I have some really old discs in my bag that I still use to this day. In fact, the first disc I ever purchased was a Discraft Magnet putter, which is still in my bag right now. Over the years, this disc has seen some major action. It was my go to disc for when I need a very straight shot within 200 feet. However, as time has gone on I’ve noticed small changes in the way my Magnet behaves out on the course.
This got me thinking, how long does a disc golf disc last? Given normal wear and tear on a disc from the average player, I feel confident saying that a disc could potentially last throughout the duration of a player’s career. In my experience, this will depend on three main factors:
- Type of plastic the disc is made from
- Types of courses you typically play on
- And the frequency of use
Since the modern game of disc golf has only been around since the 1970’s, there isn’t that much history on how long a disc will last. However, I have heard of players still using some of their same discs from over 30 years ago!
Let’s take a look at each of these factors and determine how long you should realistically be keeping your discs.
Different Types of Plastics
Not all plastics are created equally is disc golf. If you want something that is going to withstand some damage, you’re going to have to shell out a few more bucks. In the end, I think it is worth it.
If you want your discs to last as long as possible, you’re going to want to stick with premium plastics. Here is a list of the top 8 premium plastics that I like to get my discs in for ultra durability:
- Innova Star
- Innova Gstar
- Discraft ESP
- Discraft Titanium
- Dynamic Discs BioFuzion
- Prodigy 750 Series
- MVP Plasma
- Discmania S Line
With these super durable plastics, I have noticed a few things. First, they have the ability to absorb an impact as the plastic isn’t a hard. This allows them to withstand most scratches and cuts you would see with an Innova DX or Discraft Pro D soak up.
That being said, I personally do not buy ALL of my discs in ultra durable plastics. Mostly only for drivers where the disc is going to be landing at high speeds. When it comes to putters, I stick with more grippy plastic like the DX or Pro D. This is best for grabbing the chains and also feels better in my hand.
Different Types of Courses
The type of courses you subject your discs to is going to greatly affect how long your discs will last. Wooded disc golf courses are undoubtedly going to bang up your discs more than any other type of course out there. To be sure, disc plastics are quite durable and are going to be able to take a beating out on the course.
When I started out, I mostly played in open park type courses that had minimal obstacles on the fairway. The worst thing that happened to my discs was getting stuck in the mud. Playing in these conditions forever would likely keep my discs in a pristine condition to hand down to my grandchildren. The first time I went to a wooded course, my discs took more of a beating from those tree than the previous 30 rounds I played on other courses.
Scratches and Cuts
The more you use a disc, the more natural wear and tear you can expect the disc to take, regardless of the course. Slowly but surely, those minor scratches and cuts begin to add up. As these blemishes add up, you’re disc is going to get lighter. All things being equal, when a disc gets lighter, you’re going to notice that it will take a more understable flight path when you throw it compared to when you first got the disc.
For the average disc golfer playing maybe once or twice a week, it is going to take a while for discs to get into this ‘broken in’ phase. For pro players who play almost every day of the week, they are moving through discs much faster. Many players actually look forward to this stage of a discs’ life-cycle, because of the extra versatility it brings to their bag.
Use It for Other Purposes
As you start to notice your older discs’ flight path changing, don’t just retire those discs. Use them for other purposes in your game. When my old Discraft Magnet stopped flying as straight as I was used to and started to fade right, I began using it for short backhand turnover shots. The important thing is to understand how a disc is behaving so you can play to the strengths of that disc. Of course, I still had to find another disc that would fill that void left in my bag, but that’s alright. I can always get a new Magnet that will fly straight, but there is only one beat up Magnet in my bag that has a unique flight.
Are You Carrying Around Illegal Discs?
While a disc many continue to fly for you, you also have to consider if it still meets the requirements to be a legal disc. This really only matters for tournament style play. If you are only playing recreational disc golf, you’ll likely never be questioned on if you are using an illegal disc. Unless you play with some seriously hardcore disc golf connoisseurs.
Even in tournament play, I’ve never actually encountered a situation where one player questioned another player’s disc of choice. I’m sure in all of the history of disc golf this rule has been brought up, but it seems to be incredibly uncommon from what I can tell. Be that as it may, let’s take a quick look at the official rules so you don’t have to ever be put in this position.
Discs That Can’t be Used
First, you’ll want to ensure that your disc is PDGA approved. This is required to be clearly displayed on the disc when the manufacturer creates the disc. Next, you’ll want to check your discs for any cracks or perforations. These would constituted reasons to not use the disc. If you are found to be using a cracked disc during a tournament, you could receive two penalty throws. Ouch.
Once again, another player would have to bring this up and then you can always appeal the decision to the tournament director. At the end of the day, I think no one cares if you carry or use a disc that is cracked because if you did, you’d probably perform worse than if you had a disc that was whole.
As a side note, your disc can also be considered illegal if it is unmarked, i.e., pull out a permanent marker and sign your name on the bottom of all of your discs. On the off chance you have a competitor using the exact same disc, you don’t want any confusion on which is which. Not only is it part of the rules, but it will be easier to prove they are yours if they are brought to the lost and found of a nearby disc golf shop.
Can You Repair a Disc?
You can certainly repair a disc golf disc. If you want the disc to stay legal according to the PDGA rules, you’ll want to keep this to a minimum though. Any major alternations you do to a disc could change its intended flight, which is explicitly prohibited. There aren’t a lot of specific examples of what you can and cannot do to your discs, but the spirit of the rule is clear. You should not change a disc to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.
There are specific technical rules that the PDGA has set for manufacturers of discs. All discs must adhere to these technical rules and are approved through a testing process. For example, the leading edge of a disc is supposed to be no smaller than 1/16th of an inch. If you were to sand down the plastic to a sharper edge, not only would you be throwing a much more dangerous disc, but the aerodynamics would be different.
Specifically, the rules allow for a disc to be moderately sanded to smooth out normal wear and tear you were typically expect to see on a disc. Anything excessive that materially changes the thickness of the disc is a no go. Now, in recreational play I say have at it, as long as you aren’t creating a disc that is more dangerous.
Methods for Minor Repairs to a Disc
- Take a lighter and slowly rotate the disc over the flame on the blemished areas. This works well for very small scratches and cuts.
- I’ve run into some players that carry around a nail file. This is a quick way to smooth out an problem areas.
- Medium grit sandpaper is great for quickly buffing out those rough edges. I find that around 220 grit sandpaper tends to work pretty well for me.