We’ve all seen those pesky numbers on a disc golf disc. Those four single digit numbers that seem to represent something that makes people better at disc golf. They’re something of a mystery and can be hard to understand at first. But today, we’re going to break everything down into an easy to follow beginner’s guide and show you exactly what the numbers on a disc golf disc mean.
So what do the numbers on a disc golf disc mean?
The four numbers on a disc golf disc are a flight ratings system that represent the true characteristics of a disc golf disc as it flies through the air, including the speed, glide, turn, and fade of the disc. Basically, how a disc is supposed to fly.
Speed: how hard the disc must be thrown.
Glide: how long the disc can stay in the air.
Turn: how much the disc turns to the right when first thrown (rhbh thrower).
Fade: how much the disc turns to the left at the end of it’s flight (rhbh thrower).
To learn more about each of these ratings and some of the best discs for speed, glide, turn, and fade make sure you read on. But if you’re just looking for the best discs, I have a great resource for you on my site right here.
Who created the flight ratings system?
The flight ratings system is a series of four numbers created by the disc golf company Innova Discs. Innova implemented the system in 2009 on their discs, although the system has been around in an informal fashion for a little while longer. Though most do not know exactly when or for how long it’s been informally used, the company started stamping discs around 2009 or so.
Because of some confusion, the company started this flight ratings system to help with a couple of things. First, according to Innova, the four-number characterization system was “designed to describe a disc’s intended flight…these characteristics can be used to rate various aspects of each disc’s flight. Each disc has a distinct ‘personality’; the flight path that makes that disc unique.”
Not only does this system help to describe each disc, but it also helps to compare individual models against each other. So since each disc is unique, you can look at each individual number in a disc’s flight pattern to see where it differs or remains the same. This makes it easier in general for disc golfers to be able to select discs. Further, this helps beginners to understand how each disc flies. Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty influential system in the disc golf world.
5 reasons why you need to know flight ratings
Overall, there are five huge reasons why you need to know these flight ratings. All of these reasons dictate the game and make disc golf what it is. So read the next five paragraphs and try understand what it means in relation to your disc golf career.
1. Disc physics: when it comes to the game of disc golf, there’s a reason why discs are so hard to master. The physics of disc flight control exactly how a disc will fly. The Australian Flying Disc Association has a good article called, “The Physics of Disc Flight,” that explains how spinning discs fly. This general information can help you become a better disc golfer.
2. Comparing discs: just like with Innova’s definition, understanding flight ratings will help you be able to compare discs with one another. If you look at two discs, and you see one has a speed of 12 and one has a speed of 13, clearly there’s a difference in the two discs. But if you don’t know how the ratings work, you won’t be able to know why those two numbers are different or what that difference is.
3. Picking discs for your style: understanding and knowing the flight ratings can further help you start to be able to pick discs that fit your playing style. You throw a little slower? Get a lower speed disc. You don’t throw very far? You need more glide to get you more distance. Knowing what each individual flight rating measures can aid in simple things like picking discs specifically for your game.
4. Picking discs for your arsenal: continuing with this picking-the-right-discs trend, knowing those ratings will help you pick discs that help to build your “disc golf arsenal,” or the discs of your bag that are used in ever single different scenario on the course. Sometimes you need a disc that turns to the right a little more. Or you may need a disc that breaks off to the left more at the end. Flight ratings help you to learn which discs can be used when and where on the disc golf course.
5. A lot of people don’t know them: by the time you’re playing with really good or pro players, most people know how to use flight ratings and have tailored them to how they play. But a lot of less skilled players don’t know exactly what these ratings mean. And you can use this to your advantage by learning early and using the ratings to help you in amateur play and tournaments. If you know the flight ratings just a bit better than the next guy, you may be able to beat that guy out (you do also need some skill).
What is it?
We know already that the speed of the disc is how hard the disc must be thrown to work correctly. The disc has a certain rating on it, represented by the numbers 1 through 15. A high speed disc is up at the top, let’s say around 12, 13, 14, and 15. As you get lower on that scale, the required amount of speed is less. A 1 speed disc requires very little effort and speed to work properly after it’s thrown.
High speed discs are normally drivers. Those with moderate speed ratings are usually mid-range discs. And low speed discs are often putters and approach discs.
Why speed is the most important rating?
First off, some individuals (like myself not too long ago) just think that if the disc is thrown fast enough, it will “work.” Wow, magic, right?! Throw it fast enough and it will fly straight! That’s the general consensus. But the speed of the disc is actually the determining factor of whether or not the disc will fly correctly. Speed determines whether the disc will glide, turn, and fade per those ratings on the disc. If a disc has a lot of glide, and is meant to stay in the air, the disc has to be thrown at the speed listed on this disc for the disc to glide like it’s supposed to. The same goes with the other flight ratings.
