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What do the disc golf numbers mean?

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It’s one of the first questions I asked when I started playing. I got my first Innova starter pack at a sporting goods store. It came with a putter, midrange and driver. Those terms seemed pretty straightforward to me. I use the putter to putt with, the midrange disc to throw a medium distance shot and the driver to throw off the tee or for a long distance throw. Two of the discs had a cool picture of an animal on the front and the putter had a picture of a disc flying into a basket. Below each picture there were four squares and in each square was a number. I remember seeing these numbers and asking out loud to myself “What do the numbers mean?” But after asking the question I didn’t immediately go do the research and find out. I went outside to throw my discs around instead. It wasn’t until I started thinking about buying more discs that I did the research. Like most newer players I thought I needed a disc that would allow me to throw a longer drive. I also just wanted to experiment with different discs and figure out what types of discs suited me. That’s when I came back to those disc golf numbers meaning and looked it up.

Disc Golf Numbers Meaning






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Here is what I found:

The four numbers on the disc are referred to as the flight rating system. This system was developed by Innova Champion Discs with the purpose of describing each disc’s flight characteristics. The system has since been adopted by most discs manufacturers. The four numbers in the rating system stand for: Speed, Glide, Turn, and Fade.


The first number in the sequence is the speed rating. It refers to how fast the disc can fly but it also refers to how fast the disc must be thrown in order for it to fly properly. Depending on the disc manufacturer the numbers can range from 1 to 14. The speed of the disc also indicates the disc’s purpose. Putters range from 1-3. Midranges disc has a 4 or 5 rating. Fairway drivers range from 6-8. Finally, distances drivers have a speed rating from 9-14.

Faster rated discs can handle being thrown into the wind because they cut the wind better. Slower rated discs don’t do well when thrown into the wind and must be thrown with more force when throwing upwind. Although slower rated discs must be thrown harder to reach the same distances as a higher rated disc, they are more accurate and easier to throw. Slower discs also do better with a tailwind.


The second number in the sequence is the glide rating. It shows how well the disc maintains loft while in the air. The higher the rating the easier it is for the disc to remain in the air. The numbers in this rating range from 1 to 7. Discs that have more glide are easier to throw farther distances. Discs that have less glide are easier to throw with accuracy and do better in windy conditions.  


The third number in the sequence is the turn rating. It describes the tendency of the disc to curve when it immediately leaves your hand. So for a player who is right-handed and throwing a backhand shot, the more turn the disc has the more likely it is to move to the left or turn over. The turn rating ranges from + 1 to -5.

So keeping with the right-handed player throwing a backhand shot, a disc with a + 1 rating is considered overstable and will turn left. A disc with a 0 rating is considered stable and will fly straight. While a disc with a negative rating is considered understable and will turn right.  The more turn a disc has the less accurate it is in the wind.


The fourth number in the sequence is the fade rating. It describes how the disc finishes at the end of it’s flight. A fade rating of zero indicates that the disc won’t fade and will finish straight. A higher fade rating means that as the disc slows down the more likely the disc is to hook. For a right-handed player throwing backhanded, this means that with a high fade rating the disc will hook to the left. Players wanting to throw a skip shot would use a disc with more fade.

Putting It All Together

Let’s say we have a disc with a flight rating of 12, 5, -4, 4. The disc would be a distance driver because of the speed rating. The disc would have a lot of glide and would stay in the air quite easily. If you are a right-handed player throwing the disc backhanded the disc would fly to right after leaving your hand. We know this because of the -4 turn rating. Once the disc slows down and starts to lose it’s spin it would hook to the right because of the 4 fade rating.

Flight Rating System For Beginners

If you are a new player here are some recommendations based on each component of the flight rating system discussed above:

Speed: Beginners should stay away from high-speed discs. As a new player, you haven’t developed the technique and arm speed to take advantage of a high-speed rating. As a result of this, if you are throwing a disc with a high-speed rating it will likely act more overstable than intended and your throw will cut a hard left if you are throwing a right-handed backhand shot. If newer players are going to purchase a driver starting out, it recommended using a fairway driver which have a speed rating from 6 to 8.   

Glide: New players looking for more distance should throw discs with higher glide ratings. For shots that require more accuracy like putts and approach shots, a lower glide rating may need to be considered as the disc should be more accurate. You don’t want your shots floating past the target. In windy conditions, discs with less glide tend to be more accurate.     

Turn: Newer players will find discs with more turn easier to throw. For more advanced players discs with higher turn ratings will turn over more easily but for newer players, these same discs will likely not turn over and actually fly a straighter path. Discs with high turn also make great rollers.

Fade: When it comes to the fade rating there isn’t a general recommendation for newer players. While there isn’t a suggested amount of fade for beginners it’s important that players keep in mind the amount of fade the disc has when planning out their throw. Discs with higher fade will hook at the end of their flight and are more likely to skip. Discs with lower fade will have less of a hook at the end and disc with a zero fade will finish straight.

Image Credit Flickr Creative Commons – USAG- Humphreys

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