How to Throw a Roller in Disc Golf: Pro Tips for Total Mastery!

The earliest mention of disc golf goes back to the late-1920s, but it was mostly throwing tin covers and making the rules as we go. Interestingly, these very first shots were in Canada. 

The game evolved over the years and took its final form in the mid-1980s. It was only in 1993 that we started seeing a disc golf hall of fame. In a relatively new game, most people are enthusiasts or amateurs. 

Disc golf quickly gaining popularity and sprouting playing fields everywhere. So you might as well learn the moves, and master the game. A good place to start is understanding the various throws, particularly, the resourceful roller shots. 

It’s not a secret that the best players are the ones who can get themselves out of a tight spot with a touch of flair. To do that, you need to know how to throw a roller in disc golf.    

What Is the Roller Throw in Disc Golf? 

The perfect roller takes the disc off its aerial track, lands it on the ground in a suitable spot, and gives it a good run forward. This doesn’t only extend the flight distance of the disc, but it also allows it to brave tight obstacles. 

A good example is crossing the stretch below a dense canopy of trees. To make matters even harder, the path ahead isn’t straight. The combination of a low ceiling plus a curved path adds up to a mission impossible if you’re thinking about a high-flying shot. At this point, anything aerial is doomed. 

However, if you’re good with the roller, you can pull off one of these with a steep Anhyzer release point. That throw should carry your disc to a moderate height, let it glide for a bit, then it would proceed like a tilted wheel on the ground. The final twists and turns are absolute glam.   

When Do You Need to Throw a Roller? 

We mentioned a second ago that you should consider a roller in narrow paths and tight situations. But is that the only reason for throwing a roller? Absolutely not!

The multitude of throws in this game is all subject to your strategy and better judgment. You can use any combination of techniques and tools to cover the course. And if you can look like a champ while doing it, then by all means go ahead. 

In addition to tight spots, you can also take advantage of rough terrain. Discs face minimal resistance on dry ground. So if the course has some of these patches, you can add a significant distance to the disc. Players reported gaining an extra 10-15% of the total travel using this shot. 

The disc would fly airborne to its maximum travel point. But instead of turning and falling on the floor face down, it would keep on rolling ahead for quite a bit more.  

How to Throw a Roller in Disc Golf?

If you ask professional players how they throw a roller, they might take a moment before answering. The different steps of the process become so ingrained in their brains that they become similar to reflex actions. 

In a few weeks, you can be like that too. But first, let’s simplify the process and divide it into manageable steps.  

Step 1: Assess the Situation 

Disc golf is a strategic game. It’s a bit like chess, but you move a lot more, and the gear is quite colorful.  

The Terrain

disc golfing in the snow
Disc golfing in the snow last winter

Before throwing a roller shot, look around you. Do you need it to travel high or low? Is the ground dry and level? Or is it more challenging with thick grass, rocks, or obstacles?

Discs roll effectively on dry level ground. They would flip over rocks and halt in unexpected places, so that’s not optimal for a roller. Thick grass quickly dampens the best rollers and it might also change its intended direction. This is also considered a challenging terrain.

If you see such unfavorable features on the ground, you should consider an aerial shot. Having said that, I have to add that it’s not uncommon for some players to overcome even that level of adversity, and still go for a roller!    

Technical Constraints and Obstacles

Trees, poles, Out-of-Bounds areas, and other constraints shape the path that your disc must follow to reach a proper destination. 

This is where you should make the ultimate decision of going for a high or low shot, and even more importantly, a straight or curved one. 

The best players know whether they should also gain a few more feet through a maximum distance roller, or if they can overcome a sharp turn with a cut roller.  

Wind Speed and Direction 

The wind can be your friend or worst enemy if you depend on it as the carrier of your disc. Any lightweight object would engage with air resistance or thrust once it’s released into the air. 

It’s intuitive to make the best of your environment, and pretty wise to avoid adverse conditions. Sometimes, you’re forced to take a shot against the wind or to let it spin within a turbulent blow.

