Part of our Quick Dash series is to inform you about courses, products, and discs. In this review we take a look at one of the discs that comes in the Innova Starter Set. An undeniable favorite fairway driver of disc golfers, the infamous Innova Leopard.
Our disc reviews try to cover topics such as the flight numbers of the disc, use cases for the disc, player skill level for this disc, and possibly compare it to an alternative or standard. Let’s start with a bit about Innova and more specifically the Leopard Fairway Driver. We will then get into the disc flight numbers and my experience with the Innova Leopard.
I’m not going to rehash the background on Innova, but if you’re new to the sport, or just wanting to geek out a bit, check out our article on the Innova Sidewinder…there you can find a bit more information on the company and get a sense of their dominance in the sport.
If you’re unfamiliar with Innova their lineup of discs include more than 100 options to choose from. In terms of their Fairway lineup they have several models that range in a speed number of 6 up to 8.
Innova Fairway Disc Chart
While most players would not discern the difference between a fairway driver and a mid-range, Innova chooses to do so. Offering a selection of discs that “bridge the gap between a putter and driver”, Innova has a separate designation for their mid-range discs. Don’t let this confuse you though, as we often couple the fairway driver and mid-range discs in the same group.
However, sticking to Innova’s definition of the two, one can see there is a possible slight difference. First, and most noticeably is the Speed Numbers of the discs.
Where Innova has their Fairway Driver lineup ranging from 6 to 8, their Mid-Range lineup goes from 4 to 5.5. While I won’t debate the difference in these type of discs, I can argue the use case for them.
I think most disc golfers would see the Fairway driver as a disc made for the newer player to break into a higher speed disc and prepare for the distance driver discs. The Fairway driver certainly requires a stronger arm to get up to speed then a putter or mid-range, but also provides the thrower with more control than the distance driver.
Whereas the mid-range is more of an all around disc used for specific instances and approach shots that stretch the limits of a putter. The point being that here at DiscGolfDash.com we aim to educate and inform. As you begin your journey into the Disc Golf realm, you might find some folks combine these two types of discs. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are some technical differences. Innova says it best about their two options:
“Fairway Drivers deliver confidence in both fairway placement and long approach situations.
For many players, our Fairway Drivers provide nearly the same distance as our Distance Drivers, but with added control and accuracy. Newer players will find these discs easier to control. Many World Championships were won using Innova Fairway Drivers. These discs can inspire a new level of confidence in your game. Improve the level of your game with the superior control and reliability of our Fairway Drivers.”
“Mid-Range Discs are designed to provide accuracy and control for a wide array of shots.
Bridging the gap from putter to driver, Mid-Range discs are versatile and effective in many situations. Mid-Range discs have a variety of uses from tunnel shots to flex shots, from short drives to approaches. When tight windows need to be hit and shot placement is crucial, Mids are the disc of choice for most players. Whether you’re a Pro or just starting out, we offer a wide range of Mids to match the needs of players using diverse throwing techniques.”
Innova Leopard Disc Review
With that out of the way let’s get to the meat of it..the Innova Fairway driver, Leopard. As with most players, this disc came to me in the Innova Starter Set. Out of the three discs in this set, it quickly became my favorite to throw, although I will admit that designation was slowly taken over by the Innova Shark.
The reason the Leopard was to my initial liking had to do with the distance plus control I was getting out of the disc. As with most players, it also had to do with just the way I felt flying out of my hand.
The Leopard seemed to jump out of the power pocket but without the confidence I sometimes had when throwing higher speed discs. This control plus distance immediately had me intrigued.
To the field we go, but first a closer look at the Innova Leopard flight numbers…
Innova Leopard Flight Numbers: Speed: 6, Glide: 5, Turn: -2, Fade: 1
With a speed of only 6, just about any player level can send the Leopard flying. On the bonus side of flight characteristics is a disc with a glide of 5 and turn of -2. Making it easier to turn over, level off, and float for a bit of distance. Exactly what you would expect from an understable fairway driver.
