The following product review is based on the perspectives and tests of two people- myself and fellow blogger at RattlingChains.com, P.J. Harmer.
Disc golf equipment technology continues to undergo slight refinements, specifically when it comes to discs. But the advances are slight, like a disc that flies slightly faster and farther, or a basket with chains that hang at diagonal angles rather than vertically. And even in the world of disc golf accessories, nearly all products to have hit the market are manufactured versions of gadgets that do-it-yourself types likely had already been building and using on their own. Those telescoping poles that help to retrieve discs from water and trees come to mind.
The Disc Beeper falls into neither category. It’s an entirely new innovation, it solves a problem that every disc golfer encounters at one time or another (a lost disc), and despite the fact that numerous people have probably mused on a similar concept, no one has ever actually built anything like it.
The Disc Beeper is a small electronic device that has a diameter somewhere between a nickel and a quarter and weighs in at about five grams. It attaches to the bottom of a disc and when activated beeps at three second intervals after a 45-second delay, allowing the player ample time to go through her/his routine between activation and launch.
Playing primarily on mountainous and heavily wooded courses such as DeLaveaga, Pinto Lake, Black Mouse and Ryan Ranch, opportunities for lost discs abound, so I was naturally very eager to test this particular product. After putting it through a variety of trials, the early word is that it does what it is supposed to do without any noticeable detrimental effects on the flight of the disc. The bottom line is that a disc thrown with a Disc Beeper attached to it is almost certain to be reunited with its owner. This is the full review:
I received my Disc Beeper in a package that included the device, an alcohol wipe to clean the bottom of the disc I planned to attach it to, and detailed instructions on how to properly attach it. Oh yeah, and also a nifty Disc Beeper sticker. Attaching it was pretty straightforward, with the most important aspect being the centering of the Disc Beeper on the disc. Obviously if it isn’t centered, it’ll adversely affect the flight. Since the operation is pretty much irreversible, I chose a disc that was not a critical part of my ‘starting lineup’. The downside to this choice is that I won’t be able to share any specifics about how the Disc Beeper changes a disc’s flight characteristics, but that would require having two identical discs (one as the control subject of the experiment) anyway. So, no detailed feedback on how the Disc Beeper alters a disc’s flight other than to say I didn’t notice anything obvious.
The Disc Beeper is very simple to operate. It has a single button, and three different types of ‘beep’ from which to choose. I prefer the one that sounds similar to a cricket as it is just as loud and distinctive as the others while fitting best into the natural surrounds of a disc golf course. To activate you simply hit the button once turn it on, and another 1-3 times to cycle through the beep choices. After you’ve settle on a choice, you have that 45 second delay for it begins to beep at three second intervals. People who take so long to throw that they worry about the beeper going off before they’ve released the disc will realize a second benefit of this nifty product: as a training device to help them get their throws within the 30-second limit required by PDGA rules.
For my tests, I tried to come up with the best and most varied challenges possible. I wanted to see how it would perform in a noisy environment, in tall and thick vegetation, in an area where the disc could fly or roll down a steep slope, and finally a couple situations where the disc could fly so far I’d have little idea where to start searching.
The first test took place not on a disc golf course but among sand dunes next to the Pacific Ocean south of Monterey, CA. The wind was blowing hard and waves were crashing, which combined made hearing the beeper more of a challenge than at most any course I’ve played. I repeatedly threw the disc – a Champion TL – into blind spots among the dunes, then trudged in the general direction in which I had thrown. The wind also served to give me less of an idea of where the disc ended up, but inevitably I’d hear the beeping and be able to make my way to it like Yogi Bear honing in on a fresh pie.
Next I headed to Ryan Ranch, a great course also in the Monterey area. The choice was based mostly on the fact that I’m still not completely familiar with this course and as such would not automatically know where to search for a disc on each hole. It has enough elevation and rugged vegetation to lose a disc for sure. I played a regular round while there, and sometimes threw the TL for my ‘real’ shot, and other times as a second disc. As in the first test, the beeper performed exactly as it was supposed to. One thing I noticed, though is worth mentioning. I was teeing off on a blind hole and it was long enough that I needed to use my cherished ESP Nuke for my real drive. After that I threw the TL. As I walked up the fairway I heard the TL beeping from more than 100 feet away. No problem. Then I began to look for my Nuke and that familiar fear – we’ll call separation anxiety – started to creep up inside me as I couldn’t immediately locate it. I did find it after a short search, but it made me realize another benefit of the Disc Beeper: it eliminates that separation anxiety because you know you’ll hear that beeping. You know if the Disc Beeper is attached to a disc, you won’t lose it.
