by Blake Takkunen
Disc purchases can be overwhelming for players that are new to the sport. For that reason below, we offer you a brief insight into the world of disc golf discs . We have also listed some recommendations to direct towards considering the proper disc for your ability and needs.
There are at least 10 companies marketing discs and 100's of models to choose from. To add to the confusion, there are typically 4 differant levels of plastics used by these companies. It should also be noted that unlike other sports equipment such as golf , sking etc., the concerns about being stuck with last years old retail stock do not apply to Disc Golf. Infact the most popular models from the 1980's are still the most popular discs in use today.
We recommend you start with 'Innova Champion Discs' or Discraft as manufacturer as they are they produce the most popular products in the world.
The lowest quality disc plastics are still of very good quality. Depending on their use , and the enviroment of the course , these discs will still fly effectively for 20 plus years.
Note: there are clear explanations from the manufacturer at the bottom of this page
The biggest differance in plastic used is their durability to schock when exposed to hitting a tree for example. The better the plastic, the longer the disc will retain it's original flight patterns and cosmetic values.
Top touring pro's in the sport use all types of plastics for differant reasons. Many of their favorite discs are 'beat' DX plastics, meaning discs that have been beat up through intense use over the years. For the purpose of simplifying things, we will refer to Innovas terminology when refering to plastics from all disc companies. For Example an Innova 'DX' grade plastic is called 'Pro-D' when manufactured by Discraft. An Innova ' Pro' grade plastic is called ' Elite X' when manufactured by Discraft and so on.
We recommend DX Putters, DX Mid-Ranges, and DX drivers for new players. Once a player learns the flight characteristics of certain discs, he may choose to graduate to a higher quality plastic.
Discs – Putters, Mid-Ranges, Drivers
So lets put in perspective the disc choice relevance for a new course with new players. First of all lets examine the 3 types of discs used in play 'putters',Mid-Ranges and Drivers.
All players need putters. These discs have blunter edges than 'Drivers' and their regular use doesn't effect their flight qualities nearly as quickly as one would notice in 'Mid-ranges' and 'Drivers'. For that reason, the lesser quality, and least expensive DX line is our recommendation for your choice of putter. I would like to note that although a player will always use a 'Putter' for putts, 'Putters' can be thrown more acurately than a 'Driver' when using them for a drive. Top players throw them 350 feet while beginners will have little problem throwing them 100 feet plus.
If a player was only able to have one disc to play a game of Disc Golf, most would chose a mid-range disc. You have probably guessed correctly that a 'mid-range' is not as fast as a 'driver' and faster than a 'putter'. I would estimate that over 50% of drives made by top level players are thrown with 'mid-range' discs. Top level players can approach 450 feet with these discs. Beginners will notice an increase of about 30% in their distance recorded with a 'mid-range' when compared with a 'putter'. A 'mid-range' is also a reliable distance putter for newer players, it's easier to learn and control than a driver. We recommend DX mid-ranges for newer players
Drivers are the fastest disc and will definately travel further than any 'putter' or 'mid-range' disc. The reason why we don't recommend them as part of the standard disc rental for a new course is that they are by far the most difficult to learn to throw and control. Once players have played several times, they no doubt will want to incorporate a 'driver' into their game.
Why are there so many differant models of discs ?
The many differant models really do actually have differant flight characteristics. They often feel differant when gripped in the hand. Some discs tend to turn right when released with power while others will fade left. Some perform better in windy condition while others perform much better with the wind at your back and so on. Newer players who haven't developed proper technique won't be able to appreciate and take advantage of the often suttle differances between discs. For that reason we recommend shortning your disc chioce to include ' beginner friendly' discs. We can advise you on what discs to choose.
The Weight of a Disc
The weight of a disc is an important factor when choosing a disc. As a general rule, lighter weight discs are preferable for beginners, children and many women prefer lighter discs. Players who have developed a significant power in their throw will prefer the heavier discs. This rule applies mainly for 'drivers' and 'mid-ranges' as putters aren't generally used for high velocity releases.
With over 100 different discs on the market, finding the right golf disc is often an overwhelming task for a newer player and can be an expensive and frustrating process for the up and comer. With this article I hope to help make the disc selection process easier for players who do not wish to buy one of everything or are just getting started. It's best to approach disc selection with an open mind but also to have a good idea of what you are searching for. Remember, there are no bad discs, only bad throws.
