The MLB World Series is starting up this weekend! But in even bigger news, the first round of the Disc Golf Reviewer World Series of Putters has just ended, and tomorrow the second round begins! We began this NCAA basketball bracket style tournament with a field of 64 different putter molds from a variety of disc golf manufacturers. Now that field has been cut in half to 32 remaining putters.
From the beginning we said we wanted to find the best putter in the world while also providing some fun and helpful content as you decide what putter is right for you. You can find the links to the full results of all 32 of the first round matches over at our main Disc Golf Reviewer World Series of Putters post.
For today’s post, we are taking a one-day hiatus from the head-to-head matches to look back at some of the data from the first round’s results. Hopefully this exercise will provide helpful context and trends to keep an eye on as we move forward into the second round.
You’ve probably heard of the big brand names in disc golf like Innova or Discraft, but are the most popular putters and disc brands always the best?
Here is how each disc brand performed in the first round of the World Series of Putters.
First round record by disc golf brand (from best to worst)
- Divergent Discs: 3-0
- Prodigy Disc: 3-0
- Discmania: 3-1
- Latitude 64: 3-1
- Axiom: 2-0
- Clash Discs: 2-0
- Westside Discs: 2-1
- Yikun Discs: 2-2
- Discraft: 2-3
- Alfa Discs: 1-0
- Birdie Disc Golf Supply: 1-0
- Uplay: 1-0
- DGA: 1-1
- Doomsday Discs: 1-1
- Gateway: 1-1
- Infinite Discs: 1-1
- Dynamic Discs: 1-2
- Lone Star Discs: 1-2
- MVP Disc Sports: 1-2
- EV-7: 0-1
- Millennium Discs: 0-1
- RPM: 0-1
- Streamline: 0-1
- Kastaplast: 0-2
- Thought Space Athletics: 0-2
- Viking Discs: 0-2
- Innova Champion Discs: 0-4
For me, the biggest surprises are at the very top and very bottom of this list. You’ve probably never heard of Divergent, but this new disc golf brand that focusses on manufacturing beginner friendly disc golf discs is making great putter molds for players of all skill levels. The Narwhal and the Nuno were two of the highest scoring putters, and they won in landslide fashion over the very popular KC Pro Aviar and MVP Nomad respectively.
Speaking of Aviars, the second big surprise at the very bottom of the list is Innova. Innova and their 4 putter molds failed to make it out of the first round, including the very popular Aviar putter that was one of our 1 seeds. Upsets were bound to happen, and we aren’t at all trying to say that Innova’s putters are a bad option. We know that they are a great option.
In fact, I think Innova’s first round performance as well as the performance of other brands up and down this list show that quality putters are being made all over the disc golf world. I think more than ever, disc golfers who want to be competitive should be open to trying out putters from a variety of disc golf manufacturers in order to find the best putter for their game.
But what about the discs themselves? How did the shape and features of the discs impact their performance in the first round? Let’s first look at how certain elements of disc design performed.
To Bead or Not to Bead
Is a beaded or beadless disc golf putter better?
First, let’s look at beaded vs. beadless putters. When matched up against each other in the first round, putters with a beaded rim went 4-11, which of course means beadless putters went 11-4. This may not be surprising to some, but it is surprising to me since I was the one conducting the matches and I’ve putted primarily with beaded putters for almost my entire disc golf career.
Beadless putters were an undefeated 9-0 before the matches in the last quadrant of the bracket began. It is a pretty small sample size, and there were other elements to each disc that could have had a larger impact on its outcome than a beaded rim or the lack thereof. We will see if this pattern continues through the next rounds, but I don’t think such a large discrepancy should be ignored at this point.
What is the best height for a disc golf putter?
But there is more to putters than beads. What about the height of a disc? The difference in height between the tallest putter and the smallest putter in this entire competition is less than a centimeter. That may not sound like much at all, but these are small discs, and the slightest height difference completely changes the way the disc feels and flies. So is there an advantage to a taller or shorter putter?
