Disc Golf Speed Rating – What Does it Really Mean?

Disc Golf Discs displaying speed ratings in the flight numbers

Last updated on March 4th, 2024 at 11:01 am

Last updated by Simon

The speed rating of a disc golf disc ranges from 1 to 14 and is indicative of the disc’s potential velocity as it cuts through the air. This rating is not just a measure of how fast a disc can travel but, more importantly, how much power or speed a thrower must impart to the disc to achieve its intended flight characteristics. If you’ve got a strong throw and plenty of experience, you’ll get substantially more distance with high-speed discs. Conversely, discs with lower speed ratings are more forgiving and suitable for beginners or those with slower arm speeds.

Rim Thickness and Air Dynamics

The primary differentiator between discs of varying speed ratings is the thickness of their rim, also known as rim width or wing length. Discs that zip through the air at high speeds have thicker rims, which makes them cut through the wind faster and fly farther. The physics behind this is straightforward: a wider rim can hold more air under the disc during flight, reducing drag and allowing it to maintain speed over longer distances. This design characteristic is why distance drivers, typically rated between 11 and 14 in speed, have pronouncedly thick rims.

On the other hand, mid-range discs and putters, with speed ratings from 1 to 5, have much thinner rims. When you’re dealing with tight spots on the course or just need a short, sharp shot, these discs are your go-to for nailing it with precision.Photo Showing differences in Disc Golf Rim Widths

Aerodynamics and Flight Path

While high-speed discs with wide rims have potential for impressive distance, their aerodynamic shape comes with distinct flight characteristics. The wider rims are key—they crank up the disc’s stability mid-flight, making it less likely to flip. But, this added gyroscopic resistance is what gives the rims their stability mid-air, warding off any unwanted somersaults or deviations. But crafting a film from a beloved book is tricky; viewers often judge the movie’s worth by how well it mirrors the vivid scenes they’ve conjured in their minds while reading. this resistance comes at a cost. As the disc slows down, it loses that gyroscopic force, leading to a more pronounced “low-speed fade” where it drifts significantly in the direction opposite its spin.

Ground Play and Skips

Additionally, the wide rim design interacts differently with the ground, generating more “ground play” – meaning it bounces and skips more readily after landing. This added bounce can stretch how far it goes, throwing a curveball into the game’s predictability. This unpredictability means that even a well-aimed throw can end up off target, thanks to the whims of the terrain. But this means you could find your disc taking an unexpected detour, particularly on bumpy terrain. So,while high-speed discs offer impressive distance potential, their wide rims bring trade-offs in terms of control and predictability, especially during the crucial ending stages of flight.

Matching Disc Speed to Player Ability

Understanding the significance of the disc golf speed rating is crucial for players aiming to optimize their game. A common mistake among newcomers is gravitating towards high-speed discs in the pursuit of distance. However, without the necessary arm speed and technique, these discs will likely not achieve their designed flight path, often resulting in less distance and accuracy and more frustration. Therefore, players should select discs with speed ratings that match their throwing capabilities, gradually moving to higher-rated discs as their technique and arm speed improve.

The Integral Role of Speed in Disc Selection

The speed rating is more than just a number; it’s a guideline that influences disc selection and strategic play. Picking the right disc, with a speed rating that suits the hole you’re playing, can help systemize your disc golf abilities and make each shot count. Whether it’s a tight, technical shot requiring precision or a wide-open hole where maximum distance is key, understanding and utilizing the speed rating can make all the difference.

Now we will break down the differences and similarities of discs golf discs of each speed rating.

Speed One Discs

Speed 1 discs in disc golf are typically putters with the thinnest rims, designed for precision and control rather than distance. The rim thickness on a speed one disc rarely exceeds 1cm in width and is often times substantially more narrow.

Built for pinpoint accuracy, speed 1 discs are the go-to choice when you’re aiming to nail those clutch putts from up close. The thin rim of a speed 1 disc facilitates a comfortable grip, allowing players to focus on accuracy and stability during their putt or approach. These discs are going to “stay straight” and not fade at the end of the flight.

Speed 2 Discs

Viking Discs Rune Speed 2 Putter

Speed 2 discs are highly favored for putting in disc golf, known for their balance between grip comfort and precision. These discs feature slightly thicker rims than speed 1 putters that typically are around 1.2cm thick, catering to players seeking stable and predictable flight for short-range shots. Crafted for pinpoint precision, these discs are the top pick when every putt counts. Popular among players for their reliability in the putting circle, speed 2 discs embody the essential qualities for scoring with precision, solidifying their status as the most popular speed for putting putters.

