Here at the Disc Golf Answer Man, some of the most common questions we get are about disc flight numbers. We have received literally hundreds of flight number related questions. We thought it would be helpful to answer them all right here in one article for you. In fact, we can do it with three simple words…
They Don’t Matter.
1. There is no standard. There is no disc throwing machine set up at sea level where everyone sends their discs for testing. There is no uniform manner in which everyone’s discs are measured. Every disc manufacturer has a different idea about what each of the 4 numbers means. If you were to give the same disc to each of these companies, there is a good chance that every one would come up with a different rating.
2. The major disc manufacturers are all located in different climates and altitudes. Those two things can cause the flight characteristics of any disc to vary greatly. How a disc flies in the city it was made and tested is probably not how it will fly where you are located.
3. To recreate the numbers printed on the disc, you would have to exactly mimic the company’s tests. You’d have to throw each disc with exactly the same power, hyzer angle, nose angle, launch angle, amount of spin, and snap that they did. This is virtually impossible.
4. Flight characteristics of discs don’t solely depend on all the above. They also change based on the run number, type of plastic, type of hot stamp, and many other variables.
5. Just because a disc doesn’t fly like its numbers indicate doesn’t mean the disc has no value to you. If you throw a particular disc well, does it really matter if its flight matches the numbers printed on it?
6. We all throw in different ways. There are an infinite combination of angles and speeds that make up our throws. That variance alone will negate most ratings printed on a disc. Some players can make an overstable disc flip over like a puppy looking for a belly rub. Other players can make meathooks out of supposedly understable plastic.
Why are there numbers in the first place? The simple answer is it’s the best of what we have for now. And if you must use them, they do have one somewhat valid application. They can give you a relative measurement when comparing discs made by the same company.
However much a glide 5 disc has for you, odds are good that a glide 4 disc will have a little less. If you aren’t getting enough fade out of a disc with a fade rating of 2, going to one with a 3 should give you more. As long as you are comparing discs by the same maker, this should hold true. How much difference you’ll see between two discs with different numbers can’t be predicted. What can be said is that there should at least be a difference.
What To Do?
In the end, the only way to really tell for sure is to throw them. Here at Dynamic Discs, we try and make it easier for you. Our brick and mortar stores have an exchange policy. If you don’t like a disc, bring it back and we’ll exchange it for one of equal or lesser value at no cost to you. Many of our dealers offer the same program. If you go to one of our Two Disc Challenge events, we have testers of almost every mold for you to try before you buy. You can even ask other people at the course to try their plastic. Most disc golfers will be happy and eager for you to try out their favorite discs. If all that fails, Dynamic Discs, Latitude 64, and Westside Discs all make discs in less expensive base plastic. We also offer a great assortment of misprint discs offered at a lower price. Those are great, inexpensive ways to try out new molds and see how they throw for you.
If you want to see all this in action, check out our series on YouTube “Is This Disc Right For You?”. There you will see pros and ams throw a disc side by side, giving you an idea of how the disc flies in real life. Numbers could never tell you that.