According to the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), around 500,000 of us play disc golf in the United States. With that many people out there, we thought it was time to drop some knowledge for the newbs. Today, let’s answer the question, “What do the numbers on disc golf discs mean?”
Disc golf is for everyone, and there’s no better way to get some exercise while enjoying the fresh air. Now, let’s gain some knowledge.
What Do the Numbers on Disc Golf Discs Mean?
Let’s jump right in and start to answer the question, “what do the numbers on disc golf discs mean?” The short answer is that the numbers indicate several different things that are important to a golfer — the speed, glide, turn, and fade of the disc.
Unlike ball golf, there are several different types of discs used for various purposes. When you’re shopping for discs, you will see drivers, putters, and mid-range fliers on the shelf. Drivers and mid-range discs will usually have number rankings.
Before we begin, we’re going to briefly go over a few terms that may be new to some of you.
- Stability: describes the disc’s flight path
- Understable: a disc that tends to turn right while in flight (with a right-handed backhand throw RHBH)
- Stable: the disc’s flight will not turn
- Overstable: refers to a disc that will turn left while in flight (with a RHBH throw)
- Right-hand backhand throw: the traditional throw used by disc golfers (along with forehand and putting)
Disc Manufacturers and Numbering Systems
Different disc manufacturers use different numbering systems. So, at this point, to answer the question, “What to the numbers on disc gold discs mean?” we’re going to have to break it all down.
The four-number system
For the most part, the majority of the discs you’re going to find will use the four-number system. The numbers are usually printed right on the front of the disc going in order from left to right. They stand for speed, glide, turn, and fade.
The first number stands for speed and will be anything from 1 to 14. This number indicates the rate at which that disc will fly through the air. The higher the number, the faster the disc.
Before you assume, though, that you should grab the fastest disc, that’s not always the case. High-speed discs can be very hard to control.
The second number from the left will be a 1 through 7, and it indicates how the disc will glide. Glide is the disc’s ability to maintain height during flight.
If you want a ton of distance from a disc, you want one with a higher glide number. Also, discs with more glide are great for people new to the game. If, however, you’re a seasoned player, a disc with less glide will be more accurate in high-wind situations.
The third number from the left will be a +1 through -5, and it indicates how much the disc will turn while in flight — it’s also sometimes called high-speed stability (HSS). The turn number is the amount the disc will curve immediately after you let go of it.
Generally speaking, when you throw a disc using a RHBH, a rating of +1 means the disc will immediately veer to the left (overstable). A score of 0 means that the disc is stable and should fly in a straight line. And a disc with a negative number means it will start turning to the right.
A disc with a rating of -3 is going to turn a lot more than a disc with a score of -1. Discs rated -3 to -5 tend to be great rollers. A roller is a disc that will turn 90 degrees in the air and land on its side and roll for more distance — which can be very useful depending on the terrain.
The fourth number on the disc shows how much it is going to fade — otherwise known as low-speed stability. And the amount will be 0 through 5. Now, while the turn indicates how much the disc rotates when it leaves your hand, the fade is all about what the disc does towards the end of its flight.
As a disc slows towards the end of the flight, it tends to curve back in the opposite direction from which it was going before. A 0 in this box means that this disc will fly in a straight path. However, a rating of 6 will mean that your disc will have quite a hook as it slows.
The Vibram system
The number system Vibram uses on their discs is similar to the four-number system with some tweaks. You still have speed, turn, and fade ratings; however, they are on a different scale.
So, the speed rating on a Vibram disc is how fast in miles per hour (MPH) the disc has to fly to achieve the desired flight path. The turn and fade ratings are both on a scale from 0 to 30. A 0 rating means the disc has no flip or turn, while a 30 rating will give you the sharpest angle possible.
Vibram just added a new feature to its discs. On some of them, you will find the expected flight path, when thrown correctly, of course, engraved right on the back.
The Discraft system
Finally, we are finishing up our long answer to the question, “What do the numbers on disc golf discs mean?” with the Discraft system. If you get a disc from Discraft, it will only have one number rating. This ranking pertains to the stability of the disc, and it ranges from -3 to +3.
A disc with a 0 rating is stable. A disc with a ranking of -1 will be understable and bank slightly to the right while one with a -3 will be more severe. A rating with a positive number will be overstable and bank to the left.
Now Get out There and Crush Some Chains
And there you have it, folks, the answer to the question, “what do the numbers on disc golf discs mean?” Remember, everyone has a different throwing style.
Disc golf discs never behave the same from person to person. As you learn and grow as a golfer, pay attention to the numbers on your favorite discs and how that translates to what’s happening for you.
What’s your favorite disc in your bag right now? Tell us about it in the comments. For a list of our favorites, click here.