The golf discs used today are much smaller and heavier than traditional flying discs, typically being about 8 or 9 inches in diameter and between 150 and 180 grams. Also, general-purpose flying discs, such as those used for playing guts or ultimate, have a simple edge to them, whereas disc golf discs have extended lips. They also have a much smaller diameter and thinner profile, making them much more aerodynamic.

There are a wide variety of discs, divided into three basic categories: putters, all-purpose mid-range discs, and drivers.

The putters are designed similarly to discs you would play catch with: e.g., a Wham-o brand Frisbee. They are designed to fly straight, predictably, and very slowly compared to mid-range discs and drivers. Mid-range discs have slightly sharper edges that enable them to cut through the air better. Drivers have the sharpest edge and have most of their mass concentrated on the outer rim of the disc rather than distributed equally throughout. Drivers are the hardest type of disc to learn how to throw; their flight path will be very unpredictable without practice.

Drivers are also often divided into different categories. For example, Innova discs divides their discs into Distance Drivers and Fairway Drivers, with a fairway driver being somewhere between a distance drive and a mid-range disc. New players will find that throwing a distance driver accurately will require experience with disc golf disc response. It is better to begin play with a fairway driver and later incorporate distance drivers. Discraft divides their drivers into 3 categories: Long Drivers, Extra Long Drivers and Maximum Distance Drivers. The greater the distance of the driver the less control the disc golf player has on the disc. Therefore, an inexperienced player would most likely prefer to use a Long or Extra Long Driver while an experienced player would go for a maximum distance driver if they were seeking longer throws.

Natural action of the disc: For a right-handed, back-hand thrower (RHBH), the disc will naturally fall to the left. For a right-handed fore-hand thrower (RHFH), the disc will naturally fall to the right. For a left-handed, back-hand thrower (LHBH), the disc will naturally fall to the right. For a left-handed, fore-hand thrower (LHFH), the disc will naturally fall to the left.

Overstable: A disc that is over-stable will increase the natural angle of the disc; discs that are more over-stable are not usually recommended for beginning players.

Understable: A disc that is under-stable will push against the natural angle of the disc; discs that are more under-stable are usually recommended for beginning players.

Weight of the disc: Golf discs typically weigh between 150 and 180 grams (5.3-6.3 oz.), and measure about 21–24 cm in diameter. PDGA rules prohibit discs weighing more than 200 grams, or more than 8.3 grams per centimeter of diameter.

Course components

Four basic components go into a course design, disc pole holes, tonal poles, tee signs and tee pads.

Disc pole holes are the main and most important components of a disc golf course. A disc pole hole comprises a center pole, chain holder and a basket. A set of chains hang down from the chain holder surrounding the center pole. Surrounding the pole below the chains is a circular basket that serves to catch a disc thrown at the chains. The disc pole hole is also commonly known as a basket or a catcher. In some cases a tonal pole, a pole without chains and a basket, will act as the target. When the disc strikes a tonal pole, the pole makes a noise, indicating that the disc has been "caught" by the chains. The approximate dimensions of a tonal pole represent those of a full disc pole hole (if the disc strikes the tonal pole, that same shot would have fallen in the basket on a disc pole hole). When the disc drops into the basket or strikes the tonal pole the player moves to the next tee.

For each hole, a tee pad provides a firm and level foundation to start play from, “tee off”. Tees are usually composed of poured concrete slabs, decomposed granite, or more recently dense rubber pads. Some courses have alternative tee pads for a given hole. Similar to traditional golf, one tee is often closer to the target, allowing multiple players of different skill levels a better chance of competitive play.

Located at each tee, tee signs are the map to the hole. They give important information like the distance, par, the preferred flight path, hazards and out of bounds.

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