The average height of all putters in the competition comes out to about 2.01cm. The average height of discs that won their first round match is 2.03cm. The average height of discs that lost their first round match is 1.98cm.
Keep in mind that there were some matches where both discs were above or below or right at 2.0. When we just take into account matches where there was a difference in height between the two discs, the taller discs won 16 matches while the shorter discs won 9.
So at this point, it looks like there might be a slight advantage for the taller discs. This could also just be my own personal preferences impacting the results. But also, I’ve always said I prefer beaded putters, and we just saw how that one turned out.
There are a couple ways to try to differentiate between putter shapes, but to try and keep it simple, let’s first just separate the field into “traditional” putter shapes and “nontraditional” putter shapes. You might also think of this as “normal” and “abnormal.” Basically, if it doesn’t have the classic rounded rim shape or if it includes a unique texture or groove of any kind, it will fall into the nontraditional category. I’m also including discs with overmolds as traditional putters since the overmolds do not impact the shape and feel of the disc.
When a traditional shaped putter went up against a nontraditional shaped putter, the nontraditional putter only won 3 matches while the traditional putters won 7 of these matches.
Let’s get a touch more specific. Putters with a thumbtrack or a groove top of some kind were 1-3 in the first round.
Putters with a speed rating of 1 (discs with tall, blunt edges) were 1-4 (1-5 if you throw the 2 speed Doomsday Landmine with a similar shape in there).
Discs with textured rings around the top of the disc were 0-2.
And though this might be a better fit in the next section, I’ll just say here that discs with an overmold went 3-3 in the first round.
In conclusion, when it comes to disc shape, I think 50 years into the sport of disc golf most putting putters look similarly for a pretty good reason.
Similar to disc shape, analyzing plastic blend can be a bit challenging because there is a bit of a spectrum in terms of grip and flexibility in putter plastics, and it is difficult to draw a line anywhere on that spectrum. But we did make sure to include a handful of putters in “premium” plastic blends instead of base plastic blends that are traditionally used for putters on the putting green.
Premium plastic blends went just 1-5 in the first round.
With plastic blends and disc shape, there is sometimes a temptation to be different or unique in your selection. And while you can pick up a putter with a unique shape or plastic and learn to get really good at it, why do this?
If your hope is to be competitive and cut strokes off your rounds, go with the putter in the shape and plastic blend that you think will have the most immediate impact on improving your performance.
Now let’s take a look at some of the trends that have developed during the first round beyond the technical disc specs. In the first round I threw 1,920 putts not counting the putts I threw while warming up for each match. I think (really really hope) my putting has been improving during this project.
It looks like the overall scores did trend upward in the last couple regions, but when we look at the first round as a whole the average score of putters winning their first round match was
A quick reminder of how these scores are calculated–for each match, I putt 10 times with each disc from 20ft, 30ft, and 40ft totaling 30 putts per putter and 60 putts per match. Putts from 20ft are worth 3 points, 30ft putts are worth 4 points, and 40ft putts are worth 5 points. It isn’t perfect, but I think it gives a reasonable sample size for just one person conducting such a large project.
Now let’s take a look at some of the individual discs and their performances. Here are the top 5 scoring putters in the first round:
- Discmania Link: 80
- Westside Crown: 67
- Divergent Discs Nuno: 65
- Divergent Discs Narwhal: 64
- Discraft Luna/Westside Shield: 63
A quick note referencing back to some of the data above. 4/6 of these discs are beaded, and they all have a height of 2.0cm or higher.
Now for the wall of shame! These are the 5 lowest scoring putters in the first round:
- DGA Blowfly 2: 11
- Thought Space Athletics Alter: 19
- Yikun Claws: 24
- Viking Rune/Yikun Meteor Hammer: 27
I think the top 5 scores list is more helpful here than the bottom 5 scores. I think lower scores were more often the result of a rough day on the putting green more than anything that was wrong with the putter. And while the top scorers could have just benefited from a good day for me and my putting, most of the discs on this list performed significantly better than the disc they were matched up against.
