Product Review: Scoreband multi-use scorekeeping device

The ScoreBand is a worthy addition to any disc golfer’s bag.

(Editor’s note: Two people associated with disc golf blog Rattling Chains tested out ScoreBand, a scoring watch that also works for tennis and other things. The first part is by School of Disc Golf’s lead instructor Jack Trageser, with a review by Rattling Chain’s lead blogger P.J. Harmer following after that).

One thing in particular piqued my interest when asked to review the ScoreBand as a method for tracking disc golf scores and statistics — I wondered if it would work for someone (namely, me) that has made a persistent effort over the past several years to remain ignorant of his cumulative score during a round.

As I’ve discussed before, a primary disc golf philosophy that I espouse centers on playing disc golf in a vacuum. In a nutshell, that refers to being completly immersed with the current shot rather than letting your mind wander about things like past shots and holes, future shots and holes, other games, what’s for lunch, and especially the distraction that pertains to this review . . . total score.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve yet to come across a method for recording my score among the traditional pencil-and-card and smartphone apps. I’ve trained myself to lock each shot on each hole into my memory banks without tallying the total until the round is over.

When I heard how ScoreBand works, however, I thought it might be the first scoring method to allow me to record my score using a device more reliable than my own grey matter — without letting the insidious organ get in its own way.

The design sets it apart from other scoring tools by being something that is worn, rather than carried, taken out and put back away repeatedly. Plus, it has a watch function, too, so you can wear it instead of your normal watch.

ScoreBand’s method of keeping track of the score lends itself to my personal idiosyncrasy as much as its ergonomic design. The user hits one button for each stroke to keep score on the current hole in the upper display, then presses and holds another button to add that hole’s score to the total score in the lower display.

Scoreband is a very cool concept and could help many people with disc golf scoring and many other items.

In theory, this lets a player hit the buttons the required amount of time for strokes and hold it the right duration of time to advance from one hole to another without having to even look at the screens and remain as oblivious as he or she wishes to be where total score is concerned.

In practice, however, I found using the ScoreBand to not be quite so simple (remember, these issues are magnified by my desire to not know my cumulative score during the round).

For starters, there is the issue of when to hit the button to record each stroke. Do you do it right after each throw, or wait until the completion of the hole and hit the button multiple times? In my case, during the five test rounds I played, settling on a system was not easy. In fact, it never happened. I tried to do it throw-by-throw, then would realize on the next tee that I had slacked, requiring me to enter all the strokes on that hole at one time. And it got worse, as a few times I realized I had forgotten for two entire holes.

I guess that can happen with other scoring methods as well, but having to hit a button for each stroke makes it more of an ordeal.

The upper display shows the stroke count for the current hole. When the hole is complete, you press and hold a button and the hole total is added to the round total on the lower display, while the upper one resets to zero. If you forget to record a stroke, or a hole or two, there is no way to tell which hole you last recorded successfully. It’s also an issue for those who want to know how they did hole-to-hole as at the end of the round all you have is total score.

The bottom line is that ScoreBand delivered in the main way I hoped it would. As a stretchy band worn on my non-throwing wrist, it was accessible and out of the way. Once I learned how to use it, I could hit the buttons without looking at the screens, enabling me to avoid knowing my score.

But it either takes time to get the process down to a routine, or I’m just inept at it. Of the five test rounds I played, my total came out wrong twice. I rely on my memory-based compilation after the round is over. Since I can recall each shot in my mind’s eye, it proved my use of the ScoreBand wasn’t perfect. I don’t think the device was faulty — it was a combination of my attention span and the user interface.

In January, ScoreBand was recognized as the Best Product Concept at the Professional Golf Association merchandise show. The people who awarded ScoreBand put more thought into things like that, so if you you’re like me and want a method for scoring that is handy and unobtrusive, ScoreBand may be for you.

P.J. Harmer

I’m a stat junkie.

No matter what I do, statistics fascinate me. Whether it’s softball or finds in geocaching or comparing scores on the disc golf course, I really get into it.

