Updated: Dec 29, 2020
As you start handling discs or even shopping for them, you may begin to notice that some of them have a series of 4 numbers marked on them.
You may ask yourself,
“What do these numbers mean?”
“What is their significance?”
Both are excellent questions and ones that you’ll want to know the answer to as you dive deeper into the sport.
These 4 numbers represent the expected flight characteristics of a particular disc and in order, these 4 characteristics or ratings are labeled as:
Speed, Glide, Turn, and Fade
Whether the numbers are stamped on the disc or not, every disc has a rating to give you an idea of what that disc’s tendency will be upon release when thrown a certain way.
Each company has a very similar comparison system that is most accurate when comparing 2 discs from the same company but these ratings can be used to compare discs from 2 different companies.
It’s worth noting that some of these ratings will “change” or not seem exact based on the user’s experience level, how the disc is thrown (hyzer vs anhyzer vs flat), and even how “beat in” or worn the disc is with higher quality plastics retaining their characteristics longer than lesser quality plastics.
Nonetheless, they’re simply there to provide a standard method of comparing one disc to another.
Let’s take a look into each rating individually and see how each characteristic uniquely affects disc flight!
The first number on a disc is it’s Speed rating. This number is usually a value between 1-14, with 1 being the slowest and 14 being the fastest.
As a beginner, you’ll find that slower discs are easier to throw as they require less power and are oftentimes more accurate. Think of throwing a baseball vs a wiffle ball. The baseball may be able to be thrown harder and faster, but will require much more effort to do so.
The second number found on a disc is going to be the Glide rating. Glide will be rated on a scale between 1 and 7 with 7 being the highest. Glide can be described as a disc’s tendency to stay afloat when thrown.
Discs with higher glide ratings will want to stay in the air longer than discs with a lower glide rating. Therefore, beginners will be able to throw discs with high glide ratings longer distances more easily.
On the flip side, discs with lower glide will perform better with higher wind because they will be less likely to be “carried” by the wind after being thrown.
Next, we will find the third rating known as Turn. When a disc is thrown back hand by a right handed thrower, the “Turn” indicates how much a disc will want to “turn over” during its initial flight upon release (disc golf lingo for a disc going flat and straight before finishing to the right) and will be rated with a scale between +1 and -5.
In this case, negative numbers indicate more turn and 0 or +1 indicates less turn. A disc rated as +1 will be very resistant to “turning over” whereas a disc rated as -5 will turn over very easily and quickly.
Discs with more turn (-3 to -5) are easier for beginners because they will not have the power to turn the disc over and will end up with a very nice flight pattern.
Discs with more turn will sometimes be referred to as “understable” because they are more likely to finish to the right for a right handed player throwing back hand.
When you throw a disc as a left handed player or when a right handed player throws forehand, the “Turn” rules are reversed and will indicate how much a disc wants to initially go to the left, rather than the right.
Lastly, we come to the 4th rating on a disc known as Fade. If you throw enough discs, you’ll realize that as a right handed player throwing backhand, most discs will want to finish their flight diving to the left. This tendency is known as fade and is rated on a scale from 0 to 5.
Discs rated as 0 will finish their flight the straightest which is why many putters you find will have fade ratings of 0 or 1.
Discs with a fade rating of 5 on the other hand will want to finish their flight hard to the left. Discs with higher fade ratings will be known as stable or overstable because of this tendency.
Similar to the turn rating, the rules for fade will be reversed for left handed players throwing backhand and right handed players throwing forehand.
Putting It All Together
Now that you understand how the ratings work, it’s important to pay attention to what discs you throw well which will change as your skill level and understanding of the game changes.
I know that as an amateur player, I throw discs with a -1 turn and 1 fade or a -2 turn and 2 fade rating better as drivers because I don’t have the greatest arm strength yet. It’s also why I prefer drivers in the speed range of 7 to 10 as I find it more difficult to throw discs far with higher speeds and still achieve my desired flight patterns.
You’ll also begin to notice that certain discs and disc ratings will perform better on certain shots. For example, if you have a straight shot to the basket, you may opt for a disc that has less fade whereas a shot with a hard dog leg left will call for a disc with a higher fade of 2 or 3.
As you can see, the possibilities are endless but is what makes the sport both challenging and fun!
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