The four numbers on the top of disc golf discs are the discs flight pattern when the disc is thrown according to the discs manufactures ideal flight. In fact, the numbers mean from left to right:
- Speed: The speed at which the disc should be flying for ideal flight.
- Lift or Glide: The disc’s ability to keep aloft and in the air.
- Turn: The discs tendency to turn right or flip-up in early flight.
- Fade: The discs strength of left turn at end of the flight
The right and left direction mentioned above is for RHBH (right-hand backhand) throws and will be the format used in this post. If you’re a left-hand thrower the directions are reversed. The disc will turn to the left and will fade to the right. The same will be true for forearm throws as well.
In this post, we’ll dive into exactly what each number is on a flight rating system and how you can use them to improve your disc selection when both throwing and buying new discs.
Why do discs have flight numbers
Discs have flight numbers for many reasons. The most important being disc selection. A disc will have flight numbers that will allow you to choose the right disc for certain shots. They also come in handy when you’re building your bag.
When building your disc golf bag you’ll want to make sure you’re ready for different obstacles and hole layouts. Not all disc you have in your bag will achieve the same flight and results. The quicker you can get a grip on what these numbers mean and how they work with your throws the better equipped you’ll be.
What do the flight numbers mean
Let’s go over each number in the flight chart and describe its general purpose. I say general purpose because as you’re about to see these numbers change as outside variables affect the flight of the disc.
The speed of the disc is the speed it must reach to achieve optimal flight for this particular disc. If the disc reaches this speed in flight it will or should exhibit the other flight characteristics like turn and fade.
A disc is going faster in a headwind and slower in a tailwind.
While one may assume the speed rating of a disc is equal to the strength the disc must be thrown that’s not 100% correct. The speed of the disc in flight is also affected by the wind. A disc going into a headwind is actually going faster than a disc thrown at the same power in a tailwind.
We’ll get into the effects of wind on the flight of a disc later but for this post remember, a disc is going faster is a headwind and slower in a tailwind. When referencing a discs flight ratings it’s important to remember these ratings are for when the disc is thrown at ideal conditions.
Glide as far as disc golf flight ratings are concerned is the discs ability to stay aloft during flight. Discs with higher glide could reach further distances as it’s traveling through the air a little longer than discs with a low glide.
Discs with higher glide could reach further distances as it’s traveling through the air a little longer than discs with low glide.
Disc golf glide has to do with the shape of the disc. The way the disc is shaped will determine how much air is allowed to pass under the disc and also how much air passes over the disc. When air is allowed to travel under the disc it produces more lift. This is why a tailwind will lift your disc if thrown on a hyzer.
Glide is also affected by the way the disc is thrown. Thrown at an angle that allows the wind to be under the disc will allow more lift and therefore more glide. More air over the top of the disc will push the disc down and therefore provide less lift and less glide. This may also equal less distance as well.
Glide is also very much affected by the wind so more about that later when we discuss the winds effect on flight ratings.
Last but not least and highly important is the disc golf discs fade. Fade is the discs tendency to turn over to the left at the end of it’s flight.
Fade is the discs tendency to hook left at the end of the discs flight.
Discs with low-speed fade like a 1 will turn over easily at the end of the flight and they’re for a little straighter.
Discs with a high-speed fade will pull to the left very hard at the end of its flight. A disc with a fade of 3 for instance will almost always finish left and will be very hard to flip over to the right during its flight. High-speed discs are perfect for windy conditions and shots where you need the disc to turn left.
Many players feel discs with high fade ratings are harder to throw. This may be true but isn’t a reason not to have a high fade disc in your bag.
Disc stability and flight numbers
You’ll often hear of a disc being given a characteristic like overstable, stable, and understable. You’ll also hear super overstable and super understable. Let’s break down why these discs have these flight tendencies and how they relate to their flight numbers.
Overstable discs flights
An overstable disc is a disc whose flight has a hard hook to the left at the end of its flight. While most discs will end hooking to the left on a RHBH throw, the overstable disc will hook a bit sooner and have a lot fewer chances of turning over.
An overstable discs flight numbers might look something like this.
Disc used in example: Innova Firebird. Click to get a Firebird from infinitediscs
If we look at the turn and fade for this disc it tells us that the disc will have a hard time turning over to the right if at all with a 0 turn and will have a very strong fade to the left at the end of its flight with a high 4 fade. You can be sure an overstable disc will hook left at the end of its flight and resist the wind better than other discs.
Understable disc flights
An understable disc is a disc whose flight has an early turn to the right at the beginning of the flight and less fade to the left towards the end of its flight. While most discs will flip up a bit on a RHBH throw if thrown fast enough, understable disc will likely turn over in even low disc speeds.
Understable discs are excellent for beginners.
An understable discs flight numbers might look something like this.
Disc used in example: Innova Sidewinder. Click to get a Sidewinder from infinitediscs
If we look at the turn and fade for this disc it tells us that the disc will easily turn over to the right with a -3 turn and will have a soft fade to the left at the end of its flight with a 1 fade. You can be sure an overstable disc will hook left at the end of its flight and resist the wind better than other discs.
Stable discs flights
A stable disc is a disc whose flight has an early turn to the right at the beginning of the flight and about equal fade to the left towards the end of its flight. Most times these discs will flip up on a RHBH throw if thrown fast enough and have an equal amount of fade at the end of its flight.
Stable discs are also excellent for beginners. They’ll get you accurate shots landing pretty much right in front of where you threw it from.
A stable discs flight numbers might look something like this.
Disc used in example: Innova Valkyrie. Click to get a Valkyrie from infinitediscs
If we look at the turn and fade for this disc it tells us that the disc will easily turn over to the right with a -2 turn and will have a predictable fade to the left at the end of its flight with a 2 fade. You can be sure a stable disc will hook left at the end of its flight while getting a good flip up at the beginning of its flight adding distance to your throws.
