Distance Myths Article rough draft

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Distance Myths Article rough draft

Postby Blake_T » Wed Jan 25, 2006 2:44 am

Shedding distance myths.

With the boom in the last few years of disc golf and its subsequent increase in internet related traffic it has become much easier for newer players to gather exposure to players of varying skill levels. However, this has also led to cases of intimidation and unrealistic expectations for players that are still on the learning curve. Hearsay, message board exaggeration, and faulty estimation are often causes for these expectations. With this article I will attempt to confront some of the rumors that seem to frequently pop and up and evaluate their legitimacy.

The first thing I would like to discuss is the contrast between raw distance and golf distance. First it is useful to have working definitions of these terms.

Golf Distance
Def. The distance a player can perform a controlled throw on a line drive trajectory where the goal is to hit a specific line and finish in a desired target zone.

Raw Distance
Def. The distance a player can throw when there are no limitations to adhere to, such as height, strict left/right boundaries, and diminished emphasis on target landing zone or required accuracy.

For well over 99% of the world the phrase, “I can throw 500’,” (if indeed true) refers to raw distance and not golf distance. Currently there is somewhere in the ballpark of 5-20 players in the world that can actually throw a 500’ golf shot with any kind of consistency and accuracy. Keep in mind that this type of shot is rarely applicable for a number of reasons: courses generally have very few holes over 500’, a 500’ golf drive still requires substantial height under it as well as some room to work lines (that are not always available), throwing a disc with this much power behind it is generally very risk/reward and has a substantial loss in accuracy so most players who can throw this far will often choose to throw a controlled 450’ instead, etc.

To sum things up, if you are a newer player and read that someone is throwing 500’, it very well may be true, but the shot they are referring to is most likely a 40’ high or higher S-curve shot that requires at least 50’ of left/right “play” on the fairway and likely can’t be done with more than 50% success. Interestingly enough, there are a large number of players that rarely throw farther than 380’ that would probably be able to clip 425’ on a fairly consistent basis if they were to further explore raw distance lines. Most often, it is the really big throwers that will reference distances below what they can actually throw and/or make the distinction between a controlled drive and a distance drive.

Another mis-communicated concept (most common amongst players that throw less than 400’) is the idea of “How far can you throw?” vs. “How far have you thrown?” I generally look at it with this rule of thumb: you should be able to do it at least 2 out of 5 drives to claim that as your distance. I have thrown 490’ on flat ground before, but it was just once and I make no claim to being able to throw anywhere near 490’.
Taking this idea a step further leads to the concept of consistent distance. I view consistent distance as more of a mindset than a figure.

Consistent Distance
Def. The range at which you change your throw for a shot that is 20’ shorter.

While this concept may seem simple, I have found very few players that seem to be conscious of it. To elaborate on it a bit, basically, each player has a peak range where they are in control of the distance they are attempting to throw. If a player can throw a “consistent” 380’, that means that on all throws over 380’ they will be throwing “full power” and if they throw farther than 380’ they have little control over how much farther that they do throw. However, on throws of 360’ and shorter, they will change their throw and adjust to throw shorter.

Tee signs and local routes
The last of the distance myths I will confront are local course hole measurements and local routes. When you step up and read the tee sign keep in mind that very few courses have accurate measurements. Many older courses were measured before GPS and laser range finders were available so they were often measured with old school distance wheel counters (consult your local high school’s track & field program to see such a device). Terrain such as elevation will give an inflated value for the distance.

Even when hole lengths are accurate the measurements are usually “as the crow flies” and there are often local routes available that will cut off a substantial portion of the length or have periods of downhill terrain that allow for exaggerated carry on discs. I have experienced several cases where such routes have been used to reference someone’s throwing distance. So if someone says they have parked a 425’ hole several times, keep in mind this may mean they took the route over the O.B. road just to the right of the stop sign, get the disc turning over, gliding down hill, and fading back in bounds to the right of the basket. The outcome is yes, they did indeed park a 425’ hole, however, they only threw a 360’ shot to get there.

