What’s the Difference between a Disc Golf Driver vs Putter?


When I first got into disc golf I had a pretty solid understanding of ball golf as far as when to use drivers and putters. There isn’t much grey area there. For example, you’d never see someone in ball golf using a putter off the tee. And you’d never see someone use a driver to putt. However, you do see people using putters in disc golf from the tee pad all the time. To be honest, I was uncertain of when I was supposed to using my driver, mid-range or putter, so I started to do some research on the topic.

What’s the difference between a disc golf driver verses a putter? Drivers have a wider rim, thinner profile, and narrower outer edge designed for more distances, while a putter has a skinny rim, thicker profile, and wider outer edge designed for more glide and short range throw.

There are also mid-range discs that have attributes somewhere in between a driver and a putter. Let’s take a look at all three types of disc golf discs and their purposes.

Driver vs Mid-range vs Putter

Drivers are designed for higher speed throws and thus the most potential distance to be had. The wider rim and sharper outside edge of a driver allows the disc to cut through the air more efficiently than the other types of discs. But as mentioned, their is a greater speed requirement drivers have in order to achieve the intended flight path designed by the manufacturer. As the rim of a disc get wider, that disc will tend to have a hard curved finish to the end of its flight. If a driver is not thrown with the necessary speed (or arm power) the disc will turn into the ground quickly.

Mid-ranges are used for throws that require a fairly straight flight such as wooded courses. When thrown flat, these discs will typically not deviate from a straight line unless the very end of the flight. A mid-range does not require as much arm speed to have a successful flight through the air.

Putters are designed to have the straightest flight of the three types of discs. Due to the skinny rim and wider outside edge of the plastic mold, a putter has a low arm speed requirement. Intuitively, putters will not fly as far as a driver or mid-range given the deep set inner rim that catches more air, but if thrown with enough power these discs can still travel significant distances. Mostly used as a finishing disc in the basket from short distances.

Most players will start by learning to throw a putter first, and then move on to a mid-range, and then a driver. This is because the speed requirement of a putter is much lower than that of a mid-range or driver to fly as designed. Arm speed take a while to develop, as does the knowledge of how individual discs behave. This is of course just a recommendation.

A newer player could pick up a driver and learn to throw it before mid-ranges and putters. But the time it will take to master a driver without first graduating from putters is likely to be much greater. And in that time, many players will get frustrated and stop playing entirely. To save yourself time and frustration, first master the putter and move up from there.

I consider a disc mastered when I can consistently throw it at the intended speed, flight path, and distance. Manufacturers will typically provide this information on their website to inform players of the design intention. When you get a new disc, look up the flight path from the manufacturer, commit it to memory, and see if you can achieve a similar result when throwing.

Let’s take a look at each of these types of discs more closely and what each will typically look like.

Drivers

Drivers are great for shape shots greater than 250 feet. Because a driver has a hard curved finish (due to its wider rim) it is perfect to navigate around sharp courses to access a basket. This hard curved finish toward the direction the disc is spinning is known as over stability. A disc is thought to have more stability when it resists turning toward the direction the disc is spinning. Understanding the stability of a disc is vital to using it at the right time.

Mid-ranges

Mid-range discs can be pulled out for semi-straight throws with a short curved finish between 150-250 feet. This type of disc and more easily be turned over away from the direction it is spinning when thrown with greater speed. This can be important when you need the disc to shape around a corner opposite of the side it is spinning. When a disc turns toward the opposite side of where it is spinning, this is know as under stability.

Putters

Putters can be used for straight throws with little to no curved finish usually under 150 feet. Putters will not take much arm speed to achieve the intended flight path. It will tend to take a more under stable flight when thrown with greater speed. Most of the time, you’ll be using your putter to finish a hole within 50 feet of the basket. However, a putter can achieve distances well over 150 feet when it is thrown by a more powerful arm.

Where Should You Get Your Discs?

Once you understand the different types of discs, you’ll want to start looking at specific discs to purchase for the game. It can be daunting when there are so many sellers out there producing hundreds of discs. New players may ask, are there particular brands that produce better drivers over putters? Should I buy all my discs from just one brand? What weight should I buy my discs in?

Let’s take a look at all the major brands out there selling discs and then we’ll take a look at my recommendations for which discs and weights could be a good fit for someone just starting out.

What are the Brands Selling Discs?

You certainly don’t have to throw discs from just one brand. Most recreational players have a mixed bag. There are numerous brands out there on the market producing disc golf discs with everything from drivers to mid-ranges to putters.

A neat thing I found the other day was the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) has a list of all of the approved discs on their website, with the associated brands. Right now, there are 79 different brands that have met the technical golf disc requirements to be approved for use in PDGA sanctioned events and tournaments.

