When folks are looking for a new disc they often question the difference between plastics.
“Should I get Champion or Star plastic?”
“Why are the flight numbers the same if they fly differently?”
“So which one do you throw?”
These are all perfectly reasonable questions from a disc golfer. Here’s a blog I wrote about the differences between Innova plastics.
One question that always comes up is disc durability. Champion tends to be the most durable and DX is a baseline blend.
People joke about DX plastic never flying the same way after it hits a tree.
This week I want to know how many tree hits can a DX Firebird take and still be an overstable disc?
There’s no Mr. Owl to tell me that it’s 3.
So let’s look at the disc I’ll be using to test this theory.
It’s a 175 gram overstable disc. After test throwing in a field it’s got no turn and plenty of fade, I can say that this disc flew exactly like I expected it to. I threw it both forehand and backhand to make sure.
I’m more of a Discraft Predator thrower in this slot for my bag. But those don’t come in baseline plastic (that I know of). So I’ll rely on the Firebird to be a good testing dummy because it has a somewhat similar flight.
Will it take a single throw to become flippy? I doubt it.
I polled my coworkers and their responses were 1, 5, and 10 throws before the firebird became flippy.
Then I asked the internet. If you're on Twitter, give @PlaySDG a follow and be a part of disc golf conversation.
Here’s how I ran the experiment.
1. Throw the disc at a tree from 10 feet. After 5 tree hits, take a picture of the disc.
2. Throw the disc in the field twice to test stability. (Basically I throw it from a teepad, then back to that teepad). Note if the flight changes in any way.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until the disc becomes flippy.
I define “flippy” as a disc being so understable that it becomes unreliable. So when this Firebird no longer comes back when thrown hard and flat, it will be unusable.
After the first throw I took a sizable chunk there. So I threw the Firebird again in the field and it was still overstable. But that chunk had me worried that this test might be over quickly.
After 5 throws the disc had slightly warped. But the piece of plastic hanging off after the first throw had fallen off without me picking at it.
I threw the Firebird and it’s still just as beefy. There’s no glide, no turn, so I went back to it.
After 10 throws the disc seemed… fine? It was throwing the same, and even with the slight warping I was seeing it wasn’t affecting the flight. It was still going 250 feet straight and then dumping in a hyzer.
I was hitting the tree quite hard. I chose this tree because it’s thick, on a 210 foot par 3 so it doesn’t usually get hit with anything powerful, and there are a couple trees behind it in case I missed. But I started to feel bad for the tree and hitting the bark in the same general spot a bunch of times. And after 10 throws into a tree, the DX Firebird was completely normal in flight.
This disc was making me look like a jabroni. So If you SMELLLLLLL
For all non WWE fans, I threw this disc into a rock.
Rocks have sharper edges, are much less forgiving, and I won’t potentially hurt them. But it’s also much harder on the disc.
That probably looks familiar to some folks. The rock chewed up my Firebird like the tree could not. The disc bent itself back to flat, and I was throwing it with plenty of force into the rock. So we’re at 10 throws into a tree and 5 into a rock. The Firebird was still pretty much the same, maybe slightly glidier.
Nothing drastically changed until my 25th throw into a rock (35th throw overall)
The DX Firebird had a real bend in the crease where the flight plate meets the rim. I had started throwing overhand shots downwards onto the rock like a madman. Apologies to whoever saw me on the course looking like a crazy person.
The Firebird now had some turn to it. I threw it 4 times in the field and each time the disc would come out flat, turn, and then fade at the end.
We were finally making progress!
But the disc was still reliably hyzering at the end of the flight whether I threw it on forehand or backhand. So it didn’t fit my definition of flipping over quite yet.
I took a break for a day and let the disc rest as well. Because repeatedly throwing a bunch of overhangs into a rock isn’t the best thing for your elbow and I wanted to be able to throw the next day.
Here’s a video of the next 5 throws and the flight path of the Firebird afterwards.
It’s taken a lot of hard throws to get this disc to finally be flippy. If you ignore the fact that I made sound effects, you can see I'm throwing the disc fairly hard. I think the real moments when the Firebird started to change its flight paths were when I started to hit the rock, and then I bent the flight plate with the force.
Did the disc lose weight? Is that why it may be understable?
So this is something I was wondering about. As discs get those nicks and dings in the plastic, and as they shred on rocks, they would lose weight right?
Well my Firebird weighs exactly the same before and after. Could it be the dust/dirt on the disc and in the cracks? It's possible but unlikely that it amounts to the same exact 175g the disc did before. To lose significant weight I bet you'd have to sand the disc pretty thoroughly. Or take much larger gouges from it and clip them.
How has this blog changed my views on DX and baseline plastic?
It’s pretty similar to how I’ve felt before. I’m still always going to recommend putters in DX plastic and I think that mids in DX or baseline blends offer players lots of grip. It’s cheap, comes in a lot of different weights, and I don’t think you can beat the grip of a seasoned baseline blend putter in your hand.
As for drivers, I think DX has a place in the game that I didn’t fully understand before. Seasoning a flippy premium plastic driver takes a long time. I’ve got some discs that are 3 years in the bag that are still holding their flight paths. And I love to have at least 2 flippy high speed discs in my bag for when I run into a tailwind shot.
Sure, DX discs are going to beat in faster. They’re going to break occasionally when you smack a tree/rock at high speed. But they’re a lot more durable than some people, myself included, have given them credit for. If you don’t throw overhand shots into a rock directly in front of you, I imagine that DX discs could last a while. I was trying my best to abuse this disc, for science. And you folks probably hit the trees less frequently.
There was also a sweet spot around 15 throws into the rock where I got a full flex flight throwing the Firebird flat. I wish I had recorded that throw, because that’s the kind of flight that keeps you going if you’re having a tough round.
Give DX discs a shot.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397