One thing with disc golf and me has always been keeping the score. Though there are many phone apps or pencil-and-paper ways of keeping score, I’ve been in search of a quick and easy way of keeping score as I play a round without fumbling with my phone or a pencil.

Insert ScoreBand.

ScoreBand is a rubber wristband/watch. The company calls it a “revolutionary quick-touch, 4-in-1 scorekeeping wristband engineered for sport.” It stood up to the challenge, too.

First, the construction is a one-piece rubber wristband. There are several sizes and colors to choose from, so you’ll be able to find one (or more) that fits your style. It’s comfortable to wear, though I’m not sure I could wear it all the time as I did notice it was there and with the rubber band, it could get a little tough to deal with at times.

Still, this band is easily worn for a round or two of disc golf. I wore it on the opposite wrist of my throwing hand, so I never knew it was there. Also, it made it easy for me to click the score.

I can’t comment on how this would be for ball golf as I always avoided wearing anything on my wrists when playing. I’m sure if people were used to wearing anything when swinging a club, this wouldn’t bother them. The same could be said for tennis.

The ScoreBand has four modes:

  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • All sport
  • Time

Those are four excellent items as it allows you to get multiple uses from one wristband. For golf, it keeps your hole score as well as your cumulative score. For tennis, keep game and set scores.

Though this is something that will be a permanent addition to my disc golf regiment, the all-score mode might be the most intriguing part of this band.

As the company notes on its site, there are many uses for this mode — including some other disc and ball golf functions, such as keeping putts, fairways hit or greens in regulation.

  • Other items that the watch can be used for:
  • Pitch counter for baseball or softball
  • As a head counter where attendance is needed
  • To count inventory
  • Keeping track of how many times you take medication
  • Lap counter

Truthfully, the options are endless with that mode.

Using the band is easy. There’s three buttons — two on the display and one on the side. Once you get the hang of how the watch works, it’s simple to use while playing. The key is remembering to use it.

Though I don’t often do it, perusing the instructions is a smart move and messing with it for a while before taking it out will help you get used to the controls so you can work it while on the course.

ScoreBand is a comfortable band that is easily used throughout a round.

The best part in my eyes?

It keeps your score as you go along. So if you click it after each throw or shot, you can see what you’ve done on each hole. At the end of the hole, add it to your overall score and you’ll have a clean slate for the next hole.

My only issue is it can get a little confusing on how to take your round score and add it to your cumulative score. You have to hold one of the buttons down to have it do this, but in the end, once you get used to it, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Though I love using my phone as a score card, the reality is it can sometimes get cumbersome to take the phone in and out of your pocket, get the screen up and type in scores. In the amount of time that takes, I’m at the next tee or shot with the score already in my watch.

If you are looking for more in-depth stats, the phone apps are probably the best. But if you are out playing and just want a quick and effective way to keep your score, this really is the way to go.

ScoreBand is $29.99, but it’s durable and something all disc golfers should consider having if they want a nice and easy way to keep score during rounds.

Vibram’s Trak a true breakthrough disc

I’ve tested all of the Vibram discs by now, and reviewed most of them here. All the reviews have until now have had a common theme: The main thing that makes them different from all other discs on the market (the grip and durability of rubber) has definite value, and it earns them consideration for a spot in your bag based on that alone. Each of the discs has been worthwhile in it’s own right, and performed as advertised.

Vibram started with lid-like putters that seem most suitable for driving, but worked well for putting due mainly to the grippy-ness of the rubber compound from which all their discs are made. Their first driver – the Ascent – is reliably overstable for me, but once again valued mostly for the way it comes to rest more abruptly on contact with the ground as opposed to other drivers that tend to skip. Again, the rubber is THE main reason I liked those discs. Otherwise, I’m one of those veteran disc golfers who has dozens (and more dozens) of discs and buys them much less often now because what I have works fine for me.

Then I tested the Trak.

