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When you’re shopping for disc golf discs, you’ll see different attributes rated on a variety of scales.
The speed of the disc is self-explanatory.
But there are other attributes like turn, fade, and glide.
What is glide in disc golf?
The glide of a disc is the ability it has to stay aloft as it flies. The more glide a disc has, the longer it will stay in the air.
High-glide discs are great for new players, since they typically haven’t mastered their throws yet.
These discs are also good for pros who need to throw at the furthest distance possible.
Players might choose to use a disc with less glide if they want a challenge. These discs also provide an advantage in windy conditions.
Because high-glide discs are propelled by the air, they can be swept off course by a gust of wind.
Low-glide discs may not travel as far, but they’re much more accurate when you play in the wind.
That’s the simplest explanation.
But it still doesn’t explain all the nuances regarding how to select a disc with the right glide for your conditions.
What is glide in Disc Golf?
Different disc companies will use different glide rating scales. These are measurements of how well a disc glides when compared to others.
The low end of the spectrum tends to indicate little glide, while the higher end of the spectrum indicates a large amount of glide.
Once you know how to read the ratings system, you’ll know what you’re getting when you use a certain disc.
Low glide means it’ll fall faster but move more accurately, while high glide means it’ll fly far but may be carried off course by the wind.
Understanding the principle behind glide is just the beginning.
Now that you know the basics, you can learn about:
- The ways that glide can affect your disc’s flight
- Scenarios in which you should choose a high glide
- Scenarios in which you should choose a low glide
Experts describe glide as being the lift that a disc has. Some models have more lift than others.
The more lift, the longer the disc stays airborne.
How glide ratings are calculated
You know the basics of the glide rating system. But how do disc manufacturers actually measure the glide of a disc?
The answer: with math. A lot of math.
Manufacturers use complicated physics-based formulas to determine the rating.
The first component to understand is the lift coefficient.
To calculate the lift, people need to take into account:
- The speed of the air
- The density of the air
- Other variables that are combined to create a glide rating
You can find the total disc lift by multiplying the glide rating, the airspeed, and the air density.
When the rating, density, or speed become higher, the lift also becomes higher to match.
When they become lower, the lift also becomes lower.
Lift involves the way that the air pushes your disc upward as gravity pulls it downward.
The more lift you have, the longer it takes for the weight of the disc to pull it all the way to the ground.
Dense air holds a disc up more effectively, as does fast-moving air.
You might think that it’s best to get a disc that will create maximum lift.
There are advantages to this – but only if you’re playing in calm conditions on a course with great distances.
When the conditions are windier, extra lift can pose a disadvantage.
The wind may buoy the disc up so that it moves high into the air, loses its momentum, and changes course.
It’s very difficult to get an accurate shot.
The more lift there is, the more unpredictable your shot will be, especially in heavy wind.
So does that mean you should never use high glide discs?
No. You just need to know what scenarios are best for each type of disc.
When to use high-glide discs
There are several main scenarios in which a high-glide disc poses an advantage over a low-glide one.
High-glide discs will travel significantly farther than low-glide ones. So if you need to throw across a large distance, this is your best bet.
Keep the weather conditions in mind, though.
On a calm day, or on an indoor course, you won’t run into many problems.
But if the wind isn’t in your favor, you might throw the disc and find that it ends up wildly off course.
When you’re first starting out, a high-glide disc is ideal to use for practice. You don’t yet need to get used to analyzing the wind conditions.
At the beginner stage, you’re just getting used to the motion of throwing the disc.
You also tend to throw at a lower velocity when you’re just starting out.
It takes time and practice to perfect the technique that allows for high-velocity throws.
If you can’t generate enough power, a high-glide disc can compensate for the diminished energy.
Low-glide discs can sometimes be frustrating for beginners, because they land much more quickly.
If you throw at an accidental upward or downward angle, you’ll see significantly worse results with a low-glide model.
Even when you’ve been playing for a while, you might still throw at a low velocity.
Some people have perfect techniques, but they just don’t have the physical strength to create a high-velocity throw.
This is especially common to see in younger children, older people, and people with joint or mobility issues.
If you know that you can’t throw at a high velocity, you can use a high-glide disc to compensate.
Maybe you’re not a beginner or a typical low-velocity thrower. But there are times when you won’t be able to generate maximum power.
Maybe you’re recovering from a wrist injury.
Maybe your position on the court simply won’t allow for a proper throw.
If you can’t put your full power behind the throw, a high-glide disc can compensate.
You just have to try to be as accurate as possible, since using a high-glide disc sometimes means trading off accuracy.
- You’re throwing into a tailwind, which decreases your lift.
- The air density is low enough that the disc can’t be held up easily.
- The disc is made of heavy plastic instead of more lightweight materials, and the heavier weight will pull it down.
When to use low-glide discs
Basically, in any condition that’s not outlined as a high-glide disc scenario, you’ll want to use a low-glide disc.
Some specific scenarios in which low-glide discs provide an advantage are:
- The wind is strong and unpredictable.
- The course is complicated and requires accurate shots.
- The playing conditions already generate a lot of lift without needing extra glide to help.
- The disc materials are lightweight, so they don’t fall as quickly.
- The player is putting their full power into their shots, so they don’t need extra distance to help.