Tuesday Tips: How to Test or Review a Disc

Be honest about the disc -- and yourself.

So, you’ve gotten a new disc. You may take it out to the field to test whether it might fit in your bag. Or you may plan to throw it, review it, and put that review up on YouTube. That’s great! I will probably watch it and be very grateful you took the time to let me know what you think.

Disc reviews are a big part of disc golf social media. Whether on YouTube or posted to Reddit or Disc Golf Course Review, reviews are popular even though everyone knows there a ton of limitations and caveats when describing discs. Discs, even in the same mold and weight, can vary enormously. A 4x Paul McBeth Destroyer is usually massively overstable while some of the Brathwaite Destroyers are mellow, almost flippy. There is no way to know whether the disc you are reviewing is going to fly like the one I buy. Players also throw differently. You may have more power, release at different angles, or throw nothing like me, so the flights you get out of a Latitude 64 Grace may look nothing like mine.

That’s okay. Disc reviews are still valuable and can be even more helpful if you take time to give some crucial information about you, the disc, and how it flies. The good thing is that many of the questions that make public reviews of discs better are also what you should ask yourself when evaluating a new disc. Whether you are reviewing a disc for your YouTube followers or just for your own bag, here are some things to think about.

Who are you?

If you are making a review for other people, it is important to set some baseline for your review. It is not that important to know your rating (that can be due to all kinds of factors that won’t affect how you throw a particular disc), but it is important to know how you play. How far do you throw a backhand? A forehand? What kind of discs do you like? I have a workable, but short utility forehand and prefer my discs flat; if I know you throw a forehand 450 feet and love domey discs, then I will know to take some of your recommendations with a lot of salt.

It is also important to know how you throw. Do you release everything with a slight hyzer or anhyzer, or do you like to throw flat? Are your hands very large or very small? My hands are an average size, but I only use the power grip, so I generally don’t like deeper discs. Are you used to throwing ultimate discs so are generally more comfortable with a deeper profile? All of this can help someone understand where your game overlaps and diverges from theirs.

Don’t feel you need a 990+ rating, perfect form, and a cannon arm to review discs. In fact, having those things can make your reviews much less useful. Someone who is closer to an average thrower will provide much better examples of what most players can get out of a disc.

What role did you think this disc might play in your bag? What discs are you going to compare it to?

The key to testing a disc is comparison. Whenever you are evaluating a disc, you are always drawing comparisons to other ones. The problem is that, quite often, those comparisons are implied. You may say that a disc feels good or is fairly overstable – but compared to what? General descriptions are good but understanding exactly how a given disc compares to other discs is far more helpful.

I want to know what you were expecting. This is where the numbers are a great starting point. For example, if you are evaluating the Innova Lion – 5/5/0/2 – then it would help to explain what you usually throw in that stable midrange slot. Numbers may not be accurate, but they are helpful to set your expectations. In this case, you might start off seeing how the Lion compares to the Roc3, Compass, Buzzz, and Reactor.

Also, different discs should be judged by different criteria. The most important things about a stable mid, for example, might be consistency, the ability to hit lines, and repeatable distance. It may not matter if a disc like this fights wind or gets huge distance. Have a good sense of that criteria before you start and know what you are looking for.

If the mold or plastic is unusual in some way, be sure to mention it, but general comments about a mold often don’t help much because most discs, at least from the main brands, are going to be made with good plastic and high manufacturing standards. Because of advances in modern disc design (and the huge amount of design borrowing), most discs will often have a familiar feel. The real value of a review is in explaining how a disc fits within an increasingly crowded plastic ecosystem.

Evaluating Feel

Yes, I want to know how it feels, but I want those impressions connected to concrete comparisons. When someone describes a disc, I want to know what we are using to triangulate it. Does a midrange have a smooth, rounded nose like a Buzzz or a Mako, or does it have a Roc-like lip? Is it flat or domey? Is the plastic grippy or slick? Does it have a bead? If it does, is the bead small and almost imperceptible or a crucial part of the feel? What “family” of discs does it fit into?

Is there something about the feel that another player (who might never get to hold the disc before it shows up at their house) needs to know? For example, everyone thinking about getting a Berg needs to know that its puddle-top design has a very unusual feel. On the other hand, sometimes discs have a design feature – like the overmold of an Axiom Envy – that might seem unusual but doesn’t change the feel very much (at least to me.) That might be helpful to know for someone who has stayed away from MVP discs because the overmold seems like an off-putting gimmick.

This is where knowing what you usually throw can help a lot. If you only throw Buzzzes, and don’t like the wing of a Roc, then it is not going to be surprising that you don’t much like the Westside Warship or the Legacy Ghost (which both have similar rims). If you hate the Discraft Comet, then you are probably not a big fan of the Dynamic Discs Bounty. Be sure to let the reader or viewer know your biases.

Do you get some weird releases with a disc? Make sure to let people know if a disc seems to come out early (or griplock) more than your usual discs. If a disc misfires more often than you expect, make that part of the review.

Evaluating Performance

When I evaluate a disc, I take it through these steps to separate what a disc wants to do and what I can make it do:

– Aim it at a target just to see how much it fades when thrown flat (or, if not flat, then with your regular, “stock” swing that you can easily repeat.) How much does it fade or turn off that target line? This lets me know what a disc wants to do on an average throw when I am not trying to work it.

– Then I want to see how easily I can make it hit a target. Is the amount of fade or turn I saw in the first step consistent and repeatable? Or does it sometimes stay straight and sometimes hyzer out? How sensitive is it to release angle and speed? Does it skip a lot? This is a really important step, because a disc may not be very consistent in exactly how far it flies or how much it turns, fades, or lands.