This stable driver seems to do something for me no disc has ever done- something that as a lefthanded player is particularly valuable: It holds a gradual turnover line for a very long time. I’ll try to explain it with as much detail as possible, because I believe it is very significant, even ground-breaking.

The hardest flight path to achieve in disc golf, when using a backhanded throw, is the one that flies long and straight, then turns over at the end. Players that don’t have the required distance to simply attack these situations with a sidearm (like me) usually solve this challenge by throwing a very understable disc with varying degrees of hyzer, knowing the speed of the throw will overcome the hyzer angle at some point and force the disc to turn over. Accomplished players can dictate the point at which the disc will flip by adjusting the speed, angle, and height of the throw, hopefully getting the disc to turn in the direction they want much further down the fairway than can be achieved with a shot that has an anhyzer flight path from the beginning. But this approach, of course, is fraught with risks and limitations. Among them:

  • the player may misjudge any number of factors in and out of their control – including wind – causing the disc to never come out of its hyzer path
  • the size and shape of the fairway (too narrow, low ceiling) may not allow for the multiple turns required to get the disc to turn over at the right place and time
  • discs that turn over too much tend to land on an edge, and discs that land on an edge tend to roll

For me, Vibram’s Trak gives me a better option in such situations, which is why it now has a permanent place in my bag. I can make it fly on one long, gradual straight or turnover line, and is less likely to come out of that line at the end of its flight when it loses power, hyzering back. If I throw it too hard and low, it will of course turn over too soon, but even there it has an advantage: the rubber compound from which it is made helps it to bite into the ground, minimizing the damage.

My favorite hole to use an example of this disc’s usefulness to me is hole 18 on the Aptos High School course near DeLaveaga. It’s a slightly downhill hole that also slopes left-to-right with thick trees and brush all along the left side, yet completely wide open on the right side. It’s long enough to require all the power I can muster. For right-handers it’s a no-brain long hyzer shot. But for me it has always presented a formidable challenge. Not only is there OB down below on that right side, where my disc is sure to go if it hyzers out early. The basket is tucked in behind the line of trees that runs the length of the fairway on the left, and if my disc turns over too soon it ends up in those trees. If I get it to start on the right side with a big anhyzer line, but it falls right at the end, it runs into a grove of trees on the right side, below and pin-high with the basket.

My choices were always to play it safe by throwing a low, conservative midrange with a slight bit of turnover, getting most of the way there and setting me up for a routine par, or putting it way out to the right with a driver, and giving it a dramatic turnover angle. The hope here was that it would be just enough angle and power to hold that line the entire way to the basket, but not so much that it would turn over early. It rarely worked with the exact precision required to get all the way to the basket. But using the Trak, I am able to throw a shot that is a cross between these two approaches. My line now does not need to sweep so far on the outside, and definitely doesn’t require such an aggressive angle to hold the line all the way to the basket. I’m able to throw the disc close to the treeline on the left with a flat, straight angle and watch it hold a long, gradual turn all the way to the basket. The birdies are more frequent, and the chances of bogey due to the above-mentioned mistakes much less.

Many discs have been touted to ‘hold any line’, but the Trak is the first I’ve seen to back up the claim. I’m telling you, you gotta try this disc!

Vibram’s first mid-range disc fills a niche in my bag

It’s kinda pointless to review a disc and discuss flight characteristics without some form of context in terms of the person throwing the disc. Describing a disc by comparing it to other discs (“it’s like a Roc on steroids!”) is, for the same reason, of limited usefulness. Disc golfers vary greatly not only by armspeed but also in a number of other ways, like preference for hyzer/anhyzer/S-turn flight and general skill level and experience. So it should make sense that a disc that flies naturally straight according to one person’s perception won’t result in the same experience for someone else.

