Part of our Quick Dash series is to inform you about courses, products, and discs. In this review we take a look at the Innova Sidewinder distance driver. 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. Ultimately answering the question, is the sidewinder a good disc?
Innova: Brief History
Formed in 1983 Innova is one of the top manufacturers for all things disc golf related. They sponsor a ton of disc golf events and have several professional players on their roster. Perhaps they are best known as the company that patented the first design for a true disc golf disc – the Innova Eagle.
Innova Disc Chart
With over 100 discs to choose from Innova’s lineup is sure to meet the needs of the avid disc golfer. Their wide selection of discs span the range of distance drivers to putters, including classics such as the Boss, Leopard, and Avair.
Innova Sidewinder Disc Review
The Sidewinder was a disc I had always wanted to give a go. The very name gives it a mystic for being a forehand flicking hyzer specialist with a ton of turn at a rating of -3.
I acquired the sidewinder at one of the local golf course pro shops and immediately took it out that day to give it a go. Not really sure how the -3 turn would impact my forehand I was anxious to find out.
At first I struggled to get the turn over and fly straight or perform in a manner that seemed resourceful. Perhaps this was due to me purchasing a heavier version within the cheap DX plastic, but regardless the first few holes didn’t go well.
As with anything new to you, a little patience goes a long way. In fact, about halfway into my round I started to notice more turn, more leveling off, and more flying straight. But the best part came when I threw an “S” curve and got some of the furthest distance out of a disc I ever had.
At the time, I was lucky to break into the 250ft range, and would say that is still my average depending on how the shoulder is feeling. However, that day, throwing the Sidewinder I started seeing 300ft as a possibility if not my new average.
Any time a player gains distance the disc they do it with immediately becomes their top choice. The truth is that the Sidewinder is setup for a weaker arm, such as mine, and for someone needing help in getting their discs to turn. Which brings us to a deeper dive of the Innova Sidewinder flight numbers…
Innova Sidewinder Flight Numbers: Speed: 9, Glide: 5, Turn: -3, Fade: 1
A speed of 9 is a good indicator that this is an easy throwing distance driver. I can’t think of a distance driver with less speed as I believe 9 to be the slowest a disc can be and still considered a distance driver as opposed to fairway.
This was the first distance driver with a speed of 9 that I really started feeling like I could rip it off the tee. The more confident I became in letting it fly the better it performed, as is the case with most discs.
The glide of the Sidewinder is nothing to write home about but at a 5 it certainly has enough to sail into the fairway and then some. However, there in lays a problem…between a high turning disc and a good amount of glide, be careful to use this in an open windy situation. I learned the hard way as one throw got caught up in the breeze and flew into the abyss.
A bit of search and rescue time later and I was presented with a mando between a row of trees shot. The tunnel of lumber was about 100ft long that then broke into the open and yet had a water hazard waiting for the over zealous player. I needed this shot to start straight and hyzer out after about 200ft.
With the turn at -3 even new players can get this disc to flip up and fly straight…exactly what I needed for this shot. I might have chosen a disc with a higher fade to hook at the end and avoid the water, but decided I would play the shot a little short and then throw over the water. So, with a fade of only 1 it should hook a little at the end and land near the hazard without going in (fingers crossed).
There is perhaps not a better feeling in the game then when your shot goes exactly as planned, exactly as the vision you had in your mind. Mine did, coming near the trees but turning up to straighten out it flew the first 100ft as expected. Once in the open, it did catch a bit of breeze and started to glide more than I had hoped. As I clenched and puckered my body, in hopes of helping the flight and not seeing my new disc fly into the pond, the Sidewinder slowed just enough to give into its 1 fade and settle about 10 feet from the water’s edge.
The remainder of that hole consisted of only 100ft over the water shot, to which the Sidewinder easily took care of for me. Proving itself over and over again during that round led me to believe I had found my new distance driver, but first field testing needed to be done.
Field Testing the Innova Sidewinder
Typically, once I have found a disc I like in the cheap plastic I like to upgrade. This not only gives me discs to throw with better gripping plastic but also adds to my collection for field practice. With that, I promptly picked up two more Sidewinders with higher graded plastic and slightly less weight.
Using the same disc model during field practice can be a great way to gain consistency with a particular disc. In theory, based on the flight numbers, the Innova Sidewinder should be an easy distance driver to get up to speed and fly as expected.
With a slower speed then some of the more popular pro level distance drivers, and the understandable turn, I was hoping for some extra distance. After a brief warmup of tossing discs 100ft or so, I started loosening up and letting some fly.