In fact, what might actually be more telling is glancing at the lowest scoring putters that won their match and the highest scoring putters that lost their match.
Lowest Scoring Match Winners
- Clash Popcorn/Discraft Fierce: 34
- Discmania P2: 40
- Yikun Hammer: 42
- Axiom Envy/Discmania Sensei: 43
Note that there are 2 of the remaining 1 seeds on this list, and the top overall seeded Infinite Discs Alpaca just barely missed this list with a score of 45.
Highest Scoring Match Losers
- Lone Star Penny Putter: 58
- Innova Aviar: 56
- Viking Knife: 52
- Discmania Rainmaker/Dynamic Discs Judge/Infinite Discs Tomb: 50
So close yet so far for this group! Two of the discs on this list lost to putters on the highest scoring list above while the other four lost their matches by 6 points or less. I think a good argument could be made for this tournament to be formatted as a double elimination event, but that would literally take half a year to complete…so for now, we stick with the cutthroat win or go home format.
As I’ve said throughout the first round, the seeding for this tournament is inevitably quite flawed. We used sales data from Infinite Discs to grant “automatic bids” to the top 32 seeded discs, which are the discs seeded 1-8 in each of the four regions of the bracket. The remaining 32 putters were selected as “at large” bids by the Disc Golf Reviewer staff and seeded based on recent and historical sales data.
But as we’ve learned already, just because a disc isn’t a popular seller doesn’t mean it isn’t a high quality putter. I said from the beginning to expect upsets based on seedings, and we got plenty of them.
Lower seeds won 21 of the 32 first round matches, or 2/3 of the matches. All of the 11, 12, and 13 seeds combined to only lose one match.
What to Watch for in the Second Round
Here are some of the discs and trends I’m excited to follow and keep tabs on as we move forward with the second round and beyond.
The top seeded Infinite Discs Alpaca would probably have to be a betting favorite at this stage. It didn’t have the highest first round score, but it is now the putter I have the most experience with left in the competition after the Gateway Wizard‘s shocking first round exit.
The 2 seed in the Alpaca region is another disc to keep an eye on. After an impressive 63 scored in the first round, the Discraft Luna could be on its way to a juicy round of 8 matchup with the Alpaca.
The Discmania P2 is another name that can’t be ignored at this stage, though it has a tricky second round matchup with the Discraft Fierce. That match is one I’m particular excited to see how it unfolds.
Underrated sleepers that could win it all
I gave Divergent’s putters some love already, but how about the Westside Crown and Shield? Westside is a big name, but in the putt and approach game we usually only talk about their overstable approach disc, the Harp. The Crown and Shield both put up solid performances to pull off upsets in the first round. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them both make waves through the rest of the tournament.
The DGA Steady also deserves some love here after the 16 seed took out the 1 seed Innova Aviar in one of the closest matches of the first round. I really liked putting with the Steady, but perhaps unfortunately for the Steady, its reward for beating a 1 seed is a match with the highest scoring putter in the entire first round, the Discmania Link (another sleeper to watch)
Juicy second round matchups
I mentioned a couple already–The P2 vs. the Fierce and the Steady vs. the Link.
After taking down the Gateway Wizard, the Alfa Discs Snoopy gets a match with the MVP Ion. This one is interesting to me on a personal level because years and years ago I almost committed to putting with the Ion instead of the Wizard. The Ion is a similar shape and design as the Wizard, so it will be really interesting to see how the Snoopy performs again in a similar spot.
Another match I’m excited about is what will be the final match of the second round between the Birdie Marvel and the Latitude 64 Faith. Both discs were new to me, and both felt really nice in my hand. I just think this one has the potential to be a barn burner. Should be fun to “watch” or I guess a fun one to “live” in my case.
Second Round Begins tomorrow
We love testing discs at Disc Golf Reviewer! I really hope this project is providing useful information for the disc golf community as we get ready for another off season of putting leagues and then another great season of disc golf.
Check back tomorrow for the first match of the second round between the Infinite Discs Alpaca and the Clash Popcorn!