The Buzzz mid-range disc is very well recognized disc name among players. It has been a long-standing best-selling disc for players looking for extremely accurate, straight-shooting performance. The disc is so popular that it has also been presented in more understable and overstable variations with the Buzzz SS and the Buzzz OS. There is another variation that is lesser known, simply because it was discontinued by Discraft shortly after it was PDGA approved in 2008. That unique disc was the Buzzz GT.
The Buzzz GT was a very interesting mold, taking the traditional Buzzz and adding a “groove track” on the top of the disc. The grove track feature added some new characteristics to the disc, with the key focus being on the grip. For whatever reason, the disc vanished for years, becoming a collectible. In the summer of 2016, Infinite Discs worked with Discraft and the 2016 Ledgestone Open tournament to release a limited edition run of Buzzz GT discs in Cryztal plastic. Only 500 units were made of the Cryztal Buzzz GT with a custom stamp that presents a tougher variation on the traditional Buzzz bee breaking chains. The bright yellow, pink, blue, and green colors look great with the durable, translucent plastic and the attractive stamp.
But aside from being available for a limited time and being a fun collectible for disc enthusiasts, how does the Buzzz GT actually fly? When originally released, the disc was advertised as having the flight characteristics of a traditional Buzzz, but with the addition of the comfortable groove track. After taking the Cryztal Buzzz GT out for an 18-hole game, using only the Buzzz GT for all shots, I feel like I can safely say that the disc does not fly like a traditional Buzzz. However, it flies quite a bit like the more overstable Buzzz OS. If you need a mid-range throw with a solid end fade, it’s a perfect option. While playing, it took me a few holes to figure out how the disc wanted to fly, but once I figured it out, I was able to park the disc easily on shorter holes and even had a couple of near ace “chain-outs” on short 200-ft holes. I was simply unable to get the disc to hold a straight line for very long.
I’ve been a fan of the Banger GT putter by Discraft for several years and found the groove track to be a great feature for my putter grip on those short-range putts. But I must admit that the Buzzz GT didn’t have the same effect for me. It took a little bit of time to get used to the groove track grip when using a disc that I was trying to throw further than a putter. When trying to grip the rim a bit tighter, the bottom of the groove seemed to interfere a bit with my fingers. Or, I could choose to stretch my fingers out more and use the bottom groove as a sort of second, wider rim. Basically, I wasn’t sure how I was going to hold the disc on each release. Once I became accustomed to the feel, it didn’t bother me as much.
After 18 holes, I was happy with the disc and added one to my bag, partially for that collector value, but it wasn’t the instant love affair that I’d expected. It certainly wasn’t added as a back-up to a traditional Buzzz. It’s a unique disc, with very unique characteristics. I can only guess at why Discraft discontinued the disc years ago, but it could have been because of that initial learning curve when players would pick it up.
Note: This is part 3 in a series of posts which make up the chapters of a tongue-in-cheek look at the game of disc golf and why we love it so much, despite the lack of reciprocated affection. It is not actually intended to improve your game…unless it does…in which case we’re happy to take the credit.
Chapter 3 – It’s Always the Disc’s Fault
I was alone when I first took up disc golf. Nobody I knew played it, except as some weird game you played with a Frisbee when you wanted to see how many throws it would take to hit a tree, or a parked car, or a passing biker. But I never dreamed it was a real sport with a real organization, actual rules, professional structure, and several businesses marketing a growing arsenal of discs and accessories.
One day I saw a new display come into an entertainment store where I worked and wondered why on earth anybody would need so many discs to hit something. Intrigued, I bought a disc that was classified as a distance driver, I looked up the one recently established course in the entire county, grabbed my oldest son who needed intense motivation to actually go outside, and I embarked to try it out.
The course we visited is called “Blind Gully” because almost none of the baskets are visible from the tees. It is basically an undeveloped hillside that belongs to a small town. A fan of the game convinced the city that for little or no cost they could turn their patch of weeds and scrub oak into a course. The tee pads are dirt and there isn’t a single square foot of grooming on the property. We couldn’t figure out where the tees or baskets were except by stumbling upon them. My son, being more tech savvy, found a satellite map of the course that showed us where we were really supposed to go. There were nine holes with two tee locations per hole so you could loop twice for a total of eighteen.