Speed is also the most important factor because it’s the only flight rating that you physically determine
Based on how hard you throw the disc determines whether or not the disc reaches it’s correct speed. With the other flight factors, you can alter them only by changing discs or reaching the correct speed. But you can’t make the disc glide better, turn more, or fade appropriately unless you vary the speed that you throw. Therefore the only other way is to buy a disc that has a different glide, turn, or fade rating.
Once you understand speed a little bit better, you’ve got to work on how fast you can throw the disc and get it up to speed. And If you don’t, you won’t ever be able to use better, faster, higher-rated discs in your game. Now don’t get me wrong, because you can be a great player with beginner to intermediate discs, but you eventually have to play with advanced discs if you want to become an advanced or elite player.
3 great discs for speed
Innova Champion Boss
The Innova Champion Boss is the current distance world record holding champion with an absolutely ridiculous 1,108.9 foot backhand throw. But Although tailwind and weight were major factors in this record, the speed at which this disc was thrown was tremendous. Check out David Wiggins Jr’s world record throw with the Boss in the video below. You can get your own Innova Champion Boss from Infinite Discs by clicking here.
I love the Boss because of its versatility and distance capability. I don’t really like how the Boss feels when throwing, but it will absolutely crush a drive with very little effort. When my buddy Hunter gave me this disc, I tried it out for the first time and threw it 300 feet with very little effort and velocity. I did not give it my all and it still went far.
The Katana is a high-speed distance driver all the way. It cuts through the air (pun intended) like a katana. This disc is also known for extraordinary beginning turn and ending fade. If you throw this disc correctly, it will live up to it’s nickname: the “sidewinder on steroids.” Grab a Katana from Infinite Discs for your bag.
Dynamic Discs Sheriff
I love my Sheriff if you haven’t figured that out by now. The Sheriff is a high-speed distance driver with modest flight ratings in the other three categories. This thing is meant to go really far if thrown correctly. Grab yourselves one of these discs and watch it crush your drives. You definitely need a Sheriff for your bag. Stop by InfiniteDiscs.com and pick one up.
7 things you can do to improve your speed
1. Buy low speed discs to build up your speed: If you can’t get high-speed discs up to speed yet, find some beginner discs like the Innova Leopard or Latitude 64 River to practice with. Once you become comfortable, and can throw those discs at their listed speed, move up to higher speed discs like the Innova Dragon distance driver. Keep doing this until you’ve reached the highest speed discs.
2. Simply practicing: if you can just get out on the course and practice your throwing, you’re making strides toward improving your speed. Over time, your body will get stronger, your skills will improve, and your speed will be fantastic. But it takes practice and time. You won’t be the best in just a couple of months.
3. Disc down and use midrange discs or putters to get better: discing down to a mid-range or putter can significantly help you improve your accuracy and your arm strength. They also don’t require as much speed to throw as drivers do. Continue playing entire rounds this way and you will improve.
4. Field practice: Field practice is much different than course practice. With course practice, there is strategy and technique involved. During field practice, where you literally practice in an open field, there is less thinking about strategy and more thinking about technique and throwing the disc well. Plus, you can just sling the disc and work on speed. Be careful, though, not to develop bad habits while doing this.
5. Study the pros and watch their mechanics: whether you’re watching on YouTube or at a live event, don’t just passively watch. Seek to observe the mechanics of the players and watch every motion when they throw their discs. It always looks so smooth and fluid. But it’s because they put in a massive amount of time and effort in throwing the right way.
6. Focus on your techniques…remember the pro mechanics: once you can nail down proper technique, you will gradually start to see your speed continue to improve. Proper technique is very important. Bad habits can take a long time to change. Learn to avoid bad technique from my article called “7 Steps to the Best Technique and a Perfect Throw”
7. Towel drill: for a quick tutorial on the towel drill, check out this quick video.
What is it?
Glide is a disc’s ability to maintain loft during flight. Essentially, it is how long the disc can stay in the air. Glide is measured between 1 and 7, with 7 being the highest and 1 being the lowest amount of glide.
Why it’s important
Glide is important because it keeps the disc in the air longer! Players looking for more distance when they throw should focus on a disc with a lot of glide. This is also often the advice given to new players as well. A disc with a high speed and a high glide rating can fly the farthest on the course.
3 great discs for glide
The Innova Dragon
The Dragon always has really good glide for me out on the course and you don’t really have to throw it that hard to get it up to speed. And the best part is that it floats on water! Find one here on InfiniteDiscs.com.
Latitude 64 River
The Latitude 64 River has some of the best glide on the market. Glide ranges from 1 to 7, with the River having a 7 glide rating. This is a great beginner driver. Grab a River here on the Infinite Discs website.
Innova Wombat (or Wombat3)
The Wombat has a 6 glide rating and is just an overall excellent disc for glide. And it is a tremendous disc in that it is good for beginners and is a beautifully accurate disc for better players. Check the current price of the Wombat at Infinite Discs by clicking here.
