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Disc Review



Golf Disc Plastic Descriptions

by Blake Takkunen

Originally Posted: 7-10-04
Updated: 7-24-04


Table of Contents

Overview

I. Standard Plastics

II. Premium Plastics

III. Super Premium Plastics

IV. Miscellaneous Plastics




Overview

As golf disc design has evolved, so has the development of newer and more durable plastic blends, especially over the last couple of years.  While most players are aware of the differences in flight, durability, and price between the plastics, it can be overwhelming for newer players to make an informed decision on their purchases.  Similarly, the differences in flight between plastics will be ideal for different situations and skill levels.

The basic principle of disc flight in relation to its plastic is related a lot to air friction. Ignoring nose angles and dome heights, a disc's air friction is determined by the smoothness of the plastic, nicks/scrapes on the disc surface, and breeches in structural integrity that result in the disc losing its perfectly round shape. While higher end plastics are smoother which make them faster, but also make them harder to turn over and more low speed overstable. Similarly, the less expensive discs will be more controllable as it is easier to make the disc “work,” with less low speed overstable tendencies, especially after the disc is broken in. This is similar to the idea of dimples on a golf ball or a pitcher that uses sand paper on a baseball.

Overall, these characteristics yield some striking general differences between the same models of discs run in different plastics. In general, the smoother plastics will be more “squirrely,” less conducive to turning, more nose angle and speed dependent, and have less glide than their lower end plastic counterparts. The tradeoff comes in the forms of preference and longevity. Here is a summary of the different plastics.


I. Standard Plastics

The standard plastics are generally the baseline level of comparison as they are often the most common and least expensive of the plastics, sharing a similar feel between them.  These plastics generally break in fast but evenly, are the easiest to throw, have the most glide, and give the best grip during increment weather.

Innova DX
Innova's DX plastic is the standard for almost all comparison.  The least expensive of Innova's line, while this plastic is not very resilient to scuffs and dings, it has a very uniform break in period.  Rough spots can easily be cleaned up with a bit of sanding (legal if the goal is only to smooth areas that would otherwise cut/scrape your hand).  DX plastic may lose its shape upon impact with solid objects, but it also can almost always be bent back into its original shape.  This plastic is the least overstable of Innova's plastics and also has the longest glide out of all of their blends.  DX plastic is the most beginner friendly plastic from Innova and is the easiest to "train."  It is very common to see players carrying several of the same discs in DX plastic in different stages of wear.  Most of Innova's discs have been designed to fly in DX plastic.
Strengths:
Least expensive.
Very uniform wear.
Easy to break in.
Innova's longest flying plastic.
Easy to throw.
Easily repairable.
Remains grippy in wet conditions.
Weaknesses:
Less durable overall.
Propensity for scuffs, scrapes, and dings.

Discraft Pro D
Discraft's Pro D plastic is their lowest end plastic.  Smoother feeling than Innova's DX plastic, Pro D plastic is the stiffest and least expensive of Discraft's plastics.  The least overstable of Discraft's plastics, the wear characteristics of Pro D plastic is also similar to Innova's DX plastic but it has a tendency to irreparably lose its shape.  However, most of Discraft's discs have been designed in their Elite X plastic and the Pro D versions tend to not fly quite as far.
Strengths:
Least expensive.
Very uniform wear.
Easy to break in.
Remains grippy in wet conditions.
Weaknesses:
Less durable overall.
Propensity for scuffs, scrapes, and dings.
Tendency to lose its shape.

Gateway S Series
While it's difficult to classify Gateway's S plastic with the standard plastics, it has a similar feel and relative flight characteristics to the other manufacturer's standard plastics.  Gateway's S plastic feels similar to Innova's DX plastic but is a bit more firm and smooth.  S plastic is also noticeably more durable and this is reflected in its slightly higher price. The S plastic is generally the middle overstable of Gateway's plastics. This plastic wears out most quickly of the Gateway plastics but its wear is quite slow and very uniform.  S plastic also remains very grippy in wet conditions and is barely affected by extreme heat and cold.  While the S plastic may warp a little over time, the disc's flight characteristics do not change much.
Strengths:
Very slow, uniform wear.
Easy to break in.
Remains grippy in nearly all conditions.
Weaknesses:
More expensive.
May lose shape over time.

Lightning Standard
Lightning's standard plastic has a feel somewhere between Innova's DX and Discraft's Pro D plastic.  It is quite firm and smooth and has wear characteristics very similar to the Pro D plastic.  Lightning's plastic is "unbreakable," which was once important in the era where discs had a tendency to crack and shatter, but this is now rather obsolete.  The Lightning plastic remains grippy in most conditions but has a propensity to lose its shape fairly easily.
Strengths:
Less expensive.
Very uniform wear.
Easy to break in.
Remains grippy in wet conditions.
Weaknesses:
Less durable overall.
Propensity for scuffs, scrapes, and dings.
Tendency to lose its shape.


