Distance Driver vs. Fairway Driver: What’s the Difference?

Understanding disc golf can be hard at first.

With different types of discs, disc plastics, disc brands, types of throws, flight numbers, and all kinds of other terminology, it can honestly be pretty overwhelming. But that’s what DiscgolfNOW.com is here for: learning all things disc golf.

So today, we’re going to be looking at distance drivers and fairway drivers. Why? Well, because drivers are awesome, there are many differences between each type of driver, and it’s important to know what those differences are.

Distance drivers and fairway drivers might seem similar, but the differences couldn’t be more staggering. And that’s what this post is about – why these types of drivers are different and why you need to know.

It’s time to keep improving your disc golf knowledge. You ready? Alright, let’s go!

What’s the difference between a distance driver and a fairway driver in disc golf?

While both of these discs are disc golf drivers, there are numerous differences between a distance driver and a control driver – so what’s the difference?

The difference between a distance driver and a fairway driver is the size of the disc, the speed rating, how much distance each disc can actually get, and the accuracy of the disc. But even though they might be different, it’s important to have both types of drivers in your disc golf bag for various situations on the disc golf course.

So here’s a short excerpt of each difference:

  • Distance drivers are super thin, sharp, and sleek. They’re meant to be aerodynamic, while fairway/control drivers are a bit thicker in size.
  • Distance drivers have a higher speed rating, meaning they have to be thrown harder than fairway drivers. Fairway drivers have a slower speed rating and don’t have to be thrown as hard.
  • Distance drivers allow disc golfers to throw for more distance, hence the reason why they’re called “distance” drivers. They’re max distance discs. Fairway drivers are meant to tackle shorter drives and provide you more distance than mid-range discs, but less than distance drivers.
  • Lastly, with distance drivers, the ability to be accurate is greatly diminished. You have to throw them super hard and you aren’t able to be as accurate. Fairway/control drivers are easier to throw and are easier to control for better accuracy.

So again, the main differences of these two discs are…

  • Physical size of the disc
  • Speed of the disc
  • Distance potential of the disc and…
  • Accuracy of the disc

Let’s go over all of these in detail and see exactly how distance drivers and fairway drivers differ.

All of the differences between the two drivers (explained in detail)

Size of the disc

Distance driver: distance drivers are almost always thinner than fairways drivers. Companies aim for razor-thin discs that are sleek and extraordinarily aerodynamic. As time goes by, distance drivers continue to get thinner and thinner, upping the ante for what actually is a distance driver.

Fairway driver: just as distance drivers get thinner, so do fairway drivers. However, these discs will always be just a bit thicker than the distance discs. Size is actually the most subtle difference between drivers these days, with discs becoming sleeker and plastics becoming much higher in quality. It’s really hard to tell the differences between these discs sometimes without actually looking at the details on the front stamp!

Speed of the disc

Distance driver: distance drivers, because of their speed rating, are always much more challenging. Distance discs usually have a speed rating between 11-15, and as the speed rating gets higher, the amount of speed needed increases in order for the disc to fly correctly.

Common misconception: most newer players think a speed rating is how fast a disc can fly. This isn’t true. A disc’s speed rating isn’t how fast the disc flies, but how hard the disc must be thrown by a disc golfer to fly correctly.

If you don’t throw your disc hard enough, you’ll most likely end up with a poorly thrown disc when the disc fades hard or flies erratically. Hence the reason why beginners should NOT throw distance drivers.

But for those who can throw distance drivers with enough power, you’ll experience much more distance behind your throw.

Fairway driver: fairway drivers are much more forgiving and easier to throw than their distance counterparts. Fairway drivers have speed ratings ranging from 6-10, which means the amount of speed and power needed behind each throw is much less than that of a faster distance driver. But with less speed, comes less distance. You might be more accurate, but fairway drivers just can’t match a distance driver’s distance potential.

So let’s check out some differences in driver distance.

Distance potential

Distance driver: this is where you can actually see drivers differentiate the most. Distance drivers equal max distance. If you’ve got the arm, and throw these discs with enough speed, you’re likely to get 400+ feet or more out of them. And that’s average. Distance potential on distance drivers is only limited to your arm strength. Some players can get over 500 feet or more from their drivers!

Fairway driver: so as far as distance goes, distance drivers reign supreme. Fairway drivers just don’t match up when it comes to max distance. However, fairway drivers are still able to crank out long drives and other shorter distance fairway throws. So don’t count them out. They’ll provide a moderate amount of distance and much more accuracy. Plus, most fairway drivers are perfect starter drivers for newer disc golfers.

To learn how to improve your distance on the disc golf course, check out this post – The 27 Best Disc Golf Distance Tips for Beginners.


Distance driver: obviously, with distance drivers, you’re going to get less accuracy. It’s just a fact. These are difficult discs to throw and they take a strong arm with lots of power. With that comes a lack of control and accuracy. But when you’re looking for mostly distance, distance drivers are the way to go.

And the cool thing is, you’re really not losing THAT MUCH accuracy with distance drivers once you have the skill to throw them. Over time,  your skills will continue to improve to where you’re deadly accurate with even the most challenging of distance discs.

Fairway driver: fairway drivers, on the opposite side of the driver spectrum, offer superior control and accuracy. This makes them easier to throw or “control on the fairway.” That’s why they’re called fairway and control drivers interchangeably. However, with these discs, you won’t get as much distance. They’re built for control, not distance.

But, in a similar fashion to a player’s ability to improve his accuracy with distance drivers over time, any player has the ability to improve their distance with fairway drivers over time. You just have to keep at it with both drivers and you’ll be an absolute beast on the disc golf course.

