Disc Buying Guide – A Beginners Guide to Disc Golf
Beginners Guide to Buying Frisbee Golf Discs
When you realize that there are hundreds of different disc golf discs with infinite variations of plastics, weights, and colors, purchasing discs online can seem overwhelming. Whether you are new to disc golf, want to purchase discs as a gift, or just want to know more about specific discs, our online guide will help you determine the best golf discs and make it easy to purchase them from InfiniteDiscs.com.
Frisbee Golf? Disc Golf? Frolf?
The first thing to know about the flying objects thrown at chain-filled baskets is that they are known as discs, not Frisbees. Although Frisbee is the generic term that many of us grew up with, Frisbee is a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company. The discs used for disc golf are specifically designed for that sport. We call those smaller diameter, faster and further flying objects, discs, golf discs, frolf discs, or, disc golf discs.
Types and Uses of Golf Discs
There are primarily four different types of golf discs: distance drivers, fairway drivers, midrange discs, and putters. For new disc golfers, it’s the distance the disc provides that matters most.
While any disc can be used for most shots (some better than others), discs are primarily classified by how fast they “fly” – or cut through the air.
- Maximum Distance Drivers: Discs are classified as distant, or maximum distance drivers when they are able to cut through the air at very high speeds. These discs have the potential to go very far — in excess of 400 feet, when thrown with the right power and technique. When not thrown properly, these discs lack control, get less distance, and lead to frustration. Maximum distance drivers have thick rims (2.1cm or greater) and a speed rating of 10 or higher.
- Control Drivers: Control or fairway drivers are discs that just don’t travel as fast as distance drivers potentially can. In general, fairway drivers have thinner rims, are more stable, can fly straighter, and are easier to control. Many of the discs currently classified as “fairway drivers” are the power discs of the past. As disc golf technology and innovation continues to improve, the distance these older discs can fly is less impressive. With that said, for beginning disc golfers, fairway drivers will usually perform better than the max distance drivers.
- Midrange Discs: Midrange discs are slower flying and have rounded, less aerodynamic edges. Some midrange discs can fly almost perfectly straight. Like fairway drivers, many midrange discs are just older discs that used to be considered distance drivers. Midrange discs are designed to give maximum control and accuracy without sailing past the target. It’s not uncommon for experienced disc golfers to tee off with midrange drivers, or even putters.
- Putt and Approach: Putters are the slowest flying disc golf discs. They are usually easy to control and won’t go too far. Compared with drivers, putters almost always fly very straight. They are good for not just landing in the basket, but also for approach shots– landing close to the basket to set up easy putts. If you’re looking for a disc that will fly straight without a big end of flight fade, you may want to consider throwing a putter.
Disc Golf Flight Paths
Innova set up a system of flight ratings to help consumers determine how discs fly relative to other discs. Several disc manufacturers have adopted this rating system, for those that haven’t, we’ve implemented these flight numbers to help you better compare discs from different manufacturers. The Innova Flight rating system breaks the flight path into four categories, written in this order: Speed, Glide, Turn, & Fade.
Distance – Speed & Glide
- Speed: Speed is the first rating discs are given in the Innova rating system. The fastest flying discs have speed ratings of 13-14, while slow, blunt edge discs have a rating of 1-2. Innova classifies distance drivers as discs with a speed rating of 8 and above, fairway drivers speed 6-7, midrange 4-5, and putters less than 3.
For new disc golfers, speed does not equal distance. A lightweight speed 6 disc will likely fly farther than a speed 13 power driver. Higher speed discs have thicker rims and are harder to throw accurately.
- Glide: Glide is a discs ability to stay in the air. Discs with higher glide numbers will generally fly farther than discs with lower numbers. Glide is good when you’re going for distance, but can be a bad thing for putts and approach shots. Overshooting the basket is often worse than not throwing far enough. Glide ratings are between 1 and 7; discs with a glide ratings of seven will maintain loft longer.
Stability – Turn and Fade
Stability is the ability discs have to fly straight. Most golf discs have the tendency to curve to the left for right hand backhanded throws. Depending on how hard you throw, discs behave more or less stable. For new disc golfers, even discs classified as “understable” will still tend to be “overstable” until throwing speed is improved.