Our disc golf obsession began there, searching through scratchy trees and wild shrubbery for hours to find our precious disc, just to toss it back into hiding a few minutes later. I remember that our first scores were around thirty over par on nine holes.
While playing we came across other enthusiasts who would point out that we might do better if we had certain discs, like mid-range discs, putters, overstable and understable drivers, etc. Well sure! No wonder we were struggling, right? So, the disc purchases began in earnest. Within a few months we’d gone from one lowly driver to a healthy collection of about sixty different discs. Sure enough, our scores improved and we found many reasons to try different discs in countless circumstances. Every time we encountered another unique challenge, we’d dig through our bags, pick a weapon, watch it fly off course, then declare in displeasure, “If I only had a fill-in-the-blank disc, then that throw would have gone much better.”
This is a very important revelation for anybody who wants to truly discover the joy that is disc golf. No matter your skill level. No matter how long you’ve been playing. You need to embrace the concept that your game could be better if you only had more discs. It excuses you of all weakness! It gives you endless hope! It gives you purpose! It makes you look like a real athlete as you haul a hundred pound bag of plastic discs around the course! The newbies with their single Frisbee will look at you in awe and ask, “How long have you been playing? You must be really good!”
You now have an excuse to stop and catch your breath after hiking up a hillside to the next tee, while you bend over to sort through thirty choices, flipping disc after disc around in your hand until you finally conclude, “Yep, this is the one.”
Every time a throw goes awry, you don’t need to worry about self-abasing things like error, or tiresome things like practice. Instead you can decide what your next purchase will be and how it will revolutionize your game. It is always the disc’s fault! Unless, of course, the throw went really well. Then it was allyou, my friend. All you!
Never become content with just a few discs.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been playing with friends and have heard the face-saving words, “That such-and-such disc doesn’t fly like it is supposed to.” If it’s a new disc, then it isn’t quite what you wanted or intended when you bought it. If it’s an old disc, then it just doesn’t fly like it used to. Maybe it was bent when you hit that last tree?
Oh, I’ve also heard a few happy declarations of, “I love this disc!” after a surprisingly good throw, but that love doesn’t seem to last too long. Pretty soon that same disc is cursed as it flies off course into a creek, and its spot in the bag will soon be filled by another. You’re not a traitor. The disc is! It failed you!
That isn’t a bad thing. I mean, how many other things in your life can be discarded, abandoned, and replaced with such nonchalance? You can’t dump your career and get another every other week, or that car you have a love/hate relationship with, or that child who won’t clean her room, or any other number of things over which you have no control. But doggone it, you can ditch that pesky driver and get something a little lighter, or heavier, or perhaps a little more stable!
I have a very good friend who not only ditched his unfaithful discs, but he ditched entire brands! If one disc brand failed him after a week or two, he’d swap his entire bag out for a new brand. Then when that brand no longer did his bidding, he’d go to yet another. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that approach, as it can be the cause of financial stress to exile dozens of discs at a time, but my friend lives with the undying hope that his game will completely turn around once he finds that brand that was manufactured just for him. It’s like seeking that magical soulmate. You have to seriously date a few brands first before you pull out the ring and pop the question. He just wants to commit to the perfect disc mate. Other guys that play in the local league aren’t complaining. They’ve been able to buy the outcasts from the trunk of my friend’s car for bargain basement prices. See? It’s a win/win for everybody.
The PIPELINE is the latest disc offering from DGA, a company that uses the slogan, “Simplify Your Game” as they’ve released some very player-friendly, easy-to-throw discs lately. The SAIL was a recently released, understable distance driver that really flies well for beginners, as well as working wonderfully for anhyzer turns for experienced players. Now, as a compliment, the Pipeline comes into the mix as a slightly overstable fairway driver that likewise features great glide and predictable flight characteristics.