At the time I really didn’t understand what Turn meant or how it affected my throw. In fact, thinking back, the Leopard wasn’t turning over for me at first. This being one of my first discs to ever own and throw on a consistent basis, I didn’t have enough experience to utilize it effectively. What I did notice though, without realizing it, was how quickly that changed with a few field practices and rounds at the local course.
Field Testing the Innova Leopard
Of all the discs I have thrown I would put this up there with one of the easiest to understand and learn. My first initial field practices had the Leopard not turning over enough and hyzer out at the end. While I didn’t take that into much consideration at first, being a newer player and all, I could tell that wasn’t what I was aiming for exactly.
A bit of research from other players indeed verified that this disc should turnover more and fly a little straighter for me than what it was initially doing. In fact, if one looks at the flight pattern you can see that it might even give a bit of an “s” curve and complete a nice small hyzer to finish. Mine however, was doing more of the latter half pattern and just curving on a hyzer line.
Could this be just “new disc syndrome” or was my arm too weak and my confidence too low…
A Few Rounds Later…
After a few rounds at the local course and several more field tests I noticed a bit of change in the Leopard. No longer was I nervous to use this disc for shots directly ahead. I started having more confidence in my ability to turn over the disc by getting it up to speed.
This may have been just a need to break it in a bit and learn the nuances of the disc. However, at this time I had received the Latitude 64 River, and that thing really wouldn’t turn over for me at all. Read my review on the River, where I compare it to the Leopard in fact.
The frustrations of the Latitude 64 River disc might have actually helped me with the Innova Leopard. While the River was not turning for me at all, I noticed the Leopard really wasn’t that bad. Perhaps I just needed to adjust my throwing angle a bit…and Boom!
Yep that did it. Not only was the leopard turning over, flying level, but the flight pattern started matching that of what Innova expected. I noticed an uptick in distance and overall control or aim.
Innova Leopard Plastic Types
The Innova Leopard can be purchased in multiple plastic types. Everything from the Starter Set plastic of DX up to the Pro line.
Innova Leopard: DX Plastic
- What Innova Says: “Our DX line offers the widest selection of models and weights. These discs are affordably priced and provide an excellent grip in a variety of weather situations. DX discs wear in with usage and over time will eventually take on new and varied flight characteristics. Many top pros carry several DX discs of their favorite models to provide different flight patterns for different situations. ”
- Disc Golf Dash Review: The DX plastic is what the Leopard comes in if purchased with the starter set. Thats no problem, and a good way to get a feel for a disc before adding more cost to a disc. The DX plastic is not going to last a long time. The edges of your discs will get chewed up every time they spike into the ground or try to chop down a tree. With that said though, for the cost of the starter set with DX plastic you get 3 discs for the price of 1.5 to 2 higher graded plastic.
Innova Leopard: Star Plastic
- What Innova Says: “Our top of the line Star plastic offers high performance, outstanding durability and great grip. Our Star line is created with a special blend of grippy, resilient polymers. Star plastic offers the same outstanding durability of our regular Champion plastic, plus improved grip like our Pro plastic. Star discs have the same flight characteristics as Champion discs, but are slightly less firm”
- Disc Golf Dash Review: Easily my favorite type of Innova Plastic, the Leopard feels great in the Star line. Worth the extra few dollars, the Star line offers superior grip, feel, and durability in comparison to the DX. If the DX Leopard feels right for you, consider upgrading to the Star line. You won’t be disappointed.
From the Star line plastic up to the Pro line, you have a few other choices. However, the biggest leap or change can be seen between the DX and Star line. The Champion plastic definitely has a different feel and I would say if you want something to last a long time due to durability go with the Champion plastic.
