When you start playing disc golf, you have to select the discs you will be using. One disc manufacturer, Innova, came up with a rating system for the flight characteristics of their discs, and it proved useful enough that all manufacturers have adopted it.
Stamped on every disc is a set of numbers that look like this:
Each of these numbers represents a different characteristic of the expected flight for that disc. They are, in order, Speed, Glide, Turn, and Fade.
Speed represents how hard the disc needs to be thrown in order to achieve its ideal flight. It ranges from 1 to 14. The higher the speed, the harder you need to throw the disc. In an earlier post I wrote about my difficulties getting one of my disks to fly, and that was because I wasn’t able to throw it hard enough, as I’m just a beginner. It takes time to build the strength and refine your technique in order to achieve the high speed throws that such a disc requires. The disc I was using had a speed of 12, and I wasn’t even close to being able to throw that hard.
High speed discs are drivers; i.e., when you need your throw to go a long way. More distance on a tee shot is almost always good, but you don’t want to lose accuracy, especially on a tight course. My home course is typical South Texas scrub, which includes a lot of cactus, so you don’t want to end up there! Below is where I ended up in one of my early rounds – another foot or two and it would have been painful to retrieve!
Speaking of distance, the second number in the ratings is Glide. This describes the disc’s ability to remain in flight, and ranges from 1 to 7. A disc spins when thrown, providing a gyroscopic effect, and also has a wing-like shape, which provides lift. Those two together determine how long a disc’s flight will last until it starts to drop. This is why the Speed is important: a harder throw will provide more lift and more gyroscopic stability, and the disc’s design is optimized to take advantage of that. For beginners, who can’t throw at such high Speeds, the driver discs are designed to Glide further by maximizing loft at lower speeds. For a beginner, the trick is to find a driver that flies the furthest that you can control. That generally means finding the highest Glide number for the highest speed you can reliably throw.
That’s enough for one post. I’ll continue tomorrow with explanations on the second two numbers, Turn and Fade.