Discs that curve to the right are known as “Understable,” discs that fly mostly straight with a minimal gradual fade are “Stable“, discs that fade to the left are “Overstable.” On our site we have also classified discs that have very high fade rates, meaning they have a monster fade way left, as “Very Overstable.”
- Turn: The third rating is known as turn. Turn is the tendency for discs to curve to the right in the early portion of the flight. For new disc golfers, understable discs with high (negative) turn ratings provide maximum distance as they aren’t pulled left as quickly as overstable drivers. Players whose maximum throwing distance is less than 200 feet, likely won’t notice any turn or “understableness” in the flight paths of these discs, as all throws will fade to the left unless they choose “Very Understable” discs.
Once players get more speed and power in their throws, understable discs “turn” or start curving to the right at the beginning of the flight before fading to the left at the end. On powerful throws, this turn is so hard that discs actually turn over and crash into the ground without fading back.
- Fade: Disc golf discs stability is determined by the both the “turn” and “fade” ratings. Turn is rated from 1 to -5, with -5 being the most understable rating. While these discs turn to the right when traveling at high speeds, they still “fade” to the left at the end of the flight when the disc slows down. This rating is known as “fade.” Fade is the last number in the flight ratings. A disc rated 11/4/0/4 would have a very high degree of fade. This disc would fade to the left approximately 80%.
Some discs have very high turn ratings and significant fade. These discs actually fly in an “S” pattern, and while they aren’t stable and don’t fly in a straight line, the net effect is that they land approximately where you aim. The most “stable” discs have ratings like 4/5/0/0. The 0’s indicate that the discs won’t turn or fade much.
Is it stable or overstable? What does “more stable” mean?
Many disc golfers use the term “stable” to refer to overstability, or a discs ability to resist high speed turn. When they say, “that disc is really stable” they are saying the disc is very overstable.
The flight ratings on our site are entered as determined by the manufacturer and/or our reviewer given flight ratings. With each disc review, our reviewers rate what they think the flight ratings are which then factors in the displayed flight ratings.
Discraft Stability Ratings – The 5th Number
Discrafts flight ratings have an additional 5th number that is an indicator of stability. Discs that have a tendency to turn to the right have a “-” (negative) stable rating.
Straight flying discs are rated at “0,” and highly overstable discs have positive ratings between .5 and 3.
While overstable discs are designed for ultra power throwers, they do have a place for beginners for shots that need a very sharp curve around trees or other obstacles.
Choosing Plastic Type:
The plastic type you choose has an impact on the way discs fly, especially as discs wear over time. Different plastics also vary in the feel of the grip, which affects the throwing release.
While there are technically dozens of different plastics made by different disc manufacturers, the major players, Innova, Discraft, Latitude 64, Millennium, Discmania, and Westside, use plastic blends that are very similar (in some cases exactly the same).
- Basic Plastics: (DX, Pro D, D-Line, Prime, Retro Line) – Innova and Discraft (the biggest U.S. disc manufacturers) offer some of the least expensive discs on the market, mainly because they come in very low grade plastics. Their low grade plastics offer a good grip, but the discs wear quickly. Discs made with Pro-D and DX plastic get scratches and nicks very easily. This external damage makes disc become less stable over time. One power throw into a fence can leave a major flight altering impact.
While we don’t recommend the basic plastic lines for drivers, discs in these plastics are usually adequate for more durable putters and midrange discs that aren’t thrown with as much force. It is also nice to have a few cheap drivers when disc golfing near hazards where you have a good chance of losing a disc.
- Middle Grade: (Pro, P-Line, Elite X, Millennium Standard, Latitude 64 Recycled, Biofuzion, Sure Grip) – The least common plastic used for golf discs is the middle grade used in the Innova Pro, Discmania P-line, or Discraft Elite X. Millennium’s standard plastic comes in a similar plastic grade. Mid grade plastic is more durable than the base lines, but your disc may still be in danger if you throw it into a sharp tree limb or brick wall. Discs in this plastic are more expensive than the base grade, but less expensive than the better plastics. While some discs are only available in mid grade plastics, most disc golfers choose to either go cheap, or go for premium plastics.