The flight numbers for the Pipeline are as follows:
I decided to put those numbers and the disc’s “simplicity” to the test by taking a couple of experienced local players out to a couple of courses to play entire rounds using only the Pipeline. We started with a very easy nine-hole course that basically tests short drives, approaches, and putts. Of course, the Pipeline is not designed for putting, but we used it for everything. Basically, that first game was a game of ace-running, since the holes were all 150-200 feet, well within the range of a control driver like the Pipeline. We were surprised to find that we were overthrowing the target more often than expected because of the disc’s great glide. For short shots, we really needed to pull back the throttle because the disc seems to fly further than the “speed 8” would suggest. A newer players would find it easy to get this disc out onto the fairway. But the disc definitely has that overstable fade at the end of the flight, so it turns early with softer, lower-speed throws. The fade is never overpowering– this is by no means a meat hook. It’s a straight flyer with a moderate fade.
The Pipeline is also well-behaved when thrown in different ways. When thrown higher with a hyzer line, it takes a long, swooping flight that curves consistently, as you’d expect. When thrown with an anhyzer angle, it holds that line quite a while before fading back at the finish, or in some cases, just leveling and gently settling to the ground. All in all, the disc does what you want, with the exception of utility-disc style, extreme shots that only a specialty disc could make. For instance, you’re not going to get this thing to fall out of the sky quickly at a steep angle, since it loves to stay airborne as long as possible.
Addressing the issue of shot variety, the second course we played was a very technical course with blind shots, long shots, short shots, elevation changes, and fairways with many obstacles. Such a course would really put the Pipeline to the test. In general, we found that the Pipeline doesn’t always work wonderfully as a utility disc to get you out of a jam. There were times when one of the players really needed something that could be tomahawk thrown out of some trees, or thrown for very sharp S-curves, and a general purpose driver like the Pipeline wasn’t going to get the job done, but when it came to threading needles on straighter shots or pushing the distance on longer shots, the Pipeline was very compliant.
We found that the Pipeline could be thrown even with the kind of power used on a 10-12 speed disc and it would hold a line for a long time, rather than just flipping and crashing over to the understable side. A couple of those longer drives carried so far that the disc never actually faded before it hit the end of it’s flight by sliding into the grass or hitting trees at the end of the fairway. One shot was launched high, over the tops of some tall, mature trees to drop over the top onto a hidden basket, and it actually went really well, putting the player within putting range. When it hit the high point and began to fall, it turned and glided steeply into the opening like a champ. Another long, downhill drive looked like it was going to land well to the side of the basket, out of bounds, but the disc’s closing fade glided strongly and level enough to result in a great skip right back in-bounds for a birdie putt.
In conclusion, the Pipeline proved itself to be a very good general purpose driver, both for controlled short drives, as well as for longer power drives in the 200-300 foot range. Though putting with a driver is not necessarily a good practice, I actually putted better at moderate distances with the Pipeline than I have with my putters lately. The disc simply holds a line well, as long as you account for that finishing fade.
There is no arguing the popularity and massive success of the DESTROYER by Innova particularly in Star plastic. It is the top selling distance driver at pretty much any disc golf retailer, it is used regularly by professional players, and it continues to challenge (and often allude) the attempts of new players to make amazing shots like witnessed on Youtube. It is a fabulous driver, but certainly not beginner friendly. For Destroyer fans and disc enthusiasts, it is also accepted that different factory runs of Destroyers can also have varied flight characteristics. I have a coworker that enjoys handing a certain pink 154g Star Destroyer to friends just to see their reaction when it crashes to the ground early, since it is so much more overstable than his heavier Destroyers. So, it is not uncommon to see players with several Destroyers in their bag– each for a specific game situation. Just watch Paul McBeth’s video about which discs are in his bag to see how he has at least a half dozen Destroyers, each with different flight characteristics for differing shots. Of course, for more casual players (not to mention non-sponsored) it can be an expensive and daunting venture to find the Destroyers that they want for their own style and their own needs. Imagine buying five or six supposedly identical discs with hopes to acquire one that flies how you want it to fly. Or perhaps it is more an issue of “beating in” your discs until they finally behave how you want them to behave.
Now, let’s step back and take a look at another disc that has very similar flight ratings, and that might prove to be the Destroyer’s superior when it comes to predictability and consistent performance.