With that being established, in reviewing Vibram’s first mid-range disc, the Ibex, I’ll share some characteristics of my own disc golf game to provide some of that context. Hopefully it’ll give you a better idea of how you might be able to use the Ibex and other discs I review in your game. Here’s my disc golfer profile, in a nutshell:

  • more than 20 years playing disc golf with a top rating of 999, and still constantly seeking ways to get better
  • successful competitive player due to a well-rounded game rather than a big arm
  • slower arm speed due a rotator cuff injury, maxing out at maybe 380 feet with accuracy
  • play primarily in Santa Cruz county, where most fairways and greens are fast and/or sloped

The Ibex that Vibram sent me to test is in their regular (as opposed to soft or hard) X-Link rubber compound. I find that some of the appeal that the Ibex has for my game is directly related to slogans Vibram touts about their entire line. To quote the top of every page on their website: “Exceptional Durability, Unequaled Grip, Consistent Performance”. After throwing the Ibex for a few weeks now (plus having tested other Vibram models for a much longer period of time), I can attest to the veracity of all three claims. And it is these characteristics that have me giving the Ibex and other Vibram discs a long tryout for a spot in my bag.

Most of my non-putter discs have for years been made of various types of high-tech plastic, like ESP, Star or Champion. Playing on the fast terrain of DeLaveaga and surrounding courses for years, I’ve become accustomed to taking the skip into consideration when planning and executing shots. But Vibram discs provide a great alternative to that strategy, when needed, with their tacky rubber surface. Whether the Ibex lands at a steep angle or perfectly flat, it usually ends up pretty close to where it first touches down. With a weeny arm now, sometimes I need that skip to reach the green, and in those cases I won’t throw a rubber disc. But it’s all about having the right disc for each shot, and now I’ve got discs that don’t skip when I don’t want ’em to.

Another benefit directly related to the rubber compound that makes Vibram unique is the fact that the grip expands shot-making possibilities. Case in point: sometimes I am faced with one of those ‘tweener’ shots where the distance and lie seems too long for a putter, and too short for a full, smooth mid-range disc. I’m finding that throwing the Ibex with a fan grip works great in these situations, providing the same accuracy-centric control I would get from one of my putters, but with the added distance I need. In the past I had to throw a putter harder than I’d want to, risking the loss of some aim, or another midrange with a fan grip on the comparatively slick ‘high tech’ plastic, which didn’t inspire confidence.

In my case, the other mid-range discs in my bag are only moderately stable. If I put an anhyszer angle with some height on a throw with my Champion Cobra, for instance, it’ll hold that angle for a long time. If I throw it hard and flat and low, there is a good chance it’ll turn over and hit the ground too soon. With the Ibex I now have a disc that I can throw flat and expect to hyzer fairly quickly, yet it won’t skip like a flat stone on a quiet creek when it hits the hard dirt of DeLa. Once again, that’s valuable because it fills a void in my bag.

To sum it up, the Ibex is worth a look because as a mid-range disc its inherent qualities as a rubber disc fit perfectly with the way a mid-range disc is intended to be used. It flies further that a putter, yet offers more control and predictability than a driver (and most other mid-range discs). Add to that the fact that the rubber texture also greatly improves grip and helps it stop on a dime, and you’ve got one heck of a mid-range disc.

Disc Review: the Vibram Ascent fairway driver

A few weeks ago I wrote a blahg entry about the fact that a major corporation (Vibram) outside of disc sports had begun marketing golf discs in earnest, and the significance of their entire line being made from rubber rather than a plastic compound. It was sort of a disc review-preview in advance of the individual disc reviews, and if you haven’t read it yet you can check it out here. Now, as promised, here is the first of four disc reviews I’ll provide (they sent me an example of each of their first four models- hopefully I’ll get to review their new mid-range and long range driver soon as well).

The Ascent is Vibram’s first driver- their first non-putter, in fact. After throwing it a bunch over the past two months I can say two things right off the bat:

  1. It is indeed very grippy and very, very durable, just as advertised, and as a result extremely reliable as well.
  2. I like it so much it’s earned a spot in my bag.