- Ultra Durable: (Innova Champion, Discraft Z-Line, Discmania C-Line, Latitude 64 Opto-Line, Westside VIP, DD Lucid, and Millennium Quantum) – Most of the major disc manufacturers offer an ultra-durable plastic. This plastic is smooth, clear, and very hard. These discs can take the abuse of rough courses and their flight paths remain relatively steady. The disadvantage of the durable plastics is that they don’t offer the grip that other plastic grades provide.
- Ultra Light: (Blizzard Champion, Zero-G, Opto-Air) – Some disc golf manufacturers create ultra light weights. Lighter weight discs allow for more distance, especially for newer players. Advanced players typically don’t like the ultra light discs, and feel out of control when throwing them. The ultra light weight discs can travel a greater distance, and the current distance world record was made with a 134 gram Innova Blizzard Champion Boss.
- Premium Plastics: (Innova Star, Discmania S-Line, Millennium Sirius, Discraft ESP/Titanium, DD Fuzion, Latitude 64 Gold Line, Westside Tournament, Legacy Icon) – The major disc brands all offer a premium plastic that provides outstanding durability and an excellent grip. These discs are more expensive, but provide optimal performance and control.
There are several different plastic variations that other manufacturers also produce including ultra soft putters and discs made of rubber. MVP, Axiom, Latitude 64, and Innova also manufacture “overmold” or “double mold” discs where the outer rim has a different plastic than the inner core.
Choosing Disc Weight
Disc golf discs come in a variety of different weights. Most discs weigh between 165 and 175 grams. Some discs also come in special plastic blends designed to weigh less. The Professional Disc Golf Association regulates how heavy a disc can be based on the discs diameter. Midrange discs generally have wider diameters and so are more likely to come in weights exceeding 175grams. Most Drivers and Putters are only PDGA approved up to 175g. Just because a disc may not fall in the PDGA weight limits doesn’t mean you can’t throw it, it simply means you can’t throw it for santioned tournament play. For the approved weight of each individual disc, check out the PDGA tech standards.
Lighter weight disc flight paths are generally more understable and more likely to turn over. Heavier discs are going to be more overstable and less likely to turn over. For beginners, youth, and players with slower arm speeds, lighter weight discs are generally easier to throw and will provide more distance.
When ordering discs on our site, you can find discs by specific weights using our advanced search, or sort by weight within each disc model.
Golf discs come in a variety of different colors, usually bright. Light colored discs are great for playing on green grass courses, but not so great if you are playing on dead grass or rocky terrain. It’s nice to have a variety of different color discs so you can quickly grab the disc you want out of your bag.
When ordering discs from InfiniteDiscs.com, you can see pictures of the actual discs you will be purchasing. Note that the color of the disc may appear different than the actual disc you receive due to variations in appearance in different device screens.
- Diameter: This is the diameter of the disc from rim to rim. Most golf discs don’t vary much and are generally between 21 and 21.4 centimeters.
- Height: This is how tall the disc is. Faster discs generally have less height. The average distance driver is 1.65 centimeters tall, the average fairway driver 1.77 centimeters, average midrange 1.97 centimeters, and average putter 2.11 centimeters tall.
- Rim Height: The rim height is measured on the inside where you grip it. Tall discs usually have taller rims, but this is not always the case. It depends on the thickness of the plastic, and how much exterior curve the disc actually has.
- Rim Width: This is also known as “Wing Length” and refers to the width of the disc’s rim. Faster discs typically have wider rims. The PDGA has set a limit so that rim width can be no thicker than 2.5 centimeters. Knowing the rim width can be very important for comfort of grip. Disc golfers get used to certain widths and like to find other discs of similar size. Discs with very wide rims can be hard for many disc golfers to control. Of the discs we sell, the average rim width for distance drivers is 2.11 centimeters, 1.67cm for fairway drivers, 1.27cm for mid range discs, and .98cm for putt and approach discs.
