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What the Heck Do Those Flight Numbers on my Discs Mean: Speed, Glide, Turn, Fade, Weight

When you walk into a disc golf store, the selection can be overwhelming. Don’t make the mistake I did and chose the coolest looking disc because, odds are, it isn’t the right disc for you. The numbers on the discs are there for a reason, and, would you believe it, they actually mean something. Understanding flight numbers will help improve your disc selection and your game overall.

My Champion Destroyer is a 12 speed with a 5 glide, -1 turn, and 3 fade.

Speed: The first number on your disc indicates speed, which can range from 1 to 14. Contrary to popular belief, and what I believed when I first started playing, a higher speed disc does not mean it is faster or will go farther. Shocking, I know. Speed actually tells you how fast your arm speed needs to be in order for the disc to work properly. So, for beginners, throwing a lower-speed distance driver or a fairway driver will work best. Toss your ego aside and wait to throw those big boys until you get better.

My Champion Destroyer above, I’ll be honest, is probably too fast for my arm speed. I should be throwing a 10 speed or lower. I bought this disc before knowing a lot about flight numbers; I was mainly focused on weight.

Dynamic Discs put together a video with more reasons as to why beginners should throw lower-speed discs.

Glide: The second number on your disc refers to glide, how long the disc can stay in the air or how much lift it has. This number can range from 1 to 7. The higher the number, the more lift. This does not mean, however, that it will stay in the air if you have a downward angle on your throw. Logistics still play a factor. For a beginner with little arm strength, a higher glide disc is beneficial, as it will give you some distance in your throw.

Best Disc Golf Discs further explains why higher glide discs are helpful and when to use them. Their videos are a bit technical for beginning players, but you should focus on the basic concepts they are teaching.

Turn: The third number on your disc is turn, the tendency for the disc to turn to the right in the beginning of its flight. This number ranges from +1 to -5. Numbers closer to -5 are more likely to turn.

I’ll be honest, this is the number that I knew least about, and once I did learn a little bit, I always got this confused with fade. Although it seems counterintuitive at first–why would I want more movement on my disc if I can hardly control it to begin with–the more turn, the better for beginners. As I’ve said earlier, beginners typically don’t throw as hard, so your disc is more susceptible to fade at the end of its flight path. To counteract this, or essentially, to throw straighter, a high-turn disc is what you’re looking for.

If I’m not making any sense to you–I take no offense–let Best Disc Golf Discs give you another informational video. They also explain the terms overstable and understable.

Fade: The last number on your disc is for fade, the disc’s tendency to hook left at the end of its flight. Fade can range from 0 to 5. The higher the number, the more fade. Although Best Disc Golf Discs gives you five reasons to have a high-fade disc, their target audience is a more advanced player who can throw flex and hyzer shots.

As a beginner, your arm speed isn’t quite up to par–I know, how many times am I going to say it–so the disc is going to fade more than you think it should. So, if you start with disc that has little fade, it won’t be as drastic. Once you can control a little fade, start playing with other discs and the lines they create as they will help you on more difficult courses.

BHSDiscGolf gives a great explanation of fade and how to utilize it on the course.

This disc weighs 154 grams.

Weight: This number isn’t found with the flight numbers on the front of the disc. Most of the time, this number is written on the back of the disc in the center. Sometimes, this number isn’t present at all, and you have to rely on information given by the seller or a scale to determine this. Discs are weighed in grams, and I’ve found the lighter the disc, the better.

Because of a beginner’s arm speed–this is the last time, I promise–a lighter disc is going to get more distance. I chose the disc pictured above because it is on the lighter end of the spectrum at 154 g. When I need a good, long drive, I use this disc over a heavier disc to get more distance.

Of course, each situation is different. I don’t recommend using light discs in high winds as the wind will catch it and send it in places you never intended.

Infinite Discs gives a quick guide for disc weight.

Now that you know the basics about flight numbers, you can leave the store satisfied that you made a smart purchase instead of bragging to your buddies how cool your discs are and looking like an idiot on the course.

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