What is speed in disc golf?
Why are there different speed disc golf discs?
Does it matter what speed disc I throw?
Should I throw fast or slow disc golf discs?
What is the speed of a disc golf driver?
Understanding disc golf speed and what speed disc is best to throw can be tough, but this article will help you answer the above questions and quickly decide the right disc speed in the right situation.
What Is Speed In Disc Golf?
Disc golf speed refers to the speed rating of a disc golf disc and is the first number listed on the disc. The speed rating of the disc is on a scale of 1 to 14 indicating how fast a disc should be thrown to achieve its intended flight path. More specifically, disc speed is a measure of the disc’s aerodymics and is primarily determined by the width of the disc’s rim. A wider rim reduces the disc’s drag resulting in better aerodynamics, thus a higher speed rating. You can read more details on disc golf speed and disc flight numbers here.
It is important to note that higher speed discs will not actually travel faster than lower speed discs. Any disc will only travel as fast as you are able to throw it. The difference is that higher speed discs are usually more aerodynamic and will maintain their speed longer than low speed discs because they are not slowed as much by the air.
Jump over to Mind Body Disc here to learn if your arm speed matches your disc speed.
There is another concept in disc golf called arm speed which is the speed you generate with your arm in order to propel your disc. Arm speed is important but it is part of your disc golf form and is outside the scope of this article.
Does Disc Golf Speed Matter?
Yes, disc speed has a large impact on your throw. In fact, disc speed is arguably the most important flight number because it affects the other flight numbers including fade, turn, and glide when combined with arm speed. If you cannot throw your disc fast enough to achieve its intended flight, it will turn less and fade harder than the flight numbers indicate.
Your disc’s speed significantly affects its flight path, the control you have over it, and the distance it can potentially fly. Disc speed can also affect how it handles the wind and your ability to release consistently. Disc speed will even affect how your disc lands on the ground.
What Speed Disc Should I Throw?
You should throw a disc speed that matches both the purpose of your throw and your disc golf ability. Disc golf throws generally fall into three categories and recommended disc speeds:
- Putts usually use low speed discs to maximize accuracy
- Approaches and midrange shots usually use medium speed discs to balance speed and accuracy
- Drives usually use higher speed discs to maximize distance
You will see throughout this article that there are always exceptions to these categories. Your preferences will play an important part in how you use disc speed.
Slow discs are usually easier to control whereas fast discs usually have potential to fly further. A general guideline is that you should throw slower discs for accuracy and only move to faster discs when your need for extra distance outweights your need for high accuracy.
Beginners often do not have the power to throw a high speed disc properly. In this case it is best to throw low speed discs until your form is developed enough to throw fast discs properly. Beginners risk developing bad habits and poor form by throwing high speed discs without proper training. Bad form can limit your distance and accuracy in the long term so it is critical that learn proper form early.
If you’re a beginner looking for discs, try Infinite Disc’s selection of discs for beginners.
Fast Vs. Slow Disc Golf Discs
Slower discs are generally easier to control but do not have the potential to fly as far as higher speed discs. When you have a close shot and a small target that you are trying to hit, you will usually find more advantage throwing a slow and controllable disc than a fast disc. Slower discs usually have a softer landing than fast discs and skip and slide less.
For example, if you are throwing 150 feet from the basket, your target landing area should probably be Circle 1 (the 33 foot or 10 meter circle around the basket) and you might choose a 2-4 speed disc. If you are throwing 350 feet, your target landing area may increase to Circle 2 (the 66 foot or 20 meter circle around the basket) and you might choose an 8-12 speed disc. You will need to test different discs to determine which speeds you prefer to throw at different distances.
One thing to consider when picking a disc speed is that higher speed discs are usually riskier to throw. If you miss your line just slightly, a fast disc will travel off course more than a slower speed disc. Although you may lose some distance with a lower speed disc, you may actually score better because your disc is less likely to fly far into the weeds.
