Heavy Putters, Light Drivers

Shopping for new discs as a beginner can be overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider. Who are the best manufacturers? Should I get a putter, mid-range, fairway driver, or distance driver? Am I better off with something overstable or understable? What are all these different plastics?


And then, once you think you’ve figured it all out, you discover that the exact same disc comes in a bunch of different weights! Often times, discs will vary in weight from the low 150s (in grams) to the high 170s. Although some small weight differences can be attributed to slight inconsistencies in the manufacturing process, different weight categories are offered intentionally by manufacturers to give throwers more options. With years of experience and thousands of throws on many different discs, disc golfers can make informed decisions about which disc weights work best for them.


But what is a beginner supposed to do when they don’t have the advantage of experience to guide their decision making? Well, here is my rule of thumb for newbies… choose heavier putters and lighter drivers. Mid-ranges can be somewhere in the middle.


Why heavier putters? Putt and approach shots are all about accuracy, and the biggest enemy of accuracy (aside from a lack of practice and skill) is the wind. Any experienced disc golfer can tell you about putters getting slammed into the ground, pushed left and right, or lifted way over the basket by an errant gust of wind. Discs with more mass will be pushed off course less than lightweight discs. So, assuming that you put your throw on a good trajectory to begin with, you are more likely to hit your target with a heavy putter. 


Why lighter drivers? Lighter drivers allow you to generate more arm speed, resulting in longer drives. Of course your ability to throw the disc far depends on things besides arm speed, like nose angle, angle of release, and spin, but these are not going to be impacted by disc weight. Less mass in your hand means you can get more acceleration for the force that your body is able to produce. Now there is an additional benefit to lighter drivers that is related to the physics of flight. Lighter discs will tend to glide longer because the lift-to-weight ratio during flight is greater for a less massive disc. Lift is the force that is a result of the pressure difference between the air moving across the top of your disc and the air moving across the bottom of the disc. Without getting into the details of the physics, it works like an airplane wing. As long as the disc is moving forward there is a region of low pressure above the flight plate that helps keep it in the air. The opposing force, weight, is what makes the disc want to fall to the ground. Thus for a given speed, there is less weight opposing the lift force on a lighter weight disc.


Yes, this is a simplified approach to choosing disc weight. And after a while you’ll find other reasons to tailor the weight of your discs to the needs of various shots. But when you are a beginner, you need to keep things simple so you don’t waste a bunch of money trying every disc under the sun. Start with lighter drivers and heavier putters to start developing your game. You may eventually find a place in your bag for heavy drivers and light putters, but wait until you have a specific reason to add these in.


Examples from my bag (I’m an “Intermidiate” level player, as defined by the PDGA)

  • Putt Approach Discs
    • Axiom Proxy, Plasma Plastic, 175 grams
    • Axiom Envy, Neutron Plastic, 174 grams
    • MVP Entropy, Neutron Plastic, 176 grams
  • Drivers
    • MVP Photon, Fission Plastic, 162 grams
    • Axiom Crave, Neutron Plastic, 163 grams

Pic of Golf Discs on Grass