Speed 3 Discs

Speed 3 discs in disc golf represent a slight step up in velocity compared to their speed 2 counterparts with a rim width of around 1.3cm. Speed 3 putters strike a sweet spot, offering the finesse for precise putts and enough heft to bridge shorter approaches effectively. They are still widely utilized as putting putters due to their reliable performance in short-range shots but tend to exhibit a bit more fade than speed 2 discs. Players keen on sharpening their approach game often reach for speed 3 discs, thanks to their knack for tighter control and consistent stability when it counts.

Speed 4 Discs

Westside Discs Harp in Origio Burst Plastic.Speed 4 discs are typically as slower midrange discs, commonly employed for approach shots due to their balanced blend of control and distance. These discs, sporting rims of 1.4-1.5cm that aren’t too thick or thin, are crafted for a dependable flight every time you throw them—making them clutch when you’re trying to nail those approach shots. Notably, some of the most popular speed 4 midrange discs are overstable approach discs, prized for their ability to withstand wind and provide a consistent fade at the end of their flight. This characteristic makes them highly valued among players looking to navigate tight windows or land precisely near the basket, solidifying speed 4 discs as a versatile and essential component in the disc golfer’s bag.

Speed 5 Discs

roc vs roc3 vs buzzz

Speed 5 discs strike that perfect harmony in disc golf, offering enough distance for long throws yet maintaining the precision needed for midrange shots. Speed 5 mids typically have a rim width of 1.5cm. Unlike putters or even some drivers, many speed 5 discs feature wider diameters, which contributes to their stability and ease of control during flight. That wider size? It’s a game-changer for all sorts of throws where you want the disc to hold the same line. You need to be on point and handle the course with slick moves—that’s where it really shines. The larger size of these discs not only aids in their steady flight but is also key for players aiming to blend distance with pinpoint control on the way to the basket. It’s possible to find speed five discs that are able to fly perfectly straight without any variance.

Speed 6 Discs

leopard vs leopard3Speed 6 discs are the sweet spot for disc golfers who want more control than a typical fairway driver and extra distance over a midrange. The rims of these discs are typically 1.6-1.7cm in width with a shape that more closely resembles a driver than it does a midrange. This speed rating isn’t as common as other discs, providing a specialized choice for players seeking a blend of distance and control that neither traditional midranges nor fairway drivers can offer precisely.

Some of the most cherished speed 6 discs are understable drivers, valued for their ability to navigate tight spaces with precision while still providing some distance with minimal throwing speed. While they might fly under the radar, speed 6 discs are clutch for players looking to dial in their game with unmatched accuracy and finesse. Speed 6 drivers are also very common in starter sets. Ready to tweak your game with something different? Check out our selection of speed 6 discs—they could be just what your disc golf bag is missing.

Speed 7 Discs

Infinite Centurion Speed 7 driverSpeed 7 fairway drivers occupy the sweet spot between control and distance. They lack the raw power of higher speed discs but offer predictable flight paths and manageable speed for a wider range of players. Think of them as the “just right” porridge of the disc golf world – not too hot, not too cold, but offering a smooth, controllable flight for precise throws and dependable distance, even for those with slower arm speeds.

Seven speed fairway drivers have a comfortable, thin 1.7 – 1.8cm rim. Whether you’re carving tight lines through the woods or navigating technical fairways, a speed 7 fairway driver can be your trusty companion, offering confidence and accuracy without sacrificing respectable distance.

Speed 8 Fairway Drivers

Latitude 64 Diamond in Opto Air PlasticWhile not as ubiquitous as their speed 7 cousins, speed 8 fairway drivers carve out a unique niche in the disc golf landscape. These discs with 1.8 – 1.9cm wing length bridge the gap between the control-oriented speed 7s and the distance-focused speed 9s, offering a touch more power than the former without sacrificing the workability of the latter. Speed 8 discs hit that sweet spot, giving players the confidence to extend their reach without wrestling with the more demanding high-speed drivers.

Speed 8 discs excel at handling a variety of throws, offering dependable glide on straight lines, the ability to hold moderate anhyzer lines, and a predictable fade at the end of their flight. Whether you’re just getting the hang of the game or already nailing those technical throws, Speed 8 discs are your go-to for consistent performance and precision on the fairway. Think of them as the “Goldilocks plus one” of fairways – offering a touch more oomph while retaining the control and finesse that many fairway drivers are known for.

