How to Pick Discs for Disc Golf
So I assume you stumbled here because you were searching for things like "Best Disc Golf Discs" or "Best Discs for Disc Golf" or something like that. If so, you are in the right place! When first looking for discs, many people get confused and think why do I need a disc for frisbee golf? Which is a great question. The difference between a disc and a frisbee is pretty noticeable in your hand, but becomes even more apparent when you throw it. A disc is more compact and in general has a sharper edge that makes it able to fly farther and give you more control. This also can lead to a frustrating and overwhelming process of picking your first disc golf disc. By the end of this article, you should be able to browse your favorite disc golf store and know exactly what you need for your game.
Types of Disc Golf Discs
I still remember when I first got into disc golf and was so overwhelmed by the amount of choices. There were putters and drivers and then fairway drivers and mid ranges and then sometimes you would hear people talk about approach discs or utility discs and hybrids... My head was spinning. In reality, it is pretty simple and self explanatory for what discs you need and should use when. It just seems complex when you are first stepping into it all.
The first type of disc that you are going to need, and when you are just starting out it is the only one you need, is a Putter. The thing that players get hung up on when starting is that they think a putter is only used for putting. In reality, a putter is going to be the easiest disc for you to get to go where you want it to. It is the most frisbee like disc that we use and requires a low amount of speed to get it to hold a straight line. When first starting a neutral putter such as the Aviar, Warden, Roach, or PA-4 will quickly become your go to for control shots and getting the disc into the basket.
The second type of disc you hear about will be Mid-Range discs. Typically a mid-range is a shallower disc than a putter but will have some similar flight characteristics. This disc is used for control on approaches and drives and covers a wide variety of shots. Within the mid-range category, you will sometimes hear people talk about approach discs as well. These are typically closer to putters while still being a bit too shallow to really fall into that putter category. When picking out a mid-range, the flight characteristics start to become very important. They take a bit more throwing speed than the putter to get them to hold straight so it is important to pick one out that is what disc golfers call "understable." If you do not know what understable means yet, just know for now that if you hear that a disc is understable it typically means that it is going to be easier for you to throw straight with less power. This is important when first starting so that you do not get frustrated with a disc falling out of the sky away from where you want it to go. When starting out, I would suggest a mid such as the Sol, Tursas, Paradox, or Mako 3.
Next down the line you will hear people talk about Fairway Drivers. Fairway Drivers fill a very important slot in an advanced players bag and are as far as a beginner should look. They provide you with more distance than mid-ranges without sacrificing too much control. This is the first category where you will really see the sharp edges of a disc come out and start to see why we use disc golf discs instead of frisbees for disc golf. Similarly to how the mid-range required more arm speed than the putter to get it to fly straight, the fairway will require more arm speed than the mid range on a throw. Within the Fairway Driver category, you will also hear the term 'Utility Disc' thrown around. This is typically in reference to a disc that has something unique about its flight and therefore is only brought out in certain situations. In general you will hear discs like the Firebird, Flare, Raptor, or Felon in this utility disc category, all of which I recommend you stay away from as a beginner. Much like the mid-ranges, we want to make sure we stay on the easy to throw, understable side of the spectrum with the fairways. I would lean towards something like a Leopard, Heat, Diamond, or H7 for your first fairway driver.
Finally we have arrived at the one that everyone wants to throw but should avoid until they are ready, the Distance Driver. The distance driver is the one that is most alluring sitting on the shelf as it calls to you and makes you want to believe that throwing 300+ feet is just as easy as picking it up and taking it out to the field! If only that were true. A distance driver has the sharpest edge of all the discs on the market and a wider rim for your fingers to wrap around that requires the most speed to get a predictable flight. If you have noticed a pattern, the further the disc can be thrown, the less predictable the flight becomes. This is why it is important as a new player to stick to discs that are easy to throw and learn with for the best results and the most fun. Players choose Distance drivers to exchange accuracy for distance in situations where that is necessary. Until your arm speed can handle them though, you will be accuracy for essentially nothing as they will be going just as far as your mids and fairways. When you feel that you are ready to take them on, I recommend checking out the Jet, Thrasher, Shryke, or Hades.