In such cases, choose your disc carefully, and release it with measured force.  

Step 2: Choose the Right Disc for the Shot 

Every disc comes with a number of basic features. Sports gear manufacturers created a flight rating system to describe the capabilities of each disc. Four parameters sum up the performance of any given disc. These are. 

  • Speed 
  • Glide
  • Turn 
  • Fade

Every disc has a printout of numbers, that sometimes vary from one brand to the next. A beginner disc golf set often comes with an assortment of discs that should pull off most of the fundamental throws. 

Additionally, the width of the rim, disc material, and overall weight determine the correct way to shoot the disc, as well as, what to expect from it.  

Professional players should get disc golf sets that assist them with carrying out advanced shots. If you have a wide variety of options, that should encourage you to take calculated risks. Experimenting with roller shots is a thrilling part of the game. 

For now, let’s see what are the most suitable discs for the basic roller shots. 

Covering Plenty of Distance

The maximum distance roller takes full advantage of aerial travel. Then, it hits the ground at a 45-degree angle, straightens out pretty quickly, and continues in a relatively direct path. 

The trick is using a steep Anhyzer at a medium height, or as it’s commonly known, a moderate altitude. 

The part where the disc rolls on the ground would play out depending on many factors. First, on the landing angle, then the spin speed at the time, and finally, on the direction of the disc’s top plate. 

Normally, the golfer uses the moderate Anhyzer and high spin to take the disc as far as possible, then land it on a 45-degree tilt. The disc would roll on for a bit, then swerve in the direction of the top plate.  

The consensus here is that a stable disc is the best option. It would keep the disc rolling on the ground for much longer than an understable or overstable disc.  

High Control 

Controlling the swerve and destination is easy when the travel distance isn’t too far away. Your best bet is the flat-release roller

Flat throws are among the easiest to pull off, you just lunge and release the disc straight ahead. An understable disc, with little glide, would soon drop off the air and roll on the ground. The curve is often to the right, or toward the top plate side of the disc. 

Maneuvering a Curve

The cut roller shot gives you a short flight and then a wide curve. Often, the path is towards the right if you’re a right-handed backhand. More specifically, the disc would roll in the direction of the bottom side. 

Unlike the flat-release roller, the cut roller doesn’t have to travel a short distance. It can actually go pretty far, before taking a final rolling and turning on the ground. 

Typically, disc golfers use a heavy Anhyzer, forceful throw with high spin, and then cut the ground at a steep 20-degree angle. The disc should trace a wide curve before coming to a halt. 

The best disc for this shot is one that’s overstable and glides well. 

Step 3: Aim Properly to Compensate for the Disc Bias 

Golf discs rarely travel in neat straight lines, or even fully predictable curves. On top of that, the inherent characteristics of the discs add to the steepness of the curves. The same applies to the bends in the landing angles. 

To demonstrate, a flat-release roller shot has a tendency to swerve right. Thus, you need to throw it to the left of the desired point. A maximum distance roller typically swerves only slightly to the right. A little adjustment to the left is sufficient.

In contrast, a cut roller often curves sharply to the left. Aim right, as needed, to correct its path. You should also take into account the radius of the curve it normally traces before coming to a halt. 

Step 4: Decide Between a Backhand and a Forehand 

Most players prefer using a backhand throw for their rollers. This gives them plenty of control, plus, a significant amount of momentum as they release the disc. The spin speed of the disc as it comes out of your hand is often maximized when you use this technique. 

Additionally, you get to decide the release angle, which is critical in rollers. This decides how high your disc would go, as well as, how far it would travel. If you plan it right, it would also control the angle at which the disc hits the ground. 

Forehand throws are less common for rollers, but we do see them from time to time. The travel is shorter when you pick this technique, and the disc wouldn’t fly out for too long. The big gain from a forehand throw is the neat sharp curve you see on the ground. 

Step 5: Choose the Best Angle

Rollers often tend to swerve right, while regular throws normally fade left. You need to watch your release angle to get the roller shot right. 