On the contrary, when a slow disc is thrown too hard, it may to turn harder than you’d like. Turn is the tendency for a disc to move to the right in the early stages of the flight (for a right-hand back-hand thrower) and you can read more about disc golf turn here. To prevent over-turning you could throw a more overstable disc or you could increase your disc speed.
Another consideration is that you may lose proper form if you are throwing too hard. For example, throwing a 2 speed putter 350 feet may require such a hard throw that your form becomes sloppy. In this case you may have better accuracy with a higher speed disc that can be thrown with lower power but still maintains its speed.
Faster discs are generally more difficult to control than slower discs but have the potential to fly further. You must have the arm speed to throw them properly for this to be true. This is useful when you have a long throw and a wide area that is considered accpetable to land in. As noted above though, all discs leave your hand at the same speed but high speed discs maintain the speed longer.
Fast rated discs are more difficult to control than slow rated discs even when thrown at low speeds. A high speed disc thrown at a low speed will often hook and drop hard making it more difficult to shape your shot (control the flight path of the disc). Usually this is undesirable, but it may be a useful tactic with winds so heavy that your low speed disc cannot hold up. Since higher speed discs are usually more aerodynamic they are often less affected by wind.
High speed discs also have wider rims than lower speed discs. Very thick rims on maximium distance drivers can be more difficult to grip and cause inconsistent releases. This may be especially true if you have small hands like I do. Throwing lower speed discs with comfortable rims may add consistency to your throws.
What Speed Is A Disc Golf Driver?
Disc golf drivers are often categorized by the following speeds:
- Midrange driver: 4-5 speed
- Fairway driver: 6-8 speed
- Control driver: 9-11 speed
- Distance driver: 12-14 speed
Discs rated lower than 4 speed are usually considered putters.
Disc golf drivers cover a wide range of speeds because there are many different situations when you will be throwing drivers. Midrange drivers usually have more of a blunt nose than distance drivers which causes them to lose speed faster. Midrange drivers balance speed and distance.
Distance drivers usually have sharper noses than midrange drivers and prioritize distance over accuracy. This does not mean that accuracy is not important! This only means that you probably have a wider target to aim at. You can reference the example in the section above if this concept is not clear.
Categorization is usually given by the disc’s manufacturer to help explain what they intend the disc to be used for, so as a result there are no strict definitions to categorization and there are many exceptions to the above disc speed guidelines.
What Speed Is A Disc Golf Putter?
Disc golf putters are usually rated from 1 to 3 speed, but there are some putters rated 4 speed. The reason disc golf putters are slow is because lower speed discs are easier to control than higher speed discs. Putting occurs close enough to the basket that accuracy is more important than distance. Remember that high speed discs will usually tip and drop hard when thrown lightly, whereas a slow speed disc is more likely to hold its line when tossed lightly.
Also consider the difference between tossing a disc at a basket compared to hurling a disc at a basket. There is a higher chance that a fast flying disc with sharp nose could bounce off of the chains or pole than a slower moving disc with a blunt nose. Using a putter can reduce the chance of your disc spitting out of the basket.
Some putters are made for the purpose of driving. Driving putters are usually rated at a slightly higher speed of 3 or 4 and can usually handle more torqure without flipping over. Remember that slow discs may turn and flip more than you like if you throw them harder than their speed rating.
You can see our list of best disc golf putters here!
When To Throw Fast Disc Golf Discs
- When speed is more important than accuracy
- When you are experienced enough to understand how fast discs fly
- When you can generate appropriate arm speed
- When you need a big skip or slide
- When you are throwing in heavy wind
When To Throw Slow Disc Golf Discs
- When accuracy is more important than distance
- When you are a beginner and learning proper form
- When you cannot generate high arm speed
- When you want a soft landing
- When you cannot release high speed drivers consistently
We have a great resource here to help you decide what weight disc golf disc you should throw!
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