– Thrown on increasing levels of speed and degrees of hyzer – does it hold that hyzer angle, or does it flip to flat? If it does flip to flat, does it stay straight, hyzer out, or ride right? Is this a disc you can hyzerflip easily, or do you really need to smash it? Or does it never flip to flat at all?

– Do the same on an increasing anhyzer angle. Does it ride that anhyzer all the way to the ground or flex out? Does it roll easily?

– How about standstills? One steps? Does it need a lot of power to fly consistently? One of the great things to discover is a disc that keeps its basic flight characteristics when thrown with less power.

– Now try the same variety of shots – hyzers, anhyzers, hyzerflips, and flex shots – with a forehand. Make sure to try both forehands at full power and touch forehands, even with discs you might never expect to forehand. I discovered that the Buzzz is a great forehand disc on a hyzerflip and that my Roadrunner is an absolute forehand weapon from a standstill.

– If you throw them, it is also helpful to know if a disc will handle overhand throws.

It may be that you are not very good at some of these shots. That’s fine. It’s sometimes even more helpful when a reviewer is open about the fact that they are not great at a shot. Chris Goodrich does great reviews of the discs in the Trilogy lineup. He also, by his own admission, has an average forehand. It is particularly helpful for me when he finds a disc that he can forehand well, since his forehand looks a lot like mine.

If you are evaluating a disc, don’t just focus on your best throws. Every disc flies well when thrown perfectly. It is important to know how a disc reacts to too much power or being thrown slightly wrong. What happens to that “point and shoot” disc if you are pointed in slightly the wrong direction? If you really lean on that fairway, does it turn more or completely roll? Some of the most crucial information to gather is how a disc reacts when thrown badly.

Throw a lot of shots with the disc. You need to fight through the “novelty effect” where any disc may fly great at first. It may take 50 or more throws to get a sense of what the disc is really like, so don’t just throw it a few times in a round.

Did the disc surprise you? Did it move away from the slot you expected? Would you need to compare it to a different set of discs? Sometimes you take a disc to the course or field expecting it to be a straight flier. While comparing it to your Compasses or Buzzzes, however, you may discover that it has way more fade than you expected and needs to be compared to a more overstable midrange like a RocX3, a Bard, or a Malta. Is it a tweener disc, too overstable to be your stable midrange but not stable enough to be a reliable wind fighter?

It is important to know how a disc performs the role you expect it to play in your bag. Not just if a disc flies well, but if it is good for its slot. This is more helpful than knowing how a disc throws in the abstract. For example, the Ohn Scoggins Halo Leopard3 is a great disc. But I am not sure it is a great Leopard3. My Scoggins Leopard3 is domier than most of my Star Leopard3s and has a more overstable flight that makes it fly more like my beat-in Teebird3s. If you are looking for a beefier Leopard3, it is great. But it is not a flat-topped, dead straight-to-understable fairway, which is what I want in a Leopard3.

It’s about trade-offs: upsides can be downsides

You need to move past tired cliches and develop a full picture of a disc, and that requires recognizing that every upside of a disc is a potential downside. A disc that “holds any line you put it on” probably has a very neutral flight. That may be great for shot shaping but might also mean it won’t come back if you accidentally throw it with more anhyzer than you intend. It also is probably not useful for flex shots, as it will ride an anhyzer line rather than fighting out of it. A disc that effortlessly hyzerflips may flip too much if thrown flat.

The Innova Mako3 is great because it stays straight even if you throw it hard; the Westside Tursas is great because it will turn over at even moderate power. Both discs are useful in different ways, but the Mako3 is much more resistant to being thrown slightly too hard or too soft. These are both “understable” midranges, but the way they react to power and angle are completely different. If you need a RHBH to go right, how do you like to throw it? If you like to throw turnovers, go Mako3; if you like to throw smooth hyzerflips that ride right, go Tursas.

Every disc has trade-offs. For example, the Sexton Firebird is one of the most popular discs in the game. However, the Sexton Firebird is not what some players expect out of a Firebird. Although Sextons vary in overstability from year to year, they are usually less stable than stock Champion or Star Firebirds. Perhaps because of the mellower Color Glow plastic, they tend to fly more like a Raptor or a Felon than a true overstable meathook. This allows them to be more workable and longer than other Firebirds, but also means they may not hold up into a really monstrous headwind. What job do you need it to do?

Just a Disc

It is important to be open to discovering a disc is just not what you are looking for or doesn’t work for you. This can be hard if a manufacturer or a retailer has given you a disc in hopes of a ringing endorsement. Most of the time, however, discs aren’t great or awful, they are “just a disc.” If so, it’s fine to say that it isn’t as good as what you are already bagging. That’s to be expected: there’s a reason you are throwing what you throw.

And, sometimes, great discs don’t make your bag. I love the Innova Savant — it’s a great fairway driver that is fast and stable, with a consistent fade after a long, straight flight. It feels like a smaller Wraith and flies like a beat-in Thunderbird. It could be a great disc for my control driver slot, but it just can’t replace my lightweight hybrid Dynamic Discs Sergeants, which are a little faster, longer, and easier to forehand. I have a stack of Savants waiting to get called up to the Show, but there’s just not an opening on the roster.

Even if it won’t make your bag, it is helpful to give a description of the advantages and disadvantages of a disc, what it did well, what it did badly, and who might like a particular disc. We all know the limits of reviews, but with so many choices out there, it is helpful to have someone tell us which discs might be just what we are looking for.

  1. Steve Andrews
    Steve Andrews

    Steve Andrews is a college professor and disc golfer in Bloomington, Indiana. He came to disc golf from traditional golf and, even though he is 50 and playing on bad knees, managed to reach 950 rated through course management and playing smart. He is sponsored by Skybreed Discs.


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