Building your better bag: A do-it-yourself guide

By Matthew Bertram — For Rattling Chains

In disc golf’s infancy, simplicity reigned supreme. You took your one disc, carried it in your hand, and played your round.

With the evolution of the game, though, has come a plethora of discs to cater your game to a tee — meaning that, more often than not, two hands aren’t even enough to carry everything.

Here is a Cabela’s bag built with a frame that lifts the discs up into a top-load orientation, allowing the bottom compartment to be used for storage. (photo by Matthew Bertram)

What once was an Under Armour backpack is now a disc golf bag, thanks to some intrepid DIY spirit.  (photo by Matthew Bertram)

Now, disc golf bags are undergoing a similar evolution, moving away from the standard bag-plus-quad straps to more backpack-style bags being available on the marketplace. Players, it seems, are starting to re-think how they carry their gear.

Backpacks are designed to offer better weight distribution by keeping the bulk of your disc weight high and tight to the body. Aside from the comfort aspect, they also tend to offer superior storage capacity. Whether the backpack is best for you is a personal decision, but what you can’t argue is the price — manufacturers of backpack bags demand a premium for the comfort and style they offer. Today, the industry standard for these bags is right around $200.00, and can climb near $300.00.

With the backpack market continuing to grow in 2013, more options will be available to disc golfers. If dropping $200.00 on a bag is of no concern to you, or if you find a backpack that gives you everything you’ve been looking for, then you’re making the right choice. These bags are designed for disc golfers by disc golfers. That fact should not be understated.

However, if you’d rather spend more money on discs or tournament entry fees, there is another path you might take – the do-it-yourself route.

The DIY contingent was once just as niche as the ones who carried true disc golf backpacks. But, as the backpack market grows, so do the amount of players who want more fiscally viable options – myself included. I’ve been tinkering and converting non-DG bags for a couple years now, and what I enjoy is being able to build something that is unique and functional out of a bag that had an entirely different purpose to begin with. My hope is that this article can offer some tips and tricks that I’ve learned (mostly by wasting money), so that you may be able to avoid the pitfalls and reap the benefits of creating your own disc golf backpack.

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Rattling with Avery: Looking back at 2012

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I said it last year and I’ll say it again this year — I need to write my yearly review during the winter months before going too far along into the disc golf season.

My recent month-long trip to Asia, which included stops in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea, put me behind on a few projects, including disc golf articles. I have a lot to write about but very little time to do it. I need to stay on to of my blogs before I fall too far behind. There’s always so much to write about in regard to disc golf as it’s my life and there are always exciting adventures.

So, let’s look back at another great year as I take you on a quick journey of some highlights from my 2012 season.

Avery Jenkins competes at the Sula Open in Norway during the 2012 season. (photo contributed by Avery Jenkins)

Avery Jenkins competes at the Sula Open in Norway during the 2012 season. (photo contributed by Avery Jenkins)

The life of a touring professional can be strenuous at times, but I realize I really love to travel as much as I do and I always look forward to the next event. I played very few tournaments this year because of conflicting schedules of other things going on. I haven’t played this few events since 2004, when I stared back at the University of Oregon.

Over the years, I have realized it’s about the quality and not the quantity of events I attend throughout the season. I pick and choose the tournaments I really want to play. I used to play 30-plus events per year, but it was always such a grind and I didn’t always get the most out of the hectic travel schedule.

I have an amazing passion for gaining more exposure for disc golf. I realize teaching the sport and installing more premier courses is the way we are going to grow the sport.

In 2012, I played in 19 PDGA-sanctioned events and had seven top-5 finishes and two victories. Those came at the Lewiston (New York) Luau and the Sula Open in Sula, Norway.

I also had several strong finishes at the Memorial Championship, The “Steady” Ed Memorial Masters Cup, the Toronto Island Maple Leaf and the Rochester Flying Disc Open.

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Product Review: Flywood Walking Stick

By P.J. Harmer, Steve Hill and Jack Trageser — Rattling Chains staff

Nature is something most disc golfers can relate with.

And it’s probably safe to say most disc golfers have had a close-up and intimate relationship with trees at some point during their playing days.

But it’s not too often when one gets to throw a tree. That’s what you get when you throw a Flywood disc.

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The Flywood Walking Stick is a fun disc to throw and the sounds it creates are quite unique.

The Pennsylvania-based company sent Rattling Chains three discs to test — all the driver called The Walking Stick. Though I had learned about the company a bit when we ran the story about Flywood, it still wasn’t the same as seeing what the disc was all about.