I’m looking forward to testing their new long-range driver called the ‘Trek’ when it comes out to see how it differs from the Ascent, which Vibram classifies as a ‘fairway driver’. A serious injury has forced me to permanently re-shape my game in acknowledgment of reduced power, but I get pretty much the same distance with the Ascent as with the other overstable drivers in my bag right now (FLX Surge, Star Katana, Star Destroyer). So in the distance sense, for me anyway, it’s as good as any other driver I throw. But I can see how it might be considered a fairway driver in the control sense, like when a ball golfer uses a three wood rather than a driver to keep the ball on the fairway or hit the green of a par 5 from 250 yards.

First of all – and I don’t know if it’s the unique properties of their rubber compound but will assume that’s the case – this disc can be thrown with all kinds of turnover angle and power and will still hyzer out at the end of its flight for me. (With my Katana this isn’t the case; it seems to have a point of no return where it gives up the ghost and just keeps turnin’.) But what’s really nice is that even though I don’t have a great deal of power or armspeed any more (if I ever did), the overstable qualities of the Ascent don’t translate to a disc that immediately cuts to the hyzer side, depriving me of distance in a relatively straight line. It has nice carry for such a stable disc.

Another fairway driver quality of the Ascent is related to the rubber from which it’s made. The disc Vibram sent me to review is made from their medium-range X-Link compound (not firm, not soft, but juuuuust right. Just like baby bear and Goldlocks prefer!) It’s not floppy by any means, but grippier than anything but the floppiest plastic putters. I’ve noticed that my Ascent will skip some – when it should – but it comes to rest pretty quickly. This quality has comes in handy on long holes when I’ve had 300-plus feet to the basket on a second shot from the fairway, like certain holes at Pinto Lake.

I may be getting away from the Ascent review and back to a discussion of Vibram’s X-Link rubber compound, but here’s an interesting tidbit that Vibram’s Steve Dodge shared with me to wrap it up for now. You can throw an Ascent your hardest at a brick wall 10, 20, 50 times, until it’s dented and warped to the point of uselessness, then put it in the microwave for two minutes and it comes out good as new! I’d try it myself, but I need to save my arm for throws that count. Plus, I’ve grown attached to my one and only Ascent!

Check back soon for reviews of the Summit, Ridge, and VP putters.

The Vibram Disc Golf Review ‘Preview’

When I began playing disc golf more than 20 years ago, all discs were basically the same in terms of material. They were all plastic, and they were pretty much all the type of plastic we now refer to as DX (Innova’s term) or Pro-D (Discraft’s). Yet despite the fact that the market for golf discs is now inundated with a continual flood of new models – most available in at least three grades of plastic – one thing has remained constant: They’ve always been made from plastic. Until now.

A couple years ago, yet another company decided to vie for a share of the steadily-growing golf disc market, and it’s decision is significant for two reasons. First, the company is Vibram, whose founder is credited with inventing the first rubber soles for shoes. Their numerous products are manufactured in Brazil, China, Italy and here in the U.S. More than 1,000 footwear makers use Vibram’s rubber soles in their products. You’ve most likely seen their ubiquitous little octagonal yellow logo on the bottom of hiking and work boots.

To paraphrase the character Ron Burgundy from the movie ‘Anchorman,’ they’re kind of a big deal. In fact, in the comparatively tiny cottage industry that is the disc golf world, they’re a very big deal. This is the first time a large multinational corporate name has entered the disc golf marketplace in a significant way. The implications of that may prove to be far-reaching, but for now it’s enough to understand that disc golf has reached a point that it has attracted the attention of a corporation the size of Vibram. And so far, Vibram seems to have a strategy of growing the market for its disc golf products by growing the popularity of the sport in general. In a short period of time, it has become a major sponsor of two annual events, and a documentary film that will debut at the Pro Disc Golf World Championships in Santa Cruz, CA this Summer. Check out details of each if you’re interested:

The fact that Vibram is all about rubber is the second part of the significance of their entry into the disc golf market, and the reason I wanted to write this review (yeah, I’m getting to the actual disc review). Although there are more golf disc brands out there than ever, Discraft and Innova still have an iron-fisted grip on the market. Ironically, if Vibram is successful it will be largely because of grip. You see, their discs are made of rubber (or as they put it, a rubber compound) and they claim that rubber makes for a better grip, and a more durable disc with flight characteristics that change much less than all plastic discs over the life of the disc. If they are right, and if those two factors end up affecting the purchase decisions of the average disc golfer, we may see a future where the answer to the question ‘What kind of plastic are you throwing” is “none- I’m throwing rubber.” But the proof is in the putting (and the drive, and the upshot), so let’s get to the review.