I. Disc Terminology
Disc terminology can get overwhelming for newer players who are not familiar with the vocabulary used in describing disc types and flight patterns. I will be using many of these terms later on in the guide and it is best to have an idea of what they mean up front. All of these terms will reference flight characteristics of a right handed back hand thrower. For right handed sidearm or left handed backhand, simply reverse the directions.
Distance driver – the most common disc type, usually small in diameter with a low profile and a sharp edge, these discs are generally the most difficult to control, but also the longest flying. If these discs were golf clubs they would encompass the spectrum from 1-Wood to 5-Wood.
Fairway driver – these discs are slower and do not have the same distance potential as distance drivers. However, fairway drivers are also much easier to control and usually glide better than most distance drivers. Oddly enough, most fairway drivers were at some point in time distance drivers but technological advancement has bumped them down a notch in the greater scheme of things. If these discs were golf clubs they would encompass the spectrum from 5-Wood to 4-Iron.
Midrange disc – these discs fall somewhere between the fairway drivers and putt & approach discs in terms of distance. They are even slower and more accurate than fairway drivers. Many of these discs were at one time distance drivers and many of the most versatile discs fall into this type. It is quite likely that the majority of your throws on the course will be performed with midrange discs. If these discs were golf clubs they would encompass the spectrum from 4-Iron to 8-Iron.
Putt & approach disc – these discs are the slowest and shortest flying of the disc types. Often high profile, these discs usually have good glide and are very easy to control and finesse and are generally the most accurate discs available. If these discs were golf clubs they would encompass the spectrum from 8-Iron to Putter.
Stable – a term used to describe the flight of the disc when it flies straight at high speeds when thrown flat.
Overstable – a general term used to describe the flight of the disc when it has a tendency to pull to the left. A disc that is high speed overstable will begin to curve left immediately out of the hand and require an anhyzer angle to achieve a straight flight. A disc that is low speed overstable will end its flight with a left curve. Nearly all discs are low speed overstable.
Understable – a general term used to describe the flight of a disc when it has a tendency to turn to the right at high speeds. A disc that is high speed understable will curve to the right when thrown flat, or flatten and fly straight when thrown with a hyzer angle.
Neutral – a general term used to describe the flight of a disc when it holds a flight path consistent with the angle it is released with. For example, a disc that is thrown flat and straight and finishes straight on line would be high speed stable, low speed neutral. A disc that is thrown flat and curves to the right and finishes on a right curve would be described as high speed understable, low speed neutral.
Gyroscopic effect – the physics principle that dictates why most discs finish their flights overstable as the disc falls in the opposite direction of its spin, usually described as low speed fade. This effect is greater with larger diameter discs.
Cruise speed – the speed range that a disc is designed to fly at for a given nose angle. For example, the cruise speed of a stable driver is the minimum and maximum speeds required for a disc to fly straight when thrown flat. Exceeding the cruise speed maximum will make a disc fly understable, while dropping below the cruise speed minimum will make a disc fly overstable. Players generally have greatest success when throwing discs with cruise speeds that match the velocity they are able to consistently generate on a disc.
Low speed fade – the flight of a disc finishing with a left curve. Low speed fade between discs differs in both how much the disc fades and when in its flight it begins to fade. More overstable discs will generally fade both earlier and more than less overstable discs.
Resistance to high speed turn – the discs ability to fly straight at high speeds and not turn to the right.
Predictability – a term that describes the discs consistent ability to finish with a left curve at the end of its flight.
Nose angle sensitivity – a term referring to how much the disc responds to variations in nose angle. Fast, wide rimmed discs are generally more nose angle sensitive than older, slower discs.
II. What disc is best for me?
While it is true that people can make a disc fly almost any way they want to, it is important during the learning period of disc golf to throw discs that are within your ability to control without having to make extreme adjustments. This is imperative for developing proper technique and keeping your disc options open further down the road as you develop more power and prevent you from forming bad habits that you will have to unlearn in the future.
Most of the distance drivers that have been released within the past couple of years simply require too much power for the average beginning player to throw for distance and accuracy. Selecting discs that are suited to your level of play will make playing and learning disc golf much more enjoyable.
Most players start out throwing somewhere in the 125-250' range and will have best success with neutral midrange discs or fairway drivers. While these will probably not remain as your primary drivers for very long, they will still have a place in your bag after you are throwing distance drivers much farther.
