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Lithium Mid-Range Disc Golf by Element Discs – Review 2016

LITHIUM by Element Discs

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, since20160720_102731 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.

IMG_20160727_100930The 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.

Lithium Dimensions:

  • Diameter: 21.9 cm
  • Height: 1.5 cm
  • Rim Depth: 1.3 cm
  • Rim Width: 1.5 cm
  • Max Weight: 180.00 g

Additional Information:

  • Speed: 4.0
  • Glide: 3.0
  • Turn: 0.0
  • Fade: 1.0
  • Primary Use: Mid Range
  • Stability: Stable
  • Recommended Skill Level: Everyone
  • Plastic grade(s): Midgrade

 

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Best Understable Distance Drivers 2016

What is Understable vs. Overstable?

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:

UNLACE by Vibram

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.

NEMESIS by Legacy

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.

SAIL by DGA

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.

MAMBA by Innova

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.

 

ORBITAL by MVP

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.

 

D6 by Prodigy

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.

TD2 FEVER by Discmania

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.

AVENGER SS 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.

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Play Angry – A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf – Chapter 2

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.”

“Uh. OK.”

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”

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Best Disc Golf Starter Sets

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.

INNOVA DX STARTER SET

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.

INNOVA CHAMPION STARTER SET

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 DISC GOLF STARTER SET

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 DELUXE DISC GOLF SET

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 JUNIOR STARTER

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.

LATITUDE 64 SENIOR STARTER

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 STARTER PACK

 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:

BEST DISC GOLF DISCS FOR BEGINNERS (2016)

BEST DISCRAFT DISCS FOR BEGINNERS

 

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Play Angry – A Zenless Guide to Disc Golf – Chapter 1

Note: This is part 1 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 1 – Why Do We Play?

Before we dig too deeply into vast stores of experience, knowledge, and advice concerning the game of disc golf, let’s make it unmistakably clear what we’re talking about.  

“Disc Golf: A game in which a concave plastic disc is thrown into each of a series of metal baskets situated on an outdoor course, the object being to complete the course using the fewest possible throws.”

That definition is from the all-knowing internet machine. Google told me, so that pretty much settles it. I would like to point out one key part of that definition, and it’s stated in the first two words. Disc Golf is “a game”. It is not life. It is not a philosophy. It is not a state of being. It is also not as boring and cripplingly expensive as traditional ball golf. As a game, I think that we are safe to say that it is intended to be fun.

There, now that we have that simple, yet often forgotten point out of the way, let’s unleash the boundless wisdom that will make your game “better” or at least “more fun”. There are different approaches toward that goal of improvement, and I tend to gravitate toward the one that satisfies me more frequently as a player. That satisfaction isn’t necessarily based upon the results of my game, or my skill set, or my latest score, or my abysmal ranking among the growing throngs of players. It is a satisfaction that emerges after fighting a battle, having experienced the emotional roller coaster of the game, and having spent time with friends seeking a level of unrealistic proficiency that constantly eludes our grasp. When looking at the reason I love to play disc golf, the reference to a roller coaster is a perfect one. When you ride a roller coaster, there is a reason you strap yourself into that little car and hold on tight. That reason isn’t to coast smoothly into the end of the ride and get out. The reason is the rough-and-tumble thrill you seek once the ride gets going.

Another approach to the quest for improvement and satisfaction in your disc golf game is to seek a state of zen. What does that mean? Well, zen sprouts from Asian philosophy which basically promotes complete focus in becoming one with the world around you. It is a state of being that unites body and mind. It clears your vision of the world from the distortion caused by chaos or lack of focus. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that philosophy, which I’ve undoubtedly simplified to the extreme. If you want to sit in meditation and feel at peace with yourself, the world around you, and your disc golf game, then I give you my blessing. Just don’t sit in meditation on the fairway, because my disc might hit you in the face.

Perhaps the different approaches to disc golf ultimately lie in the varied hopes and goals we have toward disc golf’s role in our lives. I spread the possibilities on the table in front of me and try to be honest about the realities. When measuring disc golf’s place in my life and the reasons I play, I might give these options some consideration:

  1. I could quit my job and aim to go pro before I starve to death.
  2. I could keep my job, but ignore my non-disc golf relationships in the quest for more game time, thus nullifying any zenlike peace in my disc golf world with alienation and chaos in my home and social life.
  3. I could simply play when my schedule allows and try to pack as much fun as I can into those precious couple of hours, regardless of how well I play.