To learn how to improve your accuracy on the disc golf course, check out this post – The 7 Best Disc Golf Accuracy Tips to Always Hit Your Line!

3 Reasons why knowing the difference between drivers is important

1. You’re a beginner: if you’re a brand new player, it’s important to know the difference between and fairway driver and a distance driver for two reasons. First, as a brand new player, you should NOT be using distance drivers. They’re too difficult. Second, you need to know what discs to start with and what discs you’ll slowly be moving toward.

You need to know the difference between each disc. It’s important for when you start. Along with that, you should also be learning the flight rating (with this flight ratings post) and learning how to improve (with this disc golf tips post).

2. Different discs for different situations: as you progress in skill level, you’ll start to understand that first concept pretty well. You’ll improve and start throwing more challenging discs as time goes on. But you’ll also start to understand that fairway drivers and distance drivers can be used separately in various different driving situations. I won’t go into detail in this post, mainly because there are an infinite number of different situations. Over time, though, you’ll learn what discs work for you and in what situations.

3. If you want to be a great disc golfer: lastly, you need to know the difference between these two discs as part of your overall disc golf knowledge and skill. To be a truly great disc golfer, you have to be both a skilled player on the course and an expert in technical disc golf knowledge. Understanding the differences in this post is just a small, yet very important part of that technical knowledge of the game. And it’s knowledge to build on over time.

If you want to be a great disc golfer, you have to work for it. And this post can help with that.

The 3 best distance drivers

1. Innova DestroyerBest disc golf distance drivers 2021

Arguably the best disc golf driver in all of disc golf…for MANY years. It flies well and gives you lots of distance. However, this disc is not for beginners. If you’ve got the skills, grab one here on Discgolfunited.com.

2. Infinite Discs PharaohBest disc golf discs

Ever since its release a few years back, I’ve really liked the Pharaoh. Infinite has done well to design a great disc and the disc itself has really stood up well against others like the Innova Destroyer and the Discraft Zeus. I personally bag this disc. Grab yours here on InfiniteDiscs.com.

3. Dynamic Discs SheriffFastest disc golf discs

I LOVE the Sheriff. This has been my distance driver of choice ever since the beginning and it has continued to perform well year after year. I’ve bagged this disc for a long time and it’s never let me down, so I feel like you could benefit from it, too! Grab yourself one here on InfiniteDiscs.com.

The 3 best fairway drivers

1. Innova LeopardBest disc golf control drivers

The Leopard is hands down the best fairway driver for newer players. I mean, it’s really a great driver overall. And even brand new, day one beginners can take advantage of it. Get one here on Discgolfunited.com.

2. Latitude 64 Riverbest disc golf disc for beginners

The River is also another really awesome disc for all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or super advanced, this disc will work for you. Get a River here on InfiniteDiscs.com.

3. Infinite Discs Sphinxbest understable disc golf discs for beginners

The Sphinx is a bit newer than the Leopard or the River, but it fit right in once players started testing it out. I’m a big fan of the Sphinx and highly recommend it. So grab one here on InfiniteDiscs.com.

What about the power driver?!

Let’s not forget about the Power Driver! There aren’t a whole lot of power drivers out today, but I do believe that this disc is slightly different than both distance and fairway drivers. But what is a power driver?

So what is a Power Driver?

Power drivers represent a middle ground in between distance and fairway drivers. Most power drivers require more speed on the disc than fairway drivers, but less speed than distance drivers. And as for distance, they will also normally fly a bit further than fairway drivers, yet not quite as far as distance drivers. However, most power drivers are highly overstable and require big arms to throw them.

These discs aren’t a whole lot different than distance and fairway drivers, but do represent an entire separate type of drivers that just don’t get enough attention yet. But I believe they will in the near future as companies compete for who has the best discs on the market. Especially for power drivers, as this type of disc is highly underrated and there aren’t that many available to date.

Power drivers, from what I’ve seen, are best utilized by advanced throwers due to them being slightly challenging to throw. Most of them have a lot of overstability, causing them to fade hard if not thrown hard and with lots of power. But if you’ve got the skill, these discs can be awesome additions to your disc golf bag and can be used for a variety of shot-shaping situations on the disc golf course.

The best power driver on the market

The Discmania PD “Freak”Best disc golf discs

As one of the only true power drivers on the market, this thing is a beast. It’s incredibly overstable, yet can make a serious impact on your disc golf game if you utilize it properly. Grab a PD here on InfiniteDiscs.com.

Know the difference!

In short, it’s EXTREMELY important to understand the differences between all three types of drivers in this post. Especially the distance and fairway drivers. Because each type of driver functions a little different than the others.

The fairway driver is the thickest in size, slowest in speed, shortest in distance potential, but most accurate of all types of drivers. Easy to throw but NOT AS MUCH distance.

The distance driver is the thinnest in size, fastest in speed, longest in distance, but least accurate of all types of drivers. Hard to throw but A LOT of distance.

The power driver is fairly new and definitely underrated, but should only be used by advanced players with big arms and the ability to throw for power. However, don’t think that these discs can’t be awesome to use on the course. They’re probably the most fun drivers out right now. But there aren’t many power drivers Lon the market. Maybe in the future, but not yet.

So now you know the difference between all three types of disc golf driver. They’re all unique and provide players with excellent driving options to help improve skill and start seriously crushing it on the disc golf course!

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Check out the book!

If you’re looking for more tips and tricks on how to play disc golf, check out my book, “The Disc Golf Player’s Manual.” This ultimate beginner’s guide is loaded with over 200 pages of content, helping you to improve your game AND lower score on the disc golf course. Check it out here on my site.


I am an avid disc golfer and lover of the sport. My mission with DiscgolfNOW.com is to reach as many people as possible to help them love disc golf, too!

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