The EVOLUTION of DISC GOLF DISCS
By : Tom Monroe
Edited by : Doug Carder
When disc golf began in the early 70s, everyone used Wham-O Frisbees. The Pro and the All American were the top Wham-O flyers. But by 1974, almost all the players used the CPI All Star Saucer Tosser Disc. In fact, a player named Dave Johnson set a distance record with the CPI that year. He borrowed his friend Victor Malafronte’s CPI to do it. Victor was mad because he planned on setting the distance record with his CPI first. The initials CPI stood for Continental Promotions Inc. Wham-O’s answer to this disc was to buy the company and then cease production.
Sometime after this, a disc golf course wanted to order some Glow In the Dark Frisbees. Ed Headrick, the inventor of the disc golf pole hole, came up with some glow material and when he added it to a 40 mold Frisbee, it not only made the disc glow in the dark, but it also made it heavier. Players soon realized they could throw these heavier discs farther and with more power than before. From this point on, discs were steadily made heavier and heavier with companies trying to better the competition.
Ed first called his glow disc a “ Night Flyer ”. This name was later changed to a “ Midnite Flyer ” due to a copyright issue. Different molds came out in the effort to compete with the heavier discs.
In 1981 Jan Sobel came in with the Puppy. Jan basically took a 40 Mold Midnite Flyer, downsized it to 21 cm and pumped it up to 200 grams. This disc could really be chucked. One of the heaviest discs he came out with topped out at over 250 grams. Jan was also ahead of his time when he created the Bullet, a 20 centimeter sharp edged driver that inspired the 21 centimeter rule.
There were some Puppy Want-A-Bee's, like the AMF 21 and 23 Cm golf discs. The bowling ball company thought they could just jump right into the golfers' bags with these two new heavyweights. They could be found in very heavy weights, some upwards of 200 gm. They were only produced from 81-83. The 21cm was like a Puppy and the 23 was like a bigger flatter Puppy.
1982 The Puppy man came out with the infamous Whizback. It looked like a Fastback and came in weights over 200 gm's.
Around 1983, Dave Dunipace brought a Puppy to San Diego’s Morley field that was modified with a plastic ring around the edge to form a wedge shape. The result was the groundbreaking Eagle, the first disc made specifically for golf, not throw and catch. This disc significantly reduced the weight necessary to get distance and high performance from a disc.
The first mold for the Eagle was not run quite identical to Dunipace’s specifications. So the mold was changed and the new one was called the Aero. The Aero was more stable than the Eagle and replaced the Puppy as the Golf Disc to throw for distance. It also caused some controversy at the 1983 Worlds in Huntsville. The disc had just come out and was more available in some parts of the country than others. You could purchase the disc at the Worlds but may not have much time to practice with it. It was decided to let players use the new Aero but the next year a new rule was in place that required new discs to be out for over 30 days to be used.
Founded in 1978 in London Ontario, Jim Kenner later moved the company to Michigan. Most golfers don't know that Jim Kenner is the inventor of Frisbee Freestyle. He and his partner Ken Westerfield were sponsored by Molson's Beer and toured Canada performing. They held a Frisbee tournament in Toronto in 74' and introduced the exciting new event of Freestyle. This event basically has a two person team performing tricks with a disc, usually set to music. The event is judged much like gymnastics.
Discraft was known as the maker of the official Ultimate disc, the Ultra-Star, which came out in 1981. They had also produced the Sky-Styler for Freestyle competition in 1980. Disc golfers had been known to use the Sky Star (1981) and the Sky Streak (1983), but the first Discraft disc made specifically for disc golf was the Phantom, released in 1983. It came in what was called the first candy or durable plastic. Their first disc, in 78, was the Sky Pro, a 125gm. utility disc.
The Aviar was Innova’s third disc. It was special in its accuracy and overstability. It allowed you to make a faster run at your target. Over the years it has been debated to be the best overall and most popular disc golf disc ever.
The next disc that Innova came out with was the XD. It was a low profile version of the Aviar. It is less stable and flies longer than the Aviar. It has a very thin rim. It was the distance champ right out of the box.
In 1984, Frank Aquilera had used an Aero to break the distance record. It was not until 1987 that Michael Canci broke it throwing a Lightning P-38 disc. Steve Howle had formed Lightning Discs in the emerging days of golf discs and scored a hit with the P-38. It had an extremely low profile and was very fast. His father helped in the initial designs and Steve named all his discs after great American fighter planes.
Apple – the initial mold on this one did not turn out the way Innova wanted. It was basically a play catch Frisbee. It even had
"flight rings" or "Rings of Headrick"
Coupe - this disc was great for beginners. I was easy to throw and turned over with enough thrust.
