All posts by Dan Laitsch

The Rapture of disc golf

In 2020 I was interviewed by Thrive Magazine (a publication dedicated to the pursuit of living well with limb loss) for an article on disc golf, published in early 2021. The author does a great job looking at disc golf’s accessibility, as well as its growth and development as a competitive sport. It was great to also see my friends Carver Whitford and Christopher Lowcock in the issue. Check it out on page 28.

Tui time!

Tui (putter). the Tūī are “unique to New Zealand and belong to the honeyeater family, which means they feed mainly on nectar from flowers of native plants.” If the basket is the flower of disc golf, then the Tui is the best disc in my bag for feeding on its nectar! Like the other RPM discs, the Tui is fast for it’s class, but it is a straight flyer. Using a spin putt from distance, I can put the Tui on a dead line to the basket that will always make a run from 45 – 60+ feet. Inside the circle that disc is easy to use with a push putt style and it’s straight line run means few side to side misses. All in all, the most valuable tool in my bag!

Kotuku

Custom dye from the Art of Discs (New Zealand)

Kotuku (midrange). the Kotuku is valued by the Māori for its elegant white feathers, and has long legs and a long, thin neck, “which has a distinct kink when flying.” As a solidly over-stable midrange, that describes the Kotuku disc perfectly.  Like the Piwak, it is a fast midrange and perfect for a hyzer approach when you don’t want to risk running long. It’s stability also makes it a useful forehand approach disc. I never have a question as to what line this disc will take, or where it will land.

Piwakawaka

Ace, from the gold tee on hole 7 at Raptors Knoll

Piwakawaka (midrange). I’d put this one in the bag solely for its awesome name! “What was that you just threw?” “A Piwakawaka!” It rolls off the tongue!

On a more serious note, Piwakawaka is the Māori word for the New Zealand Fantail, a smaller bird more appropriate to a midrange disc. The RPM site aptly describes the disc as a reliable straight disc, that will easily hold a line, with a sneaky long glide. I was surprised at how  fast and long the disc flew. Made with a comfortably soft plastic, I was  able to use a fan grip, rather than a power grip. For midrange throws, I much prefer the fan grip for added control, but traditional hard plastics can get a rough edge that scrapes on release. The soft plastic used for the Piwakawaka makes it easy to grip and comfortable to throw.

For me the flight had more flip to it than the promised straight line, but that is fine with me as I prefer using a flip hyzer line for most of my midrange tosses. The disc runs quite fast, again out distancing most of my current mid-range discs with very little effort. While I am still fine tuning the lines I take with this disc, it’s become my mid-range staple.

The Kahu

Ace on hole 9 at Langley DGC

Kahu (Distance Driver). Kahu is the Māori name for the largest hawk in New Zealand. Like its namesake, the Kahu disc is super fast and extremely powerful, easily matching the other long distance drivers in my bag. What set the Kahu apart for me was the ease with which I was able to put it on a line and control the disc flight. Thrown flat with a traditional power grip, it was easy for me to put the disc on a straight line that stayed true for the entire flight, with a typical tail off as the disc speed dropped. With many long-range drivers I rely on the disc running an S-pattern to maximize distance.

For me, the Kahu achieved the same (or more) distance with very little bend in its flight. This opened up new lines on a number of test holes since I didn’t need to allow for substantial back-and-forth movement in the flight. With a bit of added snap, I also found the Kahu to fly well on a flip-hyzer line (released on a hyzer angle, intended to “snap” up and fly straight). All in all the Kahu, for me, is a superfast, very reliable, long distance driver that has quickly become my go-to driver.

The only draw back to your run-of-the-mill Kahu is the way it handles a head wind, where it can be vulnerable to flipping over. The Kahu comes in three flavours–under stable, stable, and over stable. Make sure you use the OS version for headwind shots.

It’s catching what you’re throwing

If you’re serious about improving your game, putting practice is a core part of your training regimen. There are apps for practice, games for practice (think 21 or horse), and a ton of advice on YouTube and other web sites. Like any practice routine however, the closer it is to “game” experience, the better.

I’ve practiced on the SkillShot umbrella-type collapsable basket, the tortuous Marksman target and more recently the DiscCatcher Sport. Each of these has their benefits: the SkillShot is inexpensive and portable, folding up into a carry-all bag; the Marksman forces a very straight putting line (which some players feel is critical); and the DiscCatcher Sport mimics a competition basket to maximize the practice experience.

That said, each of these baskets also comes with real drawbacks: the SkillShot doesn’t catch like a real basket, so in many cases you end up practicing a putt that may not actually fit the playing course; the Marksman–well, see previous comment and amplify; and the DiscCatcher Sport, while closest to true, still tends to under-perform compared to a course-quality basket. With a single set of chains and a body made for lightness and portability, the Sport lets a lot of good putts slip through the chain and you can get some strange bounce- and spit- outs.

In my search for a quality basket for putting practice, I recently bought an RPM DiscMate basket to try it out (as an RPM Ambassador I get a discount on RPM merchandise and that gives me an excuse to play with such fun new toys). Spoiler alert: this is will be last practice basket I’ll ever buy.

The DiscMate is a portable practice basket that accurately mimics putting play on a permanent course install. The basket is built with fully welded steel zinc and powder coated hanger and basket, with two layers of chains to catch your putts, similar to most permanent basket installs. Despite the heavy-duty build, the basket quickly breaks down: chains, footing, and polls sitting sweetly in the basket tray, making the whole set easily portable for one person (into a roughly 25″ x 25″ x 10″ tall box).