The Sidewinder again impressed me with its ease of use or ease of flight. I was indeed getting some extra distance with a lot less effort then a few higher speed drivers I had in the bag. This was as expected and should happen but one never knows until you try it out first hand.
However, what wasn’t expected and ultimately led to my furthest throws in the field was a key characteristic of the Sidewinder I had noticed but didn’t pay much attention too…
As a newer player I am always looking for control in my throws. I might not have the arm strength to beat other players at distance but if I can have more consitenacy with my throws I have a chance.
Although the Sidewinder was providing me with that predictability and control I noticed in my first rounds and the field practice a tendency to roll more then other discs.
At first this came with a bit of frustration, but after some research this is exactly what Innova intended for the Sidewinder to do. In fact, most understandable discs with a -3 turn or lower are actually considered good roller discs. So as the saying goes in disc golf: “if you can’t control it, embrace it.”
Combining the easy turnover, low speed, decent glide and little fade, with the added ability to roll, I was finally seeing the value in the Innova Sidewinder to it’s fullest. Flying distances in the 300ft range for me was a success and one that inspired this very review.
What the Innova Sidewinder Taught Me
Now that I had some confidence in the Sidewinder I wanted to perform one last test, a true comparison against a similar Innova classic. I like to compare new discs to a set I am both familiar with and would be a beginner starter set. Thus, busting out the old but reliable Innova Starter Set, and the closely related Innova Valkyrie.
Lesson #1: Plastic type matters. The Innova Sidewinder DX plastic might be good enough to get your hands on one, but I quickly bent and tore up this disc. Luckily I had the higher graded Star plastic in my bag and this one is still going strong almost a year into use.
Lesson #2: Embrace the characteristics of a new disc. You could say this about any disc, and perhaps I will in every review. But, it’s a good reminder to players, especially new one’s, that discs have different characteristics for a reason. Embracing those unique flight patterns is a way to enjoy the disc and get the most out of it. Fighting those patterns and thinking you can bend it to your will, while possible, can lead to a lot of frustrating rounds.
Utilizing the Innova Sidewinder as a roller has become a fruitful venture in itself. I may not be the best at throwing rollers but the value of having a few discs in your bag that are specific to that shot can really be beneficial. When I need a disc to easily turn over, flying straight and avoiding the trees, followed by a slight hook that turns more and lands into a roller I pull the Sidewinder out. I also seem to like it for the “S” hook or flex shots.
Innova Sidewinder Plastic Types
The Sidewinder comes in 5 plastic types from Innova: Star, GStar, Starlite, Champion, and DX. Below we break down the characteristics for each. Trust me, even as a beginner player, you will appreciate the performance out of the Star line.
Innova Sidewinder: 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: As their top of line plastic you can expect the Star Line Sidewinder to feel great while throwing. Mine has not only improved the confidence I have in throwing this disc but certainly has held up to the abuse of landing a lot more than the DX plastic. The only two downsides to the Star line are the cost and the design. Innova states they can do a custom stamp, but it seems a bit cumbersome and buying the Star Line discs second hand won’t have that option. However, if you’re like me, you can take or leave the design, so long as the disc performs.
Innova Sidewinder: Gstar Line
- What Innova Says: “GStar is a blend of Star that adds flexibility and even more grip. GStar is opaque like Star, but features a pearlescent sheen. Their allure is only surpassed by their beautiful flight. GStar discs have a smooth, gradual transition in flight and the same durability as our Star line. For cold weather play the flexibility and grip of GStar cannot be beaten, and even when the weather warms up GStar still retains similar flexibility.”
- Disc Golf Dash Review: Innova is spot on for their guidance on the characteristics of this plastic. I don’t have a GStar Sidewinder but do have others with the Gstar plastic and can confirm the descriptive characteristics from the manufacturer. You can’t go wrong with the Star or Gstar plastics. I would suggest going with what’s readily available, good looking, and cheaper.
Innova Sidewinder: Starlight
- What Innova Says: “Starlite is a process similar to Blizzard. Like Blizzard, Starlite provides lighter weight drivers designed for a wider range of players. “
- Disc Golf Dash Review: This might be one of the lightest plastics available, if you can find one. Ranging down in the 120g weight level this could be a great disc for younger players…but, if I understand this correctly, the Starlite series of plastic has basically been replaced by their Blizzard line. So I can’t really say much about it since I have never thrown one…have you? If so, let us know in the comments what you think about the Innova Starlite plastic in general and bonus points if it was a Sidewinder.
