(The Noodle-Armed Review is intended for those players, like myself, who aren’t power arms and don’t quite hit 300 feet. Sure, it would be nice if you could throw longer, but let’s just hope you have a solid mid-range game to make up for it.)
By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff
Arguably one of the most successful disc golf ventures of the last year is Innova’s Blizzard Champion plastic, in which air is injected into discs during the molding process to make them lighter. Used to bring down the weights of warp speed drivers like the Boss and Katana — as well as a host of others — it was only a matter of time before Innova extended the Blizzard trend to Star, their top-of-the-line, opaque plastic.
But when Innova announced that its first foray into this field would be used on the Starlite Roadrunner, I was counted as one of the skeptics.
Already a massively understable disc, the Roadrunner is one of my favorites. You can go full bore on it for easy distance and big turnovers, or use it for precise hyzer-flip flights through wooded courses. It is a pretty underrated disc, in my opinion.
However, given its penchant to be a bit flippy in regular weights, the thought of it moving down into 140-gram territory seemed unnecessary. Innova’s previous lightweight discs were all in the stable-to-overstable category, and making them weigh less served to lower the cruising speed they needed to reach their optimal flight. But since the Roadrunner already did not require much power to fly correctly, making it in this new Starlite plastic seemed like a runaway train to roller city.
But when I went out to play with some friends one day, another guy had picked one up and let me give it a toss.
I immediately went from a skeptic to a devout convert.
The ease with which the disc flew, and the lack of effort needed to make it do so, was quite enticing. As a result, I picked up a couple of my own to see if they could make the bag and help me reach that ever-elusive noodle-arm barrier — a 300-foot drive.
Armed with my normal 164 gram Star Roadrunner and two Starlites, I trudged out to the local high school fields to see what these babies would do out in the open. With only a slight breeze, wind would not be a factor, and it would be all on me to see what these discs were made of.
After marking out increments of 25 feet using my handy Fat Max tape measure (old school, right?), I took a couple practice swings and let the first Starlite go, throwing it with a purely flat release. It took a nice little S-turn, heading out and landing around the 250 foot mark. “Not bad,” I thought to myself, especially considering it wasn’t a full-power toss.
The next Starlite, the orange one, however, turned out to be fliptastic on my first throw with it, turning and burning at about 200 feet because I didn’t get enough height on it. It felt similar coming out of the hand but flew nowhere near how I expected it to, so I was a little concerned.
After a few back and forth throws across the field with all three discs, I started to try out different heights and angles to see what kind of legs the Starlite really had. Given a touch of hyzer, both Starlites would easily flip up to flat at about a 60 percent power throw, usually landing somewhere in the range of 260 to 275 feet away and a little left of where I started throwing. The original Star, on the other hand, would need just a touch more power to flip up flat, but could also outrun the Starlites by five to 10 feet on each throw.
Where all three discs really shined was when I was able to dial in the correct anhyzer release and get a slight turnover going. This led to some gorgeous flights and, in most cases, a little extra distance.
How much extra distance? With the Starlites, I was routinely putting them in the 285 to 295 range, and it was as if they were just taunting me, saying “nah nah nah nah nah nah, you can’t get that extra five feet!” It started to get a little frustrating coming up short, but I had to relax and remember that I was not putting full power behind these throws (more to come on that in a moment).
I can report this, however. On three occasions during my field work session with the Roadrunners, I finally cracked the 300 foot mark with my regular Star, pushing it about to about 315. I know this might not seem like much to many disc golfers, but it was a pretty exciting occasion for me, as I have been aiming for that notch in my belt for the last six months or so.
On the whole, these discs were a blast to throw in the field, but I could not put a 100 percent rip on them. I found this to be a positive, though, as I am not throwing full-power shots on the course, anyway. At regular, disc golf course power, I was consistently putting these discs between 250 and 275 feet, both on straight and turnover lines, which I will take any day.
These featherweight class discs, though, are very unforgiving when it comes to form flaws. As I got more tired out in the field and my wrist began to roll, the Starlites had a far greater tendency to become worm burners than their heavy counterpart. While this can be frustrating, it is also a good reminder to be smooth and slow with your drives.
On the course
Field work may be great for improving your form or stroking your ego as you aim for maximum distance, but where a disc truly earns its spot in the bag is on the course.
Since I was already a devoted Roadrunner user, I had a feeling the Starlite would make my bag, but I wasn’t sure how much use it would get.
After one full round with it, I had the answer — a lot.
Heading out for a round with the blue Starlite at Kit Carson Park DGCin Escondido, Calif., I found myself reaching for the Roadrunner off the tee for about 85 percent of my drives. Starting the round, it is really nice to have a lightweight disc to take off the tee before you are really warmed up, and the first four holes at this course are its longest.
The Starlite made for an easy start to the day, with some nice distance as a cherry on top.
Once the course heads into the interior of the park and more trees come into play, I actually found myself testing all of the same release angles I did in the field, but at lower power. All in all, the Roadrunner performed extremely well, carving lines in and out of trees with very little effort.
In fact, I would say that is a running theme with this disc — it can do virtually the same thing as its heavier brother, but with less work needed to make it fly. Over the course of a round or two, it really does make a difference on your level of fatigue. I also found the disc fantastic for uphill shots.
The Starlite Roadrunner is an excellent disc for low-powered players, beginners, or children. Its comfortable rim and light weight make it easy to throw and build confidence in your drives.
It is not without its shortcomings, though. For example, I wouldn’t dream of taking this disc out in anything more than a sniffle of wind, just because it will get tossed around like a yellow flag on a Sunday football field. As a result, I likely won’t be using it much during winter.
Also, the longevity and durability of Blizzard and Starlite plastic is still relatively unknown, since the technology is so new. Thus far, my blue Starlite has taken plenty of tree hits, and there hadn’t been much discernible change in flight characteristics. However, I did recently notice some dimpling in the flight plate, and it has become more sensitive to turning over. I am not sure if this is coincidence or not, but I still think it can be a functional disc, albeit a bit touchy. When I contacted Innova to ask them about the dimpling, sales manager Mark Molnar commented that it can be a byproduct of the Starlite process that takes weight out of the flight plate, but should have no effect on the disc’s performance.
With its combination of distance, line-shaping abilities, and fun factor, the Roadrunner is just too versatile to not want to reach for every round. Even if you think your arm is too big, grab one and give it to a friend who has never played. They’ll thank you for it later.
Steve Hill is the associate editor for Rattling Chains. Contact him at steve [at] rattlingchains.com and follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.