The determining factor here is disc stability. A stable, or neutral, disc should take your disc on a straight-ahead path. Understable discs swerve right, while overstable discs swerve left. This is assuming that the throw is a right-hand back-hand (RHBH).    

Step 6: Learn the Fundamentals of Posture and Footwork

One of the best skills you would learn while playing disc golf is moving sideways with absolute poise. You get this perfect stability and panther-like agility by using the X-step. Footwork is a cornerstone in any sport, and disc golf is no exception. 

Next, comes the release technique. Low-to-high is a general theme across all rollers. The Anhyzer throw is the primary method you’ll use, and you can change the angle as needed. Most often, players go for a steep angle.  

Each individual roller requires a slightly different stance and release method. Basically, you need to use an RHBH Anhyzer with a steep angle, and vary the level for each roller shot. 

The flat release roller gets a moderate altitude, while the maximum distance you dip lower before releasing higher. As for the cut roller, you only need to modify your release angle. Dilute the Anhyzer angle for the disc to cut left. 

Step 7: Release With Maximum Speed

Another factor you should also consider is spin speed. This dictates the travel distance before the disc hits the ground, and also how much it would roll once it touches the terrain.

Release the disc with as much spin as you can possibly muster. That’s the best guarantee that the disc would roll for an admirable distance without suffering from the effects of friction or its own design. 

Our Best Tips for Mastering the Disc Golf Roller Shot

Understanding the basics of the roller shot is awesome. But you need to follow up with a few more steps to level up. Here are some of our tried and true tips to help you play an amazing game! 

  1. Learn the Disc Golf Fundamentals

Understanding disc golf rules and etiquette is fundamental if you want to be a good player. This translates to having fun and getting along with the other players, which leads to acing the game. 

Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of reading a rule book. Most of it is actually intuitive and common sense. 

The simplicity of the rules is one of the main reasons why disc golf is hugely popular, and why it’s sprouting new fields every day. If the rules were complicated, the game would remain limited to elite athletes and staunch enthusiasts.   

  1. Use Good Quality Roller Discs   

You need understable discs with wide rims to throw a great roller shot. Stable discs would work in certain roller shots, like the maximum distance shot.  

Discs with high turn rating, which drives the disc in a direction opposite to its spin. Discs with a turn rating of -5 have the highest tendency to flip and roll. The ones with a turn of -1 have the least. 

The rim width is another important factor that keeps the disc rolling on the ground for the longest time. The extra weight around the edges of the disc retains the rotational momentum. As it’s concentrated more on the extremities, the disc goes on rolling for a longer time. 

The Innova Mamba and Discraft Avenger SS are great discs that many golfers select for their roller shots. 

  1. Experiment With Your Shots 

There are some basic throws that every disc golfer should know by heart. These are. 

how to throw an anhyzer in disc golf
Read our blog on how to throw an Anhyzer!

Then there are some advanced shots that get your game to the next level. 

  • Roller shot
  • Turnover shot
  • Flex shot
  • S shot
  • Hyzer flip
  • Thumbers and Tomahawk shots

Disc golf players often favor some throws more than others, and that’s understandable. Especially, if they win a lot by using these moves. However, many of them believe that their performance improved significantly when they practiced different shots.

Beginners should try to learn all of the shots equally well. That should allow them more freedom to select the right throw in every situation. It also lets them develop their style out of preference, rather than limited skill. 

  1. Practice in Your Backyard  

Most professional disc golf players say that they sent their discs flying on every green patch they could find. If you have a backyard that you can use for practice, that’s great. If not, look for the nearest park. But make sure you’re far enough from people! 

  1. Watch the Pros

There are gazillions of videos showing the pros at their finest moments. Watch their moves, technique, legwork, and most importantly, their strategies.

Try to imitate their style and routines, be fearless, and experiment with all kinds of throws.  

  1. Have Fun, It’s a Game! 

The best athletes are eternal amateurs who enjoy the game. First and foremost, have fun learning it. Enjoy the companionship of the other players. And be proud of every tiny bit of improvement you make.

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