The DDX by Discmania is a 2016 disc release that arrived on the market with such anticipation, and was received so enthusiastically by players that supply ran out and the discs were very difficult to find for weeks at a time. Looking at the reasons for such an astounding reception right out of the factory, one might deduce that the disc’s similarities to the Destroyer are key. First of all, Discmania discs are manufactured in the USA by Innova. Thus, Discmania’s “S-Line” plastic is really just their equivalent of Innova’s “Star” plastic, coming from essentially the same source. So picking up an S-Line DDX won’t feel radically different than the top-selling Destroyer. Then, look at the dimensions and flight ratings for both discs, side-by-side:
You’ll notice that when it comes to dimensions, the DDX is a slightly taller disc than the Destroyer and it amounts to slightly more “glide”. The rim sizes are only marginally different. But the flight ratings are almost identical when it comes to stability, except that the DDX has less fade than a Destroyer (2 fade vs. 3 fade). When it comes to fade, that is often where less experienced players feel like they get cheated. They bomb a distance driver out there and then cringe when it takes a sudden turn to the overstable side because they don’t have the sling-shot arm to keep the thing flying straight. Still, those differences are subtle, but enough that players looked at the DDX with the hope that it would actually be a more “user-friendly” version of the Destroyer…a disc that could glide a little longer and fade a little less while serving the same general purposes. Basically, it could be the common man’s Destroyer. If your Destroyer flies like a meat hook, then the DDX could be your answer.
Now that the DDX has been flying through the air for a few weeks (at least for the lucky players who managed to get one before the shortage) how has it lived up to the hype and anticipation? As an intermediate player who loves discs that can offer predictable distance, I was one of many to jump on the DDX bandwagon, and I found that I was instantly a fan of the new disc. It still has a solid fade, but without being punishing. It can go the distance with a satisfyingly straight path before the fade, or it can make those pretty S-curves, or it can hyzer-bomb, all based upon your release. It feels, right out of the box, like the player is in control of the disc rather than the disc dictating how it wants to fly based on its seasoning or it’s manufacturing run. That’s not to disparage the Destroyer in general, but only to say that the DDX is a welcome relief to those of us who don’t necessarily want six different versions of the same disc on our bag.
So far, when it comes to the DDX, mission accomplished! They keep flying off the shelves and out of players’ bags on the disc golf course because now there seems to be a Destroyer for the rest of us. We can’t all be Paul McBeth, but we can throw a great, predictable distance driver. Let’s cross our fingers that the DDX stays this way. Solid, predictable, accessible, and possibly the better choice.
Some of the real workhorses in the bags of avid disc golfers are their beat-up mid-range discs, though the mid-range doesn’t often get the glory and hype of a distance driver. They are like the blue-collared workers that get the job done over and over again, but for whatever reason, don’t get the recognition they deserve. The new LITHIUM mid-range disc by Element Discs is a new disc that begs for constant abuse and a permanent spot in your bag. It will get the job done, over and over again, becoming a slave to your throwing style as you approach the basket.
I took the Lithium out for a round on a 9-hole course and used it exclusively for every drive, every up-shot, and every putt. I wanted to put this disc to the test. The course I chose was a little park called Salt Hollow, and it was perfect for testing a mid-range, since all of the holes are between 150 and 220 feet.
First of all, I threw a 170g disc in Terra Firma Blend plastic, and the feel of the disc is very comfortable. There are absolutely no sharp edges. Both the outer edge of the rim and inside the disc, where the rim meets the plate, are smooth and comfortable on the fingers. It releases with great fluidity, sliding from the fingers with ease. This disc can fly as straight as an arrow when thrown flat and low, landing right on target within that 100-200 foot range.
When thrown with power, it pulls to the understable side. When thrown higher, it has a gentle fade. You can release with more power if you throw with a hyzer release, and the disc will keep that overstable hyzer line. All in all, the Lithium flies exactly as you’d hope– the player is in complete control of that flight. Nothing about the disc’s characteristics get in the way. I’d wouldn’t hesitate to rate this mid-range right in there with my beloved Buzzz.
