Disc Review: Vibram O-Lace

For me, the Vibram O-Lace fulfills more than four years of eager anticipation. It is the disc I’ve been itching to have in my bag since the first time I held a disc made with Vibram’s X-Link rubber compound in my hand.  Before I get to my full review, though, please indulge me by first reading a little history:

When I got to throw Vibram putters for the first time, part of my initial reaction was ‘the grip is fantastic. I can’t wait to see how the midrange discs and drivers perform when they come out!’

When the Ibex, Trak and Ascent were released, I liked them all, and asked Vibram Disc Golf head honcho Steve Dodge when they would have a long range driver. He explained that Vibram was methodically releasing discs on a regular basis, focusing on having a disc model for each category and sub-category within a couple years. I found the Ascent to be very useful as a stable fairway driver and the Trak as a versatile midrange/fairway driver finesse disc and roller. But I dreamed of throwing a long-range, fast, strongly overstable driver with the grip and ‘grab’ of the current models.

The updated Vibram flight chart
The updated Vibram flight chart

A few months later the Obex arrived in the mailboxes of us testers, and I loved it (and still do). It had all the stubborn stability I hoped for, with unusual forward glide for a disc that stable. That satisfied me for a little while, but we always want more, don’t we? I again inquired about a long range driver with the same qualities, and was patiently and politely reminded that it was coming, in due time.

Fast-forward to the release of the Lace, Vibram’s first long range, high speed driver. It quickly earned a permanent spot in my bag with its ability to go very, very far on just about any line I gave it, but I still yearned for a version that could handle ridiculous combinations of power and anhyzer angle. I said as much in my feedback to Vibram after testing it, and based on the next prototype I received, six months later, their response seemed to have been ‘be careful what you wish for!’

After the release of the Lace, Vibram sent us two models, one which resulted in the UnLace, and the other a disc easily more overstable than any I had ever thrown before. That thing had practically no glide whatsoever and seemed to almost fight the anhyzer angle I tried to give it before it even left my hand, like two strong magnets of opposing polarity. Ok, that last part was probably my imagination, but you get the picture.

I must not have been the only tester who felt that way because when the production model of the O-Lace came out -much like Baby Bear’s porridge, chair and bed – it was just right.

The Vibram O-Lace is a fast, very overstable driver. And while it doesn’t break through any barriers in terms of its speed or stability it is nonetheless a breakthrough disc.

Side view of the Vibram O=Lace
Side view of the Vibram O=Lace

There are a couple characteristics all Vibram discs have in common; first, the rubber compound provides a grip that is superior to any plastic blend, and it also tends to skip less or at least not as far. Second, the the stability-to-fade/glide ratio tends to be better as well. By that I mean that compared to other discs there isn’t as much of a tradeoff between stability and glide. The overstable discs in the Vibram lineup don’t fade as quickly as you’d expect for discs that can handle power the way they can.

All of these factors are present in the O-Lace, and that is why I consider this disc so special.

Think about it: the fastest drivers are normally the hardest to throw and typically involve the most extreme effort on the part of the thrower. What better time to have a sure, reliable grip? And which discs tend to get away at the end of the flight due to a sharp fade? Just check the flight charts. The answer is fast, overstable drivers, of course. But the O-Lace is notably different.

When I took mine out to Pinto Lake, where the holes in the upper meadow all have fast fairways and OB lines left and right on every hole, that difference was remarkable. Thanks to that grip I felt I had full control as I put it through its paces. It handled both low flat screamers and big power anhyzers, always ending with reliable fade at the end. It netted just as much distance as any other similar disc in my bag. And probably the most useful feature on that course where discs so easily skip-and-slide out of bounds was the way it bit and stopped quickly even when landing fast on a sharp edge. I was able to throw much more aggressive drives on those open but dangerous holes, knowing that my disc would not skip fast and far on the hard terrain- unless the shot was designed to do so.

There is only one thing I don’t like about the O-Lace, and this goes for pretty much all Vibram discs: The variegated (definition: exhibiting different colors, especially as irregular patches or streaks) coloring of Vibram discs create two annoying problems. First, any disc that is not one solid, bright color is harder to find on the course. If you play in an area with lots of rough this is an issue. Second (and this is more of an annoyance than anything else), when you go to pull one of these discs out of your bag you naturally look for a disc of the predominant color on the disc. But if it has a different color on part of its edge, you may forget to look for that color as well and wonder why you can’t find the disc you’re looking for. I assume Vibram does the multi-color thing as a distinguishing design factor, but I’m hoping they someday soon give players a choice of solid or variegated coloring.

