For years I was unaware of the existence of disc golf discs. I knew there was a version of golf that I thought was played with frisbees, but that was it. I had no idea that there were different specially designed discs for the sport.
While I was at work one day many years ago, I noticed there was a newly added disc golf course to the campus. This is when I was first introduced to disc golf. A group of co-works and I decided to go out one day and give it a try.
I had played Ultimate frisbee recreationally off and on for years, so I had a few regular frisbees laying around the house that I was able to bring to play with. I showed up with my regular frisbees and immediately noticed that everyone else’s frisbees looked different…
This was because they were all using disc golf discs. I was the only one that didn’t get the memo.
I quickly asked what type of frisbees they were all using and they began to explain to me the differences between a disc golf disc and a frisbee.
So, what is the difference between a disc golf disc and a frisbee? The most obvious distinction is a disc golf disc is smaller than a frisbee, but more dense. Frisbees are designed specifically for throwing and catching, with a tall profile and rounded outer edge. Disc golf discs are designed specifically for only throwing and not catching. Golf discs typically have a thinner profile and a sharper outer edge to increase aerodynamics and distance.
I played that day with just a regular catch frisbee and still had a blast. By the end of it, it was clear that those playing with disc golf discs had an inherent advantage over my regular catch frisbee for distance and accuracy.
Let’s take a closer look at how a disc golf disc and frisbee compare to each other.
Disc Golf Discs and Frisbees Compared
Traditionally, a frisbee is a flying disc that is used for playing catch with someone else. A golf disc is not designed to be caught by human hands.
Frisbee is actually a trademarked term by the company Wham-O. And it has been for many years. However, overtime frisbee has been a term used by people to apply to any flying disc. It is common for people to refer to disc golf as frisbee golf.
Most disc golfers don’t have a problem with this terminology, but some have taken a hard line on only using disc golf. This is because frisbee is normally used in reference to a backyard pastime kids play.
Disc golf, while still a budding game, has exploded in recent years as a full-fledged sport with more and more players transitioning to playing full-time. There are even some players that have been able to secure very large sponsorship outside of just their tournament winnings.
As the sport of disc golf continues to grow, so do the manufactures that produce equipment for players. The technology that is used to produce discs has advanced significantly over the years to where disc golf discs look nothing like traditionally catch frisbees.
As briefly mentioned before, the most obvious difference between a golf disc and frisbee is the size.
Both golf discs and catch frisbees come in all different shapes and sizes, but generally speaking golf discs are smaller. Take a look at the below diagram to see a visual of the difference.
All golf discs are required to meet the technical standards that have been created by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA). The one requirement of the PDGA is that all golf disc must be 21.2 cm. Other aspects such as the height, weight, and rim depth are subject to some variation to accommodate other flight characteristics.
There aren’t very many golf discs, if any, being produced that do not meet the standards set by the PDGA since that would exclude their usage in professionally sanctioned events. No one would really use them otherwise.
Frisbees by nature are used recreationally, so manufacturers are producing them in many shapes and sizes. The frisbee displayed in the diagram above is one that would meet the specifications to be used in an Ultimate frisbee event. While it doesn’t reflect all frisbees in existence, it does illustrate the general differences.
Plastic & Density & Weight
Frisbee are typically made of stiffer plastic, but the weight is distributed across a larger area. Since golf discs are being thrown much harder and further, you’ll find the plastic to be gummier and easier to grip. All flying discs come in various types of plastic types, but you’ll usually find frisbees to be stiffer and golf discs to be more flexibly.
A golf disc is also much more dense. Most frisbees, such as those used in the sport of Ultimate, are about the same weight as a golf disc. However, the density of a golf disc can make it feel much heavier in your hand.
Golf discs are measured in grams. Most come between 150 and 180 grams. However, there are discs that go all the way down to 130 grams, such as discs that are designed for kids to throw.
Frisbees used in Ultimate are specifically 175 grams. You’ll likely find any frisbees that weigh less to be much harder to throw a long distance.
Distance & Difficulty To Throw
The difference of throwing a frisbee and a golf disc is like playing mini golf versus regular golf.
Most people don’t have much of a problem starting off playing mini golf and getting the ball to travel straight. It doesn’t take a lot of time before someone is able to hit the ball and make it through whatever obstacles are presented.
On the other hand, people starting off in regular ball golf have a much harder time getting the ball to go the direction and distance they want. There are additional complexities and idiosyncrasies involved that take time to learn in regular golf.
Throwing a disc golf disc can be similar to this. Most golf discs can travel much further than a regular frisbee, but they take more finesse and practice to master. Most people are able to pick up a frisbee and easy toss it to a friend a short distance away. The first time someone picks up a golf disc, it is unlikely they will be able to get it to travel with much distance or purpose.
Disc golfers are usually throwing golf discs around 350 to 400 feet. The world record for distance with a golf disc is around 1100 feet. A frisbee, on the other hand, is designed to usually only travel 50 to 100 feet when being tossed to another individual. However, advanced Ultimate players are able to throw their frisbees much further.
Can or Should You Play Disc Golf With a Regular Frisbee?
Absolutely. I used a regular frisbee the first time I played disc golf. Despite losing pretty bad, I still had tremendous fun and learned a lot. Right after that, I went out and purchased some golf discs to improve at the game.
However, there are a few reasons why you may stick with playing with a regular catch frisbee: cost and challenge.
First, if you don’t plan on playing disc golf very often, then it might not make sense to go out and purchase a set of golf discs. Golf discs are usually around $10 to $15. Not terribly expenses, but money nonetheless. Also, if you are playing against other players that have frisbees then it might be more fun if everyone was on the same level.
Second, playing with a frisbee could help you improve. While a golf disc is more technically difficult to throw, a frisbee doesn’t fly as far or accurately. If you’re looking for a challenge to help you improve, then playing with a frisbee could be a good alternative for you.
How to Play Disc Golf
Disc golf generally follows the same rules as ball golf, but instead of hitting a golf ball with a club into a hole, you’re using a golf disc and throwing it into an elevated basket.
The entire goal is to make your disc in the basket in the fewest amount of throws possible from the starting point. You’ll find disc golf courses are all over the United States and the world, most of which are free to play on. When you find one, you’ll likely find it to be either 9 or 18 holes.
Like I mentioned before, definitely use your catch frisbee to play your first time around. Once you decide you like it you can go out and get real golf discs.
If you’re interested in learning more about playing disc golf, be sure to check out my Complete Beginners Guide. In the guide I review everything from choosing and throwing a golf disc to playing a round and keeping score, and everything in between.