As you start browsing discs and trying to make a decision on what you want to purchase, one thing that you will notice is the different prices and looks of the discs. Each manufacturer has a spectrum of plastics that will change how long the disc will want to stay true to its intended flight. As you use a disc, it starts to wear down and the flight starts to change. The cheaper the plastic the quicker that it will beat in and change its flight. Most advanced players use the cheaper base line plastic for their putters and sometimes mid ranges and then use the more expensive premium plastic for their fairway and distance drivers. When first starting out, the best option is a lot of times the cheaper baseline plastic as it will allow you to try out discs without committing much money to them and then decide if you would like to purchase the more premium option that is on the market.
The baseline plastic is typically the option with the most grip from the manufacturer and will be priced in the $7-$13 range. This plastic is opaque and has a somewhat chalky feel. Some examples are DX from Innova, Putter Line from Discraft, Prime from Dynamic, or 300 from Prodigy.
The next plastic that you will see is the translucent premium plastic. This plastic is typically the slickest but most durable that a company makes. It is typically used in players bags for throwing putters, mid ranges, and fairway drivers. Some examples are Champion from Innova, Z from Discraft, Lucid from Dynamic, or 400 from Prodigy.
The final plastic that you will consistently see from manufacturers is their opaque premium blend. This is typically a little bit softer than the translucent premium plastic mentioned above. This is typically used for Fairway and Distance drivers. Some examples are Star from Innova, ESP from Discraft, Fusion from Dynamic, or 750 from Prodigy.
Those are the main types of plastic, but each manufacturer tends to have unique runs as well. Take Gateway for instance who has a ton of variety in each category. For the most part, you can look at the price and sheen of the plastic to tell if it is baseline or premium. You can also tell based on feel if you are able to visit an in person store. A premium plastic will typically feel a little bit on the slicker side and more stiff than most baselines.
The final thing that you will need to be aware of when looking at discs is the weird numbers that are on the front of the disc. These are known as 'Flight Numbers' and if you want to take a deep dive, you can do so with this article we wrote a while ago titled 'Disc Golf Flight Numbers'. If you don't want to go too deep with it, I will quickly explain these mysterious numbers here.
In general there are 4 numbers that will help you have a rough idea of what the disc will do when you throw it. The first number listed is the speed of the disc. This is typically determined by the rim width (the wider the rim, the faster the disc) and denotes how fast a disc needs to be thrown to achieve the optimal flight described by the rest of the numbers. This number also speaks to how "fast" the disc will cut through the air. This number is not super important, but will give you a solid gauge on how the disc will feel if you cannot get your hands on it before purchasing one.
The second number of the four describes the glide of the disc. The higher the number, the more likely the disc is to want to stay in the air. Typically you want your wind fighting discs to have a low second number and your distance discs, putters, and mids to have a higher second number. Some players say that this number is the least accurate of them and they would be correct. It is important to not get caught up in the actual number but instead to hear the story that the number is trying to tell. A disc with 7 glide isn't crazy because it has 7 glide but speaks instead to the overall design of the disc and how the flight will make it seem like that disc does not want to get to the ground.
The third number that you will find on here is the turn of a disc. This number essentially means how much a disc will go the opposite way of what you would expect before finishing back. So for a right handed backhand player, the turn would denote the amount of distance a disc will ride to the right before fading (the next number) to end the flight. This number is basically always a negative number so the lower the number the more it will turn.
The final number denotes the fade of the disc. This is how hard the disc will finish its flight. The higher the number the harder the finish to the left for a right hand backhand player. This number in combination with the glide will give you the best description between a really overstable disc and a controllable flight with a forward pushing finish.
Putting it All Together
Hopefully now you feel more confident when looking through discs and trying to decide what disc golf disc you need to buy! Trying new discs and different plastics is one of the most fun parts of playing disc golf. There is nothing like finding the perfect disc to fit the missing slot in your bag. One thing that we have developed to make your search for the best discs for disc golf as easy as possible is our sorting tool. This allows you to choose the type of disc and stability that you are looking for within each manufacturer so you can discover new discs to cover every slot in your bag! Using the information from this article and the sorting tool, you will be on your way to a new personal best in no time!
Great article. For some reason it just now clicked that the numbers on the disk are how they will impact the disc through its throw and flight. Starting on the left side, how fast your arm speed, once it leaves your hand is what it does as it flies, then what it will do while its gliding, and then finally how it will finish. The order of the numbers is essentially the discs story of how it will move through the different stages of flight. Seems super obvious now, but never thought of it. Thanks!
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