Now that we have covered what the different types of discs are, we need to cover the four basic differences that quantify how a disc flies. These are called the disc flight ratings or numbers. Major differences in these numbers can tell you generally what type of disc it is, and minor differences can tell you how that disc will fly in relation to discs within the same type, like drivers.
Speed – The Misunderstood Factor
Speed is intuitively how fast the disc flies, and in a sense that is true. The faster you throw the disc, the faster is will fly. However, the speed rating on a disc doesn’t mean that if you throw a speed 10 disc as hard as you can, that it will travel just as far as a speed 13 disc thrown with the same vigor. The speed rating really means that you must throw a speed 13 disc at “13 speed”, a relative term, for it to follow its designed flight path.
In the previous example if you throw a 10 speed disc at 10 speed which is supposed to turn right and then fade softly to the left, it should do just that. However, if you throw a 13 speed disc designed to do the same thing at 10 speed, it will probably just fly straight and hook left at the end of the flight.
Many beginners will buy a very high speed disc (13 or 14) right off the bat and expect to throw super far. But as our example shows, that is just not the case. People just starting in disc golf may only throw a 10 or 11 speed at their hardest with weakly tuned technique.
For this reason beginners should probably start with a 10 to 11 speed disc driver to start off with. You may also try starting out with a 12 speed and dial back to an 11 or 10 speed disc if the 12 isn’t working quite right. That way you have a higher speed driver to throw once you develop better technique.
The different types of discs vary with respect to speed by these general numbers:
- Long-range driver – 10 to 13
- Fairway driver – 9 to 11
- Mid-range – 5 to 8
- Putter – 3 to 4
Glide – Keeping It Flying
Glide is essentially the ability of the disc to stay (or glide) through the air. High glide discs tend to stay in the air longer, while low glide discs will drop out of the air relatively quickly.
A mistake that a beginner can make is assuming that they only want the highest glide disc for their driver. While in theory that should work to improve the distance of you drive by keeping the disc in the air longer, there are situations where varying the glide rating on you disc will help more than simply going with a glide 5-6 disc.
In general, a glide 5 disc thrown straight into a very high wind will have too much glide. This will cause the disc to fly much higher than you intended causing it to veer and land much closer to you than you intended. In this situation, you will want to throw a lower glide disc to account for the wind coming at you. On the opposite end a glide 4 disc thrown with the wind will sink too much to quickly, shortening you drive as well. Here, you will want to throw a higher glide disc to adjust for wind direction.
The different types of discs vary with respect to glide by these general numbers:
- Long-range driver – 4 to 6
- Fairway driver – 4 to 6
- Mid-range – 3 to 5
- Putter – 3 to 4
Turn – Major Stability Controller
In disc golf, discs will generally have three stability types with occasional combinations of two adjacent types together
Turn is the first of the stability controllers. Turn is the tendency for a disc to “turn over” or veer right (when thrown right-handed back handed). Low turn ratings (negative numbers) mean that the disc is much more likely to turn right versus a high turn rating disc (0-1) which won’t really turn at all when thrown at the correct speed.
Thus, stability of a disc varies for turn in this respect
- Overstable – 0 to 1
- Stable -1 to 0
- Understable -3 to -1
The different types of discs vary with respect to turn by these general numbers:
- Long-range driver -3 to 1
- Fairway driver -3 to 1
- Mid-range -3 to 1
- Putter -1 to 0
Fade – The Last Hurrah
Fade is the last number in the disc rating system, which rates the tendency for a disc to veer left at the end of its flight as it slows down. High fade numbers mean that the disc will hook left quickly at the end of its flight, while a low fade disc may keep going right due to high turn or veer slightly left before it lands.
Thus, stability of a disc varies for fade in this respect
- Overstable – 2 to 4
- Stable 1 to 2
- Understable 0 to 1
The different types of discs vary with respect to fade by these general numbers:
- Long-range driver 0 to 4
- Fairway driver 0 to 4
- Mid-range 0 to 4
- Putter 0 to 1
One should note that not all disc companies use the 4 number rating system. Innova is the most popular example of a company that does. Also, when comparing discs between companies that use the 4 number rating system, their numbers may not necessarily be comparable. One company’s 13 speed disc may only rate as an 11 or 12 to another company. Look around online forums with experienced disc golfers who give their own ratings which may give more comparable ratings between companies.
Additionally, another popular disc brand, Discraft, uses a 1 number rating system which only really covers stability. For their discs higher numbers mean a disc is more overstable, while lower numbers are more understable. Some companies tell you the general stability of a disc and have different size classes to distinguish speed and distance that it can be thrown.
Putting It All Together
Knowing how these numbers change the flight of a disc can make all the difference in accounting for high winds, changes in the terrain, approaching the basket, and ultimately getting a birdie over a bogey. You eventually are going to want to purchase discs based on these ratings, and purchase a wide variety as well to try to cover nearly any situation you could encounter on the course. You can also better understand you discs so that you can alter you throwing technique when you don’t have the perfect disc to match the situation.