My suggestion is to try a Vibram disc if you haven’t already. And if you have room in your bag, consider an O-Lace for the unique qualities I’ve described. Sometimes you want that long skip, but just as often you don’t.

Disc Review: Vibram UnLace

When I started playing disc golf there was no such thing as ‘premium’ plastic. All discs were of the grade we now think of as standard (Innova calls theirs DX). For those who have thrown nothing but the ‘good stuff’ (most players who have taken up the game more recently and can afford the good stuff, you likely missed out on a great developmental tool.

You see, low-grade plastic discs become steadily more understable the more they’re used and inevitably whack trees and other hard surfaces. So that favorite stable driver of yours would become a little less stable over time, than even more ‘flippy’, and finally it would want to turn over all the time. But smart, observant players wouldn’t throw it on the scrap heap. Yeah, they might replace it with a new, more stable driver, but they’d leave Old Faithful in the bag because A- by then they’d become very familiar with its flight characteristics, and B- it would be able to perform a neat trick: start off as a low of mid-height hyzer, then flatten or even turn over a ways down the fairway. If you’ve ever (as a righthander) played a hole that is a low tunnel shot for 150 feet, then requires a a throw that turns right at the end. you know how useful this can be. Especially if your sidearm is less reliable.

Which brings us to the Vibram UnLace. For more accomplished, bigger-armed players, it’s a turnover disc that when thrown with the proper touch and finesse can be made to do all kinds of neat tricks. And the best part is that, unlike those old beat-in standard plastic discs from the pre-Climo era, it’s made of durable (read: indestructible) Vibram rubber. That means it won’t change once you’ve gotten used to it and learned how to get it to do those neat tricks.

I’ll admit that I’ve had it in my for a couple weeks now and still haven’t quite figured out the exact blends of power, hyzer, and line to get it to turn just when I want- but these things take time. Another plus is the better grip that rubber brings. That’s even more important when throwing touch shots.

I haven’t had time to get to know the UnLace like I hope to, but I’m a strong believer in the greater flexibility of understable discs when it comes to crafting mind-blowing, creative shots. I look forward to getting to know this baby and really learning what she can do.

This review also appears as part of a review over at RattlingChains.com. The approach we take for reviews on that site is to have three players with different levels of expertise review each disc, so hopefully readers get the perspective of someone with a game similar to theirs. You can read the full review here.

2013 Masters Cup: Plenty of Santa Cruz locals to watch

Every year in April, Santa Cruz, CA is not only the ‘Epicenter of Disc Golf’ – the label we gave ourselves in 1989 after the nearby Loma Prieta earthquake – but the center of the professional disc golf tour as well. DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course has hosted a National Tour event every year since the tour was established, and the Masters Cup has drawn the sport’s best talent for about 20 years before that.

If you follow the tour, you’re familiar with many of this weekend’s competitors. Young Guns Ricky Wysocki, Paul McBeth, Will Schusterick and Nikko Locastro will all be there, as will veteran champs Ken Climo, Dave Feldberg, Nate Doss and Avery Jenkins. And there are plenty of other names you’ll recognize as well, like Philo Braithwaite, Paul Ulibarri, and Josh Anthon.

You know all about these guys already, and they’ve proven that any one of them can step up and win on any given week. I’m not about to pretend that I can predict who will win, although Josh Anthon is a Norcal player who knows DeLa well and has come close, Nate Doss grew up and honed his craft here, and Wysocki and Shusterick are good bets too. But this post isn’t about picking a winner.

On Saturday, after the first round is in the books, and even Sunday when it’s down to the last 24 holes, there are bound to be some names you don’t recognize on the tops cards. Or rather, you would not have recognized if you hadn’t read this. You’re welcome.

And let me state for the record that I’m not ignoring the women’s divisions. It’s just that there is a big separation between the top women and the locals, and there is no chance of a surprise. Kristy King, a DeLa local and DGA-sponsored player, has a chance of finishing in the top third of the field and cashing, but the win will likely go to Sarah Hokom, Valarie Jenkins or Paige Pierce.

