Why Disc Golfers Should Pay Attention To Flight Ratings

Why Disc Golfers Should Pay Attention To Flight Ratings

If you’re a newer player in disc golf you may be confused about the 4 number flight rating system and what it means for you. I’m excited to get into the basics of it today, and tell you a little bit about one of the old flight number systems as well.

I’ll start with a *disclaimer* though, all of the flight ratings are subject to interpretation with the exception of speed. There’s no robot out there throwing the discs. So these are field tested molds that then get numbers submitted by the company who makes the disc. The speed rating is measured by the rim width.

The first number of the 4 number flight rating system is the speed of the disc. It’s how fast you need to throw a disc to make it correlate with the other numbers on the disc. If you throw a disc too slowly, like throwing a 12 speed disc not very fast it will go up in the air and dump on its edge. This happens a lot when you’re first starting out, it’s because you’re attempting to throw discs that may be too fast for you. We all did it at one point.

Take a look at one of the most popular 12 speeds ever, the Innova Destroyer! It’s one of Innova discs most thrown discs in the last 20 years. But you need to throw it very fast to get it to work. That’s why it’s a favorite among pros and advanced players who regularly throw over 400 feet.

If you throw a disc too quickly it may turn over and go the other way, this would make the disc wobble and go differently from its normal flight path. We call this flipping a disc over, overpowering it, overcooking it, basically any analogy where you throw the disc higher than the disc's intended speed.

Let’s look at another Innova disc golf disc here, the Mako3. Players sometimes complain to me that the disc keeps flipping over for them. It’s sometimes because they’re throwing it very hard trying to get it to fly further. Then the disc flips over and doesn’t fly straight.

You’ll need a variety of speeds when you play courses. The most common numbers for speed are 1-14. These are broken down further, into putter (1-3 speed), midrange (4-5 speed), fairway driver (6-8 speed), and distance driver (9-14 speed).
If you’re a competitive player you’ll carry a few of each. If you’re just starting out in disc golf you can snag one of the Innova Disc Golf Sets that’s designed for beginners.

You said there was another flight rating, what was it?

This was developed by Discraft a long time ago. A single number on the disc ranging from -1 to 2.5. This was the stability rating of the disc. As a right hand backhand player I knew that a 0.0 would fly straight, a -1 would fly understable to the right, and a 2.0 would be a very overstable disc.

Speed didn’t matter as much, glide didn’t matter, and turn and face would be things I could kind of figure out as I threw it. This wasn’t as great of a system because it didn’t tell me what to expect before I purchased a disc. And it led to plenty of discs that I don’t throw being purchased. I appreciate that it still exists on the end of Discraft discs. It’s a nice way to compare how overstable a driver is to a putter.

Which flight rating is most important to me when I’m looking at a disc?

Speed is the most important choice. If you’re throwing under 300 feet (with any of your discs) I don’t recommend a driver over a 9 speed except as a utility disc. If you have any questions about what speed you should throw here is my blog about Matching Your Arm Speed To The Disc. Read it and get better distance and more accurate throws. I generally throw discs speed 11 and less. Because that’s what my arm works best with. If I try to throw 12’s, 13’s and 14’s I don’t have the power to make them do what I want so they just hyzer out.

Then I think that I look for fade as my second choice for a flight rating. What I’m looking for in most of my discs is something stable that I can throw flat and rely on to fade at the end of the flight. But if you’re looking for something that flips over when thrown flat this may not be what you’re looking at. If you want something that goes 

I wrote a blog called Glide: The Underrated Flight Rating in 2021 and it’s about how much glide you should look for in a disc. There are times when I want discs to glide for a long time and other times when I want them to drop to the ground like they’re being pulled by a magnet. Each is useful and that’s why we have so many different levels of glide.

As you play more disc golf you’ll become much more adept in making decisions about which discs to throw when. Some pros take 2-3 discs with them to the teepad and then make the decision which to throw when they’re standing there. It comes down to preference.

If I’m wearing restrictive disc golf clothing like a jacket or a long sleeve shirt I know that I don’t have as much movement so I throw something a little less stable. Maybe there’s a lot of wind so I stable up. I throw lots of Innova Discs and I agree with most of Innova disc golf’s ratings. Sometimes I like one mold but in a different plastic, here’s a list from Innova’s Disc Golf Set of plastics where I go over which ones tend to be more or less stable.

Flight ratings help you figure out what a disc can potentially do when thrown flat and at the right speed. It’s not an exact science, and we all make mistakes. The key to getting better at disc golf is to improve your disc selection. Learn when you can take out a disc with lots of turn and glide, and know when you have to throw something overstable. Go outside and experiment, and play with folks who have lots of experience.

I’ll never forget playing in a bracket match 1v1 and the player who I was playing against taught me to throw a high glide and flippy disc with a tailwind because it would go further. So now I often grab something with more turn and high glide when I have tailwinds. Disc golf has a great community and teaching others helps everyone get better.

May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397

Streeter (PGDA #70397 )

He started disc golfing in 2011 and instantly fell in love with the flight of a disc. He has a degree in Sports Management from the university of Southern Maine and has been blogging for SDG since 2020, He writes about informational disc golf content editorials, and disc golf entertainment.

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