't develop accurate distances of 350' or more with this technique simply by learning proper form.
I have watched and had discussions with players who perform this throw well, and I have been compiling as much information as possible. In the "Player Throw Analysis" section of this website,http://discgolfreview.com/resources/throwanalysis.shtml
there are videos of sidearm throws from Brian Donahue, Timmy Gill, Tony McGibbon, and Luke Redfield. While these do not show all the variety of throwing styles that I have seen in real life, they do show a lot of common elements that one can begin to distill for key technique principles.
Here is my preliminary list of things that seem to make for a good forehand throw...
1-Forehand throws with good distance and accuracy can be performed with very little effort. Most of the force is generated by the legs and torso, and very little force need be applied from the arm. In fact, forcing the throw with the arm will cause the disc to fly very poorly, and will be difficult to control
2- Learning the forehand will dramatically improve your disc golf game, because it allows you to release the disc with a spin that is opposite in direction to that of a backhand throw (with the same hand). It therefore gives you the ability to throw on lines that are a mirror image of your backhand throw. So, for example, with a forehand and backhand throw you could obtain a flight with a left or right natural fade at the end of the flight, and use either according to the geometry of the disc golf hole you are facing at the time.
1- The pad of the tip of the middle finger is laid against the inside of the rim.
2- The disc is seated deep in the webbing between the thumb and index finger.
3- The thumb is placed over the top of the disc in an extended position lying on the opposite side as the middle finger. The thumb may also be pointed slightly more toward the center of the disc for throws requiring added control of the disc's orientation at release.
4- The index finger is either on the flight plate, or is also on the rim under the middle finger at a level closer to the thumb webbing. If on the flight plate, it can either be pointed toward the disc's center for better control of disc orientation, or stacked directly on top of the middle finger for more flicking power.
5- The ring and pinky fingers are sometimes tucked away from the disc as if they were in a fist position. However, these fingers can also be placed next to the middle finger over the nose of the disc to provide a more firm or controlled grip.
1- For maximum weight shift and momentum generation, your plant foot is always the opposite side as your throwing arm.
2- The main foot motion involves pushing off your other leg onto the plant leg, much like a baseball pitcher's motion on the mound.
3- Little or no run-up is necessary to generate maximum power. Run-up is typically only used to develop a rhythm to help calibrate the timing of the throw, or to increase the pace of the throw for more power.
4- Relaxed and light footwork are important for the forehand throw, just as it is with the backhand throw.
5- The final step can be short or long, but if it is longer your knees should be more bent and your body should be closer to the ground at the point of release. A plant leg knee bend allows you to shift your weight forward.
1 - Your chest should be directly facing the target at release. Some players stick their chests out in an exaggerated way toward the basket to help obtain the correct motion.
2 - There should be a rotation of your hips and torso driven by the back leg push during the reach back stage of the throw. This rotation begins with a brief "spin-up" prior to the point at which your arm begins to move the disc forward toward the target. When the disc is moving forward, a fast shoulder turn becomes important in generating power at the snap.
3 - The torso can be vertical or leaning slightly sideways toward the throwing shoulder, depending on what is most comfortable. Adjusting the sideways lean (i.e., dropping your throwing shoulder) can also be used to help control the hyzer angle of the disc at release. One should lean slightly back upon release to throw a disc high in the air, or one can lean forward to keep the disc on a flight that stays low to the ground.
1- A backswing can be used or not. This does not need to be a straight reach back. Many players start their reachback with the disc higher behind them with the bottom of the disc facing opposite the throwing direction. The disc then comes straight down as the thrower begins to shift weight to the plant leg and spins up the torso, during which time the elbow is moving forward which causes the disc to rotate until it is oriented on a flat throwing plane. When the disc drops to the level of the throwing plane the momentum generated in the torso spin-up is transferred into rapidly propelling the disc forward.
