Response from Des:
You ask many good questions that are related to one another. The concept of ‘discing down’ comes from the golf terminology of ‘clubbing up or down’. I believe in ‘discing down or up’ and practice it within my own game, but not in the concept that you are referring to the term in. To ‘disc down’ does not mean that a player should not throw high-speed drivers. To ‘disc down’ means to use the least amount of disc for the situation at hand, whether it be off the tee for a tightly wooded shot, to set up a placement shot on a par five hole, or in the fairway approaching the green. ‘Discing down’ is not limited to these situations but it sets up the idea of the concept.
Here is an example of when you should disc down: A famous hole at The Woodshed a private and excellent course in Paw Paw, West Virginia is Hole 4, which is aptly named “Circles”. At mere 319 feet the hole seems like a break from the previous hole called “The Gauntlet”; but it is called Circles because the entire fairway is lined with trees and the fairway dramatically slopes toward the OB line. Players are almost guaranteed to take a circle at some point during a weekend of play on this hole. Those players that might escape Circles are ‘discing down’. Smarter players know that to execute a tunnel shot of 319 feet with a slower speed disc (e.g. Leopard, Stingray, Roc, Yeti Pro Aviar) will produce more accurate drives to set up the par, the disc will land more softly for better chance of birdie and will have less energy to cause a dramatic ricochet that could cause the disc to come to rest in OB. The above factors negatively increase or decrease when throwing the high-speed driver (e.g. Katana, Vulcan, Boss) down the tunnel. Hardly a smart choice to maybe pin a birdie or to attempt to squeak out an extra 50 feet for an easier par.
In another example, lets say I like to throw my Yeti Pro Aviar from 200 feet and in. My lie is right at that 200’ mark but there is a stiff head wind. In this case I would ‘disc up‘ and throw my Shark because the wind and distance is indicating that I need more disc to perform the shot. The 200 feet is at the upper end of my average distance for my putter throw. I must account for the wind and I know I will have better results using a mid-range disc than trying to max out my putter, which could lead to angle error, which would be amplified in the wind causing an errant shot.
In order to properly learn to ‘disc down or up’, a player should learn the average distances of each of their discs. Well done, that you already know this information about your game. The distances will help when judging what disc will produce the best results for the shot situation at hand. That brings us to your second question. Should you ditch the Sidewinders? Tricky answer here. Your discs and distances that you mentioned are good disc choices and the distances for each are solid. Your ability to throw a Roc 250 and Leopards 275 feet is on par with professional disc golf women.
The main obstacle for women and the high-speed drivers on the market seems to be the wide rim. Sometimes a woman’s hand is not big enough to get a good grip on the disc. A good grip is needed to transfer the energy that your body is creating. A loose grip will result in some of that energy being lost. The width of the rim is what gives the disc its flight characteristics; speed and stability. The speed 13 plus drivers all have very wide rims, currently the widest rimmed disc I throw is the Pro Destroyer, which I use for wind shots and predictable hyzer shots. The Destroyer is a speed 12 on the chart. For my main distance drivers I toggle between the Pro Wraith speed 11 and Star Roadrunner speed 9. I too know many women who are having success with wide rimmed discs in lighter weights. I am not one of them. When I test discs in the field, the smaller rimmed discs still translate to my longest drives. The distance between your Sidewinder and Leopard is small. Based on this I would suggest you start experimenting with some of the wider rimmed disc.
What you want to consider before purchasing is what is the stability of the disc. You want to find a disc on the under-stable side or a disc that turns right for a right handed thrower, the turn of the disc. You currently throw and like Sidewinders a thinned rimmed disc. An easy step up would be the Roadrunner it has slightly more turn (right turn for a right-handed thrower) than the Sidewinder, which could equal more distance. I switched from the Sidewinder to the Roadrunner and have never looked back. For the wide rimmed discs, I would try the Vulcan. It comes in lighter weights and has more turn and less fade (finishing to the left for a right-handed thrower) when compared to the Katana. The Wraith could be your high-speed disc choice in the wind. It barely has turn but much fade. Definitely keep your weights light in drivers and heavy on the mid-range, fairway drivers and putters.
There is no proper or ace in the hole distance disc. The best way to find a distance driver that works for you is to borrow some different disc types and get out to the open field. What works for some, works for none but works for others. It is better to find out what works for you. The World Record is still held by Christian Sandstrom at 820 feet using a speed 9 Valkyrie, go figure.