When to use the flight numbers
Understanding these flight numbers can go a long way for setting up a shot line and choosing a disc to throw to take that route in mind. Flight numbers will help you choose a disc to throw in the wind, help you get around obstacles, and most importantly longer distances off the tee pad.
One cannot have a bag full of stable drivers nor a bag full of understable discs and overstable discs and be prepared for many situations you’ll often find yourself in. Most players build a bag that has a few different types of each of these discs. Knowing these numbers come in handy when you’re out building your first disc golf bag and either shopping or ordering discs online.
Best flight numbers for beginners
Choosing the right discs for beginners can be challenging because not all beginners are created equal. Some come from previous sports like baseball and catch on quickly while others have little to no athletic ability(and that’s perfectly fine). A good rule of thumb is to keep these numbers on the lower end but let’s go over why.
Speeds for beginners
A good general rule of thumb is for beginners to stick to drivers with speeds of a 9 or below. Throwing a disc fast might not be hard but throwing it at the correct angle and keeping accuracy is not as easy to control.
Most players just starting out will find it harder to keep discs with a high speed of 10 or more in the air long enough to get a good flight in. What ends up happening is the disc, no matter the flight numbers doesn’t reach its optimal speed through the air and will bomb out of its flight crashing to the left way sooner than the player intended.
The disc should reach its optimal speed for the other numbers to work together. Lower speeds are easier to achieve and get a predictable flight. Faster discs that don’t get enough speed will do unpredictable turns and may get blown over by the wind and that’s not fun. Trust me.
Glide for beginners
Glide for beginners is a little different. High glide discs will get more lift and potentially longer flights. That said, just because you have a disc with a high glide rating you’ll get those results. Don’t forget once again the disc must be thrown at an acceptable speed. A high-speed driver with high glide will not get you farther if you haven’t learned to throw a high-speed driver.
Find a driver at a speed of 9 and under with a high glide for those long shots down an open fairway. You’ll get more lift and distance as a result.
Drivers with low speeds often referred to as fairway drivers are slower and usually have less glide. These are perfect for long drives under and through trees or other low hanging ceilings. You can get a long flight without a lot of power behind the disc allowing for you to focus more on form and precision.
Disc turn for beginners
Turn on a disc will vary in bag and there’s a good reason for it so let’s talk about why you need discs high turn on a disc.
Discs with a high turn rating with a -3 for instance, will be great for beginners to get longer flights. The discs will want to turn over and get longer flights. These are known as understable discs.
The turn of a disc is greatly affected by the winds. To get an accurate -3 on our example disc the disc must first get up to speed and not have too much wind resistance from any direction. Really the best way to learn this is to get out there and throw some understable disc.
One of the biggest effects on an understable discs flight is the release angle. A disc with a high-turn thrown on an anhyzer will turn even more and just might not make its way back to a nice fade. The same disc thrown flat, should turn over nicely and get a predictable long flight. The same disc now thrown at a hyzer angle may turn over just a little less but may allow you to put a little more power behind the disc and getting more distance for its flight.
I’d recommend having a low turn disc and a high turn disc and practice throwing them on different angles. You can achieve great flight paths from them and or increase your distance. Practice is key to understanding disc turn and how it relates to disc selection.
Disc fade for beginners
Fade on a disc affects its tendency to pull left towards the end of the flight. Let’s start with a high fade rating of a 4 like our driver above. This disc will want to hook left every time. It really wants to fall to the left and finish its flight quickly. These are referred to as overstable discs. overstable disc usually has little no turn.
Again speed is of importance. If a disc is thrown at an optimal speed it will get a nice flight and hook at the end. But, if it doesn’t reach the speed it will quickly hook left a dive into the ground. Or, turn to the left early and expose its underside and get carried away with the wind.
Super over stables disc like the take some time to get used to but are a must in every bag as they are your weapon against the wind. If there is little to no turn on this disc it won’t go wild in the wind and the discs fade will help stabilize the flight and bring it back to a reliable finish to the left.
Low fade disc will be easier for beginners to get used to. A disc with a fade of 2 will still be reliable and overstable as long as there is little to no disc turn.
Wind once again will play a part of the discs fade. The best way to get used to your disc fade is to practice. Again I’d recommend carrying discs with both very high fade like a 0 turn and 4 fade along with low fade discs like a 0 turn and 2 fade.
Why the flight numbers aren’t the final equation
As you can see with the speed of a disc, conditions such as wind, and the angle of which a disc is thrown there are many variables to a discs flight path. These numbers were meant to be a starting point at understanding the flight characteristics the manufacturer had in mind when creating the disc.
They’d like to tell you these discs will do this and that but it really is up to you to get the desired throw from the disc. You will however get more predictable results with throwing disc within your arm speed and skill set. This isn’t to say you should not have any high-speed discs in your bag but you’ll want to know you have a reason for them before purchasing them.
Plastics effects on flight paths
Plastic-type does have an effect on flight paths. Since all manufacturers use different plastic recipes it’s hard to say what will do what. But if you look into the plastic types before you order you can learn about the effects the plastic has on the disc flight from the manufacturer. Some plastics will be more overstable than others or will turn over sooner in its flight.
It’s pretty common for a disc to fly slightly different amongst their various plastic types. Don’t be alarmed as the flight will be pretty similar and will usually come down to personal preference for grip and feel.
using flight numbers to buy new discs
With this knowledge in hand, you can confidently purchase some discs and have an idea of what to expect from them. Not only that you don’t want to end up with a bag full of understable disc especially on windy days. Take these numbers and build a bag that has an arsenal ready to attack any obstacle and more importantly gain distance!Choose your weight and color at infinitediscs.com