I get asked this question a lot by mostly players new to disc golf but also by a lot of frisbee players who are just getting into disc golf but familiar with other types of discs including ultimate discs or dog discs.
I think the best way to choose the right golf disc for someone all depends on their current skill level and as they improve they can buy discs to match their increasing skill level.
A great example of this happened a few days ago when my friend Ashley was at a local retailer who sells golf discs and she asked me “What fade should I buy?”. For the record, I throw Innova and Discmania golf discs. They are the most popular discs on the planet and for good reason – it’s very easy to move up and down between the discs depending on what type of shot you need a disc for. They make great quality discs and they are easy to learn to throw and they fly the best and most consistently of any brand I’ve thrown.
For those not familiar with disc golf speak, there are essentially 4 terms to understand when talking about the physics of a golf disc. Speed, glide, turn and fade. RHBH stands for Right Handed Back Hand.
Speed is the ability of the disc to cut through the air. Speed Ratings are listed from 1 to 14. Discs with high numbers are faster. Faster discs go farther into the wind with less effort. Slower discs take more power to throw, but have less of a chance to fly past the basket.
Glide describes the discs ability to maintain loft during flight. Discs with more glide are best for new players, and for producing maximum distance (especially downwind). Glide is rated from 1 to 7. Beginners looking for more distance should choose discs with more glide.
Turn: High Speed Turn is the tendency of a disc to turn over or bank to the right (for RHBH throws) during the initial part of the flight. A disc with a +1 rating is most resistant to turning over, while a -5 rating will turn the most. Discs rated -2 to -5 make good roller discs.
Fade: Low Speed Fade is the discs tendency to hook left (for RHBH throws) at the end of the flight. Fade is rated from 0 to 5. A disc rated 0 will finish straightest, while a disc rated 5 will hook hard at the end of the flight. Discs with a high fade rating are predictable even in wind.
To simply these definitions even further, we want to choose a disc that has a speed which matches how much snap we can put on the disc, we want to control the turn, maximize the glide and reduce the fade. This is the case for most RHBH shots.
Brief Description of Terms…
Understable discs are much more speed sensitive than stable or overstable discs. An understable disc will often fly stable to overstable at low speed. Beginners tend to throw discs at lower speeds.
So, when Ashley asked me what fade she should buy, she was referring to the disc’s tendency to turns left at the end of the flight. The more fade, the more stable the disc. For new players or players who can’t throw with lots of power or spin, I would recommend throwing a disc with less fade (so between 0 and 2). I would also recommend a lighter disc for women, juniors and older thrower because a heavier disc will require more power to accomplish a preferred flight on the disc whereas a light disc requires less power. A lighter disc would be between 135 grams and 155 gramsI would also recommend a disc with a lower speed rating for a newer player or a juniors/woman/older thrower. A higher speed rating requires more snap on the disc just to have it fly the preferred flight path. At first, I would suggest a speed between 6 and 9 until the thrower gets more comfortable throwing and can throw with more snap.
Too often, I hear about new players going to buy golf discs and being told that a Boss or Destroyer is a great driver. However, a Boss is a speed 13 and a Destroyer is a 12. That is way too fast for a new player (plus both discs are far too stable for new players).
The best way to find out if a disc will work for you (regardless of brand or disc) is to go to a field, throw the disc totally flat with about 90% power and watch what happens. If the disc turns over easily to the right, you can handle a more stable disc. If the disc fades hard to the left, you can throw a more understable disc.
It’s good to carry a variety of discs in your bag. Myself, I have mostly overstable mids/fairway drivers/long range drivers because I throw with a lot of spin and power but I also have some understable discs, depending on what kind of shot I am throwing. For a right turning hole, I will throw a sidearm and for a left turning hole, I will throw a backhand.
If you are brand new to disc golf, start off with a putter and a midrange. Work up to a fairway driver and then a long range driver. Buy more than one putter so you can have a stack to practice with. Just like in ball golf, the old adage “drive for show and putt for dough” applies in disc golf. If you can make putts around 20-25 feet with a high percentage, you will have a lot of birdies and will do very well in tournaments. I carry 4 putters, 7 mids and 10 drivers. Each course will affect which discs you add to or remove from your bag but you will start developing a core stack that you will always have in your bag. Elevation affects how discs fly as well. If you play a round in Fort Collins, Colorado (5,000 feet above sea level) vs Fredericksburg, Virginia (59 feet above sea level), you will notice that discs are overstable in Colorado and understable in Virginia so you will need to adjust accordingly.
Honestly the best disc for new disc golfers to throw is an Innova Zephyr. It flies similar to an ultimate disc but it has a more blunt edge so once you learn how to throw it, it will glide longer and is slightly move overstable than an ultimate disc. Learning to throw a variety of weights, designs and brands of discs will only enhance your game, no matter what disc sport you choose to play. Start slow, develop the proper mechanics first and then hone in on your technique.
If you have any questions about choosing the right disc, feel free to Contact Me. Cheers!