If you read our post on how to throw disc golf discs far, you’ll know that disc stability makes a big difference in how disc golf discs fly. So how do you tell what a disc’s stability is when you buy it? Well, that’s where the numbers on the disc come into play. In this post we’ll be giving you a run down on the ratings system for golf discs so you can finally stop asking “what do disc golf disc numbers mean?”
Note: We are using Innova standards for flight ratings. The ratings can vary across manufacturers, however the numbering system is pretty similar for all.
So What Do the Numbers Mean?
In short, the numbers are the disc’s flight ratings. Most manufacturers use four numbers to rate their discs. Those numbers represent speed, glide, turn, and fade, usually in that order. Some manufacturers, like Discraft, also include a fifth number they call stability. However, the stability number is derived from the turn and fade.
Although each disc mold comes with its own flight rating, it’s important to understand that the way you throw a disc can be more important than the numbers written on it. Also, as you beat in your discs (basically by throwing them into trees and rocks and stuff) the disc’s flight patterns will change and stop reflecting the flight ratings. So even though flight ratings can help you decide which discs to buy or throw, they shouldn’t be something you fixate on while playing.
The First Number: Speed
Speed is the first number that appears on most flight ratings. Speed ranges from 1 (being the slowest) to 14 (being the fastest). We classify putters, mid-ranges, fairway drivers, and distance drivers according to the speed rating.
Essentially, the speed is a measure of how far a disc will fly. However, throwing a higher speed disc will not necessarily provide you with more distance, especially if you’re just starting out. Yes, high speed discs fly farther than low speed discs, but you need to throw them with more arm speed in order for them to fly far. If you’re confused by arm speed, it’s basically how fast you can release the disc. Check out our guide on Backhand Drives if you want to throw it faster and hence farther!
The Second Number: Glide
Glide is a measure of a disc’s tendency to stay in the air once it’s thrown. Glide is measured on a scale from 1 (lowest glide) to 7 (most glide).
If you’re looking for a disc to fly far, you’ll most likely want to use a disc with more glide. Alternatively, if you’re throwing a shot that you want to fall hard, you’d want to throw a disc with less glide.
The Third Number: Turn
Turn is a measure of a disc’s tendency to turn or go right for a right-handed back-hand (RHBH) at the beginning of the disc’s flight. Turn is measured on a scale from -5 being the most turn to +1 being the least amount of turn.
If you’re looking to throw a turnover shot (see video below) then you would reach for a disc with more turn.
The Fourth Number: Fade
The fourth and final number on a golf disc is fade. Fade refers to the tendency of a disc to fall off at the end of it’s flight. Fade is measured on a scale from 0 (least fade) to 5 (most fade). For a RHBH thrower, discs fade to the left and for a LHBH they fade to the right.
It’s important to recognize that a rating of 0 does not mean that the disc has no fade. Every disc has some amount of fade due to physics. We won’t be getting into the physics of flight in this post, but if you’re interested you can check out this post on UDisc which goes into more detail on the physical properties of discs.
The Fifth (Optional) Number: Stability
Fade and turn help to determine a disc’s stability. If a disc has more fade than turn it is usually more overstable, and vice-versa.
If a disc’s fade and turn are the same or close to the same, then that disc has a more neutral stability.
Again stability is how much a disc turns over or fades out in its flight, so it makes sense that turn and fade essentially determine stability.
What is the Flight Rating on an Ultimate Disc?
Now that you know a little bit about how discs are rated, I think it can be a fun exercise to come up with the flight rating for an ultrastar.
Speed = 1
Ultrastars are SUPER SLOW when compared to disc golf discs. Once you throw golf discs for a while it becomes apparant real quick just how slow an ultrastar really is. For that reason we are giving the good ‘ol frisbee a minimum speed rating of 1.
Glide = 7
One of the most exciting plays in ultimate is a “sky.” The only reason a sky is possible is because of an ultimate frisbee’s glide. However, in ultimate we don’t call it glide, we call it “floatiness”, but it’s essentially the same thing. You’ll notice that when you throw a golf disc it does’t float in the air like an ultrastar. Therefore, we’re giving the fris a maximum glide rating of 7.
Turn = -5
Again, we’re going to the maximums here and giving the ultrastar a rating of -5 for turn. How do I know that ultrastar’s have so much turn. Well, if you want to throw an ultrastar far you tend to release it at a steep inside-out or hyzer angle. The frisbee then flattens out and sometimes, especially if there is wind, continues to turn over after flattening out. Golf discs don’t do this folks. Ultrastars have a lot of turn!
Fade = 0
Why not make it a perfect 4-for-4 when it comes to maximum ratings? This one could possibly be a 1, but no, I decided to give it a zero. Ultrastars don’t really fade too much unless you release them at an upward angle, but so does every disc so this doesn’t really mean anything.
The combination of a -5 on the turn and a 0 on the fade means that ultrastars are very understable and in fact ultrastar’s are understable!
In summary, higher speed means longer distance if you can throw it faster! Glide means floatiness. Turn means right for a righty backhand. Fade means left for a lefty backhand. If you’re a lefty like me you better just get used to flipping everything in your head.
Let us know in the comments below if you disagree with our “official” unofficial flight ratings for an ultrastar!