I remember when I first got into disc golfing. My friend had a bunch of long range discs called “drivers”, and he let me borrow one. My only goal at the time was to throw my disc as far and as hard as I possibly could, so the driver fit me pretty well. For quite a while after my first game I solely used a driver. I could never understand why other players had any other types of disc golf discs, my driver was “working fine”.
While I was having a blast throwing my disc as hard as I could, putting was an entirely different beast. My disc would fly off randomly, get too much lift, or hit the basket and ricochet far away. Eventually I learned that other types of discs were necessary if I wanted to have a better time and improve my game.
Here is the lowdown on why there are different types of discs for disc golf, and what they are used for.
Drivers – For Teeing off and Long Approaches
There are two types of drivers, Long-range and fairway. Essentially long-range drivers are going to be thrown further than fairway drivers. Long-range drivers are the driver used to tee off in the majority of situations, and fairway drivers may be used afterwards if your initial drive still isn’t close to the basket.
However, fairway drivers may serve as tee off drivers as well. An experienced disc golfer may be able to throw a fairway driver just as far if not further than a beginner with a long-range driver, which comes down to experience, technique, and disc choice more than anything. You may even choose to tee off with a fairway driver on particularly short holes.
For newer and average players, you would use one of these discs when you are greater than 200 ft from the basket (This range is very variable depending on the player and their skill set).
Mid-Range – This Disc Is Juuuuuust Right
Mid-range discs are the next class down from the drivers. Mid-range discs will be used when you are semi-close to the basket. In these cases, you will be too close to warrant using a driver and too far to effectively use a putter. These discs are shaped to fly a little further than putters, but not fly too far.
The nice thing about mid-range discs is that if you make a bad throw, you won’t get punished as badly as you would for throwing a bad long-range driver. For this reason, I would suggest that brand new players (if they only have one disc) start out playing with only mid-range discs for their first few rounds. They can help build confidence in throwing technique without discouraging new players if they make a bad throw.
The general ranges where you will use each disc may vary and overlap. Sometimes, you may go with the fairway driver, and other times you will use the mid-range, it just depends on the situation. In a situation where you want the distance of a driver, but you don’t want to risk going out of bounds or in water behind the basket, the mid-range would be a safer choice.
For newer and average players, you would use one of these discs when you are 50-150 ft from the hole (This range is very variable depending on the player and their skill set).
Putters – Finishing The Job
Putters are the short distance discs, which are used for when you have a chance to deliberately throw the disc into the basket. These discs are the opposite of drivers. Ideally (depending on the disc) they should fly relatively straight and perhaps curve slightly at the end of it flight. Its not made to stay in the air for very long.
For this reason, throwing a putter 100ft will require a lot more power than throwing a driver 100ft. They are also designed too pretty much sink right after they hit something. These will be the least punishing discs for a bad throw (within reason).
Most putters are typically made from softer plastics so that when they hit the chains of the baskets they will grip and be slowed down and fall into the basket. Sometimes hard throws with harder plastics will ricochet off the basket or not grip the chains, leading the disc to fly out of the basket.
For newer and average players, you would use one of these discs when you are within 50 ft of the basket (This range is very variable depending on the player and their skill set. Experts can and may attempt putting from much further out than this).
What Do I Use Now?
Now that you are familiar with the three main types of disc golf discs, you may be asking what should I use now? While there is no absolute answer, here are my recommendations. If you are brand new to the game, start out with a mid-range disc. This will help you to gain experience and start to learn how to approach different holes.
Once you have a few rounds under your belt and you understand how the disc flies get yourself a set of all different types of discs. Go to your local shop and pick up a couple drivers and a putter. Try going to a field and throwing each from the same location with the same and varying amounts of effort. Study and understand how each disc flies, how far it flies, and what it does when it lands. Knowing these details about your discs inside and out will help you decide what disc to throw when and how to approach each hole to make the best decisions possible.