Torsional Couette flow between a rotating disk and a stationary wall is studied experimentally. The surface of the disk is either rigid or covered with a compliant coating. The influence of wall compliance on characteristic flow instabilities and on the laminar–turbulent flow transition is investigated. Data obtained from analysing flow visualizations are discussed. It is found that wall compliance favours two of the three characteristic wave patterns associated with the transition process and broadens the parameter regime in which these patterns are observed. The results for the effects of wall compliance on the third pattern are inconclusive. However, the experiments indicate that the third pattern is not a primary constituent of the laminar–turbulent transition process of torsional Couette flow.