Disc Golf Flight Numbers Explained: A Quintessential Guide
If you’re new to playing disc golf, you might be wondering what those numbers on your disc mean. These numbers are essentially called flight ratings that give players an idea of the characteristics of a disc golf disc based on a flight rating system that’s divided into four categories: speed, glide, turn and fade.
These factors will tell you how a disc flies and performs, so you will know which one to use depending on the shot that you need to take.
Some players also use the flight ratings system to compare discs from different brands, although professional players advise against doing it since discs have different personalities and are designed to meet a certain goal during the game.
Here, we will tackle everything you need to know about these disc golf flight numbers and the flight rating system:
The flight ratings system Explained
A disc golf disc is rated with four numbers from left to right representing speed, glide, turn and fade:
- Speed (1 to 14)
Speed describes the rate at which a disc golf disc can travel after it’s thrown. Faster discs are ideal for throwing up wind since they can easily cut into the wind and maintain their speed until they land. Slower discs, on the other hand, require more arm power to throw, but they’re also easier to throw accurately and land downwind.
The higher the rating is, the faster a disc can travel. Speed 14 distance drivers are considered the fastest discs around since they have the maximum legal wing width that’s recommended by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). However, these faster discs are not recommended for beginners since they take a lot of skill and arm power to master.
- Glide (1 to 7)
A disc’s glide describes its ability to stay in the air during flight. Discs with a higher glide rating will most likely give you more distance, although there are times that this can be a disadvantage, as the disc may fly past the target and towards the water or other obstacles where you’ll have a hard time making another shot.
In this case, disc golf discs with a lower glide rating are considered more ideal, especially if you’re making an approach shot or when you have a limited landing area.
Discs with less glide are also better to use for playing in high winds since they can fly more accurately than those with higher ratings. On the other hand, a disc with a higher glide rating is recommended for beginners since it can give you a good distance even if you don’t have a strong throw yet.
- Turn (+1 to -5)
A disc’s turn describes its stability and essentially how it behaves during flight. In most cases, ratings are given depending on the disc’s tendency to bank to the right or turn over during the initial part of its flight.
As the disc gains speed, it may want to turn to the right and the more it turns to that direction, the more it can be called understable.
As a general rule, a disc golf disc is rated +1 if it’s most resistant to turning over. Discs with -3 to -5 turn ratings are ideal for use as roller discs. On the other hand, a disc with a -5 rating is more prone to turning over.
If you’re a beginner, it’s better to use a disc with a -5 rating since it’s also easier to throw. You can move up these ratings as you develop your throwing skills.
- Fade (0 to 5)
The fade rating is used to describe how a disc ends its flight and this could also point to a disc’s low-speed stability. Fade essentially happens when the disc golf disc begins to lose power towards the end of its flight. Fade ratings range from 0 to 5 with discs having a lower rating usually finishing harder.
This means that the higher a disc’s fade rating is, the harder it fades and the more overstable it can be.
Discs with a high fade rating are best used when you’re throwing into a headwind since it is strong enough to maintain their flight path than those with lower ratings.
The terms that you need to learn
If you’re still learning the ropes of playing disc golf, here are some terminologies that you need to learn when it comes to a disc’s flight:
- Understable means that a disc turns right after it takes flight in the case of a Right Hand Back hand (RHBH) throw.
- Overstable means that a disc turns left after it takes flight in the case of a Right Hand Back Hand (RHBH) throw.
- Stability is used to describe a disc golf disc’s flight path.
- Stable means that a disc flies straight and doesn’t make a turn.
- Spike also known as a spike hyzer means that a disc lands almost vertically without doing a skip.
- Skip is a shot that’s taken to allow the disc to fly after hitting the ground.
You need to keep in mind that understable disc golf discs are focused more on speed than overstable ones and they also fly from stable to overstable when you throw them at low speeds.
You also need to remember that the type of plastic that’s used on a disc can affect its flight rating. For instance, discs that are made from premium plastics will tend to have stronger flight characteristics and retain them for a longer time than those made from lower-quality plastics.
On the other hand, discs that are made from R-Pro, KC Pro, or DX plastics tend to change flight characteristics the more you use them.
This is why it’s very important to try out different materials and types of discs and build a disc bag where you have a variety of options to easily adjust to whatever the conditions are when you’re playing.
In the end, choosing the right disc is crucial to your success in disc golf, so make sure to learn as much as you can as you go along.