Innova Leopard vs Innova Shark
Why would I compare a Fairway driver to a Mid-Range? Well for a few reasons. You might have in fact caught early on in the article that I mentioned how the Leopard started out as my favorite disc and that changed to the Shark. That wasn’t meant to be a knock on the Leopard…I still use it almost every round. But I noticed a few things about the Shark that made me start pulling it out more often than my Leopard.
If you haven’t read our review of the Innova Shark you’re missing out! So why did I choose to compare these two discs? Well first, these two discs come in the Innova Starter Set. Having an understanding of the two can really help out a beginner if they decide to go with this Starter Set. Second, I love my Leopard, it is one of my most reliable, trusted, and easy to use discs in my bag. Perhaps the final reason is that Innova itself notes that the Shark is regarded as “The best all around golf disc. A very accurate disc for drives and approach shots, you can even putt with it. Excellent for beginners in lighter weights.” I would agree with that assessment from Innova and therefore can’t argue with not comparing just about any mid-range or fairway driver to the Shark. So enough with the banter, let’s compare.
Flight Number Characteristic Comparison Chart
|Innova Leopard||Characteristics||Innova Shark||Characteristics|
|Speed: 6||I would agree with this rating on the speed of the Leopard, it’s easy to throw as a beginner and get it up to speed in order to match the remaining flight numbers.||Speed:4||I would agree with this rating on the speed of the Shark, it’s easy to throw as a beginner and get it up to speed in order to match the remaining flight numbers.|
|Glide: 5||A reasonable amount of loft provides the beginner player with some distance, but the River is going to go farther if you can get it up to speed.||Glide: 4||I would give the Shark a 3 for Glide as it doesn’t always stay aloft as easily as the Leopard. But make no mistake, this isn’t completely noticeable and I might be angling the front edge of my Shark up a bit more when throwing.|
|Turn: -2||Both discs are understandable and should turn over for the beginner. It took a second but now I have no problem getting the Leopard to turn over even as a complete beginner. Again, one of the easiest discs in my bag to throw.||Turn: 0||From the very beginning I have been able to make the Shark turn and fly level and straight. I found the Leopard to take a slight more effort for turnover…so if you’re new to the game, start with the Shark.|
|Fade: 1||I would agree this is an accurate rating of Fade for the Leopard. Pretty consistent too. Rarely have I had it spike down into the ground or arc hard at the end of flight.||Fade: 2||Again, this is the correct rating for the Shark. This disc doesn’t seem to fade too much and sometimes that can be a bit of a problem, but for the most part, it’s pretty consistent and rarely have I had it spike down into the ground or arc hard at the end of flight.|
|Max Weight||175g||Max Weight||180g|
Why You Need An Innova Leopard?
The Leopard is community standard (#discgolfcommunity). Just about anyone who has played the game has used a Leopard or is currently using one.
Innova declares the Leopard as: “Everyone’s first fairway driver. Useful for long straight shots, gentle hyzers and turnover shots. Extended life as a roller.” Therein lies the reason to own a Leopard. Where the Shark flies a bit straighter for me, that “gentle hyzer” as Innova describes it, comes in handy for fairway shots that need to park on the green. Even as a new player I could notice slight differences between the Leopard and Shark, but to this day I still use both. It’s no surprise they package these two in the starter set.
I would suggest the Innova Leopard be one of your first discs to purchase and use. Regardless of the plastic type and grade it is a great fairway driver to learn from and yet has enough characteristics to make a comparison.
Every new disc deserves a dedicated review. Though you might see these discs in our collective posts (Most Stable Mid-Range, Best Disc Golf Drive For Beginners, Best Disc Golf Putters), I think some discs deserve an in-depth review…especially since I own and throw them.
At the end of the day, the Innova Leopard is a standard worthy of a place in your bag. You might have another mid-range or fairway disc that helps you achieve that second or third throw towards the basket. But, few would complain about having to throw the Leopard and many more are pulling it out this very moment to hit the chains.
So, pick one up for yourself and share your opinion with the community on it below in the comments.
Until Next Time…