This third post on my fledgling disc golf blog will be about the single-most important piece of equipment players carry– the discs themselves.
I considered writing about the history of this game, but I wasn’t there when Ed Headrick and Whammo produced the first flying play-toy discs they named Frisbees. Besides, there are a couple of really good resources for that discourse, which is not without controversy of its own. Something about a pie company and their Frisbie tins; but it’s a which came first, chicken or egg debate that I want nothing to do with.
In disc golf multi-media circles there are videos out there called “In My Bag,” where famous (again, in disc golf circles) players talk about which discs they carry in their bags. (To disc golfers, disc selection is a serious matter and having the right discs on hand for a given course, hole, weather conditions, etc. is crucial. Less so for beginner and casual players, but understanding what certain discs will do for you is a big part of any new player’s learning curve.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, Let me emphasize it here: I still consider myself a newbie player, possibly at the very starting point of intermediacy; but this game, while simplistic in nature– get the disc in the basket in as few throws as possible– has many intricacies that you will only learn over time. Things likes plastic blends, weights, aerodynamics, disc stability, physics, throwing technique and about a hundred more, some that make my head spin. But we’re not going there today. This post is about the discs themselves, and it will be very basic in its focus:
Disc golf discs are divided into three broad categories. They are Distance drivers, midranges and putters. Some major sporting goods retailers sell disc golf starter sets for between $30 and $50 and those sets usually contain one of each of those three basic discs. There are also hybrid discs such as fairway drivers and putt and approach discs, but we’ll not go there today. Click here for a link to Infinite Discs’ buying guide and comparison of each disc type.
You could go and play a round of disc golf (nine or 18 baskets), or as many as you like to get a taste of the game– with as few as one disc, or two or three (one of each type). Some experts recommend beginners learn to throw using midranges and putters only as drivers require a little more arm speed, time and skill to get the hang of. That isn’t how I grew into the game, but I kind of wish I had done it that way.
I currently own 55 discs. Since I’ve been playing I’ve probably owned and tried close to a hundred of these speedy little platters; but I’ve traded many back in to retail shops, lost a few and I keep a good couple dozen in my “inventory,” but not as go-to discs in my bag.
I play a round of 18 baskets– usually 3-5 times per week when the weather is right– with probably seven or so discs. Of those, I may only throw 3-4 or 5 of them. Kind of depends on weather (headwinds, heavy winds, etc.) and the layouts of the course. (There are baskets set off to the right side of a fairway; many are set off to the left.) So you want to have a disc (or a way of throwing) that flies to the right.
I suppose here would be a good place to insert this important caveat: Most people tend to throw discs in what is called the RIGHT-HANDED BACK HAND fashion. It is the way you may have seen casual throwers on a beach tossing a frisbee back and forth. When I discuss how discs “fly” or “fade,” know I am referring to the flight of a disc from a RHBH thrower. Some players also throw forehand, left-handed, left-handed forehand (LHFH) and naturally this changes how discs fly and finish. In time, you may adopt a variety of throws for different needs on the course. As getting a disc to fall off to the right is difficult for me, I have been trying to learn the forehand shot or “flick.” But I’m getting ahead of us again.
Of the 55 discs I own, 26 of them are (distance) drivers. Not that it’s the right way to learn, but much of my early effort has been to increase the distance of my drives. I am an older (50-plus years old) male player and truth be told, I may suffer from a bit of distance-envy of younger thowers with what I call “Big Arms.” As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time and money– most discs retail for around $15, give or take a few dollars– in search of a driver I can throw longer than the last one I bought. You will learn, if you read enough and study the game (and don’t do what I did), to first learn to throw well what you have.
If you do choose to throw drivers, start with those known for being beginner and slower-arm friendly. Unless you’ve thrown frisbees for distance before and if you’re an older beginner like me, ask your retailer for help in that regard. At this point in my game, I lean toward what are known in the game as understable drivers. Understable discs have a tendency to fly to the right first (for RHBH throwers) before finishing and falling off left. For about the last six months I have been throwing a 155 gram Breakout by Dynamic Discs in their Lucid plastic line. I own two and they are the discs that fly the longest and straightest– for me.
Before finding the Breakout, the Mamba by Innova, also in a light weight, approx. 155-160 grams, was my go-to. I won’t try to steer you here; I believe it’s a very personal choice based on many factors.
I can tell you this. The discs in the so-called starter sets didn’t work for me. And while I know I’ve improved since my early ugly tosses, I haven’t ever gone back to any of the three discs in the forty-dollar starter pack. I still can’t throw a Valkyrie or a Panther. (Innova’s Valkyrie is a wildly popular discs among experienced players. Can’t say the same for the Panther however.)
Do yourself a favor. Several favors actually. Give this game a try. Depending where you are in life, finances, health, spirituality, attitude, etc., I think you will fall for it. If you do (second self-favor), resist with all your might the urge to “move on up” to better, faster, longer plastic. Watch YouTube videos and work on your technique first. A beginner friend of mine added accuracy and maybe 100-feet to his drives in his first year of playing through videos, adjustments and practice. He is now driving 350′ low, straight and oh so pretty.
But driving, while important, is only one part of the game. To be balanced, disc golfers cannot neglect their midrange and short games. More on those some other time.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful. If you’re a seasoned disc golfer and have seen a little of yourself in my brief experience, please don’t hesitate to share your knowledge. Through this forum I hope to learn as well as share and I definitely need input from folks at every level. Retailers and manufacturers, please chime in as well if you have something to add to our discussion here. Really beginning beginners please drop a line, question or two and we’ll learn together. If you’ve figured out something I haven’t I implore you, “don’t be stingy.” Share your tricks and tips.
Until next time, GROW THE SPORT and have a ball, without a ball: DISC GOLF!!