The nest stop on the Disc Beeper test tour was Pinto Lake, home of the finals for the 2011 Pro Worlds. The first four and last six holes are typical Santa Cruz County mountainous terrain- but they were not the setting for this round of tests. Rather it was the other nine hole, the upper holes, that would put the Disc Beeper to perhaps its toughest challenge yet. These holes are nearly all long, wide open, and flat. But the fairways are carved out of tall natural grasses and scrub brush. If your disc flies into the rough, you won’t see it until you’re almost on top of it. Add in a typically brisk wind and you can understand why the place has a reputation for swallowing Squalls and burying Buzzzes.
At this point I was pretty confident that I’d be able to find that TL no matter where it ended up, so I purposefully launched it far into the rough on one of those holes and then quickly turned around so I’d have as little idea of where it went as possible. As I walked up the fairway and listened for the beeps, I realized that I had discovered a game within the game: Follow the beeps! Needless to say, I found it that time and all the others at Pinto Lake.
The final testing ground was at famous DeLaveaga in Santa Cruz. And I had only one throw left to make. I decided to launch the disc off hole 27, ‘Top of the World’, with the intention of sending it as far as possible. Over the basket, over the street behind it, and over the parking lot on the other side of that, where a trees and a steep ravine would hopefully swallow it up. That was fun! It flew great, and long, and indeed ended up about 700 feet away, next to hole 20. But alas, the Disc Beeper removed all drama as I began to hear it from the parking lot and had no problem finding its hiding place even though I otherwise wouldn’t have had a clue where to start the search.
A few other bits on information on Disc Beeper:
- The company expects it to sell for somewhere around the price of a premium plastic disc. They sell it on their website for $19.99, and it should be available from select retailers in the near future.
- They also have some video clips on the site that show it in action.
- When I told them that I thought the Disc Beeper would be more popular if it could be switched from one disc to another, rather than having to permanently attach it to one, the agreed and told me that was in the works. It’ll likely be accomplished by creating tiny neoprene sleeves that attach to the bottom of a disc. The beeper will slip snugly inside, allowing for easy transfer.
- The power for the device is supplied by a battery that charges via a USB micro connection. This open connection could seemingly have problems with dust or moisture getting inside, but the guys at Disc Beeper have been pretty thorough with their testing so I’d guess it’s not much of an issue with normal use.
- The PDGA is excited about the possibility of beepers on both discs and baskets enabling sight impaired people to experience disc golf. They are in the process of evaluating Disc Beeper for PDGA approval.
- The beeps can be heard from up to 200 feet away. This could cause a problem for other players teeing off on very short holes, but in most cases the beeper wouldn’t be needed on such holes.
- When the disc lands rightside-up on a flat surface, the beeping is noticeably quieter, but still plenty loud enough to hear it from at least 50 feet.
There’s not, honestly, a lot I can add to Jack’s well-done review on this product.
My personal take is that this kind of a product can be a strong addition to any disc golfer’s arsenal.
The biggest thing I can note is that it needs to eventually be a product where people can switch the beeper from disc to disc. Without that ability, I find it hard to believe that disc golfers will go out and spend $100 to get five beepers for different discs.
The other reason behind that thought is if these can’t be used during sanctioned play, there needs to be a way to take them off a disc and not leave anything behind. If I am going to use the beeper, I want to have it on discs I throw. I don’t want to have a “Disc Beeper disc” and then have others. The cost-effectiveness of doing something like this would be quite bad.
I’ll be interested to watch how the PDGA goes with this as well. Though not super heavy, it does add weight to a disc and makes it a little different. If something like this is approved for play, what about things like stickers for the top of a disc and so forth? This could be a major step for what can be done to discs if this is eventually approved for competition.
In the end, this is a very cool product and I could see myself using it for casual play, especially when going to a new course. The beeper has a waterproof design and the battery charge lasts about 7-8 hours, which is easily enough for a couple of rounds. The $20 price tag isn’t much, especially if you will eventually be able to switch it from disc to disc. This kind of product will probably be suited more for the casual player (for now) as it will be nice when out throwing around.
Overall, the product was easy to use and worked as intended. The beep is loud enough so you can follow and find the disc. In the end, that’s what the product is supposed to do and it has delivered. I look forward to this product moving forward in production.
Disc Beeper on the Internet: