If you've ever tried to play disc golf with an everyday frisbee, you know that the experience is less than satisfying. Using discs specifically designed for disc golf is important to enjoying the sport and improving your scores.
But what sorts of discs exist and when and how should you use all of them?
Discs Explained is a series that goes over the basic disc types—putters, midranges, fairway drivers, and distance drivers—and tells you their purposes, how best to throw them, and what situations to throw them in. We also include recommendations for popular molds of each disc type.
BEFORE WE GET TO MIDRANGES...
If you haven't read a different article in the Discs Explained series before, the information in this section will help you more fully understand the advice that comes later.
For those who've recently read a different Discs Explained piece, we suggest scrolling to the MIDRANGES EXPLAINED section as the information in the BEFORE WE GET TO.... section is the same across all articles.
Focus on Righthand Backhand
Though much of the information here will still be very useful to forehand-dominant players, it's important to point out that in regards to aspects like distance, we wrote this piece specifically with backhands in mind. This is because the majority of players tend to throw backhands more comfortably than forehands.
If you don't know what we mean by backhand, it's the technique seen in this clip from JomezPro:
We hope to add similar information for forehands to the blog in the future.
Additionally, the directions we mention for flight patterns refer to those for right-handed players.
Stability and Flight Numbers
Every disc is manufactured with a specific flight pattern in mind. When thrown flat some should go straight as an arrow (stable) while others should turn right (understable) or fade left (overstable). Discs with these intended flight patterns exist in every disc category we discuss in this series.
One way some manufacturers have attempted to concretely define the differences in discs is by using flight numbers. These are a set of four numbers that describe a disc's speed, glide, turn, and fade. We have an in-depth article on flight numbers here, but for this series it's most important to understand what's meant by "speed."
Speed, which is largely governed by shape, is the only thing that truly separates discs into the categories we explore in this series, with putters having the slowest speed numbers and distance drivers the highest.
Discs are made to follow their intended flight paths when thrown at specific speeds. If you throw a disc with too much speed (or improper technique), it will tend to turn over and sometimes even roll. If you throw a disc with too little speed, it will just fade left and not travel very far.
Unfortunately, there is no standard speed scale all manufacturers use. In this series, we'll refer to the one most widely used in disc golf that ranges from 1-15, with discs that fly true at higher speeds having higher numbers.
The maximum speed a disc can reach also affects the distance it can potentially travel. If you compared two discs whose weights were the same and whose flight numbers only differed in the speed category, the one with the higher speed rating should theoretically be capable of more distance.
Beware! You shouldn't take this to mean that because a disc is a higher speed, it will automatically fly farther. Most players need lots of practice and training to throw a high speed disc correctly. In fact, many beginners will find that slower speed discs fly farther for them than higher speed discs.
If you're interested in learning more about the physics behind disc flight, give this article a read.
A midrange disc is the happy medium between a putter and a driver. Midranges can be controlled by any level of player and are a staple in most disc golfer’s bags. Below we break down the specifics of these discs and what makes them so versatile.
Along with our own knowledge and experience, the sources for this section include 2017 Advanced Amateur Disc Golf World Champion AJ Carey and Advanced Women 2019 Amateur Disc Golf World Champion Erikah Weir. We specifically sought out amateur World Champs because top pros tend to make far different disc choices than most amateurs due to elite distance and technical ability.
Main Characteristics of a Midrange
The defining characteristics of midranges are…
Midranges are the widest discs on the market. Their large diameters allow them to glide for longer distances than putters and make their max distance potential higher.
As you can see in the images below, midrange rims are also not very wide compared to other disc types, allowing players of all skill levels and hand sizes to achieve a quality grip.
Even children will be able to get their fingers around the rim of a midrange. Additionally, their rims tend to be rounded, making them more comfortable to grip for a majority of players.
Flight Numbers and Patterns
Midranges range from speeds 2 to 6 though almost all fall between speeds 4 and 6. The Makani and Condor from Innova are examples of 2 and 3-speed discs, respectively. Both are legal for use in formal tournaments but are much closer to a catch-and-throw frisbee than a traditional golf disc.
Although there isn’t a wide disparity in flight speed between most midranges, their flight patterns differ dramatically. Some have dead-straight flights while others fade immediately left out of the hand and still others tend to turn over right. The one constant for midranges is they often have superior glide to the other disc classifications.
This combination of low speed rating and high glide means a slow, smooth throw with most midranges will go a considerable distance. This is one reason it's often recommended that beginners start playing exclusively with just midranges and putters.
