Golf discs are designed to travel different distances with different flight paths. Distances and flight path are affected by how fast the disc is thrown and at what angle the disc is released. As a result of this variability, discs are available in many different molds, plastics and weights.
Discs are broken down into four categories – Driver (speed of 9-10+), Fairway (6 to 8-9 speed), Midrange (4 and 5 speed), and Putt & Approach (1 to 3 speed). Putt & Approach is a bit of a misnomer because a Putt & Approach can be thrown over 300 feet. Witness the recent "greatest shot in disc golf history" here in which James Conrad throws his Axiom Electron Firm Envy (speed 3) 247 feet on the final hole of the 2021 Pro World Championships.
Each disc mold can come in multiple plastics – from baseline (least durable and most affordable) to premium (more durable and expensive). For new players, it is best to start with baseline plastics because many new players will try out different discs until they find one that is suitable for their arm speed and throwing style, and many will graduate to higher speed discs as they continue to improve. It is not cost-effective to buy discs in premium plastic that may not work for you in the long run. Baseline plastic also works very well in colder and wetter weather.
Discs are available in weights from 100 grams to 180 grams. Beginners should be able to get more distance with lighter discs because lighter discs have more glide than heavier discs and lighter discs are easier to throw because they are more understable than heavier discs of the same mold. Lighter discs are also easier to control because you don’t have to throw them at maximum power to get the intended flight path. A general rule of thumb to follow: the higher the speed the lower the weight; most people can have success throwing a 175-gram putter but most people will have better success throwing a driver that weighs less than 175 grams.
Many players sport a backpack with 15 plus discs in it because different discs fly differently if thrown properly. For your first round, you only need one disc (maybe two of the same if the only disc golf course near you is full of thorny bushes and/or water hazards). It’s tempting to start with a driver because throwing far is more exciting than throwing slow and steady. But beginners can generally throw a slower speed disc such as a Putt & Approach or a Midrange further than a driver until they learn to power a higher speed disc.
Many experienced players often play a one disc round to dial in their form and throwing mechanics. Learn to throw a Putt & Approach and a Midrange straight and then learn to throw them with different angles of release to learn how release angles affect flight path. A one disc round also simplifies the game and allows you to focus on throwing and not on which disc to use.
There are a lot of Putt & Approach discs available and most people can learn to play with any Putt & Approach, but the best one for you is the one that feels best in your hand in terms of disc depth, whether it has a bead or not, and the feel of the plastic. Note that Putt & Approach discs can be further broken down into putters which are used for putting into a basket at a closer range and approach discs which are thrown at a basket from further away. We do have a Beginner Putters & Midranges collection here which lists some of the most popular Putters and beginner friendly Midrange discs.
Starter sets are very appealing to beginners because grabbing a starter set is much easier than choosing one or two discs from a plethora of choices. Who knew a golf disc could come in such variety? If you know what you want to and can throw, you can choose the exact weight and colour of the disc mold you want; however, if you are feeling overwhelmed some starter sets are great for beginners.
Beware that not all starter sets are made equal. You will notice that we have categorized all disc golf sets as “Disc Golf Sets” and not “Starter Sets”. Why? Because some disc golf sets are definitely not made for beginners. Most beginners will have more success with lighter and understable discs if they are learning to throw a backhand. On a proper throw, an understable disc will spin to the right and then spin back to the left at the end of its flight for a right-handed player who is throwing a backhand and an understable disc will spin to the left and then spin back to the right at the end of its flight for a left-handed player who is throwing a backhand.
The Innova Starter Set and the Discmania Active Disc Golf Starter Set both include three discs in base plastic in the 150 grams weight range which should work well for most beginners. Note that the discs in the Discmania set are more stable than the ones in the Innova set so they should work better for forehand players. There are many other disc golf sets which generally include heavier discs and/or premium plastic which may not work as well for beginners; they may be better suited as an introduction to someone who wants to try a new brand of discs.
If you ask any player who has been playing for a while, they will probably tell you that their biggest regret was starting out with drivers instead of starting with only a few slower speed neutral flying discs so that they could practice form and play with different release angles to learn better technique faster. We encourage beginners to delay using drivers until after you have put in some practice time throwing the slower speed discs. Throwing far is way more fun when your disc actually flies in the right direction.