The Terra Firma Blend plastic is a bit softer, and since I also did some putting with the Lithium, the chains did leave scuff marks on the plastic. I could see this plastic losing the battle against hard obstacles (pavement, rocks, etc.), but it sure feels nice in the hand. Though the original disc stamp says “Putt & Approach” I really wouldn’t call this disc a putter. It was accurate when thrown with some zip, but it doesn’t have the glide you generally want with a short-range, finesse putter. It’s too much of a dinner plate profile for putting, unless you’re fighting wind like you would with a Zone putter.
I handed the Lithium to my 11-year-old daughter who also gave it a couple rips, and it was perfect for her arm speed, flying further than some of the light-weight drivers she’s been using. It is a very beginner-friendly disc, and not a bad starting place for those getting a feel for throwing disc golf discs. I’d highly recommend it to new players, where mid-range discs are often a great primer for technique.
When you are new to the game of disc golf, you hear terms like “overstable” and “understable” and “flippy” thrown around quite a bit when describing discs, but it probably leaves you more confused than enlightened. So, before we look at some of the great understable distance drivers, let’s clarify what the term means and why it might effect your game for the better.
The simple way to think of understable vs. overstable is to consider the direction in which your disc naturally fades when thrown either backhand, forehand, left-handed, or right-handed. Whatever your throwing preference, just take any disc from your bag and throw it somewhat gently (don’t throw it hard for this test). It will naturally fall to one side at the end of its flight. If you’re right-handed throwing backhand, then you’ll see pretty much every disc naturally fade to the left. With right-handed throwing forehand, you’ll see pretty much every disc fade to the right when thrown lightly. Left-handed throwers can just reverse those fades. That shows you the natural fade side.
Should I Throw an Understable Disc?
Now that you know which way your discs fade when thrown lightly using your own preferred style, you know which side is the “overstable” side. An overstable disc exaggerates the turn to the natural fade side. An understable disc fights that natural fade longer, pulling to the other side before it finally fades.
Since our focus here is on the understable distance drivers, let’s address why a player would want an understable disc. When you are a newer player, or even a seasoned player with a slower arm speed, it can be difficult to get much distance with an overstable disc that exaggerates the natural fade. A disc that is designed to be overstable will turn and end its flight sooner than you want, or perhaps turn away from your desired target. When you’re a new player, you’re always trying to fight the natural fade of the disc anyway, because it seems like every disc wants to go that way rather than obeying your bidding. So, an understable disc that fights the fade will give you a few extra feet of distance without that sudden turn, crash-and-burn.
Distance Drivers need a higher speed to stay in the air as it is, so you still need to throw them with some power to get the desired distance, but realizing the benefits of an understable disc when you’re striving to increase that distance can revolutionize your game off of the tee. Once you begin throwing with more power, you’ll eventually start to overpower your understable discs, which can make them “flip” and crash to the ground on the understable side prematurely, or they might fly to that understable direction and just keep going without coming back (not necessarily a bad thing if that’s where you want to go). As players begin to throw their distance drivers with more power, they basically “graduate” to more overstable discs to keep their distance and flight path in line. So, don’t assume you’re losing your touch if you suddenly start throwing your understable discs into the ground on the understable side. Just smile and move on to a more overstable disc.
Here are some of the top understable discs on the market to help you get more distance as you develop your distance driving:
When it comes to achieving extra distance as a moderately new player, I’ve seen a lot of people shocked at the results after throwing an UnLace for the first time. The first difference they notice when compared to other discs is that the texture is different. That is because Vibram makes rubber discs rather than plastic discs, and that results in a very different feel. Some people are bothered by the unexpected texture at first, but after throwing it, that concern usually vanishes in an instant. The UnLace is considered a higher-speed distance driver, but honestly doesn’t need very much power to get it going. New players can still use the disc regularly, even without releasing it perfectly every time.
The Nemesis is considered a very understable distance driver, pulling hard to the understable side before coming in with a strong fade at the end of its flight. So even though the disc may pull hard to the understable side upon release, it is designed to come back toward center upon losing velocity so the net result should be more distance with an S-curve pattern landing dead ahead.
When looking at flight charts for a lot of these understable discs, you’ll see something like this, reflecting a right-handed throw, backhand.
Again, you can reverse that pattern for forehand or for left-handed throws, etc.