As many may know, I’m not a long thrower. So I usually go based on feel and how things seem to come out of the hand on a throw when trying out discs.

The Walking Stick was quite interesting and I really liked the feel of it. I was worried at first because it’s wood. But it actually felt lighter than a regular disc. It had a nice look and the sound is something pretty cool, too. I also liked the way it came out of my hand. I didn’t think it felt all that different with discs I normally play with and thought it remained comfortable throughout the motion and release.

As for how it flies, it did what many drivers do for me (as a right-handed-backhand thrower), it got out 200 or so feet and broke hard to the left. I threw it many times and got some nice throws, but for the most part, it broke hard.

To a better thrower, I can imagine it being something really to use during round not sanctioned by the PDGA.

The only thing I’m curious about? What happens in six to eight months if the disc gets beat up some? Is it like a plastic disc where the flight characteristics change? Or does it hold the same line. I’ll be excited to find out.

The disc itself needs a little more care than the regular plastic. One needs to clean it and wax it sometimes to make sure it stays protected. The discs come with the wax needed.

I’m not going to lie, either — one of the coolest things? The sound. When it hits a tree or the chains. It’s not what a disc golfer is used to. There are times it sounds like a baseball bat hitting a ball. Definitely cool and one will be easily able to tell where the disc may have gone based on the sound.

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The wax is needed to keep your disc healthy.

Eventually, I hope to try out the mid-range and putter offered by Flywood. I think those will be more toward my style and something I can use a bit more. I will keep working with this disc in the hopes of being able to utilize these discs for many casual rounds.

Though they are a bit on the pricey side ($30 per disc), the discs are made by hand and show the personal love. Our discs came hand numbered, including with a card showing the information about the disc. A great touch that separates smaller companies from the big boys.

In the end, it’s a cool disc. Is it perfect? No. But I’ve yet to see a perfect disc. It’s a solid addition to a casual bag and the quality is unmatched. Mix that with the personal touches and what the disc can do, and it’s definitely worth having.

Steve Hill

I usually get pretty excited for any new discs we get to review for Rattling Chains. After all, when a company takes the time to recognize what we do, and we get to try something for free, I’m all for it.

But I don’t think any release – with respect to other manufacturers, of course – had me as excited to get to the mailbox as the Flywood Walking Stick.

After reading a little about the discs online, and then watching the video on Flywood’s website, I had a feeling we were going to be receiving something special. True, the disc isn’t PDGA-approved, which might be a drawback for some. But, with a two-year-old at home and the family commitments that come with that, I play maybe one PDGA-sanctioned event per year. As a result, I can throw whatever I want and not have to worry about it fitting the standards.

Flywood's discs come with a nice and personal touch.

Flywood’s discs come with a nice and personal touch.

And I am glad I don’t have to do that, because the Walking Stick is a tremendous piece of hardware.

The disc I received had a delicious, candy apple red finish to it, and it weighed in at 172 grams. However, in the hand it feels much lighter than a plastic disc of the same weight. Perhaps it is due to the material, or the multi-ply construction – I’m not sure. But it feels light in the hand.

My main concern with this disc – which I am sure others are worried about, too – was that it would feel uncomfortable ripping out of my hand on a drive. With it being made of wood, and therefore being less flexible, I was concerned that it might result in some distressing callouses. I am happy to report, though, that the finish on the disc, particularly on the rim – is smooth and easy to release.

As for the flight, this may be one of the only discs that I have ever been able to make replicate its flight chart. On a good rip, the Walking Stick would fly dead straight for about 65% of the flight, then start to make a gentle, late turn before fading out at the end of its ride. When I didn’t really dial it in, it was still plenty useful, with a straight-then-fade flight reminiscent of an Innova Teebird. It can easily be a workhorse off the tee.

However, out of the box it is still too stable to hold an anhyzer line. As a result, it was great for flex shots, but certainly couldn’t be a one-disc-wonder. Rather, an understable complement would pair nicely with it.

Flywood's discs come with a nice and personal touch.

Flywood’s discs come with a nice and personal touch.

There is, though, one major downside to this disc – it is too pretty for me to want to throw. I’m worried about clanging it off of the rocks that line some of my home course’s fairways and taking dings out of it. I just want to keep it in mostly pristine condition and hang it on the wall to stare at.

Maybe it is time to add another Walking Stick to the collection – one for the bag, one for decoration. It truly works well for both purposes.

Jack Trageser

When I first became aware of Flywood disc golf discs, my initial reaction was intense curiosity. Wooden discs that are meant to be thrown and used in actual disc golf play? I always get excited about anything in disc golf that truly breaks new ground.

