The History of the Discraft Zone

The game of disc golf is still young in the grand scheme of modern sports. But even with a limited history, there are still groundbreaking moments that define the pastime.

The successful patent of the Wham-O Frisbee in 1966 by “Steady” Ed Headrick. The ensuing invention of the first chain-assembly disc golf basket by Headrick in 1975. The release of the Innova Eagle as the first beveled-edge disc in 1983. Ken Climo’s record ninth straight PDGA World Championship title in 1998.

And then, in 2008, the release of the first shallow-rimmed, overstable approach disc: the Discraft Zone.

The Zone is a low-profile, overstable driving putter that can be utilized for both forehand and backhand shots. It is a mold carried by the majority of Discraft’s professional players and is a favorite of amateurs all over the world.

Before 2008, the only putters Discraft produced were stereotypical, deep-rim molds like the Magnet, APX and Putt’r. The Zone was an idea that only existed on paper until top pro, Michael Johansen, made the big switch from Innova to Discraft.

“I was kind of the helpful impetus,” he said. “Brian Sullivan was the team manager when I came over. I told him I needed a low-profile putter if I was going to stay with them. He understood and said they were talking about making one at the time. I was able to keep pushing them along to keep trying to make one.”

The original idea was for the Zone to be a normal putter for finishing out a hole. The only difference to other putter molds was its low-profile and predictable overstability to fight windy conditions on the green. 

“Their original attempt was for it to be a putting putter,” Johansen said. “But it became way more than that. The way it can take power and torque and handle wind was more than they expected for sure.”

The entire disc golf industry had nothing like the Zone. Other low-profile discs were either not overstable enough or were midranges. The Zone didn’t just fill a slot in Discraft’s lineup, but filled a slot for the entire sport that had previously been missing. Other companies have tried to duplicate the Zone over the years without success.

“You didn’t really realize there was that much of a hole in most brands’ lineup,” the Discraft veteran said. “No one really had that fully overstable putter-midrange combo that was actually worthwhile. They would all be deep-rimmed and really big. There was very much a hole.”  

Johansen used the Zone as his primary putter for almost two years.

“It was my primary putter until they came out with the Ringer GT,” he said. “The Zone is a fantastic putter inside the circle, out to about 40 feet. It’s a really underrated putter inside the circle because you can just straight line it in. It doesn’t move. The wind doesn’t mess with it. But nobody uses it for that anymore.”

Discraft released a prototype Zone in 2008 as a limited run in black, Pro-D plastic for the Texas State Disc Golf Championships, followed by a special, full-color ESP run during the PDGA World Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan (Discraft’s home state) where it was handed out to players as part of their player pack for participating in the event.

Because Johansen wanted the Zone for finishing out holes, he needed something more durable that would hold up against the repeated abuse of constantly hitting chains. The 2008 Pro-D blend was a bit more durable than the newer Pro-D blend discontinued by Discraft in 2021, but he still gravitated toward the ESP plastic, though he always wanted a softer plastic run.

“I was so happy when I held it in my hand,” he said. “Nothing else in the Discraft lineup felt like it. I kept pushing for something a bit softer that would compare with my soft-rimmed Rhynos at Innova, but it would always come out of the machine with a ripple across the dome in the softer plastics and that created too many X-outs.”

It would take years for the Zone’s mold to be tweaked to the point where it could handle the production of a soft plastic run which you can now find at Shop Ledgestone

Yes, you read that right. The Zones you can purchase on our website or at your local disc golf shop are a perfected variation of the original 2008 mold. The first mold did not come out perfect. Neither did the second or the third. There have been a handful of tweaks over the years and the first four years produced Zones with varying overstability and feel.

The first change was the addition of Discraft’s signature tooling. The original Worlds-edition ESP and Pro-D runs had nothing on the inner rim. All ensuing runs have added tooling to read “DISCRAFT ZONE” in raised lettering on the inside of the rim.

The mold was tweaked once again with the release of the Limited Edition ESP Glo Zones which contain a unique flight plate that makes a sound similar to a disc jockey scratching noise, giving this run the nickname of the “zipper top Zone”.

Johansen also noticed that before 2012, Zones were produced with two main differentiating features: some had domes and others had concave tops. This discrepancy was eventually eliminated so that flat-to-puddle-top versions of the Zone are all that are produced now. He also confirmed the original prototype Pro-D run was quite concave and much more overstable than the baseline runs produced today.

As Discraft perfected the Zone mold, they began to roll out more and more plastic types. In December 2014, the first special run Ledgestone Zone was created in Titanium Plastic. One month later, the first Ledgestone CryZtal Flx Zones were run.

Ledgestone has continued to release different plastic runs of the Zone every year since then, equalling 35 unique releases in total. Some highlights include the Jawbreaker Glo, CryZtal Glo, CryZtal Flx Sparkle, Z Metallic Flx, Big Z Flx and ESP Swirl. Furthermore, the 2022 Z Swirl Zones are rumored to be the most overstable Zones ever produced.

Check out our article on Finding the Best Zone for Your Bag.

Blog by Jacob Arvidson

Leave a comment