2- The elbow starts at a position that is back and away from the torso at the furthest point of the reach back. The elbow then moves in close to the side of the torso as the torso rotation begins and then it continues to move past the torso and forward so that it is sticking out in front of you and the point where the disc begins to move forward rapidly from uncurling of the forearm in a forward direction. Your elbow should be bent and lead the forearm during the pull through. When the elbow angle reaches nearly full extension in front of your torso it will be forced to stop and your forearm will suddenly whip forward with even greater speed.
3- The arm is nearly fully extended at the point of release, at about the 1 or 2 o'clock position (with the target at 12 o'clock). The orientation can be changed slightly in order to accommodate varying degrees of flexibility.
4- The follow through does not need to be exaggerated, just enough to relax and allow your limbs to uncoil back into their natural rest positions.
1- Wrist remains cocked (i.e., wrist bent back in direction opposite the forward motion of the arm) from the reach back up until the point where the arm is nearly extended.
2- As the arm nears full extension the momentum is transferred up to the wrist like a whip, and the disc is propelled forward in a rapid acceleration by the rapid flicking motion of your wrist as it uncoils forward.
3- The wrist bends forward in its natural direction, and is used partly as a spring. As the arm whips its momentum into the wrist during the forward pull though portion of the throw, the wrist bends back and stores energy for the snap. The wrist then flicks hard forward just as the wrist opens completely upward. Much of this forward snap is a natural consequence of the arm motion itself, and the transfer of momentum from the torso and shoulder rotation from the upper arm, into the lower arm, and then into the wrist.
1- The disc pivots through the thumb crease during the snap and is propelled into a spinning motion by the opposing force of the middle finger pushing off the the inside of the rim, in a kind of finger-snapping-like motion. In fact, your middle finger may snap hard off the rim of the disc at release and into your palm as in a conventional finger snap.
2- Stacking the index finger behind the middle finger can help add more force to this motion, but makes controlling the disc angles/orientation at release slightly more difficult.
1- Don't increase your arm speed beyond the swiftness of your wrist flick. The disc will otherwise become difficult to control, or may flutter unstably and dive wildly into the ground. Very little force is needed from the arm itself: much of the power comes from the torso rotation during the spin up and the whip-like action of transferring the forward momentum from the upper arm to the lower arm and then into the wrist.
2- If you are ever having trouble with the throw, relax and then practice by slowing down your arm speed until the snap is working well enough for the disc to fly flat and straight without a lot of wobble. One should gradually build up speed with time, but only as the essential timing elements of the throw improve to match the greater momentum.
3- Practice using a catch Frisbee with a partner. This is the fastest way to learn how to make minor adjustments to your throw that will eliminate poor flight characteristics. Also, if you can learn to throw a catch Frisbee well then you will have a head start when you begin playing with a broader range of disc golf discs.
4- Any disc can be used for the forehand throw, with similar behaviors and trade-offs as for the backhand throw. The stronger your snap, the more flexibility you will have in choosing discs. In extreme cases where snap is very poor, an overstable disc might be sought as a temporary crutch in order to help compensate for a weaker spin rate on the disc.
5- Some people having trouble learning this throw the first time are helped by the skipping stone analogy. Just propel the disc forward from the inside of the rim in the same kind of motion you would use to throw a skipping stone.
6- In Ultimate Frisbee, the forehand is often taught and used a bit differently than in disc golf, reflecting the different purposes and applications of throwing in that scenario. Some of these other techniques may be useful in the short game (e.g., putting) in disc golf. One example is the use of a grip where the finger pad of the middle finger is not on the inside of the rim, but rather is against the flight plate while the side of the middle finger is pressed against the rim. Such a grip is not useful for throwing with distance and accuracy in disc golf, but may allow for greater control at shorter distances with large rim discs more similar to those in use with Ultimate Frisbee.
So there it is, for now. I'd love to hear comments, feedback, suggestions for more information and/or edits to the above. Feel free to wiki it.
PS: I've done several edits of this so far based on responses to the original post. I realize more and more that this could use some good graphics to illustrate some of these principles.