However, I’m first and foremost a competitive player, and after a quick check I realized that a disc made of wood would never be approved by the PDGA for use in sanctioned events due to the inherent rigidity of the material. Right away it was clear that these discs are not going to be “game-changers” that break records in terms of distance or control. That would be pretty cool though, wouldn’t it? It would be the opposite of what happened in ball golf when titanium drivers replaced woods.

Regardless of my discovery that wooden discs would not be vying for a spot in my competition bag, I was still eager to see how one looked, felt and flew. When mine arrived in the mail, I have to admit I was impressed.

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The Flywood, tombstones.

The company’s driver, The Walking Stick, came packaged with Boobee wax, which is used to improve the grip, and, I suspect, when applied to their putter it also helps (at least a little) to grab the chains. I’m not sure, but guessing that is also verboten according to PDGA rules as well.

Another great touch is that the disc has a card attached that actually numbered my disc (#371) and dated it as well. This was a great reminder that I didn’t just have another disc on my hands, but a handcrafted work of art. I’ll finish by returning to this point, but for now I’ll just say this is where I think Flywood can get the most traction with its products.

When it was time to take my Walking Stick out for a test, I picked an area where it would land on nothing but soft grass. I know, ideally, I would have tested it for durability as well as flight characteristics, but I just couldn’t bring myself to purposefully inflict damage on such a work of art.

Unfortunately I don’t have much positive to say about the flight of the disc, except that it did indeed fly like a golf disc, and it was reasonably stable. But compared to plastic or rubber discs, it didn’t seem to have much sail or float to me, wanting instead to plunge back to earth as soon as the energy I put into the throw had dissipated. Also, as the disc released from my power grip, there was noticeable discomfort. The inner edge feels smooth enough to the touch, so I suppose this is due to the rigidity of wood.

It seems to me that Flywood has two different markets for its disc — the first is a small subset of the disc golf crowd, players who care deeply about the environment and desire that as many products as possible that they use and consume be completely natural. If you love disc golf but have issues with petroleum-based plastics, these discs are your answer to being able to make an already environmentally-sensitive sport even more so.

The other market for Flywood — and the one I’d think could make these discs quite popular — consist of people who feel that the flying disc is an ideal subject for all forms of art. I love the idea of a hand-crafted disc, especially if it’s master-crafted the way these are. If you’re the type that collects all things disc golf, the price tag of $30 is well worth it for what you get. Just imagine having a perfectly shaped wood disc on your wall along with all your other wall discs. Which one do you think will catch a visitor’s eye first? Exactly.

If you have any comments, questions, thoughts, ideas or anything else, feel free to e-mail me and the crew at: pj@rattlingchains.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

Poll 53: Giving a good image

We’ve been dealing with some interesting topics this week.

And, being we covered the family and cliques last week, we’re going to keep on that same page a bit and talk about how the old regulars give off the image of this sport to newbies or non-players.

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But, as always, we’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s go back to last week and see what people had to say about that poll.

We wanted to know how you perceive disc golf.

There were 100 players who voted in this poll. Of that group, 63 (63 percent) said the sport is made up of cliques. The other 37 (37 percent) said it was one big happy family.

This was definitely quite a gap.

Let’s get some people’s opinions on this to expand on this vote.

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Brodie Smith bridges the gap between Ultimate and disc golf

By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains Staff

Though Brodie Smith isn’t a mainstay of the disc golf world, he’s certainly not a stranger to it, either.

Known heavily for his trick-shot videos, some of which have appeared on ESPN, and his work as a professional Ultimate player, Smith has drawn a large following of people in and out of the disc sports community. He’s personable, engaging and really knows how to capture an audience.

In the world of disc sports, that’s a big thing.

Well-known among the Ultimate and trick-shot crowds, Brodie Smith also has connections to disc golf and is one of the top disc sports ambassadors. (photo courtesy Brodie Smith)

Well-known among the Ultimate and trick-shot crowds, Brodie Smith also has connections to disc golf and is one of the top disc sports ambassadors. (photo courtesy Brodie Smith)

He’s active on social media, too, interacting with fans and others.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I love my fans and I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without their support. Also, at the end of the day we are all people and its always nice to get to know new people and make new friends.”

Smith’s fan base is pretty big, too.

His YouTube channel has nearly 240,000 subscribers, with more than 36.8 million video views. Smith’s Daily Vlog, also on YouTube, has almost 20,000 subscribers, with nearly 8 million views.

He also boasts more than 21,000 followers on Twitter and more than 48,000 likes on his Facebook page.