Vibram sent me one sample each of the four models they currently market: The VP, the Ridge, the Summit, (all putters) and the Ascent, a fairway driver. Before I get into specifics on each disc, a few general notes:

  • All their putters are available in three ‘firmnesses’ of their X-Link rubber compound– soft, regular, and firm. I appreciate the straightforwardness of these labels, as opposed to a certain coffee franchise that insists on calling a large a ‘Venti’. But I digress. The soft is extremely soft. Other adjectives come to mind, like floppy, bendy, and even sticky. But curiously this pliability doesn’t affect the stability. The regular firmness is much more like a regular plastic disc to the touch, but still noticeably grippier, and their Firm blend is still as grippy as, or more so than, an old-school, low grade plastic golf disc.
  • I didn’t get to test the same disc model in different grades of rubber, so I can’t comment on how the flight characteristics vary in the same model when the firmness is different. But as you’ll read in my review of the VP, I doubt it varies much.
  • After a month of play on several Santa Cruz, CA area courses (plenty of rough terrain, including rocks, trees, roots and dirt), all four discs have held up very well. None of my sample putters suffered any nicks or cuts to the rim, and the sharper-edged Ascent driver only has a minor nick on the inside rim. To me that’s especially notable since with plastic, the softer or grippier the disc the more likely it’ll show wear and tear.
  • According to Steve Dodge of Vibram Disc Golf, they plan to release a couple mid-range discs in 2011, which I am particularly eager to test. To me superior grip is especially important when the shot requires pinpoint accuracy.
  • Rather than embrace the existing flight ratings charts shared by other disc manufacturers and retailers, Vibram has created its own system. Give them credit for conceiving an entirely new method for measuring disc flight characteristics, one that is arguably more scientific and logical. But their method for measuring Fade and Turn in a disc is based on a listed optimal speed, defined by how fast the disc must be traveling to fly flat in terms of MPH (miles-per hour). Since most of us don’t have radar guns handy this isn’t very practical, but we can do the next best thing which is to figure out the relative speed of a disc, that is, how discs compare to other discs we’re more familiar with. All in all, I found their discs to be consistent in practice with the ratings they give them, which is the important thing. And as Dodge explained to me,“the system is forward looking because once we have a complete line-up of discs, a player will be able to say, ‘this driver works for me, so this mid should work for me’. I think this is better than the current systems which don’t help a player find a suitable next disc.”

 Coming soon, (after I’ve had a chance to play with the Vibram discs for awhile and test Vibram’s claim of superior durability) the individual disc reviews of the Vibram VP, Ridge, Summit, and Ascent!

old school discs

What’s the oldest disc in your bag? For me, it’s a 180-gram DGA ‘Disc Golf Disc’ #1, which was factored by Steady Ed himself into a less stable #4. I bought it from Steady Ed at his warehouse in Freedom, CA after getting a little tour of the facilities. I’d guess it came out of the mold in the late 80’s or early 90’s, and I bought it around 1997 or so. I paid Ed $20 for that disc, and a few others like it!

And it’s not in my bag for nostalgic reasons, either. I only use it as a roller, and it’s useful because I can start it off almost like an airshot thrown into the ground and it will stand up and eventually turn over. On #6 I actually put hyzer on it- it’s that understable. At DeLa, I use it as my driver on #6 (remember I’m a lefty), and I regularly use it for the tricky 2nd shot on I-5 (hole 13). The second-oldest disc in my bag might be my ‘beat putter,’ an Aviar from an early 90’s tourney at DeLa with a Jamba Juice stamp.