II. Premium Plastics

The premium plastics are the mid-grade plastics offered by most manufacturers.  While the development of the super-premium plastics has made these discs seem not very durable, in the olden days these discs were noticeably more durable and longer lasting than the standard plastics, especially in terms of scuff damage.  These plastics are generally more expensive, faster and slightly more overstable than the standard plastics but last approximately 2-4X as long.

Innova Pro, KC Pro Drivers 8X-10X, Special Edition
Innova's premium line of plastic is stiffer, tackier, and smoother than their DX line. It is also faster and more resilient to scuff damage. This plastic is similar to older Millennium plastic but has gone through several blend variations, many of which included various amounts of CE plastic blends. In general, the premium versions of Innova's discs are a bit more overstable than the DX versions, although a few of the molds come out with a higher dome and these are generally less resistant to high speed turn. The big strengths of this plastic is that it is nearly as long flying as the standard plastic while breaking in much more slowly. While this plastic generally gives better grip in most conditions it can get slippery when it is wet, cold, or particularly humid. The biggest downside is the tendency for discs in this plastic to permanently lose their shape on hard impacts leaving a bent or twisted rim.
Strengths:
Resistant to scuffs and scrapes.
Slower break in period.
Grippy under normal conditions.
Controllable for most players.
Weaknesses:
More expensive.
Tendency to lose its shape.
Tends to get slippery in poor conditions.

Millennium Standard
Millennium was the first company to release a truly “premium” line of plastic (although some may argue for Discraft's Cyclone plastic). While this plastic has gone through a large number of blend variations, the Millennium's discs are hot-stamped with mold variation and run number (i.e. 1.12 = mold #1, run #12) so if you find a specific run you really like they are easy to track down. Millennium's earlier blends resemble Innova's older KC/SE blends but now they contain a small proportion of Champion type plastic which makes them more stiffer, slicker, and more durable. Overall, these discs are tackier than DX plastic and they are quite resistant to scuffs with a slow break in period. While earlier blends were prone to twisting and warping on solid impacts, the newer discs are a bit more resilient. They also behave similarly to Innova's premium plastics under increment weather as cold, wet, and humidity may make them a bit slippery.
Strengths:
Resistant to scuffs and scrapes.
Slower break in period.
Grippy under normal conditions.
Still controllable for most players.
Run identification.
Weaknesses:
More expensive.
Tendency to lose its shape.
Tends to get slippery in poor conditions.

Discraft Elite X
Discraft's Elite X plastic is Discraft's premium level plastic. This plastic has been around since the late 90's and has gone through several versions. Elite X plastic is Discraft's longest flying plastic and up until recently, was the basis for most of their disc designs and is generally used as the baseline for Discraft plastic comparisons. This plastic is tackier than their Pro D plastic and is faster and slightly more overstable with more glide. In general, it yields the highest dome of all of Discraft's plastics. In terms of durability, it is quite resilient to scuff damage but several runs have had a tendency to lose their shape upon impact. Elite X plastic is a bit grippier than Innova's KC/SE plastic but suffers from similar problems under adverse conditions.
Strengths:
Discraft's longest flying plastic.
Resistant to scuffs and scrapes.
Slower break in period.
Grippy under normal conditions.
Still controllable for most players.
Weaknesses:
More expensive.
Tendency to lose its shape.
Tends to get slippery in poor conditions.

Gateway H Series
Gateway's H plastic is similar in durability to their S plastic but has several different characteristics. It is cleaner and smoother feeling than S plastic and generally has a higher dome with more glide and is a bit less overstable. This plastic feels comparable to Discraft's X plastic but is a little stiffer and more durable both in terms of scuff damage and structural integrity. H plastic also retains most of its grip under adverse conditions. The break in period of H plastic is similar to S plastic and their durability is similar as the plastic change affects feel and flight.
Strengths:
Very slow, uniform wear.
Remains grippy in most conditions.
Resilient to scuffs and scrapes.
Weaknesses:
More expensive.
May get a little slippery with condensation.

Lightning Prostyle
Lightning's Prostyle plastic is their entry into the premium level of plastic. This plastic is very rubbery feeling and is very grippy. Prostyle plastic is quite possibly the most durable of all of the premium lines as it yields a very slow break in and will retain its shape over a long period of time. Prostyle plastic is a bit faster and slightly more overstable than Lightning's original plastic. This plastic also remains grippy in nearly all conditions and is the most consistent flying of Lightning's plastics.
Strengths:
Very slow, uniform wear.
Remains grippy in nearly all conditions.
Resilient to scuffs and scrapes.
Weaknesses:
More expensive.
Tendency to warp under extreme heat.


III. Super Premium Plastics

The super premium plastics represent the most durable and longest lasting of all of the plastics. These discs last from 5-10 times longer than standard plastics and cost around twice as much. While this might seem to be a clear-cut decision on what to buy, it is not without trade offs. These plastics are generally the fastest, most overstable, and most difficult to control of all the plastics and take a long time to break in. While some of the newer models of discs are being designed in super premium plastic to compensate for the overstability, older models run in super premium plastic will have less glide and not fly as far as their alternate plastic versions. While they are by far the most resistant to scuff damage and most structurally sound of the plastics, they generally react poorly to adverse conditions and have had problems with run-to-run consistency as manufacturers experiment a lot with the plastic blends. I do not generally recommend this plastic to beginners.

