Does frisbee golf plastic type really matter?

Nicks and WEar in Inexpensive Disc Practice
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Different Plastic Types

When shopping online for frisbee golf discs, you’ll quickly notice that there are several different varieties of plastic, and that the prices vary substantially between these different plastic blends. The question arises, do the plastic types really matter? Does it make a difference? Are the more expensive blends worth the additional cost?

The answer is yes.

And No.

It really depends.

One really interesting aspect of frisbee golf is that discs of the same mold will fly differently based on their plastic type. But how is this even possible being that the discs use the same mold and are the same shape. I’m not sure the exact reason, but can testify that through much experience discs fly differently in different plastics. I have a couple of theories:

  1. Because of the way the different plastic blends cool, the discs do end up having a slightly different shape, and thus fly differently.
  2. Because of the different plastic integrity, the different plastic types bond differently which also gives them a slightly different shape. For example, Discraft Buzzz’s in Pro D plastic almost always have a slight dome whereas in Z plastic, they are completely flat. ESP plastic Buzzz’s are somewhere in between.
  3. Right out of the box the flight between the same disc molds of different plastic types are pretty similar, but as the different plastics break down and wear in the disc flights change more drastically over time.It’s possible that none of my theories are even credible at all, I really have no scientific training on the topic, but these explanations make sense to me based on my casual observations after having tried and thrown thousands of different frisbee golf discs.

Inexpensive Base Line Plastics

Most of the major frisbee golf manufacturers have a base plastic blend.  For Innova this plastic is called DX, Discraft call’s it Pro-D, Dynamic Discs calls it Prime, and Legacy calls it Excel, but all of these base plastic blends are very similar. They come from an inexpensive plastic base. By all measures, this plastic is inferior. It will scratch, nick, and ding up substantially after just a few throws. And because slight changes in the discs shape affects flight so much, the flight of these discs will also drastically change as they get “beat in.” This plastic also has a tackier, chalkier feel to it which is actually preferred by some players, especially for putters.

While the major disc manufacturers (Innova, Discraft, Latitude 64) base plastic is not durable and the flight characteristics easily change, some of the really, really, cheap golf discs, the ones made in China by people who have never played dic golf like Franklin, Halex, Kestrel, Crown Me, and Versus likely won’t even last more than one round of disc golf if you are playing a thickly wooded course. These ultra low plastic grade discs will bend on impact causing the discs to be permanently warped and damaged.

Warped Golf Disc from Tree Hit
Warped Base Plastic Disc from Tree Hit

So should a frolfer buy these inexpensive discs?

In my opinion, yes and no.

Putters

Baseline plastic for putter frisbeeFor putters, yes, buy the inexpensive plastic. Putters have much more blunt rims, so they are better at taking a beating. In addition, putters aren’t going to fly nearly as fast and aren’t likely to be thrown as far. I think that it is a good investment to buy, especially because it allows you to sample a variety of different putters until you find the one that you are most comfortable with at a fraction of the cost. Once you find a putter that you are confident with the feel of, you can then consider a mid grade or premium plastic of the same mold. Inexpensive putters are also useful so that you can get a large stack of them to really increase your putting reps to improve that putting form and improve your game.

Midrange

Thickly Wooded Frisbee Golf HoleWhen it comes to midranges, I think it’s also okay to buy these base plastic blends, if you don’t regularly play thickly wooded courses. Midrange discs are slightly more aerodynamic than putters but still generally blunt nose that won’t wear too quickly, and you aren’t as likely to throw midrange discs as hard as you are a driver. If you do find yourself playing a lot of wooded courses, your  base plastic midrange likely own’t make it through more than a few rounds. Pay a few extra bucks for a premium plastic mid.

Drivers

Nicks and WEar in Inexpensive Disc PracticeWhen it comes to drivers, the answer is don’t waste your money. The thin rim of drivers combined with a base plastic will wear out so quickly that many drivers become unusable. They become so understable and flippy that you can’t even throw them straight without flipping over and turning into accidental rollers. Unless you are looking for a disc to throw over dangerous water hazards when you want to make sure you lose your favorite premium plastic discs, drivers should not be purchased in base plastic, especially from the really cheap brands.

Be Sure to Compare Apples to Apples

The important thing to remember when shopping for disc plastic type is you need to compare apples to apples. If you find a disc on E-bay for $9.99, it is most likely an inexpensive base plastic, so don’t even compare it to the $13.99 disc because that premium plastic disc will last 10 times as long.

While a starter set made in China may seem like a good value, if it is made of base plastic you are likely getting what you pay for which is far less value than purchasing slightly higher priced discs from manufacturers who actually focus on disc golf.

 

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