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Disc Selection Overlap
by Blake Takkunen
While some players believe disc selection is wholly subjective, carrying too many discs may negatively affect your game. By over-specializing the discs in your bag early in your development, you may slow your development by failing to develop a full repertoire of shots. A secondary problem is disc selection error leading to errant throws out on the course. While over-specialization is more common, I do not promote under-specialization either, which involves trying to force certain discs to fly lines that they do not excel at when adding another disc to the bag may easily fill that gap. I refer to the over-specialization of discs as “disc overlap,” which generally implies that the discs a player carries “blend” into each other in terms of their relative stability rather than carrying less discs with more unique flight characteristics.
A few definitions I will be working with:
Def. a particular disc mold that may appear in various plastic variations and stages of wear.
Def. any disc in the bag, regardless of mold, plastic, or stage of wear.
Def. the number of different unique molds you carry.
Def. the raw number of unique discs you carry.
First off, I do not believe in a set limit for a player's disc count. However, a reasonable upper bound implies that you carry few enough discs that you know how all of them fly. If you carry 37 unique discs and only play once a month, chances are that you do not “know” them all well enough to have them positively contribute to your game. How often you play and practice will likely determine your ideal disc count.
The disc overlap concept focuses more upon a player's mold count. A common theme amongst up and coming serious players is to go over board buying discs and end up with a bag full of unique molds. Often they will have a mold that goes straight to slight left, another mold that goes straight to slightly more left, a mold for straight to moderately left, a mold for straight to hard left, a mold for straight to harder left, and so on. The end result is that while they may develop extensive knowledge over a handful of molds, they likely will not learn how many of them behave under the dynamic variations dictated by courses. Some shots cannot be achieved by throwing a particular disc flat.
With a smaller mold count and a significant amount of time spent playing with a particular mold, players will develop a great and trustworthy feel for the said mold and learn its behavior on multitudes of shots as well as its process of aging. Most players reach a similar point in the long run with carrying a few unique molds but carrying several discs in each mold in varying stages of wear: new, broken in, very beat up, etc. It's quite common amongst very high level pros to see some of them carrying 5 or more of a unique mold that they have come to depend on.
In my opinion, the ideal unique mold count falls somewhere in the realm of 2-5 unique driver molds, 1-2 unique midrange molds, and 1-2 unique putter/approach molds (although if you make wise decisions on midranges and putters you will usually only need one). The common overlap problem for most players is in drivers.
The way I approach an ideal driver selection is based upon several roles for discs that you will need in a given round.
1. Stable Control Driver – The stable control driver is the workhorse driver of your bag. This disc is usually a disc that is versatile enough to fly straight or on a hyzer/anhyzer line when needed. Stable control drivers are generally (but not always) accurate and predictable discs that are not ultra-high-speed drivers.
2. Distance Driver - The distance driver can be stable, understable, or overstable depending upon which throwing style gives you the most power. The idea behind this disc is that it will give you maximum distance when accuracy is not the primary concern. 3. Understable Driver – The understable driver is a disc that can hold a right turn. This disc will generally be used for a variety of shots, including finesse hyzer flips, turnovers, rollers, and some trick shots.
4. Moderately Overstable Driver – The moderately overstable driver could also be classified as a “pro stable” driver. This is a disc that will fly stable at high speeds and moderately overstable at low speeds. Its use will be on long hyzer shots, mild to moderate headwinds, and can be used for utility shots as well.
5. Very Overstable Driver – The very overstable driver will often see a lot of action. This is a disc that is stable to overstable at high speeds, and very overstable at low speeds. With this disc, stability and predictability holds the premium over distance. Its use will be for strong hyzer shots, strong headwinds, and an array of skip shots and trick shots.
With this in mind, the most that is needed is 5 unique molds. However, it can often be accomplished by using discs that can fill multiple roles or using plastic and wear variations that yield different flight characteristics.
(1) and (2) may be the same mold.
(3) can often be filled by broken in versions of (1) or (2).
(2) and (4) may often be the same mold.
(4) may be a broken in or less overstable plastic version of (5).
(1) may be a broken in or less overstable version of (4).
I cannot say that using less molds is better than more molds as long as (1) through (5) are covered. I can say that filling these roles will require somewhere in the realm of 2 to 5 unique molds.
As for midranges and putters you are basically looking to fill three roles:
(c) Slightly Overstable
A very overstable midrange/putter is unnecessary as that role can be predictably filled by driver (5).
My personal take on filling these roles for approach discs is to choose a mold that fills (c ) when new and compliment it with broken in versions of that mold to fill the (a) and (b) roles. If your preference is for a mold that borders on (a) and (b) when new, you will likely have to carry a separate mold to fill (c ).
If you are at a point in your game where you feel you have all of the necessary shots in your bag and you have no trouble with adjusting your throw for particular discs, beware of under-specialization. There likely are some discs that will perform slightly better in specific roles than other discs and there is no harm in adding these discs to your bag to shave some strokes off of your game. As long as you know your discs have the technical ability to execute a wide variety of shots disc overlap should not pose the same problems as it can towards newer and developing players.
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