Innova Champion, Champion Edition, Pro Line
Innova's Champion plastic is quite possibly the most durable of all the plastics on the market. These discs are very resistant to scuffing and structural damage. They have a smooth and somewhat rubbery feel and have noticeably different flight characteristics than their DX counterparts. It's good to make the assumption going in that these discs will be faster, have less glide, more high speed turn resistance, and more low speed overstability. Some of Innova's newer models such as the Monster and Orc were designed for this type of plastic and compensate for the flight differences. Overall, these discs are best suited for players whose main concern is durability and have power to spare. The downside of these discs is that they get very slippery when wet or cold and are prone to condensation. Of note are that there are two types of these discs, transparent and opaque. The transparent discs will be more overstable than the opaque.
Strengths:
Very slow, uniform wear.
Grippy under normal conditions.
Resilient to scuffs and scrapes.
Good structural integrity.
Weaknesses:
A lot more expensive.
More difficult to control.
More overstable.
Doesn't fly as far.
Slippery when wet or cold.

Millennium Quantum
Millennium Quantum plastic is very similar to Innova's Champion plastic. It is faster and more overstable than the regular Millennium plastic while also being more durable. While these are very resilient to scuffing and structural damage, they are also a bit more slippery and harder to control.
Strengths:
Very slow, uniform wear.
Grippy under normal conditions.
Resilient to scuffs and scrapes.
Good structural integrity.
Weaknesses:
A lot more expensive.
More difficult to control.
More overstable.
Doesn't fly as far.
Slippery when wet or cold.

Discraft Elite Z
Discraft's Elite Z plastic ranks among the most durable plastics on the market. It is very resistant to scratching, scuffing, and undesirable bending while taking a very long time to break in. While some of the newer discs have been designed for this plastic such as the Crush and Flash, the older models will be noticeably more overstable and have less glide in Z plastic. With increased speed and less friction to help turn the discs over, most Z discs are best suited for players who are focusing on durability and predictability than on raw D. The downside of this plastic is that it becomes difficult to grip when wet or cold and can have problems with condensation. I do not recommend this plastic for beginners. Of note, the more transparent Z discs will generally be more overstable than the opaque versions.
Strengths:
Very slow, uniform wear.
Grippy under normal conditions.
Resilient to scuffs and scrapes.
Good structural integrity.
Weaknesses:
A lot more expensive.
More difficult to control.
More overstable.
Doesn't fly as far.
Slippery when wet or cold.

Gateway E Series
Gateway's E plastic is their entry into the super premium market. Very resistant to scuffs, scrapes, and structural damage, E series discs are quite durable and have a long break in period. E plastic has a similar feel to H plastic but is a bit stiffer and faster. There isn't really a general rule about how the E plastic affects stability, as some models are more overstable, while others are straighter. As a whole, I think the older models (Sabre, Demon, Blaze, Wizard) are more overstable, while the newer high-speed drivers are a bit straighter. The E plastic is probably the best suited for adverse weather conditions out of the super premium lines but it's a little more difficult to control than the S or H plastic.
Strengths:
Very slow, uniform wear.
Most grippy of the super premium plastics.
Resilient to scuffs and scrapes.
Good structural integrity.
Weaknesses:
A lot more expensive.
More difficult to control.

DGA Pro Line
DGA's Pro Line plastic is a very durable blend of plastic, similar to Discraft's Elite Z plastic. Rumored to be a blend of Elite Z and Elite X plastics, the Pro Line plastic is quite a bit grippier than Elite Z plastic and nearly as durable. This plastic's feel most closely resembles the first run (red) Champion Edition plastic from Innova. Most of the DGA line consists of Discraft molds or modified Discraft molds and you can assume that the Pro Line plastic will be more overstable than the Pro D/Elite X versions of those discs and a bit less overstable than the Elite Z versions. Overall, DGA's Pro Line plastic has similar strenghts and weaknesses to the other super premium plastics.
Strengths:
Very slow, uniform wear.
Grippy under normal conditions.
Resilient to scuffs and scrapes.
Good structural integrity.
Weaknesses:
A lot more expensive.
More difficult to control.
More overstable.
Doesn't fly as far.
Slippery when wet or cold.


IV. Miscellaneous Plastics

Soft Putter Plastic
While there are several different blends of soft putter plastics out there on the market, most of them share similar characteristics. The putter plastic is softer and tackier than normal plastics with the intended purpose to grab chain and flex on impact without ricochets. These plastics often get to the point of being sticky which some people like while others do not. While these characteristics will help grab putts that are extreme right of the pole, the opposite will result on putts to the left of the pole causing them to spin out. Generally, these soft plastics also make putters fly slightly more overstable and have a tendency to warp due to heat. However, they are also very grippy in wet conditions. Whether or not you prefer a soft putter is mainly a matter of preference and putting style.
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