All discs have a combination of flight characteristics that make them perform a certain way or another. Some are better at flying straight while others work best with a big angle and lots of room. Think of each characteristic as a way to find the perfect disc combination for you, it’s a good thing there’s so many to choose from!
Perhaps the most apparent and obvious disc characteristic beginners will experience and observe.
Disc’s will naturally fade once they lose the majority of their spin. They will typically fall in the direction your arm and body face when getting ready to throw.
A disc spinning clockwise will fade to the left.
A disc spinning counter-clockwise will fade to the right.
For newer players, this fade could happen immediately after they release the disc and for more experienced users this fade will be increasingly more prominent at the end of their discs flight. (This is due to more experienced players being able to generate a better “snap” or faster spin on the disc throughout it’s flight.)
Discs with low numbers have little fade, and will appear to sink or fall faster at a sharp angle towards the ground once they have reached the end of their flight.
Discs with high numbers have lots of fade and will fall quite a large distance left or right (depending on the stability or turn) from the end of it’s flight path.
TURN or STABILITY
Which direction a disc will travel side-to-side during flight.
Stable, Overstable or + (positive) numbers may be used by different disc manufacturers, all of these refer to the varying levels of how much a disc will move towards the direction of it’s natural fade.
Understable or – (negative) numbers refer to varying levels of how much a disc will move in the opposite direction of it’s natural fade. Some discs can be so understable as to ALWAYS turn away from the natural fade direction.
How fast the disc will move through the air. Putters are slow moving, drivers are extremely fast. The faster a disc is, the more space or distance it needs to fly naturally.
Speeds 1-4 are generally used for putting to 150 foot approach shots. They’re flights are predictable and often very flat (no turn) and floaty (more glide) in flight.
Speeds 5-10 are defined as midrange or fairway discs and typically cover 150-350 feet. These are great for long approaches r getting out of the bush and often have a much larger range of variance in the turn and glide each disc may travel. I will often throw a slower speed disc on shorter holes as my drive to ensure I get an accurate desired flight path.
Anything faster (11-15 speed) are considered distance drivers and will be extremely fickle and less predictable in flight until you’ve polished your driving technique. These discs will display a large amount of FADE and TURN without the proper spin, dying off and falling to the ground often far shorter then a midrange disc will fly for beginning players.
This defines how much the disc floats or hangs in the air. This usually appears most prominently at the height or apex of the flight path.
Discs with more glide typically hold their initial flight direction and height longer while their spin slows. This prolongs the discs initial flight path before entering into fade.
Discs with less glide will fade much sooner, typically right after the top or apex of flight.
Lots of Glide can be very useful to cover large distances or clear ground obstacles before swiftly touching down at the basket with low fade.
Low Glide can also be very useful to capitalize on gaining height and a large amount of fade to get the disc to fall at an angle matching the desired landing zone.
All disc characteristics help create a unique and customized disc flight. These varying combos can create discs that match the very exact scenario you might encounter on the course. Ultimately it’s up to you to find the combination of discs and flight characteristics that works best for you and your throwing style!
Start simple, there’s a real reason that beginner packs start with 3 discs. A Putter, Mid-range, and Driver. (I played casually with a single driver for years before I really started!)
Learn those discs inside and out, know how they fly – it’s going to take time, but eventually you’ll start to understand what the numbers on the disc mean to you, not to somebody else. Once that happens, it’s time to start grabbing a few new discs and seeing where they can fill in the shots you might feel lacking.