World's first look at the RPM Kotuku
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
We don’t see a new disc mould from RPM every day. But hot on the heels of the re-tooling of the Kotare overstable high-speed driver, comes a brand new everyday midrange from Simon and the Auckland-based RPM team. Let’s take a close look at this new Kiwi offering, and see what we’ve got!
But first, a little history. RPM has been slowly but surely building up its model line, and customer base across New Zealand and the globe, usually adding a single mould each year. Kotuku joins Piwakawaka, Tui, and Kea in the RPM midrange, and continues their theme of New Zealand native bird names and stamps.
Kotuku is the Maori name for the White Heron, Ardea modesta. It has always been rare in New Zealand, and is considered endangered, and breeding is limited to just a single Kahikatea forest/swamp location near Whataroa, on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. A special trip during breeding season is well worthwhile. More information about this beautiful and exotic bird can be found here.
Of some note is that each RPM midrange has a distinctly different leading edge profile. Piwakawaka is somewhat sharp for a midrange giving it an almost fairway driver appearance, Tui is almost round, while Kea is almost square. The Kotuku has a familiar and almost traditional leading edge profile which will feel comfortable in the hands of most throwers.
Traditional midrange profile
Above you can clearly see an evolution of the classic midrange leading edge profile. With the 240mm-diameter Condor from 1991 underneath the Kotuku.
Description & Technical Specifications
Officially designated as “MR3”, Kotuku is a larger diameter, flat-topped, fast-flying, stable midrange golf disc initially available in gorgeous and highly durable Cosmic (transparent/translucent) and Atomic (solid colour) Thermo-Plasticised Urethane – TPU.
Kotuku was approved by the PDGA just 4 days prior to the publishing of this piece, on 16th November 2020.
Minimum diameter for golf discs is 210mm, which is common for putters and drivers. Midrange discs are typically larger, and Kotuku is fairly normal at 217mm, with 14mm for both wing depth and rim depth. It is legal for PDGA play up to 180.1 grams. Full technical specs are available at the PDGA website.
Strangely, the PDGA seems to use a different ruler to me, as I carefully and exactly measured Kotuku (several times) at 218mm, which if resolved by the PDGA will mean a higher maximum weight for Kotuku. In subsequent measuring I found many PDGA diameters to be 1 millimetre smaller than the diameter of the approved disc's actual size. Go figure!
Like the Ruru putt & approach, Kotuku has a microbead. But frankly, it is indistinguishable in the grip, and almost invisible. Its bottom rim is quite sharp, and this gives it a feeling of being slightly deeper than its rim depth would suggest – at least in my hand.
Feel in the hand
This is always entirely subjective but I hope to offer you some insight. Kotuku has a big-ish feel in my hand, which I think is largely due to its sharpish bottom rim, and the square measurements of its wing; 14mm by 14mm.
As a result, big and relatively beefy is how Kotuku feels in my hand. It does not feel shallow, nor overly deep.
The mould is highly polished as there are no tooling marks on the wing or the flightplate. The surface is very smooth, with mirror-like reflections particularly evident on the white Atomic Kotuku.
As with other Atomic/Cosmic discs, with a little moisture on your fingertips, grip level is high.
Also like other RPM discs, the legends “DESIGNED AND PRODUCED IN NEW ZEALAND” and “WWW.RPMDISCS.COM MODEL MR3 PDGA APPROVED” is embossed along the inner surface of the flightplate parallel with the rim. The lettering and the newly added small dating stamps can sometimes be felt with my index fingertip, but it’s not something which interferes with my ability to grip the disc, and I do not need to move my grip to a specific spot on the rim.
Is the single most important aspect of a product as both a vendor and RPM master distributor, and equally also as a thrower. RPM have made leaps and bounds in quality and appearance over the last several years, and today I’m happy to say they’re continuing to produce very high quality products, and I’m often almost befuddled by how gorgeous they look when they first come out of the box.
Kotuku has minimal flashing at the parting line (and in many examples, none at all) and only a very small amount on the bottom rim. Two light passes with 150 grit sandpaper along the bottom rim prepared it for its first flights.
Overall appearance is noteworthy and stamp quality, especially the metal foil, is high. Colours and effects were consistently excellent in box after box.
The ejection tab surrounding the sprue is small and discrete, and the centre of the top surface of the flight plates do not appear to be deformed or misshapen in any way.
I found practically no variation in the nature of the flight plates as I closely examined many examples of the first shipment. There is no dome and Kotuku is designed as a flat-topped disc.
Flight Rating: 5 5 0 2
RPM have stamped 5 5 0 2 on their 1R (First Run) discs, and after initial tests in light winds, I agree with these numbers. But of course, numbers alone do not tell the full story of the Kotuku…
I threw it against the other stable/overstable midrange discs in my bag, a new Goldline Compass (5 5 0 1) and a Goldline Pain (4 4 0 3). I left my Goldline Fuse (5 6 -1 0) in the bag.
The first thing I noted was my release point was not affected by the bottom rim being a bit sharper than my Latitude 64 mids, and I had no trouble getting the Kotuku to fly along the Line Of Play I was aiming along. This is important to me, as I don’t want to make any adjustments for my midrange discs.
The second thing of note is a high amount of power/airspeed is required to obtain the “0” part of the Flight Rating. Players looking for a low-speed glider won’t find this disc appealing; go grab a Piwakawaka instead.