- Dyed: Our advanced search allows you to sort by a variety of different options. One of them is to find dyed discs. In the “color” section. Some discs are dyed with a unique design, which typically resembles a tie-dye pattern, we also offer Dye Max, Deco Dye, or Super Color discs that are classified under dyed. These discs come in wide a variety of colors, so the nice thing about InfiniteDiscs.com is that you can see the actual disc pictured that you will purchase. Some discs are dyed multiple different colors, other dyed discs have just one color in different shades and intensities. Dyed discs are always coveted during a round of play, and many different plastics are dyed. The main manufacturers have a greater variety of dyed discs available. Custom dye patterns are not available from Infinite Discs yet. In some cases, the custom print provided by the manufacturer is removed when the disc is dyed.
- Glow-in-the-Dark: These discs are a must when heading out at night. The only drawback is that the glow-in-the-dark plastic needs a “charge,” and is charged only by light. So if you have been keeping your disc in your dark bag and then pull it out for a round of night play, you’ll have difficulty finding it. It is best to shine a light directly on the glow in the dark disc directly before throwing.
- Float in Water: Floating discs are another must have when making a precarious shot near a water hazard – especially a murky water hazard. Warning floating discs also float in flowing streams, where the floating characteristic can actually play against you – as you watch your disc float away into unreachable territory. For flowing water, a floating disc is not usually the best choice.
- Beaded – Many discs, especially putters, have a “bead” or a small bump around the bottom rim. The bead helps the putter keep its flight characteristics for longer, and enhances feel to give you more confidence in making your putts. If you are looking specifically for a beaded disc, this sort is also available in our advanced search.
Our advanced search allows you to search for discs recommended specifically for players of different skill levels. To sort by this criteria, simply select the “skill level” option on the far right of the advanced search.
- Beginner/Recreational: Most of us who play the game seasonally fall into this category, whether we would like to admit it or not. Beginners are the casual players who head out to the disc golf course from time to time just for some fun. While many beginners claim a great throw and a great game, they most likely have never eclipsed the 250′ foot throwing mark. Beginners have established their own technique and could typically use a few pointers from a pro. Beginners throws typically have less snap on them, thus limiting the distance of their disc flight. Beginners are also a bit more of loose cannons when throwing. Although they have some amazingly accurate shots, many of their shots also end up way off target.
- Intermediate: A large lot of us are also in this category. Many intermediate players are found in their local leagues and may occasionally end up even-par after a round of tournament play. Intermediate players typically throw over 250′ and may occasionally have throws that sail close to the 400′ mark. Intermediate players have developed some technique, but have not yet mastered it. Intermediate players also typically have a small variety of throws which they can refer to in different situations. Accuracy is there or still developing for many intermediate players.
- Advanced: Advanced disc golfers typically drive more than 350′ consistently, own dozens of discs, and carry at least 15 during the average round. Most advanced disc golfers regularly play in organized disc golf tournaments.
- Professional/ Open: Where few of us are, and many of us aspire to be. 400′ throws are not uncommon among the professional players, many of whom are capable of launching 500′, or even more. Professional players are in a league of their own, aka “open,” and many have developed their own style. A professional player’s disc will fly differently than an intermediate player because they have mastered technique and snap, showing ability to bounce, turn and fade their disc as precisely the right moment.
Every disc is given a rating by our bias users, as well as our bias selves. Every disc performs slightly different for every user, and slightly different on any given day. These ratings are then suggested to be taken lightly. Many reviewers only rate the discs that they like most, so most discs tend to have very high ratings.
You may be inclined to shop for a disc that does well with others, but keep in mind that you may find that your favorite disc is rated as 3 stars by others.
The guideline for reviews is as follows:
- 1 Star Rating – Horrible Disc
- 2 Star Rating – Below Average
- 3 Star Rating – Average Disc
- 4 Star Rating – Above Average
- 5 Star Rating – Must Have Disc
Feel free to rate the discs as you feel they perform, and remember, users who rate discs earn points towards free merchandise!