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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.