85 was the year of two Disc Golf World Championship. The PDGA event was in Tulsa and the World Flying disc Federation's was in Sweden. Those who went to both really like the one in Sweden.
Ace - was a low profile XD with a rounded edge. This was a longer turnover driver.
The original Roc came out in 1987 and it was unique because it was the first attempt to put a bead on the rim in an attempt to stabilize the disc. All the pros loved it because it was stable for them into the wind. They didn’t like it when it was changed the first time. The Roc went through many revisions through the years bringing it to what it is today. The Roc along with Aviar are still today two of the most prized discs in the sport.
1987 also saw the release of the Hammer and Stingray from Innova.
The Hammer flies like an understable Roc. It’s got a rounded edge and a very low inner rim. the original "flat top" hammer was by far the best ever. A good example of the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".!
The original Stingrays were stable for players with fairly good power. They would go straight and far. They had a lower wedge design and sharpness. Strong arms could throw a very long turnover. It was the new distance champ.
Cruiser - the first low profile, overstable disc with a wide rim. Years ahead of it's time See today's wide rimmed discs.
A year after the Lightning P-38 broke the distance record, Innova came out with the Phenix and Sam Ferrans used it to set a new record. The Phenix was considered the top distance disc of its day and would reign until the Viper came out a few years later. The Phenix had a unique hollow sound when it smashed into a tree.
Also, in 1988, Innova came out with the Cobra, a very good straight shooter and approach disc. It was basically a Stingray with a lip on the rim.
Innova released the Shark this year. It was a good overstable approach disc, similar to the Roc but faster. It broke in quickly and becam a great disc for straight layup's and turnover's in the woods.
This was also the year that Discraft became a big time player in the disc golf world. This was the year Discraft introduced the Eclipse. This disc became the most important to the average player. It was understable with a very sharp edge. The low and sharp profile of the disc caused a rule that restricted how sharp the discs could be. Eclipse set the limit with its’ Rim configuration ratio. People loved them but they would tend to get beat up pretty quickly and turn over. Then it became a good roller disc.
Other discs by Discraft this year include :
Windstar - this was a retooled Cruiser with a small bead for more stability.
The Phantom was retooled to become the Phantom Plus and then later the Deuce still in the first of the super durable plastic.
The Scorpion was a driver with a very good glide. It had a bigger diameter than most modern golf discs.
The Barracuda was a more understable version of a Scorpion. It beat up real fast.
The Lynx was also a large diameter approach disc that many players used for Self Caught Flight in
the lighter weights.
Tracer - fast straight driver, good glide.
Vortex - smaller version of the Tracer. Excellent midrange disc. Later retooled for more glide.
Shadow - more domed version of the Tracer. Long distance flyer.
The Viper was a very overstable disc that beat the distance record set by the Phenix.
It was the distance disc for a few years in the 90s.
The Hammerhead was a bad version of the original Hammer. It had a larger diameter than the
The Condor was very similar to the Lynx.
Jaguar - large diameter disc.
Birdie - putter with a Thumbtrac (very high rim) which makes it easy to grip.
Zephyr - is a Lynx sized disc with a flat edge. Its one of the favorite discs for the Discathon and
The Whippet was even more overstable and smaller than the Viper. The Whippet was the most
overstable disc since the short lived Bullet.
Marauder - a sharp edged domed driver. It was very controllable.
Piranha - looks like a Zephyr with a smaller diameter. It’s a very overstable approach and
Griffin - is a Whippet with a round edge. It does not fly as far as a Whippet but is more
Panther - this disc was a sleeper from Innova. It had a thick rim and was great for turnovers in the
Hawk - A slightly overstable mid range.
Magnet - Discraft’s version of the Aviar.
Cyclone - perhaps the best selling disc ever made. Discraft’s change in plastic instantly made this
disc more grip friendly. Players were able to hang on to the disc longer resulting in more
snap and longer distances.
Gazelle - same size as a Whippet but flies straighter.
Ram - when it came out, was the most overstable disc in the sport.
Python - in its initial release, was very understable and fast. Could be used as a roller
brand new. Later releases were not as understable.
Polecat - similar to the Birdie with a lower rim. Straight flying putt and approach disc.
Gopher - a round edged approach putter.
Dolphin - 150 gram driver that floats in water.
Raven - Innova’s longest range large diameter driver. Easy to throw.