The typical distance to pull out a midrange is anywhere inside of 300 feet/91.5 meters. Because of their ability to glide and shape shots, midranges are great for both shorter tee shots and longer upshots. Plenty of courses have many holes around 300 feet/91.5 meters or less, so a midrange can be the perfect disc to throw off the tee pad.
Elite players sometimes throw midranges for shots at 450 feet/137 meters or more. Midranges' high glide helps them achieve this distance, and their shapes and slow speed ratings mean they're more likely to hold a straight line and land softly than fairway or distance drivers. It also demonstrates how proper technique can make slower discs fly extremely far, meaning that if you're concerned about getting more distance, it's often not about buying higher speed discs but improving your throwing form.
A prime example of a pro getting extreme distance and accuracy with a midrange is Drew Gibson choosing to attack the 482-foot/147-meter Hole 9 of Vista Del Camino at the 2020 Memorial Championship with a midrange from Discraft, the Buzzz:
How Should I Throw a Midrange?
Just like with a putter, Carey uses a fan grip when throwing a backhand midrange shot. Your pinky, ring and middle fingers should be spread out like a fan on the bottom side of the flight plate while your thumb helps hold the disc in place on the top side. The difference between gripping putters and midranges comes with the index finger. With midranges, Carey advises tucking your index finger slightly into and underneath the rim.
If you're interested in learning more about grips, we recommend you give this article a look: "5 Great Videos: Disc Golf Grip (Backhand)"
After your grip is correct, you should proceed by throwing with 60-70 percent power and focus on a flat release out of the hand, said Carey.
In order to find that balance in releasing with the correct amount of power, Weir recommended field work. "Field work" is the common term for training a specific skill or skills repeatedly rather than playing a round of disc golf.
“Field work allows you to figure out how much power you need for a shot, what different release angles do to the disc and how much distance you can get out of a disc on a consistent basis,” she said.
Just because the distance to a target or landing zone is worthy of a midrange, it doesn’t mean it’s always the correct tool to reach for. Much like putters, Carey recommends steering clear of midranges in stiff headwinds, for steep uphill shots, or when you need a substantial skip.
When Should I Throw a Midrange?
The versatility of midrange discs is what makes them so important and allows players to use them for a variety of shots.
“Mids fill a purpose as the most controlled flights in my bag,” Carey said. “I can throw them straight, on anhyzers, rollers, hyzer-flips, soft hyzers, and hard fades. You cannot leave out the mids.”
The disc is called a “midrange” because it literally fits between a putter and driver and covers the “middle” area in between.
“Think of this as the Goldilocks of discs,” said Weir. “Not too fast. Not too slow. Just right.”
And that’s when you know you should reach for a midrange. Carey and Weir recommend 300 feet/91.5 meters and in for newer players, but if a player feels a driver would be too powerful at 350 feet/107 meters, then a midrange is probably the best option. The same goes for a 150-foot/46-meter shot where a putter just doesn’t seem like enough. In that case, a midrange again becomes the go-to option.
The two best-selling midranges in 2019 according to Infinite Discs were the Discraft Buzzz and the Innova Roc3, respectively.
About the Buzzz, Infinite Discs says, “This consistent, reliable, and stable disc will perform exactly how you want it to. With powerful throws the Buzzz will hold any line you put it on. With light, level throws it will fade slightly.”
The Roc3 is described as an “overstable midrange disc that is a touch faster than the ever-popular Roc… perfect for everything, from controlled approaches to midrange drives.”
Not surprisingly, Carey bags an ESP Buzzz that he uses for shots that need to go dead straight, have mild fade, or call for a slow anhyzer. And Weir’s Roc3 has earned a permanent spot in her bag, becoming her go-to disc for backhand approaches.
Two other top-selling midranges are the Dynamic Discs EMac Truth and the Infinite Discs Anubis.
The Emac Truth, designed by former Open World Champion Eric McCabe to be his signature disc, is a very dependable approach disc. Note that there is also simply a Truth (not EMac) that's a little less overstable.
The Infinite Discs Anubis is relatively new to the market but will likely continue to grow in popularity because of its ability to be thrown on any line and by all skill levels.
One other recommendation comes from Estonian pro Kristin Tattar, whom you see featured in the photo that leads off this article. We contacted her to ask what she was throwing in the photo we were planning to use, and she not only identified it but explained when and why she uses it.
"It is a Latitude 64 Gold Line Claymore, one of my favorites," Tattar said. "It is a nice flip-up mid for me. Great for straight tunnel shots or turnovers, and thanks to its glide I can get a lot of distance."