Local pro and longtime course maintenance leader Jim Hagen works on his backhand form while starting up his mower four days before the start of the 2013 Masters Cup.
Local pro and longtime course maintenance leader Jim Hagen works on his backhand form while starting up his mower four days before the start of the 2013 Masters Cup. Photo by Jack Trageser

In the men’s divisions, on the other hand, the combination of a deep pool of local talent and the idiosyncrasies of DeLaveaga as a course that plays very different than most courses on the pro circuit makes for some intriguing possibilities. I’m not saying that any of these guys will win, mind you, just that they can. Look for one or more of the following names on the lead and/or chase cards Sunday, and remember I told you so.

Matt Bell- Disc golf is a sport where the best players improve on a super-steep curve, and can go from beginner to world-beater in a hurry. Matt Bell played half of his 15 PDGA events last year in the Advanced division, but this year has been turning heads locally. He won this year’s Enduro (Ice) Bowl at DeLa this year, topping a number of known players, and has the power, savvy, and local knowledge to make a run. Look for him to be in the running at least until the magnitude of the situation hits him- and maybe longer.

Shasta Criss- He enjoys a rep as a solid player and great guy on the tour, especially on the West Coast, but Shasta flies below the radar to most pro disc golf followers. He’s DGA’s top sponsored Open Division player and has all the tools necessary to make a run, including a penchant for hitting 50-foot putts. Plus, that name is just meant for disc golf, and it’s impossible not to like him. If you see his name in the mix, feel good about rooting for him.

Chris Edwards- Big, easy power and a recent ascent into 1000-rated territory mark Edward’s game, along with a sincere desire to promote disc golf locally and beyond. He’s the coach of the UCSC disc golf team, and if his mental game catches up fully to his physical talents he’ll be in contention. Edwards is a birdie machine when he’s on and simply needs to eliminate or minimize the mistakes.

Myles Harding- Like Nate Doss, Myles literally grew up playing DeLaveaga. Longtime NorCal tour players remember that he and Greg Barsby went head-to-head in Juniors, then Advanced, then Open, both winning lots of hardware- but as kids and teens Myles actually won a bit more. Harding, like his dad Rob, has all the shots in his bag, super-smooth form, and the ability to turn in some low rounds. Whether he can string together three of them in a row is the question, but he’s done it plenty of times before.

Don Smith- I know firsthand of Don’s tenacity as he beat me once on the 11th extra hole of an epic sudden-death playoff at a local monthly with an 80-foot uphill birdie putt. Since then I’ve gotten older and he’s gotten better, making disc golf his full-time occupation. He’s been on tour nonstop for a couple years now, and that and the the fact that he’s likely played 1000 (or more) rounds at DeLa are the reasons I would not be surprised to see Smith in contention on Sunday. He’s got the game necessary to shoot double-digits under each round, and that’s what it will take to win.

Tony Tran- I gotta mention Tony because he can show up at DeLa for the first time in nine months and throw out an 11-under. He used to play more than he does now, and he never plays anything but local events anymore (I’m not sure if he ever did) but he’s got game. He’s another guy to pull for if you’re a fan of feel-good stories. If he wanted to put the time in, he could be as good as most of the guys who try to play for a living.

Jon Baldwin- This guy won the world championship playing here in 2011, so no one should be surprised if he wins the Masters Cup. Baldwin, DGA’s most marketed sponsored player, is a golfer in the best sense of the word, winning with focus and guile as much as with his sufficient power, steady putting and all-around game. Look for him to be right there all three days in the Masters Division. He’s played three major events this year and taken 2nd place at all three (to Phil Arthur, Ken Climo and Jason Tyra), so he’s certainly hungry for a win on his home turf.

The players listed above are all Santa Cruz locals. They call DeLa home. But other participants in the Masters Cup have lots of experience here as well. The aforementioned Josh Anthon and Ray Johnson are NorCal stalwarts, Steve Rico and Philo Braithwaite show up often from SoCal, and we still claim Nate Doss as our own.

The cream does in the end rise to the top, and it’s likely the trophy will be lifted by someone you knew before reading this preview. But Santa Cruz has tons of local talent, and more so than at any other NT stop you can expect to see some unknown players in the mix.

