When we talk about disc speed, we’re referring to the rating listed on a disc. A disc’s speed rating will be between 1 and 14; this indicates the speed a disc needs to be thrown in order to achieve the optimal flight path.
To be more specific, disc speed relates to the aerodynamics of a disc, which is determined by the width of the disc’s rim. The wider the rim, the better its aerodynamics, as well as its higher speed rating.
It’s worth noting that higher speed discs aren’t necessarily faster than slower discs. This is where it can get confusing! The main thing that determines how fast a disc will travel is how fast it’s thrown. A disc with a higher speed rating is typically more aerodynamic and will be able to maintain its speed while in flight, whereas a lower speed disc is slowed down more by the air.
Disc speed does greatly impact your throw, and the speed of a disc is perhaps the most crucial flight number because it has a direct impact on other flight numbers, like fade, glide, and turn, for example. If you’re unable to release your disc as fast as it can go, this will result in less turn and harder fades.
So, is there a disc speed that’s better suited for beginners? Yes! Ideally, beginning disc golfers should throw discs with speed ratings of 7 or less; and if you’re totally new to disc golf, choose a disc with a speed rating of no more than 5.
Let’s take a closer look below at what speed disc is best for beginners and why, as well as the purposes of different discs.
Different Discs And Their Purposes
No matter your experience level, you should select a disc with a speed that’s appropriate and aligned with what you want to achieve in a particular throw (it’s also important to take your ability into account here!). Disc golf is characterized by a few different throws, which require discs with various speed ratings, such as:
- Approaches: These shots (as well as mid-range shots) require discs with medium speed to strike a balance between accuracy and speed.
- Drives: Fast discs are usually required to achieve as much distance as possible.
- Putts: These require low speed discs for maximum accuracy.
An approach shot (also known as an upshot) is a shot that a disc golfer makes after their initial drive to get closer to the basket to successfully complete a putt. These mid-range discs have speed ratings of 4-5.
A drive shot is a powerful throw, originating from the tee box, that typically requires distance. Thus, there are a few types of drivers, each with their own speed rating:
- Fairway driver: 6-8 speed
- Control driver: 9-11 speed
- Distance driver: 12-14 speed
Putt shots are those that are, according to PDGA rules, any shot taken up to 32.8 feet (10 meters) from the basket. Putters are usually rated from 1-3 speed, but some are rated as a 4.
What’s this slow disc/fast disc talk really mean? Essentially, slow discs are often more controllable and accurate, while flat discs are able to travel further. This is why it’s recommended to start out by throwing slower discs to improve your accuracy, then move on to the faster discs when you’re ready for more distance.
Because oftentimes, beginning disc golfers haven’t yet developed the power needed to properly throw a disc with a higher speed rating. If you’re a disc golf newbie, it’s best to stick to slow discs until you’ve developed your form enough to properly throw higher speed discs. It can be detrimental to your form and technique to throw high speed discs too early and/or without the proper practice, which can result in developing some bad habits. (And you don’t want those!)
Fast Discs vs Slow Discs
While lower speed discs are more controllable, they are not able to travel as far as fast discs. When it comes to shooting close at a little target, a slower disc will get the job done. Plus, slower discs also land softer than higher speed discs, and are less likely to skip and slide than fast discs.
Another thing to take into account when finding the best disc speed is that a higher speed disc is less reliable to throw than a slow disc. Even if you’re off your line by a whisper, a higher speed disc will veer off more than a slow disc. Yes, you won’t achieve as much distance using a slow disc, but you might achieve a better score if your slow disc stays on course.
As with any sport, there’s a sweet spot; if you use too much power when throwing a slow disc, it can turn, veering from its intended flight path. To avoid over-turning, try throwing an overstable disc or a faster disc.
While higher speed discs are considered harder to throw than slow discs (but can travel further), this is only the case if you’re using the optimal arm speed. This comes in handy when you have a long-distance throw with plenty of space for the disc to land. Sometimes, even at low speeds, fast discs are harder to control. In fact, when a fast disc is released at a low speed, it’s likely to hook and drop to the ground hard, giving the player less control over the disc’s flight path.
Fast discs also have thicker rims than slow discs. It’s especially difficult for those with smaller hands to grip the extremely thick rims found on maximum distance drivers, resulting in inconsistent throws. To get the most consistent throws, it’s better to throw slow discs with rims that are comfortable to hold.
Getting your head around disc golf speed and figuring out which speed disc to use can be tough, but it’ll become second nature over time. When choosing a disc that’s right for you, it’s best to keep the following things in mind.
Use a fast disc when:
- You want speed over accuracy
- You’re able to generate appropriate arm speed
- You need a big slide or skip
- You’re playing in heavy wind
- You have more disc golf experience
Opt for a slow disc when:
- You’re more focused on accuracy than distance
- You’re not yet able to generate high arm speed
- You want your discs to land softly
- Your fast drivers aren’t releasing consistently
- You’re a beginner still working on your form