The Sail is a wonderful disc for both beginning and experienced players. New players will often find themselves throwing distances they haven’t achieved before, while experienced players will love throwing this understable disc for anhyzer bombs that intentionally need to turn to the understable side and continue sailing on through the air with very little fade. Whether a staple distance driver for beginners or a utility disc for experienced players, the Sail is a solid, dependable disc.
With a numeric flight rating of 11 / 6 / -5 / 1 it is easy to see that the Mamba is designed for understable distance. But since it is a speed 11, you do need to put some power behind it to get the desired flight path. Yet that -5 turn is about as understable as disc flight ratings get. Every disc feels a little different for each, individual player. Give the Mamba a try and see if you fall among those who love it.
If MVP were to release an equivalent to the Innova Mamba, then the Orbital would be it. MVP has a unique feel and appearance to their discs with the black GYRO rims. They also tend to have a flatter profile than other brands. The feel of MVP discs has made them popular with players who throw forehand, but they can of course be thrown any way you desire. However you throw an Orbital, it will pull to the understable side upon release, allowing for easier distance without as much power. You’ll see that effect amplified if you select a lower weight disc, and the Orbital is easily available in the 150-160 gram range.
Prodigy lays out their discs very logically with the disc names. Rather than names of animals, electronics, mystical beings, and whatnot, Prodigy simply designates a letter and a number. The “D” is for “Distance Driver” and the numbers simply progress from 1, being the most overstable, to the highest number being the most understable. Thus, the D6 is the most understable distance driver offered by Prodigy, until such time as there is a D7. However, with a speed rating around 13, you still need to have sound technique to get the desired result. At the same time that Prodigy released the D6, they also released their new 200S plastic, which is their low-cost, base plastic. So now you can try out a D6 for a very reasonable price in basic plastic. If you’re looking for an understable fairway driver, rather than distance, then you can try out the lower-speed F7 disc.
Like with Prodigy, Discmania has started naming their discs with letters and numbers. The TD2 stands for “Turning Disc #2”. This disc is designed as an understable distance driver so that more distance can be achieved with much less power. The glide is also high, so it hangs in the air quite nicely along the flight path. It also has minimal fade at the end of its flight.
Though there are other good options for understable drivers, we’ll wrap up this run-down with a look at a very popular distance driver for new players by Discraft.
The Avenger was a popular distance driver by Discraft, originally PDGA approved in the summer of 2005. With the disc’s popularity came an outcry for a version of the Avenger that was more friendly for the novice or recreational player, and so in early 2008, the Avenger SS was approved by the PDGA for disc golf play. Though as a new player, you may not see the Avenger SS pull as hard to the understable side as some of the other discs on this list, but you’ll find yourself able to throw it straighter for longer distances before it finally makes its end fade. The Avenger SS is a disc that often finds itself in basic “starter sets” for that very reason– because of the ease with which it can be controlled and go the distance. New players will eventually graduate from the Avenger SS, but until that point, it will make distance driving an easier task.
Note: This is part 2 in a series of posts which make up the chapters of a tongue-in-cheek look at the game of disc golf and why we love it so much, despite the lack of reciprocated affection. It is not actually intended to improve your game…unless it does…in which case we’re happy to take the credit.
Chapter 2 – Be The Basket / Be The Disc
“Be the basket.” We’ve all heard that before. It’s a popular sports motif that makes whoever is saying it sound instantly wise…or at least like a clueless coach that doesn’t have any real advice to help their protégé improve.
“Why do I keep missing, coach?”
Coach scratches his head for a minute, then says slowly, in a tone slightly deeper than his usual voice, “You need to be the basket.”
“Wow! Thanks coach! You’ve helped me turn the corner into a new realm of being!” He takes a shot, and misses it.
You know what? I don’t want to be a disc golf basket. It’s a thankless job. You just sit there in all kinds of weather, waiting for the next hard piece of plastic to rattle your chains. Come to think of it, the basket is probably relieved when I come around.
“Oh good. This guy isn’t coming anywhere near me.”
Two horrible drives and two missed putts later…
“No…no…NO! It isn’t my fault! Don’t get angry! Ouch!” As I throw a putter in full-force from three feet away and yell, “SLAM DUNK!”