I’m sure there are more options, perhaps achieving the perfect balance, but lists are very boring… kind of like meditation, or ball golf. The more time I spend making lists and evaluating the options, the less time I have for disc golf. So, let’s move on and take a look at some of the important steps in making your disc golf game better, at least in terms of emotionally strapping yourself in for a good ride.

So, why do we play disc golf? It could be like the age-old response to the question asked of hikers, “Why do you climb the mountain?”

Answer: “Because it is there.”

Now that we know the game, and we’ve felt the joy of flinging plastic at metal chains, we have to do it. It calls to us. It taunts us. It beckons us, “Come try again.”

I actually hike too. Mountains have called to me before, but now my hiking experiences are tainted with new thoughts that I can’t seem to suppress. I can’t walk by a meadow of wildflowers, or a picturesque creek, or a sloping ravine without thinking, “a disc golf course would sure be great right there.” Heck, I can’t even stand atop a lofty peak or perilous cliff without wishing I could chuck a disc, just to watch how far it flies before diving to the ground far below.

We all have our reasons for playing. Whatever your reason, let’s focus on making it more enjoyable.

Coming Soon: Chapter 2 – “Be the Basket / Be the Disc”

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Vibram Disc Golf Discs Review 2016

Vibram is a company that stands out in the disc golf market because, unlike other disc manufacturers, their discs are made of rubber rather than plastic. That makes them instantly recognizable in the shop as something different than the norm. Often when players first pick up a Vibram disc, they aren’t sure what to think.  The flexibility stands out (especially if the disc is X-Link Soft) and the rubber material is a bit more grippy and less “slick” than premium plastics. That alone may be a turn off to some players, just because it doesn’t “feel normal” when compared to other discs. But I’ve found that that initial judgement often becomes favorable once the players actually throws the disc.

Vibram flight ratings are a bit cryptic when compared to the usual 4-number ratings that are well established in the disc golf market. Vibram rates their “speed” in terms of the desired “launch speed” in miles-per-hour to achieve maximum distance, and then they rate the turn and fade in terms of expected degree of turn. Their flight chart is visually more easily understood than the numbers themselves. The discs on the left side of the chart are more overstable, and they progress to the right side of the chart with the more understable discs.  The discs at the top are the highest speed distance drivers, then the next row down are the fairway drivers, then the mid-range discs, and the putters at the bottom.

Vibram discs are made in three basic rubber types: X-Link Soft, X-Link Medium, and X-Link Firm. Other “special effects” are variations of those, including X-Link Glow or Granite (which is usually in medium).

So, if their mysterious ratings and numbers confuse you, just stick to the simplicity of the chart.

THE ONYX

The only disc that perhaps is a little out-of-place on the chart is the Onyx, which though it is certainly understable, is actually designed as a beginner-friendly disc. The Onyx is only manufactured in light weights between about 135g and 156g. It is one of the best drivers I’ve ever come across for beginning players. I’ve seen players both young and old pick up a light-weight Onyx and throw it much further than anything else they’ve tried. It is also a wonderful disc for women who struggle to throw with the same power as their male counterparts.  Though it would mess up the symmetry of the chart, I’d put the Onyx between the fairway drivers and distance drivers and call it a light-weight distance driver for beginning players.  Of course, seasoned players who throw with a lot of power will most likely flip the Onyx over when trying to crank it onto the fairway. But when thrown with a hyzer angle and a tame, controlled release, even experienced players can have fun with the Onyx as a utility disc.

THE LACE

The Lace is the signature distance driver in the Vibram arsenal. It is only slightly overstable and meant to fly long distances for experienced players.  It is easy to control, though it might fade early for new players. I’ve seen seasoned players throw the Lace for the first time and surprise themselves with throws well over 400 feet when they hadn’t expected much at all.  As long as the Lace keeps it’s velocity, it will keep flying a pleasantly straight line.  However, if the Lace still fades too much for certain players, then the UnLace will quickly remedy that situation.

