Book Review: The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf

Every week, thousands of people experience disc golf for the first time. (I have no reference for this, but it sounds about right, doesn’t it?) Whatever the actual figure, it’s growing quickly because a good number of those people fall in love with the sport. They continue to play, share their passion with others, and acquire a sudden desire to learn all they can about this wonderful thing that until recently didn’t exist for them.

Until recently, those seeking to quench this thirst in the literary world were let down in a big way, or worse, terribly misinformed. The handful of disc golf titles on the market claiming to provide ‘all you need to know’ about disc golf fell far short of the promise and likely reinforced the opinions of some that disc golf is not yet to be taken seriously.

The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf
The photo on the cover of The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf shows Paul McBeth demonstrating textbook sidearm form, which is explained in the third section of this textbook-like book.

The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf is indeed what it claims to be. The information it offers up is accurate, relevant to new players, and presented in the articulate language of a college textbook. The fact that the authors’ advanced degrees are listed along with their names (Justin Menickelli, Ph.D. and Ryan ‘Slim’ Pickens, M.A.) on the cover provide a good indication that this is the exact impression they wish to convey. In fact, I can see their book being used as the primary text for the growing number of disc golf courses on college campuses. The PDGA logo is also prominently displayed on the cover, but I could not divine the exact reason why.

The book is divided into three main parts, the first of which is titled ‘The Nature of the Game.’ It includes a section on choosing the best equipment, shoes, and clothing. Makes sense. But the rest of the chapter is mostly devoted to tournament play and PDGA membership, which I at first found odd considering a very large majority of all regular disc golfers never delve into formal competition. Then I realized that those who enjoy disc golf but consider it a fun, affordable thing to do once a week, and leave it at that, likely won’t be the ones reading this book. If you, like me, love disc golf enough to acquire The Definitive Guide, there is a good chance you will want to at least dabble in tournament play as well.

Other subjects covered in the Part I include the history of the game, course design, and an excellent treatment of rules and basic etiquette. Information that is useful for the here and now is blended well with interesting facts that will add depth to a new disc golfer’s appreciation for the game.

Part II is called The Science of the Game, and it ranges from 10 lessons on mental training to disc golf-specific exercises to a college level examination of the physics of disc golf flight. I mentioned that disc golf classes would use this book as a text, but it’s not a stretch to think that a creative physics professor might use it as well. Menickelli’s Ph.D. in Kinesiology is on display in this detailed discussion of vectors, form drag, surface drag, and dynamic fluid force. Those who can follow the explanation will end up with an excellent understanding and appreciation of the many factors affecting disc flight.

With diagrams such as these, this book will serve equally well as a text for college courses and physics.
With diagrams such as these, this book will serve equally well as a text for college courses and physics.

Part III is devoted to providing instructions on every type of grip, throw, putt, and shot known in the disc golf universe. As the owner of School of Disc Golf, I teach beginners and also coach tournament players, and I didn’t come across anything with which I disagreed or thought inaccurate. Superb photos and illustrations are used liberally, and there is so much information crammed into the short treatment allotted to each technique they act like the water competitive eaters gulp down with each bite, enabling the reader to digest beefy concepts.

In the preface, the authors state a goal of writing a book that would be ‘read cover to cover, and to provide readers with a helpful resource that warrants keeping a copy close by to reference.’ The wide range of material covered guarantees they’ll accomplish the second part of that goal, if not the first. I can confidently say that anyone who plays disc golf on a regular basis, or plans to, would do well to get themselves a copy of The Definitive Guide to Disc Golf. It’ll end up looking as used as the rule book in the side pocket of your bag. If only it would fit!

“Okay, everybody take a knee!” (and putt)

The DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club is hosting a 145-player C-tier event in December called the Faultline Charity Pro-Am. The tournament director, your truly, wanted to include a nice, unique prize for the person in each division that carded the fewest bogey strokes and opted for a great new disc golf product called a Sew Fly, made by a company of the same name.

Sew, er, I mean, so what is a Sew Fly? It’s a round pillow of sorts that is made of tough, waterproof material on the outside, but filled with plenty of soft padding on the inside. It’s primary purpose is to serve as a knee pad to keep pants clean and knees protected, but the Sew Fly also flies remarkably well and is perfect for a game of catch.

All Sew Fly products can be customized with a great deal of detail. Shown here are 'Small' Fly's with the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club logo embroidered in a variety of different colors.
All Sew Fly products can be customized with a great deal of detail. Shown here are ‘Small’ Fly’s with the DeLaveaga Disc Golf Club logo embroidered in a variety of different colors.