Speed 9 Fairway Drivers

Sphinx Speed 9 DriverWhen it comes to unleashing bombs on the fairway, speed 9 drivers reign supreme. Speed 9 drivers are the sweet spot for disc golfers aiming to cover great distances without wrestling with overly wide rim discs. Think of them as the nitrous boost for your fairway throws, providing that extra “oomph” to reach those par 4s in two or blast downwind with confidence. But the magic doesn’t stop there. Speed 9 drivers also offer surprising versatility. Their stable flight characteristics can handle hyzer flips, hold long anhyzer lines, and deliver moderate fade at the end. Speed 9 drivers typically have a rim width of 1.9-2cm.

However, it’s important to remember that arm speed matters. While tempting, beginners often struggle with discs faster than a speed 9. To tap into the full potential of these discs, you’ll need a strong arm—forcing it could mess up your technique and leave you with unpredictable throws. If you’re new to the sport, stick to slower speeds like 7 or 8 to hone your technique. But once you’ve developed your throw and crave long bombs, a speed 9 fairway driver can become your trusty distance companion, unlocking new levels of power and control on the course. Just remember, even with nitrous, mastering the wheel comes first!

Speed 10 Discs

Clash Discs SpiceSpeed 10 drivers occupy an intriguing twilight zone in the disc golf world. Lacking the raw muscle of true distance drivers yet exceeding the controllability of fairways, they’re considered “tweener” discs. This niche status might make them less common, but don’t underestimate their utility. For powerful throwers, speed 10s offer impressive distance on controlled hyzerflips and long, turnover lines. Speed 10 drivers typically have rim widths of 2cm.

However, their speed demands commitment. Beginners and even developing players might find them unforgiving, often resulting in uncontrollable flips and harsh fades. So, while speed 10s shine in skilled hands, remember, great power comes with great responsibility (and arm speed)!

Speed 11 Drivers

Viking Discs Ragnarok

Speed 11 drivers sit at the gateway to distance driver territory, offering power without the sheer, sometimes unruly, speed of their 12+ brethren. Speed 11 discs have rim widths of 2-2.1 cm and hit the sweet spot for up-and-comers who are working their way up to mastering those high-speed distance drivers. Speed 11s let you chuck them far without losing your grip on the game, so you can zero in on technique and carving out those paths through the air instead of just trying to keep up with a zippy disc. They excel at handling hyzer flips and turnovers, offering predictable fade at the end for reliable finishes. Even the pros turn to these discs for their ability to handle tight spots and gusty play with finesse. So, while they might not pack the raw power of their faster counterparts, speed 11 drivers deliver impressive distance in a user-friendly package, making them a valuable asset for intermediate players and a trusty companion for experienced throwers seeking control alongside power.

Speed 12 Drivers

Westside Discs Sword 12 Speed Driver

Speed 12 drivers are the heavy hitters of disc golf distance drivers, demanding serious arm speed to unlock their true potential. Think Innova Destroyer, the disc of choice for many top pros. Typically sporting rim widths between 2.2 and 2.3cm, these behemoths offer explosive distance, but control can be elusive for all but the strongest throwers. Their wide rims also contribute to significant low-speed fade, meaning they tend to turn hard left (for right-handed players) at the end of their flight. While not recommended for beginners, for those with the power to tame them, speed 12 drivers offer unmatched distance potential for laser-straight bombs or carving powerful turnovers. Just remember, great power comes with great responsibility (and a strong throwing arm)!

Speed 13 and 14 Drivers

Pharaoh 13 Speed Driver

Speed 13 and 14 drivers venture into the realm of the truly extreme, pushing the boundaries of disc golf distance. Think of them as the nuclear options (one speed 14 disc is actually named the Nuke), demanding even more arm speed and control than their speed 12 counterparts. Rim widths hovering around 2.3 to 2.5 centimeters turn these discs into powerhouses, primed for some seriously long-distance throws.

But mastering that control is an even bigger hurdle to clear. Even seasoned professionals struggle to handle these discs consistently, and beginners should just stay away. The trade-off for immense distance is often extreme low-speed fade and unpredictable skips, making them situational weapons rather than everyday workhorses. If you crave max-distance potential and have the power to control them, these discs can be thrilling rewards, but for most players, it’s wise to admire them from afar and stick to more manageable speeds.

Do Faster Discs Fly Farther?

To help you better understand how disc golf speed works, Bodanza addresses the myth that faster discs fly farther. He does a great job explaining disc speed and how faster discs have more potential to fly farther even though they might not necessarily give you more distance.

Conclusion

When picking out a disc, the disc golf speed rating tells you how much oomph you need to give it and how it’ll slice through the air. Grasping the subtleties of rim thickness can sharpen your disc selection, matching your throw to the course’s demands for a truly gratifying play.