THE UNLACE

The Unlace was the first Vibram disc to flat-out impress me.  It is the most understable of the Vibram distance drivers, and it lives up to the name by stubbornly resisting the fade for longer than almost any other distance driver I’ve used. When thrown by new or intermediate players who struggle to achieve distance, they usually find themselves suddenly able to throw further, more controlled shots.  I highly recommend the UnLace to newer players who have a steady, smooth throwing technique, but who simply haven’t found the power yet for long drives.  It is also a great utility disc when a player wants to hug the understable side in their flight path. When thrown too hard, a seasoned player will probably overpower the UnLace and flip it over, so in their case, reaching for the Lace is a better choice.

THE O-LACE

The overstable distance driver in the Vibram arsenal is the O-Lace, which is designed for a solid fade. In the case of an experienced player overpowering even a Lace, the O-Lace is a good solution. It has a predictable fade, but in my own experience, I found that when I wanted an overstable turn, without fail, I preferred the Solace.

THE SOLACE

The Solace is the most overstable of the Vibram distance drivers, and it works wonderfully for solid, predictable turns. Though not necessarily friendly for the beginning player, it is a great utility disc for curving around obstacles, approaching targets from the side, and hyzer-bombing.  In my own bag, I skip the O-Lace as the least of the Vibram drivers, but find regular use for the UnLace, Lace, and Solace.

THE ARCH and THE VALLEY

I’m sharing a spot in this review with the Arch and the Valley because when I throw them, I can hardly distinguish the difference between the two. The Valley is supposed to be the straight-line fairway / control driver, and the Arch is supposed to be slightly more overstable, but with my own throwing style, they seem to fly an identical pattern.  They are indeed accurate, quality control drivers. I only feel the need for one or the other, but not both. For a real difference in flight patterns, look to the Notch and the Vamp.

THE NOTCH

The Notch adequately fills the role of overstable fairway / control driver.  It isn’t the most overstable driver I’ve thrown, but it does the job when I need a predictable drive to the basket around trees or other obstacles.  The fade is not the most overwhelming, but is predictable and steady.

THE VAMP

I’m a big fan of the Vamp, for some of the same reasons I love the UnLace. As an understable fairway driver, it is very forgiving to newer and intermediate players. But in my case, I use it for very workable anhyzer turns. Since I throw back-hand and avoid forehand throws, I need to make turns to the understable side by throwing with an anhyzer angle, and the Vamp is a perfect disc for that purpose. When released at the right angle, it will not only make the initial turn, but will flatten out and continue to glide for quite a distance before lightly fading out. Because of the Vamp’s ability to turn to the understable side without flipping over and prematurely crashing to the ground, it earns a well deserved permanent place in my bag.

THE IBEX

The Ibex is Vibram’s equivalent of the very popular Discraft Buzzz mid-range. It is an easy-to-throw, straight-flying mid-range disc that prides itself in dependability and precision. It’s a great upshot disc that won’t drift too far before settling near the target. It is one of those discs that quietly goes about doing its job.

THE OBEX

If the Ibex is the equivalent of the Discraft Buzzz, then the Obex is the equivalent of the Discraft Drone. It is also very dependable and predictable in its turn. It is not stunningly overstable, but gets the job done for gentle, short-range curve shots and turns.

THE SOLE

Among the different Vibram putters, the Sole is probably the most popular. It is a good, precision putter and is often preferred in X-Link Soft rubber because the material is so pliable that it seems to hug the chains and doesn’t roll too far if the putt is missed. It is a go-to disc for ultra-soft putters.  The same could be said for other Vibram putters, but of the four, I found the SOLE to be the most comfortable for me, and in the putter world, it is almost all based on how the disc “feels” to the player.

 

Other Vibram putters include THE VP, THE RIDGE, and THE SUMMIT

As a quick note on the rubber types ranging from soft to firm…I have always found myself preferring X-Link Medium. It is soft enough to have a unique, semi-pliable feel, but not so soft as to fold and lose its shape.  The X-Link Soft, with the exception of the putters where I like the soft, is just too soft for drivers. I’ve met players who love the soft rubber, even when throwing for distance, but I find it almost distracting when it looks like the disc is bending under it’s own weight as I grip it. I’ve heard it said that the soft rubber is better in the winter when it is actually more firm, to which I reply, why not just get firm if that’s what you want? Why freeze the soft rubber to have a firm disc?  The X-Link Firm rubber is also quite nice and feels the closest to traditional plastic.