Much like the Sew Fly, this post will serve double duty as both a product review and instructional post. I set out to put the Sew Fly through its paces against a very wet and muddy DeLaveaga, and it occurred to me that I’ve never dedicated a post to the benefits of getting in a lower throwing position when the situation calls for it. More on that shortly.

When my Sew Flys arrived in the mail, I naturally tested the flight characteristics. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I tried it out by playing catch with one of my kids in the house. The verdict: these things can really fly! The design provides a decent amount of float and glide, and hyzers and anhyzers can be crafted as with any other flying disc. The larger Sew Fly flies the best, not unlike a golf disc compared to a mini. They’re soft and light enough to not dent, scratch or smash, but they are heavy enough to send knick-knacks scattering or knock over a glass of grape juice. No that didn’t happen to us, but as my wife anxiously pointed out, it could have.

Next up was the test of it’s more utilitarian function of disc golf knee pad.

Once again the Sew Fly performed the job admirably. The padding is more than adequate to absorb whatever it’s sitting on top of, and the bottom is made of an extra tough material that seems like it will hold up for a long time without tearing. Also, there is no way moisture is penetrating the bottom much less reaching the player’s knee. It does everything you’d want a knee pad to do.

I was pretty excited when I heard about the Sew Fly because I throw from one or both knees, my butt, and on rare occasions my back whenever a lower release point can help me execute a shot. I sometimes put a towel down to kneel on, but usually don’t bother- especially when the course is dry. As a result I’ve suffered painful jabs from rocks and sticks many times. I plan to use my Sew Fly all the time now.

Let’s talk about why I feel so strongly about getting down and dirty (and I don’t have to get dirty now!) on the course.

Throwing from closer to the ground can open up a shot and allow a player to obtain more loft. which in turn makes it easier to throw an accurate layup shot.
Throwing from closer to the ground can open up a shot and allow a player to obtain more loft. which in turn makes it easier to throw an accurate layup shot.

The difference in a typical release point when kneeling is about a foot or so compared to a normal stance. Those 12  inches certainly make a big difference when trying to hit a low gap right in front of you, which is the scenario under which most players throw from a knee. But I’ll get down and dirty pretty much any time I’m faced with a low ceiling, because the lower release point allows me to get more air under the shot and therefore throw it harder with a lower risk of hitting the ceiling. By throwing from lower, my angle of attack is much more comfortable. Those 12 inches make a bigger difference the longer the required shot is.

One of the best examples of this advantage is when I’m throwing a low skip shot to get under continuous low foliage (branches and such). If I throw standing up, the disc is flying downward toward the ground, and energy is wasted when it hits from that downward angle. If I throw from a knee, the disc can truly skip and lose hardly any momentum, like a stone skimming and skipping across water.

The same principle applies when throwing an air shot. The lower release point and flat or even upward trajectory in essence buys me more room for the disc to fly. This in turn allows me to get more touch on a shot, preventing those ‘blow-bys’ that result from throwing the disc too hard when trying to clear a low gap.

Two thing to remember when throwing from a knee or two knees, or a sitting or kneeling position: Find a way to re-establish your center of gravity so you can maintain your balance; and try to get a good, solid foundation. The two really go hand-in-hand. When throwing from one knee, what you do with the other leg matters quite a bit. If your off-foot is behind your marker there isn’t much to think about, but if you are kneeling directly behind your marker it usually works best to splay your other leg behind you on the same line as your intended throw or kneel with both knees. The advantage of the two-knee approach is a superior, sturdy foundation, but doing so will likely limit power a little. Therefore it works best on shorter shots.

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Sometimes I need to get even lower than on my knees, and I’ll actually sit behind my mini. In most cases I’ll sit indian style as it solves the issue of what to do with my legs and gives me a very solid foundation. The larger Sew Fly is (for me) just big enough to sit on without contacting the ground.

My overall assessment of the Sew Fly is that it works great as both a kneepad and a catch disc. I personally prefer the smaller one for use on the course as it’s easier to store, but the larger one is better for playing catch. The small one flies fine too, but is harder to catch. These make great gifts for the disc golfer that already has everything disc golf-related. Check out all the ways they can be customized at http://www.sewflyoriginals.com/

The new DGA Mach X basket: How they differ from the Mach III, and what to do about it

The DGA Steady Ed Memorial Masters Cup starts tomorrow in Santa Cruz, CA, with the Amateur event this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the National Tour pro version in a couple weeks. This short post is for the benefit of all the participants of these events and any others on courses that have recently had DGA’s new Mach X (pronounced Mach ‘ten’) baskets installed.

Product photo of the Mach X from discgolf.com, DGA's website.
Product photo of the Mach X from discgolf.com, DGA’s website.

