Using the Novelty Effect to play better disc golf (without wrecking your game)
February 1, 2022 by Steve Andrews in Instruction, Opinion with comments
One of the most common ways to get the greatest number of shots out of the molds you carry is by cycling your discs. Having multiple discs of the same mold with different flight characteristics allows you to hit different flights and lines with discs that feel familiar. It is also a way to get a longer lifespan out of your discs, as they can fill different roles in your bag as their flight evolves.
Many pros carry multiple discs of the same mold. We often think of this process as getting an overstable disc and throwing it until it becomes less overstable, but that it is just one way to get more out of a more limited number of molds. It is often not the easiest way, because many casual players start with very overstable discs but never put enough wear on discs like Enforcers or Xcalibers to get a wide range of stabilities.
While there are all kinds of pitfalls in trying to talk generally about plastic, I have found that it is possible to use the differences in the plastic from different companies to make this process easier. As I have moved to a mixed bag, I have discovered variations among the manufacturers I throw most often. In my experience – and in conversation with lots of players – it seems that brands beat in differently and those differences can be used to your advantage. Again, this is just my observation. If you have had a different experience, please let us know in the comments.
Wearing in Overstable Discs
This is what most people think of when they consider cycling discs. Get overstable discs and then throw them again and again until they start to get some turn in their flight. This is certainly possible and why so many pros have Destroyers that range from overstable meat hooks to flippy rollers.
But is this the best way for many amateurs to cycle their discs? I would say no. For most of us, we may never put enough wear onto a 175g Champion Destroyer to see huge differences in flight. I usually look for lighter weights for the drivers I want to break in and choose a plastic type that is typically less stable and breaks in more quickly. That means usually choosing the plastic like Star or Fuzion rather than Champion or Lucid.
I have written earlier about how to find a driver that works for you. For me, it’s the Raider. It’s a great mold, and I have lots of them in different stages of wear. To cycle my Raiders, I start with Fuzion plastic and weights in the high 160s. They start off with a solid fade for my arm speed (maxing out at 380 feet or so) but begin to quickly add more turn. I have a few in max weight to fight wind (and I don’t really want these to break in), but my workhorses are lighter discs that develop much more mellow flights with significant turn while retaining some fade. I also have some that are even more worn and will hyzer flip, which is important for me to get good distance with my very moderate arm speed. `
I have found that, at my power level, this process seems easier with Trilogy plastic. In my experience (and setting reports about inconsistency aside), many of the Innova discs I’ve tried come out of the box much more overstable than their numbers. I have bought discs like Shrykes (13/6/-2/2) and Vulcans (13/4/-4/2) that are overstable and only start to break in to be closer to their flight numbers over the course of hundreds of throws. The nice thing is, once they break in, they tend to hit a level of stability that stays consistent for a long time. When I started playing, I was given a max weight Champion Destroyer that might still be hyzering when my grandkids are throwing it. That longevity is great, but it makes for discs that are harder to cycle. Especially if you don’t play often.
In contrast, I have found that many Trilogy discs are much closer to their numbers when they are new. I have also found the DD Lucid plastic, for example, to be much softer than Innova’s Champion plastic. I find it more comfortable but also think it seems to beat in more quickly. This makes it easier to use for cycling discs. For me, my Fuzion Raiders have changed much more quickly than my Star Wraiths that I have thrown a similar amount.
Cycle Your Understable Discs
I have had a lot of success cycling understable discs. As a right-handed player with a weak distance forehand, I depend on understable discs to get distance on a shot shape that moves to the right. I am also much more comfortable throwing hyzer flips than turnovers, so I need discs that will flip and ride right when thrown with moderate power.
What makes it hard is that I also want a disc that is controllable and reliable. Unfortunately, reliability and understability seldom travel together. As discs become understable enough to move to the right the way I want, they also become so sensitive to power and nose angle that a slight misthrow can result in disaster. Even when you find a promising one, an understable disc that seems dependable can become way too unreliable if it breaks in just a bit more. This is where softer plastic can result in a sweet spot that seems maddeningly short. Discs that were at the perfect level of stability seemed to suddenly turn into cut rollers after one more tree hit.