In summary, I am a believer in Vibram discs and recommend them to players on a regular basis. The Lace is a wonderful distance driver. The UnLace is a great distance driver for those who need a more forgiving disc that won’t fade too soon. You can hand the UnLace to somebody throwing 200-250 feet and they’ll instantly pick up an extra fifty feet on their throw. The Vibram fairway drivers and mid-range discs can be work horses and fly exactly as designed. Another plus for Vibram discs is that they don’t seem to wear out. The rubber does not scuff and ding and dent like plastic. They’ll last you a very long while and most likely will earn a respected place in your bag.

 

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20160618_104820

Best Disc Golf Discs for Beginners (2016)

Are you new to the game of disc golf, or are you bringing a friend or family member to the course who hasn’t played before? Though the game of disc golf has a very fast learning curve and new players can quickly feel adequate, it certainly helps to put the right kinds of discs into the hands of new players to avoid unnecessary frustration.  Unlike other sports where one ball is pretty much like another, disc golf discs can have huge variation in design and purpose, which can often leave a new player wondering where to start. With the wrong discs, the game can seem difficult to pick up. But with the right discs, new players can quickly work on their technique without the discs causing an unexpected disadvantage.

The first little piece of information to keep in mind is that disc weight matters. Most new players will benefit from a lighter weight disc, unless they are athletic from the start and throwing comes naturally. This is especially true with women and youth. But what is a heavy disc? What is a light disc?

20160615_092001Discs are weighed in grams. When you look at discs in the shop, or online at places like Infinite Discs, you will see that the weight is listed for each disc. That weight is usually marked on the back of each disc. When I was a new player, I completely ignored those numbers, feeling it must not be important. But it is!  If you’re looking at discs that are 170g and up, they are usually considered heavier discs or “max weight”. The larger the diameter of the disc, the heavier they can be and still be PDGA approved for the game. Thus, mid-range discs or oversized discs can be as heavy as 180g and up. A good intermediate range is 150g – 169g. The lower weights in the 130g – 149g range are considered very light, but there are more and more discs being produced in that range now.  Innova even makes some of their popular drivers like the DX Leopard and DX Valkyrie  in weights as low as 110g which is actually perfect for young children who want to give the game a try.

When you’re a new player, you’ll be able to throw lighter weight discs further than the heavy ones. The heavy discs might fade sooner than you want because you don’t yet have the technique and power to make them go the distance. The closer you are to your target, the less the weight matters, so light weight mid-range discs are not quite as important as light weight drivers. Light weight putters are hardly necessary.

Another very important element in beginner-friendly discs is the stability rating. A beginner generally is favored by “understable” discs rather than “overstable” discs. Here is an easy way to remember what understable and overstable means: If you are right-handed, and throwing backhand, and you’re lining up sideways to throw at the target, then the disc will naturally want to fade to the left. That is the overstable side– the side that you are facing. The right side, or the side behind you is the “understable” side. If you’re throwing left-handed and backhand, then reverse those sides. If you’re throwing forehand, then reverse them again. A right-handed forehand throw will want to fade to the right, which is then the overstable side. The left-handed forehand throw will want to fade to the left which is now the overstable side.  Basically, discs naturally fade to the overstable side.

Graphic

An overstable disc will exaggerate the natural fade of the disc. That is rough on beginners because a they generally have a hard time throwing a disc straight until they become better at a flat, powerful release. They will usually throw the disc so that is fades sooner than desired, so an overstable disc exaggerates that weakness. Throwing an understable disc will “fight the fade” longer, pulling to the understable side before finally fading, giving the new player more distance. When looking at the 4-number disc flight ratings, the last two numbers are important. These are the four numbers usually displayed:

Speed
Glide
Turn
Fade

The “turn” number should be in the negatives for an understable disc. The Fade will almost always be positive, because discs naturally fade to the overstable side. But the less fade, the better for beginners.  When the last two numbers add up to a zero sum, or a negative sum, then the disc is more forgiving to beginners.  For example, a Turn -2, Fade 1, is understable (-2 + 1 = -1).  A disc with the last two numbers of -3 and 1 would be even more understable (-3 + 1 = -2). A disc with the last two numbers of -2 and 2 means it should fly generally straight because the sum is zero. That is a simplified way to judge the understable vs. overstable flight ratings on a disc.

With all of that being said, let’s take a look at ten discs that are friendly for beginners. Check out their flight ratings, and use those numbers as a guide to help you explore even more discs that would work for novice players or for those who are struggling to find more distance in their game.

ONYX by Vibram

  • Speed: 8.0
  • Glide: 6.0
  • Turn: -3.0
  • Fade: 1.0

As you can see by the flight rating, this is an understable disc, with a turn of -3 and a fade of 1. But the other fun thing about the Onyx is that it is made only in lighter weights. Generally the weight ranges from 135g – 155g. This disc was designed with beginners in mind. I’ve seen new players throw the Onyx further than anything else they’ve tried. I’ve also seen women celebrate the fact that they finally don’t feel completely outgunned by their male counterparts. Once they stop throwing those heavy discs and start throwing an Onyx, things seem to go better for them. The Onyx is a bit more expensive than some other brands, because Vibram makes discs out of rubber, rather than plastic. But it is worth the price because rubber can take a beating and doesn’t wear out or get scraped up like plastic.

DIAMOND by Latitude 64

  • Speed: 8.0
  • Glide: 6.0
  • Turn: -3.0
  • Fade: 1.0

The Diamond is a wonderful driver for beginners, especially when purchased in the Opto Air plastic, which is very light weight. Opto Air Diamond discs are generally in the high 130g range. But you can also find Diamonds in other plastic types in the 150g – 169g range which is still very workable for new players.  The Diamond is also very popular with women players, and it is part of a line of discs by Latitude 64 with these players in mind.

PEARL by Latitude 64

  • Speed: 5.0
  • Glide: 5.0
  • Turn: -4.0
  • Fade: 1.0

Since you don’t only need drivers, and midrange discs are a big part of the game, here is a nice Pearl to go with your Diamond. The Pearl is light weight for a midrange, and pleasantly understable. I’ve seen it used by beginning players as a driver while they are learning control and throwing technique.

PROOF by Dynamic Discs

  • Speed: 5.0
  • Glide: 5.0
  • Turn: -3.0
  • Fade: 1.0

The Proof is a new mid-range by Dynamic Discs that is designed for the beginner. Again, it is understable enough to be very forgiving for the beginning player, and another nice feature is the price when purchased in affordable Prime plastic. The cheaper plastics are fine for beginners. It allows you to learn and get a feel for which discs you like the most before spending twice as much on premium plastics.

AVENGER SS by Discraft

  • Speed: 10.0
  • Glide: 5.0
  • Turn: -3.0
  • Fade: 1.0

The Avenger SS was the “super straight” version of the popular Avenger distance driver by Discraft. When I was a new player, it was the first driver with which I was able to get any meaningful distance. When purchased in Pro-D plastic it is also very affordable and can be found in light weights in the 150g – 169g range. I ended up loving my Pro-D Avenger SS so much that I eventually bought a more durable version in Titanium plastic that lasted for years and still sits among my disc treasures.

SAIL by DGA

  • Speed: 11.0
  • Glide: 6.0
  • Turn: -3.0
  • Fade: 1.0

The Sail is a disc that I have seen revolutionize the game for some players. Once I had a husband/wife team come into the shop and I recommended the Sail for the woman who felt like she could never keep up with her enthusiastic husband on the fairway.  She returned three days later only to say “thank you!” For the first time, she was able to match her husband’s distance, simply because she picked up a disc that was understable and has a wonderful glide for great distance.  The Sail is a “speed 11” disc so it does take a little more power to get greater distances, but it is a wonderful distance driver once you get the throwing motion down. I also have a friend who went through shoulder surgery and was not able to throw at full strength for a while, but he was able to match his old distances by simply throwing a Sail instead of the old, overstable drivers he’d used before the injury.  It is also a disc that I still use regularly in my own bag. Since I do not throw forehand, I use it for long-distance anhyzer shots to make my right-hand turns. I can get it to turn and fly quite a distance before it even tries to fade. So even for experienced players, the Sail can be a great utility disc.

