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While there is some debate in the ultimate community about which is the best frisbee for ultimate frisbee, (if we had to choose, we would vote in favor of Discraft’s UltraStar), this won’t be the subject of the following article.
Instead, our subject for today will be which are the best disc golf discs for ultimate players who are looking to make the transition.
And to be honest it’s a tricky question‒‒while ultimate players are used to using the same frisbee no matter the conditions, disc golf requires players to become familiar with the flight patterns of various discs, ranging from putters (which are somewhat similar to ultimate discs) to drivers (a completely different animal).
So in this article we’ll be addressing two separate questions.
The first is, which disc golf discs will feel most comfortable and familiar to beginning players who have prior experience playing ultimate (or just throwing around a standard frisbee with friends).
But the second, and in our opinion most important question for those looking to get serious about disc golf is, which discs will best allow you to make the transition into the full spectrum of disc golf discs.
What this means is that, while certain types of disc golf disc may feel more ultimate frisbee more than others, getting too attached to this kind of disc will quickly turn from an advantage to a disadvantage.
What we want is for you to get the most out of this amazing new sport, to get motivated to keep playing, and most of all, to have fun.
So keep reading to get our recommendation on the best discs for making the switch from Ultimate to Disc Golf!
What is the difference between disc golf and ultimate discs?
The first thing you’ll need to understand is how the construction of ultimate frisbee discs and disc golf discs is different and the reasons behind this.
Ultimate discs weigh 175 grams and have a rounded rim. They are made to be thrown and caught comfortably and to glide without much effort.
An ultimate field is only 64 meters (70 yards) long, and the majority of passes are much shorter than that, so maximum distance is not a priority when designing frisbees for ultimate.
In contrast, disc golf holes can be as long as 400 meters, making distance a big priority, especially on the first few throws of the hole.
Disc golf discs are not meant to be caught, and so they can be designed with sharp bevelled edges making them more aerodynamic.
The specific flight pattern of disc golf discs is also important, because characteristics such as in-flight stability and end-of-flight fade help the thrower to navigate obstacles or bends in the course.
For this reason it’s important for disc golfers to become familiar with a wide variety of discs and learn when and how to use each.
In general disc golf discs can be divided into three classes: drivers, mid-range discs, and putters.
Drivers are made to be thrown for maximum distance, mid-range discs balance aspects of aerodynamics and control, and putters are made for short distances, low speeds, and maximum control.
So which of these disc types should you be considering as you’re transitioning from ultimate to disc golf, in order to make the most out of your learning curve?
What to look for (and avoid) when making the switch
Before you get too nervous about all the new terms, techniques, and equipment you’ll be bombarded with as you get into disc golf, let’s mention the good news: as an ultimate player you already have the fundamentals of the main throws you’ll need‒backhand and forehand.
All you need to do is learn a little about the specifications on disc golf discs and you should be well on your way.
All disc golf discs are given ratings based on four characteristics: Speed, glide, turn, and fade.
- Speed is rated from 1 to 14, and the higher the rating, the faster the disc must be thrown to fly right. If you’re new to disc golf, we definitely recommend staying away from higher speed ratings to start.
- Glide is rated from 1 to 7 and measures how long a disc will stay aloft when thrown at the right speed. Extra glide can be a benefit for new players looking for maximum distance.
- Turn is measured from -5 to 1. This number tells us how likely the disc is to turn, or how stable the disc is in the air. A rating of 1 means the disc is overstable, or in other words, will tend to turn left when thrown by a right-hander backhand. A disc rating -5, on the other hand, will tend to turn the most to the right.
- Fade is the final rating given on most disc golf discs. This is the measure of how much the disc drops to the left (rhbh thrower) as it starts to lose speed. Fade is scored from 0 to 5.
So where does an ultimate frisbee come in on this scale?
The folks at discgolfnow.com have estimated the ratings of an ultimate frisbee as 2, 5, -2, 1.
This means that an ultimate disc takes very little speed (2/14) to fly well, will glide for a very long time (5/7), is slightly understable (-2/-5) but will fly more or less straight, and has a slight fade at the end of its flight (1/5).
So if you’re looking for a disc golf disc that’s as close to your ultimate disc as possible, you’re probably in the market for a putter.
You can recognize putters by their low speed rating and rounded edge. This type of disc will give you the best control and will fly a lot like what you’re used to.
However, these discs will not fly very far, and won’t give you as much room to work on the release techniques that will eventually help you transition into higher-speed discs.
For this reason, we’d recommend, in addition to your putter, picking up at least one mid-range disc as well.
Stay away from anything with a speed rating over 5 or 6 for the time being.
Best Disc Golf Discs for Ultimate Players
There are a number of disc options that may work well for Ultimate. It’s important to consult an industry professional before using any new product for your game.
In the interest of getting you used to different discs, while still making the transition as smooth as possible, we’ve highlighted one putter and one mid-range disc to get you started.
Innova DX Aviar Putt and Approach Disc Golf Putter Practice
Some specific features of this disc include:
- Speed: 2
- Glide: 3
- Turn: 0
As our highlighted putter we’ve chosen the Innova Aviar. This disc is probably the most popular putter out there.
It’s a low-speed disc like what most ultimate players will be used to, and is available in DX plastic at 170-175 grams, almost identical to an ultimate disc.
The Aviar is easy to control and flies straight with little fade, but is also more stable than an ultimate disc and will be more predictable even in heavy winds.
A classic disc and a great early investment!
Check out this disc on Amazon to learn more about how it might work for your game.
Discraft Buzzz Elite Z Golf Disc
Some key features of this disc include:
- Speed: 5
- Glide: 4
- Turn: -1
- Fade: 1
The Buzzz from Discraft could be one of the best mid-range discs out there.
It’s been around for over fifteen years and continues to be a favorite of beginners and pros alike.
The Buzzz is a stable disc with excellent control and a good amount of glide to up your distance.
The low level of fade on the back end also makes it easier to control. This a great multi-purpose disc as you learn hyzers, anhyzers, and all the other shots you’ll be tackling as you get deeper into disc golf.
This is an excellent beginner disc that gives you plenty of room to grow and improve, and we’re sure that even if you fall in love with disc golf, this is a disc you’ll keep in your bag for years to come.
You can view this disc at Amazon to learn more about how it might work for use in Ultimate Frisbee.
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com @cpoungpeth