Needless to say, he’s out there.

But who is Brodie Smith?

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Out of Production, but still producing: disc value is in the eye of the holder

If you frequent online enclaves such as the the Disc Golf Collector Exchange group on Facebook, or the similar forum pages on Disc Golf Course Review, the acronym O-O-P may be well known to you.

It stands for out-of-production, which refers to discs no longer being produced by their manufacturer.

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This, of course, is significant to collectors because it means a disc is in limited supply and, therefore, of potentially higher value.

It means something to me, too, but for a different reason. While collectors get excited about O-O- P, I get nervous.

Having played disc golf for more than 20 years, I own close to 100 discs, not including the stock I have on hand for use in my School of Disc Golf. But I would not consider myself a collector. Possibly a bit of a historian, and, more than anything else, an accumulator. But as collectors are thought of as those who like to build a collection either as a hobby or for profit, I can safely say that isn’t me.

The author collects only discs with personal significance. Among this group are his first ace, most memorable ace, a disc to commemorate the opening of the first course in S.F., a NorCal 'Hotshot' disc awarded for the low round in a tour event, and a prototype DGA Blowfly signed and given to him by Steady Ed Headrick. Blurry photo by Jack Trageser

Only discs with personal significance are in Jack Trageser’s collection. Among this group are his first ace, most memorable ace, a disc to commemorate the opening of the first course in San Francisco, a NorCal ‘Hotshot’ disc awarded for the low round in a tour event, and a prototype DGA Blowfly, signed and given to him by Steady Ed Headrick. (photo by Jack Trageser)

I have some discs that would go for much more than their original sales price if I ever decided to sell them, but all the discs in my possession that I value the most are dear to me for one of two reasons — either I have a sentimental attachment to them – like my first ace disc or a prototype signed and given to me by Steady Ed Headrick; or they are out of production and I still use them to play.

It’s the second reason that is the main subject of today’s post. Irreplaceable actually retains its literal definition when the object that is difficult or impossible to replace is actually serving a function rather than just gathering dust (in it’s dust cover, of course). The mere thought of losing a key disc in your bag and not being able to replace it can cause little beads of sweat to form on one’s forehead — am I right?

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Poll 52: Family and Cliques

Before we get rolling with this week’s poll, we’ll clear up yesterday.

We hope you all enjoyed the story and everything. With how April Fools’ Day is now, it’s hard to slip things past people, so we wanted to have some fun. The thing about that day, in this day and age, it’s hard to truly pull something off. So the goal was to have fun and make people smile and laugh.

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There will always be critics and skeptics, but we hope most of you enjoyed the story and everything else.

Now, on with the poll.

We’re going to tackle something many of us have seen. The inner-circle, or “old boys” sort of network in disc golf circles. Or, if you’re lucky, the lack thereof.

As the game grows, there will likely be situations like this. And, with society, it can often be a norm. So, we’ll tackle that in a moment.

First, let’s get back to last week’s question and see what some people had to say.  We asked you how many disc golf-related clothing items you owned. We had 197 people vote.

Of those voters, 91 (46 percent) said they owned 1-10 items. That was followed by 11-20, which garnered 41 votes (21 percent). None came in third (34 votes/17 percent), followed by 21-30 (16 votes/8 percent), more than 50 (11 votes/6 percent), 31-40 (2 votes/1 percent) and 41-50 (2 votes/1 percent).

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Rattling Chains enters disc manufacturing market, sponsors first pro

By Steve Hill — Rattling Chains staff

Much like Irish rock band The Cranberries asked with its 1993 debut album, “Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?”

Rattling Chains is proud to announce that it is jumping into the disc manufacturing market, with a line of six discs to be released this Friday, April 5.

Making its own line of discs has been a goal of Rattling Chains since day one, according to founder P.J. Harmer, but it took a bit longer than expected.

Big Kev, a lumberjack from Upstate New York, is set to be the first pro for Rattling Chains.

Big Kev, a lumberjack from Upstate New York, is set to be the first pro for Rattling Chains.

“This is the culmination of a long and arduous process, but we are thrilled with the results,” Harmer said. “We are confident that our readers, and disc golfers the world over, will feel the same.”

Harmer initially began developing the discs with founding partner Darren Dolezel before the Rattling Chains blog began, he said. But with the market already being flooded with manufacturers, Harmer decided to build the brand name before investing in the plastic.

“As soon as I first picked up a disc, I knew I wanted to improve on the concept,” Harmer said. “Ease of use, grip, accuracy, consistency – all of these qualities are covered with the Rattling Chains line.”

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