AQUARIUS by Millenium

  • Speed: 10.0
  • Glide: 5.0
  • Turn: -4.0
  • Fade: 2.0

Not only does the Aquarius fly wonderfully for newer players, being an easy to control distance driver, but it also caters to the fears of many new players…water hazards!  The Aquarius is made out of a buoyant plastic that floats in water. So, if your throw goes astray and you splash into that pond or lake, the disc will float, making it easier to find and retrieve. The plastic is also light weight, and that is a plus for beginners.

LEOPARD by Innova

  • Speed: 6.0
  • Glide: 5.0
  • Turn: -2.0
  • Fade: 1.0

The Leopard is a standard for beginners and is a popular disc in many of Innova’s starter sets. It is a disc that is very easy to control. Though it is not built for great distances, it can be very accurate for shorter drives, and that is helpful when working on form and technique. The Leopard in DX plastic is the most affordable, and the best for beginners. There are even DX Leopards in weights as light as 110g for children who want to give disc golf a try. That’s probably too light for any adult player, but great for the little tykes!

STRATUS by Discraft

  • Speed: 5.0
  • Glide: 5.0
  • Turn: -3.0
  • Fade: 1.0

Like the Leopard, the Stratus is an easy to control disc for shorter drives and the feel of the rim and the disc lends itself well to players who are accustomed to traditional frisbees. It is easy to throw and doesn’t need a lot of power to get the job done.  Again, the Stratus can also be a nice utility disc for anhyzer turns to the understable side when used by experienced players. So, it can keep working for players even after their driving skills increase.

MAMBA by Innova

  • Speed: 11.0
  • Glide: 6.0
  • Turn: -5.0
  • Fade: 1.0

The Mamba is one of Innova’s most understable distance drivers. If you’re a new or experienced player that has trouble getting a flat release, this disc is so understable that it often pops right up and flies great. It is a higher speed disc, which can be troublesome for beginners who don’t have a lot of power, but once you get the release down, you’ll find that the Mamba is very forgiving. It is a nice step up from some of the slower drivers, yet still workable for the developing player.

Now that you know what to look for when selecting discs for beginning players, you can browse websites or store shelves and look at those disc flight ratings and make a good choice.  Generally speaking, don’t get the very high-speed drivers for beginners (I wouldn’t recommend the 12-15 speed discs for new players). Then remember to pay attention to the turn (negative for understable) and fade.

You can use a tool like the Disc Comparison Matrix on Infinite Discs’s website to look at discs with different speeds and levels of stability.  You can also use the Advanced Disc Search feature and check-mark the Flight Rating box to pull up a search feature that allows you to type in the flight ratings you want. You’ll get a list of discs that match.

Have fun out there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20160603_141859

10 Best-Selling Distance Drivers (2015 – 2016)

It is time to look back at the last year, from June of 2015 to June of 2016 and see which Distance Drivers were the top sellers.  This ranking is based on discs sold through the InfiniteDiscs.com online store and does not take into account the sales through other retailers, but it does give a very nice overview of general disc popularity for that time period. Some discs will get a spurt in sales because they are new, and the longer-term sales figures will bare out whether or not those discs had long-term popularity.

In this ranking, the discs were separated in number of sales not only by disc model, but also by plastic type. Thus, a Destroyer in Star plastic would be ranked separately from a Destroyer in Champion plastic, etc. This should also help cast light on the more popular plastics for certain discs.  So, without further ado, here is where the discs fell in the ranks:

#1  Star DESTROYER by Innova

It is probably no surprise to most players that the Destroyer on Star plastic is the top-selling distance driver. It has a great reputation, is used by well-known professionals, and has momentum and recognition. On top of that, it is indeed a great driver for amateur and competitive players. The Destroyer sells well in other plastics, but does not enter the chart again until #16 in Blizzard plastic.

#2 Pinnacle OUTLAW by Legacy

The Outlaw is one of those discs that enjoyed a large number of orders in a short period of time, jumping it all the way to the number two spot. It is indeed a popular new distance driver, and the sales in Pinnacle plastic were boosted by a slew of limited edition stamps, appealing highly to Legacy fans and disc collectors. If you’re going to bomb a disc out there with flight ratings nearly identical to a Destroyer, then you might as well make it a sexy, collectible disc that is just as fun to hang on your wall as to put into your bag.