Now, to cover some more realistic expectations for what you can expect along your learning curve.
1) Expect plateaus in your golf distance. You will hit plateaus and generally break through them as each concept “clicks.” If you linger for an extended period of time at one of the intermediary plateaus, chances are there is something wrong with your throw on the fundamental level. These are most commonly linked to nose angle, failure to utilize leg power, lack of a good follow through, etc. The plateaus are approximately as follows: ~240’, ~280’, ~320’, ~370’. While disc technology is slowly pushing these plateaus out farther, the spreads have remained relatively similar over the past few years.
2) Most players will never break the final plateau so do not feel bad if you cannot eclipse it as most people do not. The key to breaking this plateau is snap. Snap is probably the most difficult concept to grasp, master, feel, and teach. The majority of players that do throw well beyond 370’ picked up this ability naturally (with lots of practice).
3) Experiment with lines and angles. I find very few players hit their distance potential simply because they do not adequately experiment with lines that will allow them to reach it (without requiring an improvement in form). It is fairly safe to say that you will not throw max distance with a low line drive thrown flat. Mastering the distance anhyzer/turnover is one of the easiest ways to push your throw farther. Having a good roller is another way to greatly exceed your normal distance.
4) Experiment with discs that will allow you to make them fly a full flight path. If you throw discs that require speeds beyond what you can generate you will be at the mercy of the disc rather than the disc being under your control. This is critical in developing mastery of flight manipulation.
5) Be willing to take one step back for two steps forward. Any major changes in your throwing technique will likely be met with a period of struggles and inconsistency. However, understand that those changes are often necessary to push your throw to the next level.
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I've thrown vs. I can throw

Postby trogdor » Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:49 pm

Excellent distinction between the farthest you've ever thrown vs. how far you can expect to throw.

I have to remember this when it comes to disc selection. I'll remember over-throwing a hole that one time instead of coming up short multiple times. :oops:

I was a little confused over the tee sign discussion. You stated that the distances are marked "As the crow flies" which for me is a straight line. Assuming a crow would fly 350 feet, wouldn't a Raven or most any disc actually fly further than 350' if it got to the basket? This is based on discs not going in a straight line from point ot point.

After re-reading this, I do agree that many (most) ((all)) tee signs are estimations of distances.
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Postby Blake_T » Mon Jan 30, 2006 10:59 pm

good catch. trying to figure out how i would word it.
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Postby twmccoy » Mon Jan 30, 2006 11:53 pm

You're totally right on the distance signs. I've read the tee sign, thrown a disc I thought should reach the noted distance and either come up way short or way long. I've played enough baseball to know how far 400' is, and I've seen tons of holes marked 400'+ that are actually more like 370-385'. I understand it can be hard to measure accurately over rolling terrain though.
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Postby jiwaburst » Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:21 am

Yeah, really good article Blake. Distance envy is a trait which can taint one's golf game, all the more so because some of the distance is fictitious or ill-advised.

As I play more and more, I realize that I have no idea how far most people i play with throw. Very rarely is there the motive to throw full out, and on our course it's so common to hit a tree branch 150 ft out, 200 ft out, 250 ft out etc... that I can wind up playing a whole round with someone and not know how far they throw. Instead what you notice are the shots that people can throw hard and accurately.

And so many people throw good rollers anyways, that on really long holes, I just see how well they know how to roll.
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Mastering the distance anhyzer/turnover

Postby Toney » Wed Feb 01, 2006 12:35 pm

One question: When you say that one of the keys to long throws is mastering the "Mastering the distance anhyzer/turnover " are you meaning that a hyzer throws that turns after 75% percent flight and then flexes back is not an ideal flight for long distance?

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Postby Weebl » Fri Feb 03, 2006 12:08 am

For max distance competitions, you need a good 60' of fairway width to be able to do the proper throw to get the distances greater than 600'. For a golf shot, it's whatever works for you.
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Re: distance

Postby LastBoyScout » Tue Mar 07, 2006 9:56 pm

twmccoy wrote:You're totally right on the distance signs. I've read the tee sign, thrown a disc I thought should reach the noted distance and either come up way short or way long. I've played enough baseball to know how far 400' is, and I've seen tons of holes marked 400'+ that are actually more like 370-385'. I understand it can be hard to measure accurately over rolling terrain though.

One thing that most people fail to take into consideration as well is the slope/angle of the terrain that they are throwing at. There are several hole on my home course that claim to be such and such feet long. However one hole in particular claiming to be 395 feet, and verified by GPS, is indeed much shorter because you are teeing off of a hill throwing into a basin. The hole is in reality around 365 feet by our best guess-timate. Same goes for a 400 feet long hole that is uphill, once again true distance is 400 feet on GPS, but with an elevation change of 20 feet making the hole around 440 feet long due to the added height needed to reach the basket.

Flat terrain is the only real judge. I can easily drive from back of one endzone of a football field to the back of the other endzone. Now that is true measurable distance, but once again, elevation above and below sea level plays a role in the aerodynamics of the disc and its flight, as does humidity, heat, wind, and wind funneling caused by trees, buildings, and other objects/structures.

Postby TexasOutlaw » Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:33 am

Great article. I have read and re-read it. Knowing your lines (we called them throwing lanes when i first started learning) is important for maximizing distance.

I'm guilty of throwing a disc, turning it over to have it come back and land by the basket and calling it a 300 + throw; however, for disc shots isn't it the end result that matters to us anyway, not the raw distance?
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Postby LastBoyScout » Wed Mar 08, 2006 12:55 pm

A great parking job is a great parking job, just dont forget to tip your valet.

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