But I have discovered that I can use that tendency of Innova plastic to come out of the box more overstable than its numbers to give my understable discs extra life. The Gregg Barsby Star Roadrunner (9/5/-4/1) has become a crucial disc in my bag. Even though the Roadrunner is a very understable mold, new ones will often start off stable at my arm speed with a slight hyzer release. Some, especially at higher weights or with more dome, border on being overstable. They are an easy-to-throw option that fly very straight despite their numbers.
This added stability may be disappointing for low arm speed players who buy these discs thinking they will be profoundly understable right out of the box. But this slow break-in can be very useful. While they may not fly to their numbers immediately, they will begin to show variations in flight much more quickly than overstable molds. My oldest Roadrunner is now very flippy, almost an automatic roller, but I have others that still fly straight and others that show moderate turn. I can throw them the same way and get different flights because of where they are in their evolution. They are some of the longest discs in my bag, have a consistent amount of turn, and only slowly begin to reveal the instability that is a feature of the mold.
They will probably all get to the point of being extremely understable, but they are useful at every step along that journey. Just as with drivers, you can set the starting point of their stability evolution by changing the weight and flatness of the disc you buy. I was without my discs on vacation this past Christmas and was going to play a wooded course in North Carolina; I knew I needed a disc that would offer good distance and move right easily. I bought a flat 165g Star Roadrunner that almost perfectly matched the stability my domier 173g Star Roadrunner has reached after six months of use.
Change Stability by Changing Plastic Type
Along with changing weights, it is also possible to get a variety of flights out of a single mold by changing the type of plastic. As we discussed, for many manufacturers, the glossier and more translucent plastic from many brands is more overstable than the more opaque versions. In many cases, discs are also available in putter plastic (DX, D-line, BT, or Classic) that is even less stable and breaks in very quickly.
While every manufacturer offers plastics that fly differently, I have noticed the biggest range of flights from Discraft. Unlike some other brands, there does not seem to be a general rule for which plastic type is most stable. It really seems to vary widely from mold to mold. In some, the Z is the most stable plastic; in others, it is almost flippy. It is not that the discs are inconsistent – my Z Undertakers all fly very similar – it is just that each mold may fly very differently in each plastic type.
Will Goeringer from Discraft Underground made a helpful video showing the different flights from the Discraft Vulture. He throws six different kinds of Vultures and shows how the different plastics produce a wide variety of flights. And the differences are substantial:
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Cheating Lefty also does great Discraft disc reviews and always makes sure to discuss the different flights provided by the various plastics. Here he discusses how the Thrasher flies in four different plastics:
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For me, it has been important to realize that I can’t simply assume that Big Z or ESP will always be the most stable option. It requires a little research to figure out how each mold flies in each plastic, but the advantage is that Discraft offers a wide variety of flights right out of the box just by changing the plastic type. I have found that the variations are much wider than the usual differences between the options of other brands.
When I first started playing, I noticed that Discmania players often discussed the differences between different runs of discs (especially PDs) and many golfers debated whether color affected the stability of a disc (I think the jury is still very much out on the matter, but red discs were often claimed to be the most stable.) I have not spent much time chasing certain runs or colors, but I have found that there are different ways to cycle your discs and get multiple flights out of the molds you choose.
Every type of plastic has tradeoffs. Plastics that are extremely firm and durable are going to be resistant to breaking in and changing their flight, making them hard for many players to cycle. Softer plastics that are very comfortable may break in too quickly. Weight and plastic type will change how discs will fly when they are new and how they will change over time. Just know that your Vulcan may not show that -3 turn right away and that Vandal may not retain that -1.5 turn as long as you might like. While these differences can be drawbacks, they also offer the opportunity to match the plastic to your swing and what you need for your bag.