Typhoon - a more overstable version of the Cyclone with a slightly bigger diameter and a somewhat
lower inner rim. Nice long glide and flight.
Rattler - Discraft’s version of the Puppy. A slow, flat flyer.
Cheetah - like a Gazelle with a lower rim and more understable. Nice straight flyer. Easy to control.
Super Nova - this was Innova’s first attempt at an Ultimate disc.
X-Clone - was a world record holder for distance for a time. It was very fast and overstable.
Comet - a slightly understable, mid range driver.
Moray - a turnover driver that was based on the Stingray. It was a little more overstable than a
Stingray, and flew like a cross between a Roc and a Cobra.
Polaris LS 1.1
Millenium pushed the envelope in every single parameter for a disc while still having a legal product. It had minimum size with maximum sharpness on the rim, plus the best grippy material. When this disc hit, the players couldn’t believe it.
Pegasus - a less overstable Whippet. It has more glide than a Whippet.
Stratus - easy to use turnover driver.
Rhyno - based on the Aviar with the Thumb Trac on the top. A lot more overstable than the Aviar.
Banshee - very overstable driver that works well into a head wind.
XL - is probably the most user friendly long distance disc ever made. It holds a line very well.
Scott Stokely used the XL to break the distance record.
X2 - the overstable version of the XL.
MRX - moderately overstable mid range driver.
Teebird - overstable disc that is easy to control with very good glide. Straight and fast flyer.
Wolf - is a turnover version of the Roc.
Eagle - a very long, fast flyer.
Leopard - understable with a nice glide.
Puma - mid range turnover disc.
APX - a high profile beveled edge putter. Made in the durable Elite plastic.
Valkyrie - has a sharp edge, low profile, and is a fast turnover driver with good glide.
Gator - similar to a Roc with the Thumb Trac on the top.
Firebird - very overstable
XS - a long driver that was great for the S curve. Former World Record holder
Xpress - long turn over disc. Good roller.
MRV - understable mid range.
Xtra - a tamed down version of the Xtreme. Not quite as overstable.
Xtreme - extremely overstable driver
Archangel - slightly understable driver with a good glide
Dragon - an Archangel in the 150 class floats, in water
Spider - small diameter, straight line mid range.
Reaper - last of the small rimmed discs. Very fast and overstable.
Beast - very fast stable driver. Low and flat profile.
Wildcat - a super fast low profile long driver.
Talon - the lowest profile disc from Discraft. Very fast.
Wasp - overstable mid range driver.
Predator - overstable driver.
Storm - faster and more overstable version of the Comet.
Putt’r - similar to the Rattler, but more understable.
Monster - very overstable driver.
Viking - When the Champion line Teebirds came out so overstable, the Champion Viking
was created to give less fade. It is a straight flyer with great glide.
Starfire - This one was held back from normal production for a few years as a fund raiser only. By
the time it was released to the general public, it was old news. Very fast with good glide.
Crush - long fast driver that is easy to control. Has a wide rim, flat top and excellent glide.
Buzz - one of the straightest mid ranges ever made.
Breeze - understable mid range driver.
Challenger - similar to the Magnet, but more overstable.
Squall - DGA’s fast midrange in a candy blend.
Riptide - the Squall’s bigger brother, a fast long driver.
Orc - slightly overstable driver similar to the Beast. Very wide rim and extremely fast.
Bulldog - a firm and overstable putt and approach disc with a very tall rim. Good fit for players with
Hydra – grippy disc that feels like the Bulldog and floats in water. Originally released in 170 grams.
Flash – one of the fastest drivers with a long glide.
Flick – superfast overstable driver..
Glide - a long midrange with a slow turn. Very user friendly.
Tsunami - the overstable version of drivers that rounded out DGA’s proline.
Sidewinder - a long turnover disc. Great roller.
Coyote - a larger diameter approach disc with good glide.
Avenger - easy to throw long distance disc.
Venom - very fast and very overstable driver.
Roadrunner- quicker turning version of the Sidewinder.
Wraith - easy to throw very far.
TeeRex - more overstable Wraith
MAX - even more overstable.
Skeeter - fast mid range.
Pulse - easy to throw long driver from Discraft
Surge - small groove on top makes it a bit faster and more overstable than the Pulse.
GT Banger- Groove Top thumb indention, putter feels great in many hands.
Tourque - overstable mid range that was recalled because it was not overstable enough.
Inferno - could be the longest disc out there, depends on the run as to how overstable it is.