3 ways to increase your glide
1. Buy discs with a high glide rating: If you want more glide, just buy a disc with a superior glide rating like the Latitude 64 River, Innova Dragon, or Innova Wombat.
2. Use discs in your skill level: I know that I’ve overused this tip like crazy, but make sure that you’re throwing discs that fit within your skill level and speed level.
3. Make sure you improve your speed: improved speed on this course means more velocity and quite possibly a farther throw.
What is it?
The high-speed turn of a disc is its ability to turn over to the right after the disc is first thrown (rhbh thrower), usually with a fair amount of speed behind the disc. Turn is represented by the numbers 1 to -5. Discs with a score closer to -5 will have more turn.
Why it’s important
Turn and disc stability go hand in hand. A disc with a lot of turn is more likely to be understable (the disc turns to the right with a rhbh thrower). Understability is good for beginners. A low speed, high glide, and high turn disc will be perfect for beginners. Turn is also good for those looking to perform tricky anhyzer shots or roller shots.
A couple of good discs for turn
The Innova Valkyrie is a great starter disc with a fair amount of turn. A fun disc and a really accurate piece of plastic for the more advanced players. You can get a Valkyrie for your bag here on InfiniteDiscs.com.
Innova DX Leopard
Probably the best starter disc if I were to choose one along the Innova line. The Leopard is so accurate once you get better and you really don’t have to give it much speed to really crush a drive. You can grab one of these on InfiniteDiscs.com.
What is it?
A disc’s low-speed fade is its ability to hook left at the end of the throw. Once a disc has made it through the majority of its flight and begins to slow down, the fade usually kicks in and the disc turns to the left (rhbh thrower). Fade ranges from 0 to 5 and the higher the number, the more the disc will fade.
Why it’s important
High fade, normally overstable discs are important for a couple of reasons. First, they can be used for distance control. Second, they are great for flex shots. Third, they can be good in headwinds and can help you crush a windy round.
A really awesome disc for fade
Above all, the Prodigy F1 is a great disc for fade and is very overstable. This is one of the very few discs I would recommend for beginners but only as a strategy disc. It has low speed so it doesn’t have to be thrown hard and if it’s thrown at about a 45° degree angle, it should wrap around and park at the basket. Grab a Prodigy F1 from InfiniteDiscs.com here.
If you do these three things, you can improve your disc golf game today
1. Buy the right discs: making sure you get discs that match your playing style and your skill level is critically important if you want to improve and get better in disc golf. Nothing is worse than being a beginner and throwing discs that are way too overbearing for your crappy technique. Believe me, I’ve been there and I don’t want you or anyone you know to have to go through that. So make sure you check on the discs you are throwing and make sure they are for beginners.
2. Focus on technique first: once you’ve chosen the appropriate discs for you skill level, you should start learning technique and increase your knowledge as much as possible. A beginner with the correct discs can only do so much with poor technique. So focus on learning and reinforcing the good and try to eliminate the bad. Having someone watch you or film you throwing are good ways to improve in disc golf.
3. Increase your arm speed: If you can increase your arm speed, which is not difficult if you do all of the six things I listed a little while ago, you will quickly start to dominate on the disc golf course. Remember what I said earlier: the correct speed of the disc is what determines the other three flight ratings on this disc.
In the end, it’s not all about the numbers
Yes, the flight rating numbers are important…to an extent. Everything listed above is true and I promise I haven’t gone out of my to trick you in the final few paragraphs of this post. But think about what I’m about to say in these next few paragraphs.
The numbers aren’t the end all be all. One of the most important things when it comes to throwing your disc is whether or not it feels good to throw. I’ve talked about my Innova Boss a few times in the last couple of posts here on the site. I love how far it goes and I usually throw it well, but I just hate how the disc feels. Because of that, I don’t throw it much.
All in all, the numbers also don’t mean much when it comes down to how you feel out on the course and how well your round is going. If you’re just absolutely sucking, flight numbers won’t help you. Numbers also don’t mean squat if you don’t use good technique. I mean, if you’re throwing because of what some of those numbers say, and not using good technique, you won’t do well. Practicing is important, too. The flight numbers can’t be used at all if you don’t practice. And if you don’t learn the numbers themselves, they won’t mean anything to you and you can’t do well out on the course.
So make sure you:
• Learn the numbers
• Use good technique
• Stay calm, cool, and collected on the course. Don’t get too frustrated with your play.
• Finally, play with the right discs. Discs that you like, feel good to you, throw even better, and that have flight ratings somewhere around your skill level.
If you do everything that I’ve just listed and keep at it, you’re going to absolutely dominate your rounds on the disc golf course. For more, see our related content below. All right, disc golfers. Get out there and go throw!