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Overhand Utility Shots: How and When to Throw Tomahawks and Thumbers

By Nicholas Wilson | 06/07/2022
Overhand Utility Shots: How and When to Throw Tomahawks and Thumbers

Put on your muck boots, boys and girls. We’re talking about overhand shots! Overhand shots consist of two types of throws; thumbers and tomahawks. These are generally utility shots (though some players throw them frequently) used in specific situations to get you out of trouble (hence putting on your muck boots!). Overhand shots are best utilized when needing to throw over obstacles or when a specific right to left(or vice versa) line is optimal.
Overhand shots are a necessary tool in every player’s bag. These are a get-out-of-jail-free card in many situations. Let’s take a look at both the thumber and tomahawk and break down how and when to throw these shots.


A thumber is named such because the disc is gripped with the thumb on the underside of the rim. It can certainly be an awkward grip, so the correct grip is paramount for pulling off this shot. Take a look at this photo for reference.

Thumber Grips
From DG

Once gripped correctly, the thumber throws out of the hand like a baseball throw (i.e., overhand). The disc releases at a vertical angle which makes this shot adept at avoiding obstacles early in flight. For a rightie, the disc first pans left before flattening out(with the top of the flight plate facing the ground) and fading back to the right and finally to the ground. Various angles and stabilities will give you different flight characteristics (discussed later in this article). Check out this video to see Prodigy Pro Cody Bradshaw break down the thumber.


While both shots are thrown overhand with a tomahawk motion, only one could be called the tomahawk. This shot is gripped similar to a forehand shot with your index and middle finger gripping the rim on the underside of the disc. Take a look at this photo for reference.

Tomahawk Grip

Tomahawks throw out of the hand like a baseball, and the disc releases on a vertical angle. For a rightie, the disc first pans out to the right before flattening out (with the top of the flight plate facing the ground) and panning back to the left before coming to the ground. Various angles and stabilities affect the flight path. This video from the crew at Dynamic Discs breaks down the tomahawk.

When To Throw Overhand Shots

Overhand shots are typically thrown in particular situations though I have friends that throw them on nearly every distance shot. Pick your poison. For the vast majority of players, they are a utility shot. These shots are optimal when there is an abundance of obstacles in front of you with no clear flight path. Look up. If there are no obstacles overhead (i.e., generally, overhangs can be thrown to 40 feet in the air depending on strength), then utilize the overhand.
These shots can also be utilized when you are tucked in tight to a bush or other obstacle, and your typical shot cannot be utilized. Throw to the sky to get distance if the space is available.
Another great instance to throw an overhand is in the woods when obstacles frame a shot that needs a quick tight to left bend or vice versa. This shot moves laterally much quicker than your typical flex shot and can be highly reliable in the woods. The overhand comes out of the hand at a vertical angle and will avoid tight trees more consistently than a disc thrown flat. Size up your line, and an overhand may be the best option.

Subtleties of Flight

Overhand shots are very adaptable. The two main aspects to play with are disc stability and angle.

Stability – The more stable the disc, the further the disc will pan on its initial angle. This also leads to further distance. Once the disc flattens out, the second angle will not pan out as far. Use overstable discs for max distance shots with long pans. Use understandable discs for quicker flips on the initial angle that will pan further on the second angle. Understandable discs fly a shorter distance but can be great utility discs in the woods.

Angle – The more vertical you release the disc, the longer the initial pan. A completely vertical release will lead to a max distance shot with an overstable disc. The more angle you release the disc on, the quicker it will flip into its second angle. This leads to shorter distance but is used to hit tighter gaps closer to where your shot is released. *Disclaimer!
Overhand shots can be extremely rough on your shoulder. I played baseball through high school, and this throwing motion is familiar to my body. I recommend stretching and warming up before attempting the overhand. These are not throws to repeat over and over again in a field unless you feel your body can handle it. Again, These are a fantastic tool to have in your bag and can be a get-out-of-jail-free card when needed. However, I do not recommend throwing these shots too frequently as they can ruin a shoulder. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Bringing It All Together

Learn to throw overhand shots. These two shots WILL save you strokes. I recommend warming up and finding a field for some practice throws and trying different discs. Try various stabilities and angles to see what flight patterns emerge. Take note and implement the overhand shot into your rounds. And again, take it easy on your shoulder and remember that slow is smooth and smooth is far.

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