Built out, I’ve been putting on the basket now for about three months and can’t detect any difference in outcome in catching compared to the baskets at my local course (Mundy Park in Coquitlam, BC). The two sets of chain virtually eliminate the splash throughs common to the other baskets and the professional weight chain gives an accurate catch. While three months is a short time for any feedback on durability, I’ve had no issues with the construction–chains, basket, and all parts are solid, in place, and working well.

If you take the sport seriously (or want to), I’d avoid going the entry-level portable basket route (likely to turn into two or three baskets over time) and go straight to a professional class portable basket. In the long run it will serve you better in both skill development and durability. Although the initial cost is likely to be slightly higher (the RPM DiscMate is priced at about $300 Canadian; $230 US), a professional quality basket will also hold its resale value over time. My only complaint is that I didn’t buy this basket sooner. 🙂

RPM Discs

[updated 2021]

RPM Discs

In August of 2017 I had the honor of representing the United States of America at the 2017 Team Disc Golf World Championships. While there I had the chance to reconnect with friends made the year before when I directed the first Team Disc Golf World Championships in Vancouver, Canada. Most relevant for this post was catching up with Jackson Sullivan of RPM Discs in New Zealand.

Jackson brought a bunch of RPM’s discs to the event and sold them as fundraisers for the (Bronze-Medal-winning) New Zealand team. Having never thrown the discs, I bought four—two drivers, one mid-range, and one putter—solely because of their beauty. The plastic used for the discs was a flexible plastic similar to the Star plastic many players are familiar with, but it’s molded (at least in the discs I bought) in attractive colours and colour mixes, creating a disc that looks good because of (and not in spite of) the plastic. The stamps are also artistically designed with a Māori-artwork look to them to match their names. You can see the full details on the RPM web site: http://www.rpmdiscs.com.

Having finally made it home and pilot tested these discs on a local course I know well, I thought it time to post a couple of reviews. So without further adieu, reviews of the Kahu and Piwakawaka.

[Update: I now throw primarily RPM plastic. My over-stable drivers are a Kahu and Kotare; my fairway driver is a Huia; my approach discs are the Piwakawaka and Kotuku; and I putt (and approach) with the Tui].

Skip Ace on hole 9 at Langley DGC

Kahu (Distance Driver). Kahu is the Māori name for the largest hawk in New Zealand. Like its namesake, the Kahu disc is super fast and extremely powerful, easily matching the other long distance drivers in my bag. What set the Kahu apart for me was the ease with which I was able to put it on a line and control the disc flight. Thrown flat with a traditional power grip, it was easy for me to put the disc on a straight line that stayed true for the entire flight, with a typical tail off as the disc speed dropped. With many long-range drivers I rely on the disc running an S-pattern to maximize distance.

For me, the Kahu achieved the same (or more) distance with very little bend in its flight. This opened up new lines on a number of test holes since I didn’t need to allow for substantial back-and-forth movement in the flight. With a bit of added snap, I also found the Kahu to fly well on a flip-hyzer line (released on a hyzer angle, intended to “snap” up and fly straight). All in all the Kahu, for me, is a superfast, very reliable, long distance driver that has quickly become my go-to driver.

The only draw back to your run-of-the-mill Kahu is the way it handles a head wind, where it can be vulnerable to flipping over. The Kahu comes in three flavours–under stable, stable, and over stable. Make sure you use the OS version for headwind shots.

Straight in Ace, from the Gold tee on hole 7 at Raptors Knoll

Piwakawaka (midrange). I’d put this one in the bag solely for its awesome name! “What was that you just threw?” “A Piwakawaka!” It rolls off the tongue!

On a more serious note, Piwakawaka is the Māori word for the New Zealand Fantail, a smaller bird more appropriate to a midrange disc. The RPM site aptly describes the disc as a reliable straight disc, that will easily hold a line, with a sneaky long glide. I was surprised at how  fast and long the disc flew. Made with a comfortably soft plastic, I was  able to use a fan grip, rather than a power grip. For midrange throws, I much prefer the fan grip for added control, but traditional hard plastics can get a rough edge that scrapes on release. The soft plastic used for the Piwakawaka makes it easy to grip and comfortable to throw.

For me the flight had more flip to it than the promised straight line, but that is fine with me as I prefer using a flip hyzer line for most of my midrange tosses. The disc runs quite fast, again out distancing most of my current mid-range discs with very little effort. While I am still fine tuning the lines I take with this disc, it’s become my mid-range staple.

Custom stamped Kotuku from The Art of Discs

Kotuku (midrange). the Kotuku is valued by the Māori for its elegant white feathers, and has long legs and a long, thin neck, “which has a distinct kink when flying.” As a solidly over-stable midrange, that describes the Kotuku disc perfectly.  Like the Piwak, it is a fast midrange and perfect for a hyzer approach when you don’t want to risk running long. It’s stability also makes it a useful forehand approach disc. I never have a question as to what line this disc will take, or where it will land.

The Tui is most comfortable sitting in the basket (winter course, hole 2 at Langley)

Tui (putter). the Tūī are “unique to New Zealand and belong to the honeyeater family, which means they feed mainly on nectar from flowers of native plants.” If the basket is the flower of disc golf, then the Tui is the best disc in my bag for feeding on its nectar! Like the other RPM discs, the Tui is fast for it’s class, but it is a straight flyer. Using a spin putt from distance, I can put the Tui on a dead line to the basket that will always make a run from 45 – 60+ feet. Inside the circle that disc is easy to use with a push putt style and it’s straight line run means few side to side misses. All in all, the most valuable tool in my bag!

Stay tuned for more reviews as new RPM plastic slips into my bag. Make sure to check out my review of the RPM DiscMate–it’s catching what you’re throwing!