New disc review & giveaway: Say hello and so LONG to the Vibram Lace

Is there anything Vibram’s X-Link Rubber Compound disc’s can’t do?

For two years now I’ve touted the durability, and the grip, and even the consistent, reliable flight path. But I always assumed that distance was the one area where the tackier material made of rubber would not be able to match the sleekness and (I thought) superior aerodynamics of plastic.

After testing the Lace, Vibram’s first true long distance disc, I think I may have been wrong. Very wrong.

When I give it some thought, though, I should have seen this coming. After all, the Obex and Ibex can produce incredible distance for mid range discs, and the Trek and Ascent both fly pretty far for supposed ‘fairway drivers’. But the Lace takes things to a whole new level. I’ll do my best to explain, but after a couple fieldwork sessions and a stellar round at DeLaveaga today (-6, thanks in part to the Lace) I haven’t quite figured out how the disc flies so fast and long, so effortlessly.

This disc isn’t available in stores until November 23rd, but if you want a chance to win the tester they sent to School of Disc Golf, read on.

Those that have read my reviews in the past know I’m not big on the technical aspects of discs. I don’t flightplates diameters and all that jazz. If you need to know that stuff it’s on Vibram’s site. And while you’re there you might read their description of the disc, which says in part that it’s “like a faster Trak with a ton more glide thrown in as a bonus.” I don’t totally agree with that assessment.

While it is indeed much faster and goes way further than a Trak, this disc is way more stable. In fact, I think it’ll act like most other super-fast discs do for players without a surplus of power. I grudgingly let me friend throw it once today (hey, by the time I realized what it could do I needed it for the long holes at DeLa), and he is an accomplished player. Even after I told him it could handle all the power he wanted to give it, he still underestimated it and let it hyzer out way too soon. It’s happened to me a bunch of times too. But even when I didn’t get the gradual S-turn I plan for when going for maximum distance, I still ended up longer than expected, time and time again.

A couple times at DeLa I even discovered new possibilities- and I’ve been playing that course for almost 20 years! It’s hard to put into the right words, but when I watch the flight of my Lace I expect to find it in one place and I end up finding it somewhere else, usually further down the fairway and closer to the hole. Case in point was hole 20, a dogleg right over and around tall trees. It was my first hole of the day with the Lace and I didn’t expect it to be so stable. It hyzered way sooner than I wanted, and I started plunging into the trees thinking it went in way short and maybe even trickled down into the canyon. Nope. It was on the right fringe, but barely, and only 40 feet short of the hole. A good throw would have blasted past the basket. It’s that glide that Vibram touts.

As far as feel is concerned, the Lace has that superior grip that just makes you feel like you’re in control. Some power discs just feel in my hand that they’re uncontrollable, but not this disc. It fit into my hand comfortably and came out smoothly.

Another thing related to the rubber compound that I like: as with the other Vibram discs, it tends to stop pretty soon after touching down, which I consider a bonus with a long range driver in certain cases. There are times when you need to get 400-plus feet yet you need that disc to stop quickly afterward. Until now that really hasn’t been an option. If you wanted that distance you had to be willing to risk the possibility of skipping and/or sliding at the end of the flight. Now, with the Lace, you can have your cake and eat it too.

I don’t hide the fact that I love Vibram’s rubber discs, and I’m mildly surprised that the rest of the disc golf world hasn’t yet gone ga-ga for rubber. I guess these things take time. But I have a prediction. In golf there is the well-known saying, ‘Drive for show, putt for dough’. Distance and power gets the most attention, and now that the Lace is here, expect Vibram to start getting LOTS more attention.

Now for the contest. Since I want West Coast disc golfers to wise up to the Vibram vibe, I’m gonna do a live contest at the next DeLaveaga club monthly, December 1st at DDGC in Santa Cruz, CA. Participants will get the chance to test drive Vibram’s other drivers or mid range discs (Trek, Ascent, Ibex and Obex) and then pick one to take one crack at a CTP contest on hole 6. Winner gets the Lace. NOTE: To get in the contest, you gotta RSVP via the comments section below.

And since I don’t want to leave out readers that can’t get to the DeLa monthly, I’m also gonna give away another Vibram disc with a School of Disc Golf hotstamp to a random person who comments on this post. Let us know your thoughts on rubber vs. plastic, or something else relevant to the topic. Good luck!

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.