With a ton of companies, hundreds and hundreds of molds, and thousands of possibilities, there are millions of disc golf discs in the game today. And that’s just the start. The disc golf disc is something of a marvel and the process for making these discs is actually really cool.
Now it’s been a few years since I started this site, but just recently I became curious about the disc golf disc itself. I wanted to know exactly how it was made and what it was made from. Upon scouring the internet, I wasn’t able to find a lot of good information or resources on the subject. I was able to scavenge and piece together the information I needed but I wasn’t content with that. I wanted to make a resource for the next person that wanted to know the same information that I did. And that’s what you’re reading.
In this post, we’re going to look at the process of how disc golf discs are made, what they’re made out of, how plastic affects disc flight, a look back at Vibram rubber discs and their unique process of making discs, and 4 of the best disc golf discs for your game. So let’s check it all out!
How are disc golf discs made?
Disc golf discs are made through a process called injection molding where extremely hot molten plastic is injected into a disc mold and is refrigerated and cooled until it hardens into that mold cavity, creating each individual disc.
While the process is fairly complex, the gist of it all is simple: they take plastic, heat it up until it’s liquid, force it into the mold, then let it cool. That process creates all of the awesome discs that we use every day on the course.
What are disc golf discs made out of?
Most disc golf discs are made out of polypropylene plastic, otherwise known as polypropene, which is a thermoplastic polymer resin used in a wide variety of applications. Discs are also made using a variety of other plastic types that are heated and molded into individual discs. That plastic starts as millions of tiny pieces (like the picture below).
Now upon researching this information on plastic type, there was very little information available. But I did find an article on Gateway Disc Sports’ blog here that gave a small insight as to the plastic, polypropylene, used in their Wizard putters.
The rest of the information I found periodically on the web pointed to polypropylene and other stiff thermoplastic polymer materials as the main materials used in the disc making process. Thoughtco.com has an interesting resource here on the basics of polypropylene plastic. The other plastic polymer materials used for making discs include but are not limited to: thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), polyurethane, and polyethylene.
Frisbees, on the other hand, are made from polyethylene plastic, which is a little bit less dense than the normal polypropylene plastic used for disc golf discs. But if you’ve held both a frisbee and a disc golf disc before, you can see the difference in the two right in front of you. Disc golf discs are denser because they need to travel long distances, so disc golf companies tend to use denser, tougher plastics when making their discs.
The process of making discs: injection molding
So we already know that the majority of discs are made with a process called Injection Molding. That’s the primary way that disc golf companies make their discs. We’ll talk a little bit about Vibram and the process they used to use to make discs later in this post – otherwise called compression molding. But this section will focus on injection molding and how disc golf discs are made with that process. Check out the quick video below by YouTuber Engineerguy on exactly what injection molding is.
So injection molding, huh? Yep. Check out the pictures and info below on how that process works.
It all starts with the disc mold. A steel mold is made for a disc type and placed in the machine so that molten plastic can be injected into it. Next up, you need some of that polypropylene plastic mix to put into the machine to actually make the disc.
The plastic mix, which is in the shape of millions of tiny pieces, is placed into the machine hopper. That plastic goes down into the heating cylinder and melts into molten liquified plastic.That plastic is then pushed with a giant turning screw into the disc’s mold cavity. Once that plastic cools, the single disc is formed and released from the disc mold and voila! A disc is born!
The next two videos highlight the disc making process a little bit more. The first is from Ferris State University’s Plastic Engineering Program. Program Manager Brian Pacholka explains the disc making process through injection molding.
The second video is from the disc golf company Gateway Disc Sports. It shows you just a little bit about how discs are made at their factory.
Do the different plastics affect disc flight?
The short answer is yes. The different plastics used, from basic plastic to the more expensive premium plastics, affect the stability of a disc golf disc (the disc’s ability to resist high-speed turn) and thus affect disc flight. And this is widely accepted by the majority of disc golfers as true.
But there’s really a lot more to what actually affects a disc’s flight such as different runs of a disc, different disc golf companies and how they blend their plastic, different types of discs, and individual variation from disc to disc. But that still is not always consistent. Disc flight can also be affected by the wear and tear on a disc. Over time, discs will normally become more understable due to the plastic becoming worn.
Check out the two videos below for more on how disc flight can be affected by variations in plastic. In the first video, Disc Golf Nerd explains the difference between plastic types with six different variations of the Latitude 64 mid-range. This is a great example of how disc flight is affected by the different plastics of just one single disc.
Best Disc Golf Discs explains in the second video how disc flight is affected by something called, “disc shrinkage,” or how a disc shrinks when it cools and that different types of plastics shrink differently (shrinking more or less). That shrinkage, which can vary from disc to disc (ex: Innova’s Star plastic Destroyer vs. Innova’s Champion plastic Destroyer), can completely change the stability of a disc. For more, check out Best Disc Golf Discs’ video below on disc golf disc plastics.
The death of vibram, rubber discs, and compression molding
Vibram is a world-renowned rubber company known for innovative shoe design and incredible footwear soles and grips. So rest assured, Vibram will continue to make great products for your shoes. But Vibram Disc Golf is dead.
Vibram started making disc golf discs in 2008 and became well known for creating some of the best discs in the game. And the cool thing was that these discs were mainly rubber (instead of the typical plastic we see in almost all discs today). These rubber discs became a niche staple in a lot of disc golfers’ bags until Vibram Disc Golf decided to close up shop in February of 2018. That shocked the #discgolfcommunity.
The process they used, though, was actually pretty cool. Instead of injecting plastic into a mold, they used something called “compression molding.” As you can see in the video below, they place a piece of rubber under a compression machine and the lid comes down to make the disc (to me, it looks like a giant waffle maker). This compresses the rubber into the unique disc golf shape that we all know and love. Check out their video below.
So it’s pretty easy to see how players can get overwhelmed trying to choose discs for their bag. There are just SO many discs and SO many possibilities to how a disc’s makeup can affect the flight. And that’s pretty overwhelming. I didn’t want to spam this post with a bunch of affiliate links throughout the post to our disc golf affiliate Infinite Discs, but I wanted to simply give you a couple of easy disc choices for four of the absolute best disc golf discs in the game today. The discs below, no matter what kind of plastic you get, will normally fly super straight for you and help you improve your game tremendously. You can grab these off of InfiniteDiscs.com.
- Dynamic Discs Judge Putter
- Discraft Buzzz Mid-range
- Innova Leopard Control Driver
- Dynamic Discs Sheriff Distance Driver
Thanks for reading, disc golfers!
Before you go, don’t forget to check out the best beginner disc golf book on the planet, “The Disc Golf Player’s Manual.” This ebook is packed with over 200+ pages of the best tips, tricks, and advice for new players