Innova Sidewinder: Champion
- What Innova Says: “Our Champion line is produced with a hi-tech plastic that provides outstanding performance and durability. Champion discs are distinguished by a beautiful clear appearance. Designed for professional players, Champion line discs are usually a little firmer and more stable than the same model in other plastics. Whether used in heavily wooded situations, or on extremely rugged courses, our Champion line plastic will continue to perform predictably and avoid damage better than any other plastic. Most Champion line discs are available for custom hot stamping. “
- Disc Golf Dash Review: It doesn’t get a whole lot better than Champion plastic. Honestly I prefer the Star line better but of the few Champion plastic discs I own I can’t complain. The biggest issue I have with the Champion discs is that a lot of them are made using the clear plastic design. I find that harder to locate in the bush. But, these discs will hold up a long time even after a lot of abuse…arguably longer than the Star line of plastic. They also add a bit of stability to the disc that might be worth getting once your arm is strong enough to warrant it.
Innova Sidewinder: 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: Most players start out with the DX plastic, but quickly upgrade to the Star line. For a few extra dollars you will both feel and see the difference in flight. However, that said, DX plastic is the least expensive and what you should use when trying out a new disc.
Innova Sidewinder vs Innova Valkyrie
So why did I choose to compare these two discs? Well first, the Valkyrie is one of my favorite discs to throw and the first distance driver at a speed of 9 I owned. This makes it spot on with the Sidewinder for that flight number, but on top of it the other numbers come close as well. Second, just about anyone who has played the game for a while has used the Valkyrie or is currently using one. So let us compare…
Flight Number Characteristic Comparison Chart
|Innova Sidewinder||Characteristics||Innova Valkyrie||Characteristics|
|Speed:9||I would actually bump up the speed of the Sidewinder to a 10. Although easy to throw, it takes a bit more effort than my Valkyrie at a speed of 9. Not much more, and you can be sure I am comparing the same plastics, same weight, etc. I would also say this wouldn’t be possible to notice the difference without playing with both discs now for some time…so maybe a bit picky here but still worth noting that out of the two, to me the Valkyrie is a bit easier to get up to speed…albeit ever so slight.||Speed:9||The Valkyrie is definitely a speed of 9. Easy to throw, and get up to speed this is one of the best beginner distance drivers out there.|
|Glide: 5||A reasonable amount of loft provides the beginner player with some distance, but the Sidewinder can get caught up in the wind if conditions exist.||Glide: 4||A little less than the Sidewinder I would agree with this rating. Although a glide of 4 is the perfect amount for most conditions, the Sidewinder does seem to “float” a little longer when up to speed.|
|Turn: -3||Both discs are understandable and should turn over for the beginner. I started out a bit confused why my Sidewinder wasn’t turning, but with some confidence behind my throw it quickly and easily rotates and flies straight.||Turn: -2||Again, Innova nails this number on the Valkyrie. There are very few times I don’t have the Valkyrie turn over for me as expected. You could almost bump it up to a -3 but it’s fair to have it at -2.|
|Fade: 1||I tend to feel like the Sidewinder is more of a Fade of 2 than the given 1. This would match it with the Valkyrie’s number and I would concur that the flight pattern, for me at least, is similar at the end.||Fade: 2||Innova seems to have gotten the numbers on the Valkyrie consistent to what I would give. Rarely does this disc fade hard for me towards the end of flight. If it does it is nominal in comparison to higher fading discs.|
|Weight Range||130g – 175g||Weight Range||130g – 175g|
|Plastic Types||Star, GStar, Starlite, Champion, DX||Plastic Types||Star, GStar, Starlite, EchoStar, Champion, GlowChampion, Pro, Glow, DX|
Is The Sidewinder A Good Disc?
With a speed of only 9 and a -3 turn rating, the Sidewinder might be one of the better understandable discs available. For the new disc golf player the Innova Sidewinder will add distance to your throws while giving you a solid roller disc to add to your quiver.
If a newer player was asking me, I might suggest the Valkyrie to start with, but would offer that having a Sidewinder to compare the two is a perfect way to notice subtle differences in disc characteristics.
Who’s It For?
While a lot of focus for Disc Golf Dash is towards #growingthesport and tailored to bringing in beginner players, I would suggest the Innova Sidewinder be not only one of your first distance drivers, but one to continually upgrade as you progress.
The Sidewinder might become less of your go-to driver over time, but I still tend to pull mine out occasionally when I see the opportunity for a straight flier that I want to end up rolling down the backside for extra distance. I also like to use it for flex shots and practicing my “S” curve shots.
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 Sidewinder might get overlooked for other options out there, but it certainly has a place in any level of players’ bag. Once I found the value in the discs characteristics and what it could bring to my quiver, I quickly upgraded the plastic and continue to use it to this day.
So, pick one up for yourself and share your opinion with the community on it below in the comments.