Of those 79 brands, there are 1,164 different discs that you can chose from! Here is a list of the top 12 manufacturers producing discs out there and the amount of discs that they have approved by the PDGA:

  • 148 – Innova
  • 104 – Discraft
  • 65 – Latitude 64
  • 61 – Disc Golf Association (DGA)
  • 53 – Gateway Disc Sports
  • 51 – Prodigy Disc
  • 45 – Wham-O
  • 43 – Lightning Discs
  • 42 – Westside Golf Discs
  • 38 – Discmania
  • 37 – MVP Disc Sports
  • 36 – Dynamic Discs

This list give you a good idea of the leaders in the disc golf marketplace.

Keep in mind, these are just the discs that the PDGA has approved for use in their sanctioned events. There is no telling how many other discs are out there that the PDGA hasn’t approved. Many of these brands are continuing to create new discs all the time, so there are likely numerous others that will be added to the list as manufacturers make their submissions. Plus, many of the 79 brands on the list are no longer producing discs.

What is interesting here is the top 12 brands are producing over 62% (723 in total) of all of the discs. The other 67 brands are producing the remaining 38% of the discs (441 in total). What’s more is we see that the top two brands, Innova & Discraft, are producing over 20% of all of the discs. I mention this as a general guideline for what types of discs you are typically going to see others throwing out on a disc golf course.

But don’t be mislead that the other producers are not making great discs. I personally really enjoy throwing discs from Dynamic Discs and they only have 36 discs on the market compared to Innova’s 148 discs. Some of the brands are not as old, whereas Discraft and Innova have been around since the beginning.

Best Discs and Disc Weight for Beginners

The maximum weight the PDGA allows for discs to be is 200 grams. Having thrown a disc that is 200 grams, I can tell you that it feels very heavy in my hand. This is coming from someone that typically throws disc between 165 – 175 grams. After a short review of the technical standards, I didn’t see anywhere where there was a minimum disc weight requirement. This seems to indicate that you could throw as disc as light as you want.

This leaves for a wide range of possible weights that you can get your driver, mid-range, and putter in. With such a large range, it can get confusing on what weight you should start out with. A common misconception here is to get discs that are very heavy, because you can throw heavier objects further. Similar to how you would expect a baseball to fly further than a ping pong ball when thrown. On the other end of the spectrum, you wouldn’t expect to be able to throw a bowling ball further than a baseball.

What most players find is there is a sweet spot for their particular arm strength. This typically falls between 150 – 180 grams. However, that weight will be fluctuate when throwing a driver, mid-range or putter. For example, the average beginner will find that 160 – 165 grams is a great weight for your drivers to where you can get your maximum distance. For mid-ranges, around 165 – 170 is going to be a good range. When throwing putters, you’d probably want to increase the weight to around 171 – 175 grams.

Just starting out, there is still some development for arm power, so you’ll want to keep the disc weight under 165 grams. The only expect to this would be putters that I like in a heavier weight specifically for grabbing the chains more effectively.

Here is a list of discs that I found are best for beginner disc golfers to start with from a few of the larger brands. I will link to Infinite Discs for each so you can check out the current price of each:

Driver Discs

Mid-Range Discs

Putter Discs

There are numerous other discs out there can a new player can get just starting out that are simply to the above this. These are simply the discs that I have come to like and appreciate for great starter discs.

Most brands will have starter sets that include a driver, mid-range, and putter. These are great because you’ll usually be able to get a bit of a discount on the overall cost when buying a bundle. Here are some starter bundles that I like which will include 1 driver, 1 mid-range, and 1 putter.

Numbers on the Disc

You’ll noticed on some disc golf discs there are 4 different numbers. This was primarily the invention of Innova, but many of the brands out there have started to use these and put them on their discs. These numbers are known as the flight rating system.

They are included to help players understand how a disc will behave when thrown and are very important when trying to understand the differences of when to use a driver, mid-range, or putter. When compiling the above list, I kept these ratings in mind to maximize the potential a beginner disc golfer would have.

Here are the four numbers in the order as they appear on the disc with a brief explanation:

  • Speed – Number between 1 and 14. This is the arm power required to get a disc to fly as intended. 1 being the slowest and 14 being the fastest.
  • Glide – Number between 1 and 7. Indicates how long a disc will tend to float. 1 being the least float and 7 being the longest float.
  • Turn – Number between +1 to -5. Indicates how likely the disc is to turn to the opposite side of where the disc is spinning (to the right for a right handed backhand throw). +1 being less turn to the right and -5 being the greatest likelihood of turning to the right.
  • Fade – Number between 0 and 5. Gauges the likelihood that a disc will have a finish to the side the disc is spinning toward (toward the left for right handed backhand throw). 0 being a straight finishing and 5 being a hard curve to the left at the end of the flight.

Players just starting out should look for discs that have 1). low speed, 2). high glide 3). low turn, and 4). low fade. I have found these attributes to be the most beginner friendly aspects to look for in a disc.

Scott Heywood

I'm Scott Heywood, the guy behind Disc Golf Report Report. I've been playing disc golf over the last several years and have become obsessed with it. At least a few times a week you'll find me out on a course playing, but when I'm not, I'm writing about the sport here on Disc Golf Report.

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