The baskets at DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course, site of the Masters Cup, just got ‘upgraded’ from Mach III’s, and if you’re heading to DeLa to play in the Masters Cup you should know that the Mach X catches very differently than the Mach III. Disc Golf Association refers to it’s new product as a ‘game changer’, and after playing more than 150 holes with Mach X’s I have to agree. But my assessment is that the new innovations they’ve employed with the Mach X provide don’t result in a ‘game improver’, which would have been better.

One look at the Mach X will tell you all you need to know about what is better about the Mach X as compared to the Mach III. The ‘X-pattern’ inner row of added chains should eliminate putts that cut through the middle of the chains and spit out the back. And I’d think that all that added chain (40 strands in total now) will be much better at catching and holding hard putts and long distance shots (i.e. Ace Runs). Also, the deeper cage will certainly make it less likely that a disc bounces off the bottom of the cage once inside and slips out.

One of the newly-installed  DGA Mach X baskets at DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course in Santa Cruz, CA.
One of the newly-installed DGA Mach X baskets at DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course in Santa Cruz, CA.

No doubt those are all good things. But the design modifications have resulted in a few changes that are not entirely positive, and one that I think makes it less likely to catch soft putts.

As you can see in the photos, the outer chains hang noticeably further out than the chains of a Mach III. In fact, at the point where the chains are closest to the upper rim of the cage, there is a difference of several inches. I have observed this to effect incoming putts of several types.

First and foremost, putts that are dead center but low and soft often hit that outer chain which is now so close to the edge of the cage and push the disc back out. What is better for players with a line-drive putting technique is certainly worse for those who like to use more finesse. And those outer chains have another likely unintended effect as well.

When we’re talking about aiming at a basket, we will often use the term ‘strong side’ to describe the right side for a right-handed putter, with the left side being the weak side. This is because a right-hander’s putt will usually be hyzering at least a little to the left, toward the center of the basket in the case of a putt aimed at the ‘strong side’ and away from the basket on a putt headed for the ‘weak side’ of the chains. All other baskets are better at catching the disc that is headed toward the center pole than one headed away from it, but the Mach X is rather opposite. It catches weak side putts better than strong side putts. To me it appears that for a right-hander those outer chains push away discs trying to come in from the right, but provide an extended line of snaring chain for discs veering left.

So as you’re practicing your putting before your round tomorrow, watch closely and see if I’m not mistaken. The Mach X on the whole isn’t better or worse. But it is a game-changer.

Finally, on an aesthetic note, the Mach X is sadly lacking the ‘chain music’ that is so distinctive to a Mach III. I think it might be due to the fact that the Mach III has two rings at the bottom holding two different chains assemblies, while the Mach X only has one. But whatever the reason, a perfect putt no longer has that melodic sound. And also, I personally prefer the symmetric appearance of a Mach III over the tangled look of a Mach X, but that is a trifling compared to how it actually works.

I plan to ask as many Masters Cup competitors as possible for their opinions and write a follow up post, but if you’ve putt on the new Mach X, please post your thoughts in the comment section below.

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.

Product review: DGA Elite Shield Disc Golf Bag

After using the DGA Elite Shield bag for more than a month, it gets my endorsement as my favorite bag ever as well as in my opinion the best accessory product ever marketed by Disc Golf Association. Time will tell whether it passes the all-important durability test, but it seems to be very well equipped in that regard as well.

DGA Elite Shield disc golf bag

It should be mentioned right at the beginning that one’s preference of disc golf bags – like the golf discs they are designed to carry – is a highly subjective matter. Most significant in this regard is size. Some prefer the minimalist approach: a bag that is as small as possible and meant to hold a few discs and maybe a small water bottle. Others represent a rather different philosophy, and represent the “If there is even the remotest chance I might need it, I want to carry it” school of thought. These folks want to carry 30+ discs, two wardrobe changes, enough food and water to survive in the wilderness for 10 days, and seven miscellaneous pockets and straps full of ‘other stuff’.

I prefer something between these two extremes. I want room for around 14 discs, a large water bottle, and the outer layer of clothing I’ll remove halfway through the round. Several convenient storage pockets for my snacks and little stuff, too. And now that I’ve gotten used to backpack-style straps, my bag must at least include that as an option as well. Finally, I’d like to keep the cost reasonable- under $75.

Obviously not an overly large bag, the DGA Elite Shield nevertheless easily holds 16 discs with plenty additional storage room.
Obviously not an overly large bag, the DGA Elite Shield nevertheless easily holds 16 discs with plenty additional storage room.