Behaviour in flight
Kotuku is quite overstable at lower speeds, and at less than 70 metres of power, the disc will begin hyzering/fading early in its flight. At lower airspeeds it was behaving more like my Pain @ 4 4 0 3. And so for lower speed arms and newer players, Kotuku will act as an overstable midrange which will hold straight into a strong headwind.
My utterly gorgeous testing example is 179-grams, which is a tad heavier than my target weight for mids these days – and I usually prefer 170-172. But the extra mass of this one hid itself well, and it didn’t hurt my index finger on full-power rips.
I was able to release it flat and straight without issue, where its glide of 5 becomes evident, and repeated identical throws of Compass, Kotuku and Pain found the three discs to display an almost perfectly even distribution; Pain 3-4 metres shorter and 3-4 metres more left than Kotuku, and with Kotuku dropping 3-4 metres shorter and 3-4 metres left of the Compass.
Compass, at 5 5 0 1, holds straight for longer than the Kotuku. I can force some actual high-speed turn to the right out of the Compass in calm air, whereas I was not able to do this with the Kotuku.
Kotuku flies quickly and wants to begin fading fairly early unless a lot of airspeed is applied. If enough airspeed is applied to hold it straight, then it will fade fairly gently, rather than dumping out, and it lands relatively flat, where the sharpish bottom edge prevents it getting much ground action.
And so Kotuku is going to appeal to a lot of players for its admirable stability at high airspeeds, along with its relatively flat fade angle.
Power players should expect to be able to achieve considerable distance without turning Kotuku over and hence will avoid the associated increase in landing area size produced by turnover shots.
There shall be no flipping!
It is clear RPM wanted to offer power players a midrange of sufficient stability to avoid discs turning over. Discs released at my full speed simply refusing to flip up at all. Now please note, I am not throwing midranges 100 metres, and so your mileage may vary. If you can put 140 metres of driving power into a Kotuku, it's going to turn.
Due to this stability, hyzer release angles are very important; releasing with even a small hyzer angle will see the disc follow that hyzer angle to the ground.
I threw some sky anhyzers with Kotuku, and found it to hold the downhill glide exceptionally well at full power, with a strong fade to finish.
Forehanding the Kotuku
With its larger diameter, leverage is increased, just as with all midrange discs, and so I had no trouble getting it to fly nicely for me, with the sharper bottom rim not being an issue in my FH smash.
Disc stability is directly related to spin speed which is directly proportional to the skill of the forehand thrower. Kotuku requires good spin to prevent fading out early.
The function of the microbead
Much misinformation has been distributed about beaded rims. The purpose of them, coming straight from the mouth of Dave Dunnipace at Innova, is to ensure that the bottom rim of the disc does not wear away too quickly, and become understable.
And so the big beads of most discs are intended to extend the lifetime of the disc’s stability, rather than for any effect it has on the actual flight of the disc.
The Kotuku target market
Is a competent disc golfer who is starting to gain good control over their angles, to the point where they’re really pushing the envelope of how much airspeed their regular midrange discs will handle without flipping. They’re wanting to reach new levels of accuracy by discing down without powering down.
However, the lower speed stability of Kotuku provides utility for lesser players who are looking for a midrange they can throw into a bit of a headwind without fear. Or for players who want a midrange which will start to fade early, while still making decent distance.
As an older player, I’m not usually excited by the release of a new disc mould. But when it’s RPM, I sit up and take notice. And when it’s an everyday midrange disc for a fairly wide range of player abilities – as Kotuku clearly is, then I start to get quite excited.
And, when I find it slots perfectly between my straight-shooting Compass and my overstable Pain, I get very excited indeed and straight into the bag it goes!
I think RPM are onto a real winner here, and I have asked RPM how they intend to make enough of them, and how is he going to be able to supply Vortica and the big domestic demand we'll see for this disc?
How to obtain your own Kotuku
Well, that's the trick now, isn't it? The Bros For Change (see below) have a good, but limited supply, and Vortica is receiving a shipment in the coming weeks.
Supplies will be limited for a while, as even obtaining plastic and weighting agents is taking a lot longer than usual. So, if you're wanting a Kotuku-or-two then flick us an email at email@example.com and we'll put your name down for our first shipment, no deposit required.
Visiting the Kotuku breeding grounds
Is something my wife and I did several years ago. It was a breathtaking weekend, where we had a wonderful flat-water jetboat experience inside pristine Kahikatea swampland, where the hand of man has never set foot!
There is a decently long boardwalk built from the jetboat jetty to the all-weather two-story viewing platform. The leisurely walk from the noisy jetboat into the heart of genuinely untouched NZ native swampland is almost magical. The photographic opportunities do not stop for the entire trip, and it will be one of your most fondly remembered excursions. Afterwards, I feel almost certain you will feel privileged to have been able to experience it.
Also Known As
The Kotuku has many other names; great egret, great white heron, kōtuku, kotuku, great white egret, and eastern great egret.
Thanks and Acknowledgements
My great thanks to Jaye Pukepuke and the Bros For Change. Jaye hooked me up within hours of receiving their very first shipment of Kotukus after working with RPM for months. The beautiful and distinctive Kowhaiwhai pattern stamp shows the outward ripple effect of their work and was created by Ariki Creative especially for the Bros.
What Jaye and the Bros are doing for youth is fantastic. Plus, they’re highly active and committed to growing disc golf, and we love that here at Vortica! Therefore, we encourage you to visit their website and find out more about them and how they’re helping kids make changes. Maybe make a donation to this worthy cause.