Last updated on November 6th, 2023 at 02:42 pm
Last updated by Simon
Have you found yourself perplexed by the numerical series engraved on your disc golf disc? Discover how to read Disc Golf Numbers.
When I began my disc golf journey, these numbers baffled me. Understanding them added a new layer of fascination to the sport.
It’s really important to know how to read disc golf numbers. Understanding what these disc golf numbers mean can help you play better, open up new shots to try during a game, and guide your purchasing decisions.
In this article, our team will explain what the numbers on the disc mean in simple terms. We’ll also talk about how each number affects how the discs flight.
Interpret Disc Golf Numbers within the Flight Rating System
The four numbers (or 5 on Discraft discs) found on the surface constitute the disc’s flight rating system. It contains four numbers that indicate the behavior or the intention of the disc during the flight. You can call those four numbers characters, and they will determine the different aspects that affect the disc’s flight. The four numbers on the disc indicate the, in this sequence, the: speed, glide, turn, and fade of the disc in the same order.
For example, if the disc read ” 5 | 4 | 0 | 2 ” that means it is “Speed: 5 | Glide: 4 | Turn: 0 | Fade: 2”
Why Implement a Flight Rating System?
Players commonly use the flight rating system to compare and predict disc performance in flight.
From my experience, each disc possesses a distinct character and flight pattern, making them unique. Various brands employ a similar flight rating system, allowing you to assess a disc’s behavior before purchase, regardless of the brand.
Keep in mind: As we describe how these flight numbers affect your flight, we will talk about it from the most common throwing style: Which is a throw with your Right Hand, as a BackHand throw (RHBH).
If you throw left-handed, then all of the turn and fade will be opposite of what we describe. If you throw forehand, it will be opposite again.
The First Number: Understanding Disc Golf Numbers for Speed
The first number found on the left side of the flight rating system is the speed rating. It is numbered from 1 to 14 and is the measurement of the disc when traveling in the air. The greater the number is on the speed rating, the faster the disc needs to travel through the air to perform optimally.
Usually, the faster speed discs are designed to cut through the air more easily than slower speed discs; they are usually very flat in appearance with wider rims where you hold them. Meanwhile, if you have a slower disc, is more accurate and controllable compared to the one with the faster speed rating.
I consider the speed rating the most important factor that a player must consider. This is because the speed rating indicates how fast the player needs to throw the disc with the required power. Usually, a disc with a higher rating has a greater distance potential. Distance drivers have the fastest speed rating while the putters are usually the slowest.
The high speed is a great thing, but the tradeoff is more unpredictability. We suggest training up to these higher speed discs, otherwise you may find yourself in a frustrating round of disc golf.
The Second Number: Understanding Disc Golf Numbers for Glide
The next number is the glide, rated from 1 to 7, indicating how long the disc stays in the air. A low glide rating means you’ll need more throwing power for extended air time, as speed alone can’t achieve maximum distance.
Honestly, of all the numbers, this one seems to be the least consequential on the flight of a disc and sometimes feels like a number that’s just thrown out there by a manufacturer.
Having said that, if you are just starting, I would suggest using the disc with a higher glide rating because it will give you more hang time and distance during the throw. While discs with lower glide ratings will depend on the power from the player to achieve the best distance. On windy days, discs with high glide are typically more prone to being carried by the wind (for better at times, and for worse more often than not). Fairway and distance drivers are usually the discs with higher glide while the putters and midranges are with lower glide since it is used for short-distance shots.
The Third Number: Understanding Disc Golf Numbers for Turn
The third number represents the turn and is typically numbered from +1 to -5. This rating indicates the disc’s tendency to curve to the right during the beginning of the flight, and will be a factor as long as the disc has higher speed.
The lower the number here (again, going as low as -5), the more prone a disc is going to turn to the right during its early flight. People will also describe that as a discs tendency to flip up.
On the other end of the spectrum, a disc with a higher number (going all the way up to 1) will have more resistance to that initial turn/flip up.
This rating will be an important factor when playing and dealing with windy conditions on the field. When playing with headwinds, the disc with 0 or +1 is best suited because it has more resistance from turning to the right. If you are dealing with tailwinds, the disc with a -1 to -5 turn rating is the best way to go.
If you aren’t able to get discs at thrown at a fast enough speed to have them flip up, then stick with discs that have negative numbers here.
