Disc Golf Flight Numbers Explained
There you are standing at your local disc golf store trying to figure out if you want to get the Innova Destroyer or the Dynamic Discs Trespass. The numbers on the discs are identical at 12, 5, -1, 3. You decide to take the Destroyer because hey, robots are cool. You take it out to the field and realize that it more stable than you realized. You go back and get the Trespass now. You head back to the field and throw them one right after the other. Turns out that the Trespass is far less stable than the Destroyer. But the numbers are the same?!? Disc golf flight numbers make no sense!
Table of Contents
Innova (Most Common) Numbering System
Welcome to the world of disc golf flight numbers where the ratings are made up and inter-company numbers don’t matter. While at this point all the manufactures use the Innova system, there is no standard way of rating the discs. In this example, both the Destroyer and the Trespass have a speed of 12 with two different rim thicknesses. Generally, speaking the wider the rim of the disc the higher a company will rate the speed.
As it was just mentioned the first number in the 4 number rating system is the speed. This is rated between 1 and 14 or 15 (depending on the company). This number means you need to throw it this hard in order for all the rest of the to do what they say. Say you have a disc that is a 14, 5, -3, 1, this is considered a very understable disc. That is if you have a 14 speed arm. If you have a 10 speed arm and throw a 14 speed disc, it will feel very stable to you. Generally speaking, the higher the speed number the wider the rim. The only time this doesn’t hols up is with 5 speed discs and slower. The midrages, putt & approach discs all have very similar in rim width.
The second number is the glide of the disc. This is rated from 1 to 7 with the higher the number the longer the disc will stay in the air. This is great if you are looking for easy distance. However, in windier conditions this makes the disc less predictable. Generally speaking, less stable discs have a higher glide than the more stable discs.
Turn/High Speed Turn
The third number listed on a disc is the turn or high speed turn. This is the number people reference when they talk about stability. Disc golfer talk about stability with 3 major terms. Overstable, neutral, and understable. Turn is rated from 1 to -5. Overstable discs are 1 and 0; neutral discs are -1, -2, -3; and understable discs are -3, -4, and -5. This is not a perfect comparison of the numbers to the wording but it will get you in the right ball park. This number indicates how resistant the disc is to turning to the right on a right hand back hand throw. The higher the number the more resistant to high speed turn. Discs with more turn (closer to -5) are considered beginner friendly discs because they are easier to get to flat and will generally fly further. Discs with more turn are also good for roller shots. Discs with less (closer to 1) turn are more reliable in the wind.
Fade/Low Speed Fade
The last number is the fade or low speed fade. This describes how hard a disc will turn to the left for a right hand back hand throw. This is rated from 0 to 5, where 0 indicates a straighter finish and a 5 indicates a hard hook left at the end. Discs with a higher fade are good for skip shots and spike hyzers.
A Lack of Standardization
While this is all great information, it doesn’t explain why the two discs fly differently while having the same number. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, there is no standard way to rate discs. There is no one unified body assigning numbers to the discs. You have to be careful when comparing discs made by the same manufacturer for different companies like Latitude 64 and Dynamic Discs. Not only does the temperature affect how the disc flies but so does altitude.
While Latitude 64 makes both theirs and Dynamic Discs discs them numbers can vary because Skellefteå, Sweden sits at about 111 feet above sea level while Emporia, Kansas is 1158 feet above sea level (data from dateandtime.info). Even if they were to use a standard way of throwing the results would be different just due to the altitude difference.
How to Fix it
This wouldn’t be a Joe’s Disc Golf Article without some opinion here at the end. There should be some standard measurement system. Since every disc has to be PDGA approved before it can be used in competition and multiple disc have to be sent in already, the PDGA could easily implement a standard system of rating the discs. The could partner with someone like Mark Rober to create a disc throwing machine to help in this process. It would make for some great content for Mr. Rober’s YouTube channel and a huge help for disc golf.