By Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff
The first thing to know about throwing roller shots is if you can throw backhand and sidearm, you already know much of what you need to know.
Roller shots don’t require learning an entirely new technique — just a twist on your most basic throws. With most air shots, the aim is to keep the disc aloft most of the way to the target, whereas roller shots need to hit the ground early.
And, as opposed to air shots where you usually want the disc to land mostly flat so the disc won’t roll away, roller shots are calculated to not only land on the edge, but on an edge at a specific angle so it goes the direction and distance you intended.
By the way, if you didn’t catch the first post regarding this technique, which covers the who, what, when, where and why, of rollers, check it out here.
Now on to the how.
Much of what I know about throwing rollers comes from my personal roller mentor, Alan “Flash” Friedman. I tapped into his knowledge base for this post, and filmed a quick video, which I uploaded to YouTube. The video can be seen at the end of this post, but don’t be lazy and just watch the video as it doesn’t do a great job by itself of explaining how to properly throw the shot.
According to Friedman, there are two types of roller shots — the finesse version (thrown using understable or “beat” discs), and “high-tech” rollers that require an overstable disc.
The finesse roller has been around for as long as people have been throwing discs, and was discovered initially due to the relative understable nature of early discs.
As we know, if a disc can’t handle the amount of speed and spin with which it is thrown, it turns over quickly and, if the turn is aggressive enough, it hits the ground at an angle and rolls. It didn’t take long for experimental types to learn how to use this to their advantage, and the purposeful finesse roller shot was born.
Finesse rollers are usually thrown so the transition from air to ground is pretty gradual and smooth, somewhere midway between takeoff and the intended final destination. My favorite finesse roller is so old and understable that I often need to throw it with hyzer so it doesn’t turn over too soon. Talk about finesse!
The “high-tech” roller is simply a roller thrown with a much more stable disc.
The increased stability of the disc means it won’t turn over (like an air shot, this means curling to the right for a right-handed, backhanded thrower) as easily or as soon. It also means that the technique used to get the disc to roll is much more extreme. If you think it’s hard to throw an overstable disc flat and straight, imagine what it takes to make it roll!
As far as technique is concerned, as noted earlier, you’ll be modifying the throw you’re using most of the time. We’ll discuss backhand today, but the principle applies to forehand technique as well.
First, with each roller style, you’ll want to raise your release point — as you would with a big anhyzer — to get the extreme angle required.
For a high-tech roller, you should almost be holding the disc right over your head just before release with your back arched backward. That last point is important, too, because it’s not enough to just change the angle of the nose of the disc.
To get that angle to hold, you must change the entire axis of your pullback and release as well. This requires the participation of all your moving parts.
Picking a specific landing spot is the second of Friedman’s keys to a consistent and accurate roller.
He says you should first understand how your disc will act once it’s rolling, given the type of disc you’re throwing. This is something you’ll only learn with experience.
Once you’ve learned what the disc will do, you’ll be able to properly adjust the angle and speed required to get it to do what you want. With that knowledge, you can make the task much simpler by focusing on the spot where the disc first hits the ground rather than the entire path you expect it to travel. In other words, it’s much more simple to aim for a five-foot square 40-100 feet in front of you rather than a spot 400 feet away. Roller shots are inherently unpredictable, so it makes sense to focus on the flight (the part you can control) rather than the roll.
Dependable rollers require a lot of trial and error, and then practice, practice, practice. When you’re serious about adding this shot to your bag, head out to a wide-open field so you can see what various discs will do from beginning to end. And remember Friedman’s advice and focus on the angle of release and the landing zone.
The video of Friedman is below.
Jack Trageser is the founder of School of Disc Golf and the instructional writer at RattlingChains.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.