By P.J. Harmer and Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff
I never understood flight charts for discs. A lot of people have told me I should check the charts when getting discs and such. But I didn’t get ’em. I saw graphs with numbers and lines and wondered what it meant.
Too, there seemed to be many different charts. Ones by manufacturers and ones by independent people.
Who is right?
My thoughts on disc flight is simple — I throw the disc and the way it goes is its flight. Pretty simple, eh?
That’s why I was intrigued when contacted by inbounds Disc Golf. The company has a paperback book out, as well as an online spot, where you can check the flight path of more than 300 discs.
For people who like having flight guides, this book is small and compact and can easily fit in most people’s bags. That gives you the chance to use the book out on the course.
There is also a website for the inFlight guide which is continually updated with more flight charts.
There’s a small part in the beginning of the book describing how to use the book. However, as Jack Trageser will talk about below as well, these charts assume several things — including the player being a right-handed back-handed player, having perfect playing conditions and throwing a maximum-weight disc, among others.
I’ve never played in perfect conditions and I usually don’t throw maximum-weight discs.
Though I understand the need to have certain specifications to use the book, it seems like it’s pretty direct in the things that are needed for the chart to be useful. I’m sure all charts are like that, but it still ostracizes some players in the disc golf community.
For people looking for flight patterns and such, the book is useful. It covers hundreds of discs and it allows people to look up discs and get an idea of what the disc is supposed to do.
The actual book has a few negatives. First is the size of the print. When reading parts of the book, the words are smaller than a regular book. That can make things tough. If you are looking for something, you have to look closer at the book. I found after looking at it for a bit, my eyes hurt a little.
The same goes for the flight charts. The book is about 8×5 inches, so it’s small enough to fit in your bag. But each page features four charts. The charts are small in that regard, so looking at each can become tedious and cumbersome if you want to see the details of the chart.
Finally, if you go to the table of contents, discs are listed, alphabetically, by name. So on a given page, you could be looking at one disc from Gateway, another from Discraft and another from Vibram.
Personally, I’d be more apt to find it useful if I could look by manufacturer, then the name of the disc.
Overall, for an experienced disc golfer who understands these charts and uses them, it can be a good tool to have. And with it being easy to carry the book, it can be something you have whenever you may need it.
My input in reviewing the inFlight Guide is intended to provide the perspective of a veteran and well-informed disc golfer — as opposed to P.J., who, by comparison, is a squeaky-clean newbie.
However, it occurs to me for that reason I’m likely not a poster child for someone who would use the tool on the company’s website, much less purchase the printed guide. So I’ve solicited the input of Mark Karleskind, who serves as a human “disc-performance guide” on a daily basis as the guy who runs the very busy pro shop at DeLaveaga Disc Golf Course in Santa Cruz, Calif. On a side note, he’s the step-father of three-time world champion Nate Doss.
Before I go into Karleskind’s assessment, let me explain why I don’t pay attention to disc rating systems. I appreciate the effort of inbounds to come up with a universal rating system that solves the issue of disparity between those provided by disc manufacturers like Innova, Discraft and Vibram. But that’s only one of the issues I see limiting the usefulness of any type of system.
First, addressed in sections of the guide titles “Assumptions” and “Factors affecting disc flight”are many external factors to consider. These will force a user to make mental adjustments to what is on the page (or screen). With endless combinations of these factors, it makes any predictions of performance based on a system taking only the quality of the disc into account iffy at best.
Next is the reality of how any player plugged into his or her disc golf community typically makes decisions on purchasing discs. Sure, we might read about a new disc in a magazine or see an ad online, but we’re much more likely to see it in action on the course.
Either we see the guy we usually out drive sail one past our disc off the tee and ask “what the heck?,” or the guy who likes to show off his latest and greatest will point it out before throwing it. In either case, we’ll get the opportunity to ask detailed questions and probably even test it out. No guide can compare to that kind of customized, tactile information gathering experience.
My final reason, admittedly, is very subjective. But I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.
At this advanced point in my disc golf journey, I’m more set in my ways than newer players. Through much trial-and-error, I’ve built a disc lineup that I know and trust, and additions to the “team” are somewhat rare. I added the ESP Nuke after hearing enough about its distance that I had to give it a try, and my intrigue with the idea of rubber discs led to the addition of several Vibram models in my bag. But in each of those cases, a guide wouldn’t have affected my decision one way or the other. I wanted to see how those discs worked for me.
Enough about me. Keep in mind that my input is subjective and based on my perspective as a crotchety old guy that uses the same Aviar DX model he’s used for 15 years and still carries a roller he bought from Steady Ed Headrick in the mid-90’s.
Yeah, that Steady Ed.
Now let’s hear from Karleskind, a guy who is older and even more crotchety than me, but is still more qualified to give an expert opinion on the inFlight Guide because he answers the same questions on disc performance again and again — sometimes dozens of times a day.
I visited Karleskind at his disc warehouse, and thought it was rather fitting a mural made of shelves of neatly stacked discs sat behind him as he thumbed through the pages of the guide.
The first thing he noticed was the guide was in alphabetical order, with all discs lumped into one group.
“I’d list it by disc type, so people looking for a mid-range could go to a section with only those discs” he said. When I pointed out the online tool allows users compare any three discs side-by-side, he said that was ideal.
Karleskind also noted in today’s era of specialized discs, categories should go beyond just putt-and-approach, mid-range, fairway driver and distance driver. He suggested adding a category for “super-long” drivers as well. He then gave his overall assessment of the overall usefulness of the inFlight Guide:
“I think it’s a good guide,” he said. “Whether players will spend money on it is another question, but I can see the online version getting lots of use. It’s free, and the ability to compare any three discs is something that has never been available. Plus, they can keep updating it with all the new discs that keep coming out.”
I asked him if he thought the printed guide would be a useful tool to have onsite at brick-and-mortar stores, like his, that sell disc golf discs.
“Oh yeah,” he replied. “I’d use it myself just to illustrate the answers I give to people’s questions on which discs to buy. And when I’m real busy, customers can use it themselves.”
A little later he came back to the subject, adding the guide will be a great help to stores that have employees selling discs who aren’t experts on the game — like general sporting goods stores and corner markets. ”
They can easily look up a disc to help answer a question, and the book will help educate them over time,” he said.
So there you have it. My resident disc-seller expert gives the combination of the printed and online inFlight Guides two “thumbers” up.
If you have any comments, questions, thoughts, ideas or anything else, feel free to e-mail me and the crew at: pj [at] rattlingchains.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!