So keep in mind these personal preferences when I say that the Elite Shield bag by DGA is the ideal bag for me. Now, on with the review!

The company is best known for its dominant share of baskets installed worldwide and its pioneering status in the sport (perhaps you’ve heard of ‘Steady’ Ed Headrick, PDGA #001, Father of Disc Golf, inventor of the Pole Hole catching device), but also markets its own line of discs, apparel and accessories. They try hard to innovate in everything they do, and this bag really hits the mark in that respect and many others as well. In fact, there are so many cool features included on this bag  – a couple which are completely unique to the Elite Shield – that I’m going to list them bullet-style, along with impressions after a month’s worth of use.

  • Shield Pocket- This is the stand-out feature for which the bag is named, and it’s a hard shell storage compartment designed to keep a phone, sunglasses, or anything else you want to keep from getting broken or wet safe and sound. DGA general manager Scott Keasey told me he got the idea after watching a bag (turns out it was HIS bag) get backed over by a car. I’m not sure it would withstand the weight of a car, but I love having a place where I know my breakables will be safe. Like most great innovations, it’s simple but brilliant.
  • Gel Foam back padding- I’ve personally never had an issue with my bag feeling ‘hard’ against my back, probably because it comes into contact more with my backside than my back. Still, the padding is quite cushy and I can notice the difference.
  • Retractable Towel Lanyard- This is a detachable device that consists of a clip that attaches to a hook inside the large side pocket on one end, another clip that attaches to a towel, and a length of strong but skinny string that automatically retracts back into the device. I didn’t know at first whether I’d use this, but find that I like not having to deal with stuffing my towel back into the bag after using it. I’ve never used towel clips before because they required me to use the towel right next to the bag- which is awkward. Now, thanks to the lanyard I can have my cake, eat it too, and not worry about losing it (the towel I mean, not the cake).
  • PVC diamond-plated water resistant bottom- This is actually a biggie for me, as I play in pretty rugged terrain and the bottom of bags here is usually the most likely failure point. Most bags are not only made of the same material as the rest of the bag, but are completely flat as well. The Elite Shield’s bottom is rugged plastic, and also includes ‘feet’ that keep the bottom surface slightly elevated to reduce exposure to moisture and other wear-and-tear.
  • Foam insulated beverage pocket- My favorite parts of the beverage pocket are elastic gather at the top which keeps even my small aluminum bottle secure, even when I’m running, and the mesh plastic bottom. I hate it when my bottle leaks for whatever reason and I discover a pool of liquid accumulating in the holder. The mesh will prevent that from happening. One small downside is that a large Nalgene bottle is a tight fit. The fit is actually nice and snug and not too tight, but getting it in takes some wrangling.
Using the included customizable dividers, 14 discs fit snugly in the center of the main compartment, providing easy access to the discs in the middle and ample room for towels and clothing on either side.
Using the included customizable dividers, 14 discs fit snugly in the center of the main compartment, providing easy access to the discs in the middle and ample room for towels and clothing on either side.

 

The more standard features of the bag are all quite agreeable as well. It comes with a skinny should strap, but the four well-placed connectors accommodate the backpack straps of your choice. DGA sells it packaged with their Gel Strapz, but I attached mine and they work perfectly.

The storage pockets aside from the Shield pocket are all I could ask for One large zippered compartment and another small one outside of that, with a couple small ‘tuck’ sleeves outside both for a mini, pencils, or whatever (The smaller one fits my School of Disc Golf cards nicely.

The putter pocket presents one small drawback for me, but only because I will sometimes jog during and between holes on the course when time is tight. I keep two putter in the pocket, and a couple times now the one on the outside has popped out. Absolutely no concern if you’re walking on the course like most people, but speed golfers be aware that this might happen.

You can see from the images above that this is a medium-sized bag. I personally have room for 12 discs in the main compartment in addition to the two in the putter pocket, and using the included configurable dividers the discs sit neatly in a middle section, with storage in both side-corners of the main compartment for clothing, extra towels, etc. This bag can obviously hold many more than 14 discs. In fact I recently met a guy at a local course that recognized me from the TV show, and I noticed he was using an Elite Shield bag. When I told him I’d be reviewing it soon, he said he was able to fit 30 discs! Way more than DGA intended with the design, but it gives you an idea of the capacity.

DGA’s website – with the enviable URL of discgolf.com – includes a great gallery of pictures of the Elite Shield bag. It lets’s you see the bag from every conceivable angle.

If like me and Baby Bear you prefer a bag that isn’t too small, or too big, but just right, and also includes a bunch of cool extras, and is also designed to last- yet doesn’t cost too much, I think you’ll like the DGA Elite Shield bag.

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!