My input in reviewing the inFlight Guide is intended to provide the perspective of a veteran and well-informed disc golfer- as opposed to PJ, who is a squeaky-clean newbie by comparison. However, it occurs to me that for that very reason I’m likely not a poster child for someone who would use the tool on the company’s website much less purchase the printed guide. So I’ve also solicited the input of someone who serves as a human ‘disc performance guide’ on a daily basis, the guy who runs the very busy pro shop at DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course here in Santa Cruz, CA. His name is Mark Karleskind, and as a side-note he’s also the step-dad of 3-time world champ Nate Doss.
But before I go to Mark’s assessment, let me explain why I don’t really pay attention to any disc rating systems. I appreciate inbounds’ efforts to come up with a universal rating system that solves the issue of disparity between those provided by disc manufacturers like Innova, Discraft and Vibram, but that’s only one of the issues that I see limiting the usefulness of any type of system.
First of all – addressed in sections in the inFlight Guide titled ‘Assumptions’ and ‘Factors Affecting Disc Flight’ – there are many external factors to consider that will force a user to make mental adjustments to what is on the page (or screen). The endless combinations of those factors make any predictions of performance based on a system that takes only qualities of the disc into account iffy at best.
Next is the reality of any player plugged into her or his disc golf community typically makes disc purchasing decisions. Sure, we might read about a new disc in the magazine or see an ad online, but we’re much more likely to see it in action on the course. Either we see the guy we usually out-drive sail one past our disc off the tee and ask ‘what the (heck)?’, or the guy who likes to show off his latest and greatest will point it out before he even throws it. In either case, we’ll get the opportunity to ask detailed questions and probably even test it out for ourselves. No guide can compare that kind of customized, tactile information gathering experience.
My final reason is admittedly very subjective, but I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way. At this advanced point in my disc golf journey, I’m more set in my ways than newer players. Through much trial-and-error I’ve built a disc lineup that I know and trust, and additions to the ‘team’ are now somewhat rare. I added the ESP Nuke after hearing enough about it’s distance that I had to give it a try, and my intrigue with the idea of rubber discs led to the addition of several Vibram models in my bag. But in each of those cases a guide wouldn’t have affected my decision one way or the other. I wanted to see how those discs worked for me.
But enough about me. Keep in mind that my input is subjective and based on my perspective as a crotchety old guy that uses the same Aviar DX model he’s used for 15 years and still carries a roller he bought from Steady Ed in the mid-90’s. Yeah, that Steady Ed. Now let’s hear from Mark at the pro shop, a guy who is older and even more crotchety than me but is still more qualified to give an expert opinion on the inFlight Guide because he answers the same questions on disc performance again and again, sometimes dozens of times a day.
I visited Mark at his disc warehouse, and thought it was rather fitting that as he thumbed through the pages the setting behind him was a mural made of shelves of neatly stacked discs.
The first thing he noticed was that the entire guide was in alphabetical order, with all discs lumped into one group. “I’d list it by disc type, so people looking for a midrange could go to a section with only those discs” he said, after noticing that the Latitude 64 was surrounded by distance drivers. When I pointed out that the online tool lets users compare any three discs side-by-side, he said that was ideal.
Karleskind also noted that in today’s era of specialized discs, categories should go beyond just putt-and-approach, midrange, fairway driver and distance driver. He suggested adding a category for ‘super-long’ drivers as well. He then gave me his assessment of the overall usefulness of the inFlight Guide:
“I think it’s a good guide,” he said. “Whether players will spend money on it is another question, but I can see the online version getting lots of use. It’s free, and the ability to compare any three discs is something that has never been available. Plus, they can keep updating it with all the new discs that keep coming out.”
I asked him if he thought the printed guide would be a useful tool to have onsite at brick-and-mortar stores like his that sell disc golf discs. Oh yeah,” he replied. I’d use it myself just to illustrate the answers I give to people’s questions on which discs to buy. And when I’m real busy, customers can use it themselves.” A little later he came back to the subject again to add that the guide will be a great help to stores that have employees selling discs who aren’t experts on the game- like general sporting goods stores and corner markets. “They can easily look up a disc to help answer a question, and the book will help educate them over time.”
So there you have it. My resident disc-seller expert gives the combination of the printed and online inFlight Guides two ‘thumbers’ up.