Maybe I’m getting this wrong. I don’t need to be the basket. I need to be the disc. That is the appropriate variation of “Be the ball,” which is even more of the sage wisdom that helps amateurs the world over feel like they’ve found the secret to becoming pro.
What they really mean to say is that you need to visualize the ball, or in my case, the disc, doing exactly what you want it to do. The key is in the positive visualization of your throw before it leaves your hand.
Now let’s be honest. I can visualize a lot of things that aren’t ever going to happen. When I’m out playing a round and get myself into a tricky situation, I can visualize the disc taking that perfect angle around the first tree, just low enough to miss the branch that is reaching to swat it down, then skipping off the trunk of the second tree just hard enough to ricochet at the perfect angle into the basket. I can visualize a tomahawk throw high enough to hit the gap between the lofty branches of both trees to then flip and drift gracefully down and into the waiting chains of the basket. I can even visualize flinging my disc in the opposite direction to where Fernando, my trained peregrine falcon, swoops to grasp the disc in its strong talons. With a majestic cry, Fernando carries it overhead, delivering it into the chains of the awaiting basket. But I promise you this– once the disc leaves my hand, it is much more probable that it is going to hit tree number one and drop unceremoniously to the ground.
I once took a friend disc golfing for his first time. New players always take a few holes just to get the feel for throwing a disc golf disc. By hole eight he was finally getting a feel for it, though he certainly lacked any real skill or experience. He was about 100 feet from the basket after a few sloppy throws and was ready to fling the same driver he’d been using the entire game. I pulled a disc out of my bag that I never really use. A heavy, off-brand, overstable, mid-range disc with an ugly purple marble design.
“Here. Try this instead.”
I walked toward the basket where my disc waited within slam dunk distance (I’d of course missed my initial putt). Suddenly that purple monstrosity whizzed past me and clanged right into the basket. I turned to see my friend in joyful disbelief, pumping his fists into the air and cheering.
It was a great moment. But here is the relevant question: Did he visualize that thing flying into the basket before he threw it? No way! When asked what he was thinking at the moment of release, he said, “I was just praying that your disc wouldn’t go over the fence into the road.” He was actually visualizing the worst case scenario!
But you know what? Mission accomplished! From that moment on, he was a disc golf junkie. He was hooked! To this day he frequently shows up to play with me, and I’ve had the privilege of witnessing him miss countless putts well inside 100 feet of the basket. Plus, we both shared a memorable experience watching another player with much more skill and experience than both of us as he threw the same hole, only to have his disc fly over the fence and into the road where it was immediately run over by a passing car.
Those are the simple joys of the game. The unexpected is always more fun than I could visualize anyway.
Coming Soon: Chapter 3 – “It’s Always the Disc’s Fault”
The sport of disc golf is growing rapidly. That growth has been fueled, in part, by videos of phenomenal shots that have gone viral on Youtube. For example, the Albatross (2 shots on a par 5 hole) thrown by Philo Brathwaite at the 2016 Beaver State Fling made the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even mainstream sports television.
More eyes than ever have been on the game of disc golf– some in curiosity, some in fascination, and some in awe. As a result, many people are jumping into the game, looking for a quick, affordable set of discs that can get them started. Disc golf “starter sets” have been a very popular way to take that first step. Let’s take a quick look at the starter sets that are available and the pros and cons of each. If you’re going to drop even a small amount of money on new discs, you will find your experience much more rewarding if you know what you’re getting and you find a set of discs that will truly help you get a feel for the game.
One of the best-selling brands in the disc golf scene is Innova. They sponsor a lot of pros and they also make a lot of great discs for beginners. The most popular of their starter sets is the DX Starter Set.
DX is a plastic type. New players often don’t know that the same disc models are commonly available in several different plastic types, from soft to durable. DX is the basic, most affordable plastic type from Innova. Buying a soft, less expensive plastic is actually fine for beginners. That way you can get a feel for the different discs and how they fly before spending $10, $15, or $18 per disc on the more long-lasting, durable plastics.
The discs included in the Innova DX Starter Set are very basic and friendly for new players. They include the popular Aviar putter, the Leopard short-range driver, and a Shark mid-range disc. Most starter packs will include a putter, mid-range, and driver. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be covered in all possible throwing situations, but it covers the basics. If you can learn to throw with these discs, which also happen to be light-weight, then you’ll be ready to move on to other discs with varied designs and purposes.
If you are willing to pay the extra $10 to get a starter set with the more durable plastic, then this is the Innova set to grab. “Champion” doesn’t necessarily mean that it is designed for experienced players– it is merely the name of their more durable, translucent plastic type. The Champion plastic will last a lot longer than DX, and thus can give you more long-term value since you may find yourself throwing these discs for years to come, even as you add new ones to your collection. The discs included are the Aviar putter, the Panther mid-range, and the Valkyrie distance driver, which is actually a really good driver disc to work on your distance. The Valkyrie has the potential for longer throws than the Leopard, so that may also be a consideration if you are a beginner that feels like you’ve already got a basic grasp on throwing because of past experience with frisbee or Ultimate. It’s a step up in price, but also a step up in quality.
Discraft is another very popular brand in the disc golf market, and this is their basic, affordable starter set. These discs all come in their Pro-D plastic, which is Discraft’s cheapest, soft plastic. Once again, that is not a bad thing for beginners. The discs won’t last forever with regular use, but they are great for attacking the short disc golf learning curve. The discs included in this set often vary, but they always include a basic putter (like a Magnet or Soft APX), a mid-range (usually a Buzzz) and a driver (like an Avenger SS or XL). Though you can get different discs in the set, they are selected with new players in mind, so you won’t get anything that you can’t handle. If you end up liking any of these discs, you can always upgrade later to a more premium plastic type, like Elite X or Elite Z. This set features discs that I started with, and I’ve never regretted starting with discs like the Avenger SS, Buzzz SS, XL, etc.
Discraft also makes a deluxe version of their starter set which adds another driver, like a Stratus, or a Cyclone (both of which are excellent for beginning players) but also throws in a small disc carry bag so that you can easily carry your new disc collection around on the course. The bag has room to fit a few more discs. Basically, you’re paying an extra $20 for the fourth disc and the bag, which is an excellent value since even a basic, Pro-D plastic disc would cost you another $8 and a starter bag can run $15-$20 by itself. I strongly recommend this set for anybody who really wants to give the game a try.
Latitude 64 is a quality disc maker from Scandinavia, and they’ve got some great discs that are designed for beginners. The “Junior” starter set is a perfect set for younger players or for women who need light-weight discs designed for smaller grips. With names like the Ruby putter, the Pearl mid-range, and the Diamond driver, you can tell that the female market was on Latitude 64’s mind when putting this set and these disc models together. I have a teenage daughter that is a new player, and she throws these discs much more easily than some of the heavier, beefier discs that I carry around. But even though it is called a “Junior” set, don’t think it is only for kids. It is great for anybody of any age who doesn’t feel like they have a lot of power and throwing ability.
When I read the word “senior”, I think of folks in the 60-and-older age range, but that is not the intention here. The “Senior” in the title simply means that it is a set of heavier discs that are still selected for new players, but that are designed for adults, or particularly for men who have more power and throwing experience. It’s a quality set of discs that include the Mercy putter, the Claymore mid-range, and the Fury driver. Some of the other sets mentioned above may be focused more perfectly on new players, but these discs are popular and are not too advanced to get you going if you feel like you already have a grasp on the basics of throwing a disc.
Dynamic Discs is a rapidly growing presence in the disc golf market, and this is their basic introductory set to the game of disc golf. It includes their very popular putter, the Judge, plus the Truth midrange, and the Witness driver. All three discs are excellent for learning and are featured in Dynamic Disc’s Prime plastic, which is their basic, soft plastic. The set also includes a basic disc carry bag that can hold up to eleven discs so you can carry your growing collection around the course.
Dynamic Discs has also recently designed more discs for new players, which includes discs like the Gavel putter, the Proof mid-range, and the Breakout driver. At the time of this article, those are not yet in a starter set, but because of the beginner-friendly design and flight specs on those new discs, I’m guessing they will become part of a new starter set by Dynamic Discs, so keep your eyes open for those.
If you’d like more information about selecting discs for beginning players, here are a couple very informative articles that you can use as reference: