Understanding Disc Flight Ratings: A Comprehensive Guide

Disc golf is a game of finesse, precision, and strategy. Much like traditional golf, the equipment you choose can profoundly impact your performance. One of the most critical factors in selecting the right disc is understanding its flight ratings. These ratings are numbers printed or stamped on a disc, designed to show how the disc will perform. They are categorized into four essential metrics: speed, glide, turn, and fade.

This article aims to demystify these terms, explain how they impact the flight of the disc, and guide you on what to look for based on your skill level.

What Are Flight Ratings?

Flight ratings are a set of four numbers that characterize the flying behaviour of a disc. These numbers range from speed (how fast the disc needs to be thrown), glide (how well the disc will maintain altitude), turn (the degree to which the disc turns during the initial part of the flight), and fade (how much the disc curves back in the opposite direction towards the end of its flight).


The first number is the speed rating, usually between 1 and 14. Speed doesn't indicate how "fast" the disc is but how fast you need to throw it to achieve its intended flight path. Higher-speed discs require a faster arm speed to fly as designed.

Impact on Flight

Higher-speed discs often go farther but are less accurate, especially for beginners who may not have the arm speed to throw them correctly. Lower-speed discs may not travel as far but often offer better control.


The second number refers to glide, generally between 1 and 7. Glide indicates how well the disc can maintain altitude during flight. A disc with higher glide will stay in the air longer, making it easier to cover greater distances.

Impact on Flight

Discs with higher glide are advantageous when you want to cover more ground, like in open fields. However, a lower glide may offer more control in windy conditions or tight courses.


The third number in the flight ratings is the turn, generally ranging from +1 to -5. A positive turn means the disc is more resistant to turning over (or turning to the right for a right-hand backhand throw), while a negative turn suggests that the disc will likely turn over during the initial phase of the flight.

Impact on Flight

Understanding turn is crucial for manipulating the disc's flight path. A disc with negative turn can be used for an "S-curve," where the disc first turns right then fades back left. On the other hand, a disc with a positive turn will mostly maintain its initial trajectory.


The last number is the fade, which ranges from 0 to 5. Fade measures how much the disc will hook or curve back in the opposite direction of the initial turn at the end of its flight.

Impact on Flight

Discs with higher fade are great for sharp turns and hook shots, especially when you need the disc to finish strongly to the left (for a right-hand backhand throw). A lower fade disc will have a more gentle finishing curve.

Skill Level Considerations

Knowing your skill level can significantly affect your disc selection. Here's a quick guide:


  • Speed: Opt for discs rated between 2 and 7 for better control.
  • Glide: A higher glide (4-6) will help maximize distance.
  • Turn: Look for a disc with a negative turn to make throwing easier.
  • Fade: Lower fade numbers (0-2) will make the disc less tricky to throw.

Intermediate Players

  • Speed: You can start experimenting with discs up to speed 9 or 10.
  • Glide: A moderate glide rating (3-5) balances distance and control.
  • Turn: A range between -2 and 1 will provide various shot shapes.
  • Fade: A moderate fade (1-3) will allow for more tactical shots.

Advanced Players

  • Speed: Feel free to use high-speed discs (11-14) for maximum distance.
  • Glide: Vary your glide based on specific course needs.
  • Turn: A variety of turn ratings will be helpful for an advanced player's diverse shot requirements.
  • Fade: Higher fade ratings (2-5) can be employed for more complex shots.


Understanding disc flight ratings is essential for anyone serious about disc golf. These ratings help you predict a disc's behaviour and choose the right one for your specific needs and skill level. So the next time you're in the market for a new disc or evaluating your current arsenal, you'll know precisely what those four little numbers mean. With this knowledge, you'll be better equipped to master the fairways and lower your scores. Happy disc golfing!