btw, i just realized i posted the wrong version of that article. here is the current revision.
Building Consistency: Aiming With Your Body
This article is part of a series titled “Building Consistency” that is targeted at newer and developing players. Many of the tips in this series may or may not be displayed by many of the top pros, most of which have spent years developing and honing their own technique. The purpose of this article is to provide a foundation of fundamentals on which lesser-experienced players may build and hopefully help elevate their games in the long run.
Some of the most frequent questions I am asked are “How do you aim?” and “How can I throw more accurately?” The largest part of throwing accurately is being able to consistently execute the mechanics dictating the lines you wish to throw on. It sounds simple, but many players fail to put themselves into a position to consistently hit their lines due to inconsistent body positioning during throws. While your eyes do play a part, an easy, but often over-looked factor in throwing is to aim with your body.
Disc golf is a game of repetition (with variation), and with any repetitious sporting activity, a way to increase your consistency is to remove factors of variation that can negatively affect your performance. Aiming with your body is about dictating the process of your throw using your body placement and direction. This is relevant to all types of throws: drives, approaches, and putts.
A couple of examples of this in other activities can be drawn from basketball and billiards. In basketball, nearly every action is dynamic, and while shots are often taken off balance, on the move, or while changing direction, great shooters will nearly always get their shooting shoulder and elbow squared to the hoop. This dictates the left/right accuracy of the shot and gives them the best chance of it going in. In billiards, while there are dozens of variations on the shot, a good billiards player will nearly always have their body positioned the same way, even if they are shooting a draw, with “english,” etc.
With disc, the same principles apply. There are many parts of the throw (other than the eyes) that can be referenced for aim, but three of them stand out for aiding in success and consistency in execution. The three methods of aiming are as follows: pointing with the shoulder, leading with the feet, and locking the head into the shot. I will describe each of these but I encourage you to search for your own factors that work best for your throwing style (although do keep in mind there are reasons I promote these ones in particular).
Pointing with the shoulder means that at the start of the X-step, the upper body is perpendicular to the target and the throwing shoulder is pointed at the target. I consider this to be the neutral position of the throw since it bisects the range of motion of the upper body (during the portions of the throw that affect aim) and still allows for an athletic run up. At the peak of the reach back your chest will be pointed away from the target and at the point of full extension leading into the follow through your chest will be pointing at the target. This position also reflects the upper body positioning during much of the pull through.
Leading with the feet means that during the throw, the direction of the steps (and first step in particular) will dictate the path your body will follow. If your first step leans you to the left of the target, you will be more apt to push the shot to the left. If your first step leans you to the right of the target, you will be more apt to pull the shot to the right. This can be used to your advantage when you are trying to manipulate your shot and push/pull a specific shot type vs. attempting to throw straight at the target.
Locking the head into the shot basically means that during the latter part of the throw, you want your head down and facing the direction of the shot. If your head is leaning in the wrong direction, your body is likely to follow and you will have greater tendency for errant shots. Ken Climo is one of the best examples of this. His head is always under control and on target and I believe this is something that contributes to his tremendous consistency and balance.
While people may choose different reference points for body aim, your chances of having an accurate throw are higher with these factors in place even if you are not conscious of them happening. Putting is much less dynamic of a motion and can usually get by with fewer reference points that are usually stance and alignment oriented. Ideally, with sufficient practice, the factors you choose will become integrated into your natural throwing routine.