The Fourth Number: Understanding Disc Golf Numbers for Fade
The last number found on the flight rating of the disc is the fade. It is rated from 0 to 5, indicating the disc’s likelihood to veer left during the end part of the flight. This is typically relevant when a right-hand-backhand thrower throws the disc.
A 0 fade rating implies a straight or minimal left fade at the end of the flight, while a 5 fade rating indicates a strong left turn at the end.
The fade rating indicates a disc’s stability as it loses power at the end of the flight. The fade will come once the end of the flight starts. Also, the discs with a high fade rating are more predictable, even in windy conditions. The higher the fade, the more it will fight the wing much easier compared to those discs with lower fade ratings.
Each number has a tradeoff effect
Disc golf you’re always going to have your desired affect… and it’s countereffect.
- Higher speed = more distance AND more loss of control
- Higher glide = more airtime AND more influence of the wind
- Higher turn = (at high speed) earlier direction change on your disc
- Higher fade = (at low speed) hard finish
If you want to find some of our top picks for different scenarios, click here to jump straight to our purchase suggestions. We have great suggestions for beginners on discs for maximizing distance, getting great shots that hook, straight tunnel shots, and some putters.
Important Reminder on How to Read Disc Golf Numbers
While flight numbers are very helpful, they primarily pertain to controlled lab settings where all variables, such as plastic type, air density, forward spin, torque, wind direction, and speed, are consistent. It’s crucial to read disc golf numbers that will suit your specific needs. Identify some flight numbers that will work well for what you’re after, and then experiment with different discs so you can get to know which disc will be most helpful in each circumstance. Each disc has a unique feel that will speak to you and become more dependable with every throw.
The flight rating system helps players understand disc behavior during flight, aiding disc selection for various game situations.
It’s mainly a guideline to indicate a disc’s performance when thrown, but remember that the plastic type can also greatly affect its flight quality, irrespective of the rating.
There will be a situation that the actual flight pattern will not be the same as indicated on the rating system. It may sound disappointing, but there is no standard on how manufacturers determine the rating of the disc.
Every company uses its unique system to rate the discs they produce, making them distinct from others. It’s beneficial for players to personally test multiple discs and discover which one best suits their skills, form, and power.
Despite pro player opposition, average players should see it as a valuable tool for understanding a disc’s performance.
To benefit, especially beginners, it’s best to embrace the rating system’s assistance and avoid negativity.
The Discraft (The Fifth Number… Discraft Only)
The video below explains it well, but this was Discraft’s original system. They, like a few other brands eventually adopted the Speed/Flight/Turn/Fade numbers, but they decided to keep their original number as well. Essentially, their number was a combination of the Turn/Fade, predicting the overall direction the disc would eventually fly.
Learning how to read disc golf numbers is important especially if you are a new disc golfer or looking to something to fill the gaps in your throws. It will help in so many ways in improving your skills and also on your disc selection during the game.
If you want to really dial in your specifics, Infinite Discs has an amazing search engine that will display all discs with specific flight numbers. Plug in what you want, grab a few, and set off to the races. We also have a great selection, but we’re designed to move discs quickly at a low cost, so we do not put in the same level of effort on our end.
Getting the right disc for the right situation
If your goal is distance, find a disc that handles your arm strength to give you a consistent through, and find’s a nice S-curve (sweeping turn, and then finishing fade) in the air. If you’ve got some fast twitch muscles, but haven’t practiced much, here’s a few discs we recommend. Source, Infinite Discs
Young or Recreational
If you consider yourself as casual, or are a young player, here are some great recommendations. Source, again: Infinite Discs
- Yikun Jiao
- Divergent Discs Tiyanak
- Viking Discs Cosmos
- Infinite Discs Centurion (light weight)
- XCom Helios
If your goal is a headwind fighter, get something with a higher turn and fade, because that headwind actually simulates more speed. The stronger the headwind, the less you’ll want turn and the more you’ll want fade. Here’s a great list.
Doglegs (going around obstacles)
If you want a dogleg thrower, fade is your friend.
If you want a tunnel thrower, lower speed, and then finding the balance of turn and fade for your arm
If you want a good putter. Honestly, our first piece of advice is to practice putting with things that feel right. At putting distance speed is a moot point because nobody is trying to throw far. So if your consistently missing to the left with your technique, then a fix is a disc with less fade; If you’re missing to the right, then increase the fade.