 

 

 

#3 Gold Line SAINT by Latitude 64

The Saint is on the slower side of the spectrum for a distance driver, at a “speed 9” crossing over into the realm of fairway driver. But it is a very popular and dependable driver that sells consistently, working wonderfully for players at all skill levels. It is no wonder that the Saint shows up in the top 10 twice!

 

#4 Neutron INTERTIA by MVP

MVP has been picking up steam lately with increasingly popular tournament events and a solid line of discs that model their unique GYRO™ Overmold Technology. The ultra-durable rims are chemically bonded to the inside plastic, giving the discs an instantly recognizable identity.  The Inertia is about a “speed 11” and considered a straight-shooting driver for long, S-curve flights.

#5 Neutron WAVE by MVP

In the number 5 spot, right after its little brother, the Wave distance driver is a higher speed disc, rated at “speed 12” while also being moderately stable. Many players consider the Wave to be a great forehand driver and find it easier to control than some other distance drivers on the market.

#6 Opto SAINT by Latitude 64

Claiming a second spot in the top 10, the Saint appears again at number six in Opto plastic, showing how popular this disc has been during the last year as a go-to disc for players at all levels. Again, it could be called a fairyway diver rather than a distance driver, but fits the bill well for both.

 

 

#7 Fission PHOTON by MVP

The Photon is a distance driver with a very flat profile and a solid, overstable flight path. Like some of the other MVP drivers, it is popular for forehand (side-arm) throwers.  It’s the popular big brother of the Tesla distance driver.

#8 GStar COLOSSUS by Innova

The Colossus is a new distance driver by Innova that boasts the manufacturer’s first “speed 14” rating. It is also designed to have an understable release to help the “newer players” achieve more distance before the final fade.  The player reviews are mixed, with some players saying that they can get an extra 50 feet of distance with the Colossus in hand, while others claim that the driver really isn’t usable to the newer player because you have to throw it so hard to get the desired flight path. That could be said for many of the high-speed drivers in the 14 range. Often you exchange distance for accuracy when you throw a fast disc.  Regardless of opinion, players have been anxious enough to give the Colossus a try that it earned the #8 spot on the best-selling list for the past year.

 

#9 Star WRAITH by Innova 

The Wraith is a well liked, oversteable distance driver from Innova that seasoned players love to throw for a nice blend of distance and accuracy.  Like with the Destroyer, the most popular plastic for the Wraith is Innova’s premium Star plastic.

#10 Opto RAKETEN by Latitude 64

The Raketen is a newer distance driver from Latitude 64 that was designed to be less overstable than the other “speed 15” disc from the manufacturer, the Missilen. Apparently that makes it easier to throw for the novice? The disc has an interesting, textured surface that is intended to make the disc faster. But seriously…a “speed 15” disc is a tall order, and though it sold well when initially released, the sales have slowed considerably since the release. When it boils down to it, there aren’t many players that have use for a disc of this nature. It’s more of a case where people pick it up out of curiosity or pure novelty. “I wonder if I can throw this…” Just find a big, open field, and give it a rip! Do I hear a “speed 16” anyone?

Now, just in case you’re curious, here are the discs that hold the #11 through #15 positions:

#11 Icon OUTLAW by Legacy
#12 Champion FIREBIRD by Innova
#13 Blizzard BOSS by Innova
#14 Star VALKYRIE by Innova
#15 Champion TERN by Innova

And if you’re interested in knowing which distance drivers currently have sales momentum, moving up into the higher ranks, selling exceptionally well during the last 90 days, here are some discs to watch out for:

S-Line DDX by Discmania – This thing has sold so well since it was newly released that Infinite Discs has a hard time keeping them in stock. It seems everybody wants one.  The flight ratings on the DDX are almost identical to a Destroyer, but with less fade (fade 2 instead of fade 3).

Tournament (and VIP) DESTINY by Westside – This is another “speed 14” long-bomb disc with an understable release and strong fade. People are getting a lot of distance with the Destiny and the sales are not slowing down.

Neutron VANISH by Axiom – This is one of the latest distance drivers by Axiom and it is a comfortably understable disc, making it workable for many skill levels. It sold very well upon its release and sports the cool, limited edition “1616” stamp.

 

 

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