This may be one of the hottest debates in the disc golf world. Some players will swear by lightweight discs while others will say that you should always lean toward max weight discs.
The truth is, the weight of a disc can make a significant difference depending on the player and their personal preferences. In future DGU Blog articles, we will be talking more about disc speeds and overall flight numbers, which can ultimately go hand-in-hand with disc weights when it comes to building your bag.
Arm Speed and Power
Your arm speed will have a lot to do with disc weight selection and preference. In order to get maximum distance, you have to get the disc up to speed. When the disc is lighter, you can get more speed out of the disc with less effort. Lighter discs are usually best for beginner players and young disc golfers, as well as those players who impart less power behind their throws (whether by choice or by physical ability). Those who throw harder and faster—looking for max distance with max effort—will generally prefer heavier discs.
Distance Driver Weights
Let’s say you are throwing a 12-speed Innova Star Destroyer (our most popular distance driver) that tends to be pretty overstable for most players with average or below-average arm speeds. A professional MPO player will typically be using a max weight Destroyer. In fact, several Innova players including Ricky Wysocki, Calvin Heimburg and Philo Brathwaite have a Destroyer as their Signature Tour Series disc each year. They are throwing with a ton of power and torque, which allows them to turn the disc over and get a full flight out of it when they need a huge drive. An average player with an average arm won’t see the same results if throwing a max weight distance driver. Using a disc with a lighter weight may allow them to get more of a full flight out of the disc. You will even see many top FPO players using drivers that aren’t max weight for this very reason.
Physics will tell you that a max weight disc will fly farther as it cuts through the air easier. Increased mass leads will sustain more spin and maintain maximum velocity, and that should (in theory) make the discs travel longer distances. There are reasons why the PDGA puts a 175-gram weight limit on drivers for competitive play. However, if you are not able to get the disc up to full speed, it may hyzer out on you earlier and you will lose distance.
Then there is the other side of the coin. If you throw a lightweight disc too hard, it may flip over too much or stall out if released at a poor angle. In this case, you also lose potential distance along with control. Let’s exaggerate this concept by imagining you are throwing a standard porcelain dinner plate compared to a disposable plastic or paper plate you’d use at a picnic. The dinner plate will give you more control and dependable flight with a stable finish (followed by an explosion of porcelain), whereas the paper plate will give you much less control. However, if thrown just perfectly in the right conditions, you just might get more distance out of it. These are extreme examples because neither are designed to be thrown like disc golf discs, but you get the idea.
A 20-gram difference between a 175-gram disc (max weight) and a 155-gram disc (lightweight) isn’t massive when you consider what a gram actually weighs. However, it can make a significant difference in flight characteristics in a disc that’s designed for disc golf.
Which to Use in Windy Conditions
Wind can also be a factor (another topic we will be covering a lot on the DGU Blog). Some players will reach for lighter-weight, understable discs with a lot of glide in a tailwind, while sticking with heavier, overstable discs in a headwind. Again, this choice boils down to simple physics. A tailwind is going to make the disc more stable and will enhance glide if thrown at a proper angle. A headwind will make the disc less stable. Faster speeds and heavier weights help fight the wind better along with a more overstable mold like a Champion Firebird.
Mid-Range and Putter Weights
When it comes to mid-ranges and putters, most players will prefer heavier discs that offer the most control on upshots and putts. However, if you are someone who likes to throw your slower discs at full power, you may want one or two in the bag with slightly lighter weights that could give you even more glide and distance (especially in a tailwind or for downhill shots). We talked about Innova Starter Sets in our last article, and those tend to include lighter-weight discs that are easier for beginners to throw. The better you get, the more likely you may be to gravitate toward heavier plastic.
Explore Your Options
Ultimately, deciding which weights you like for each of your discs is sometimes a matter of trial and error. Innova makes many different disc molds and provides a wide range of disc weights (everything from super-lightweight Blizzard Champion plastic to beefy Star or Metal Flake plastic). Different players will have different preferences. Not every mold feels comfortable in every person’s hand. Some people like throwing lighter discs for certain shots and some people don’t. Try different options and combinations to find out what feels best in your hand and what flies the best for you. This helps you hone in on your ideal combination of disc molds, weights and plastics to build out your bag just the way you want it.