Innova R-Pro Pig resting in the chains of a disc golf basket at sabattus disc golf

Putter Vs Approach Discs

If there was one thing I could change in disc golf (aside from my rating) it would be separating putters and approach discs into 2 separate categories. We get a lot of newer disc golfers at Sabattus Disc Golf and one aspect of their bag that’s often overlooked when they’re choosing discs is that putting and approach are 2 very different parts of the game. But they’ve been clumped into the same disc category by disc golf companies.

Don’t I want to throw it in every time?

I mean yes, a hole in 1 every time would be great. You may throw it in on occasion, but it’s often smarter to lay up and take a guaranteed 2 (approach, then putt) rather than to risk a 3 (approach, putt, and putt). One of the trickiest things in disc golf are the greens. Sometimes the basket is on a hill and you don’t want to go past it. Other times there may be water or trees that make putting difficult. In that case I recommend trying to get close to the basket without going into the hazards, which is where approach discs come in. I’m comfortable within 20 feet of the basket, so I aim to get within 20 feet, but also away from the hazard. Some players are comfortable further away and some want to be closer; it’s totally a gut feeling where you think you can make a putt.

I saw an example of someone using the wrong putter on NESN (New England Sports Network) when I was watching the Boston Red Sox putting at a basket during spring training. It’s great that disc golf is popular in Florida, and that the Red Sox are trying it out. It’s the crossover episode I never knew I needed. There were a few things that made their putting tough: the wind, the fact that they put them on the edge of circle 1, and the biggest thing of all, the handful of overstable discs that the players were trying to putt with.

Think all the way back to elementary school when you were learning geometry. All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. It’s the same with discs; all putters are approach discs, but not all approach discs are putters. Another way to look at the difference would be to liken it to ball golf. Approach discs are wedges and putters are well, putters.

The Innova Pig, Innova AviarX3, and the Discraft Zone are all great overstable approach discs, but using them for putting at the basket would be a mistake. These approach discs are designed to be overstable and fight their way to the ground.

Putters like the Innova Aviar, Discmania P2, and Discraft Luna are designed to float in the air and catch the chains. These are all some of the most popular putters in the game right now because they’re straight and reliable at short distances.

How can I tell the difference between an approach disc and a putter?

This is a great question. First look at the last number in the 4 number flight rating system which is the fade. All 3 approach discs I mentioned above, the Pig, AviarX3, and Zone, all share a high fade. This is because each of these overstable discs is designed to hyzer quickly. The approach shot isn’t usually aiming for the chains, it’s for getting close to the basket for a putt. The fade drops the disc out of the air more quickly and stops the disc from rolling as much.

There are other discs that aren’t overstable that are also approach discs. For example the Innova Dart is an approach disc but has a fade and turn of 0. It’s an approach disc because it’s not as comfortable in the hand. It flies straight for a short distance but it doesn’t hold as well on very short putts. The Innova Sonic is very understable; it’s a great approach disc for tight twists and turns that you need around trees. But putting at the basket with a Sonic will leave you frustrated.

A putter is going to have less fade because you’re not looking for anything more than a straight shot with maybe a little hyzer. Whether you’re a spin, push, or spush putter it doesn’t matter. A putter has more rounded edges than an approach disc and it will catch more air underneath so the disc will float.

How many of each do I need in my bag?

This is a personal choice. I like to carry a few of the same putter in my bag, that way if one of them gets lost or damaged, I have another of my most important discs to finish the round. I also have one that I use for approaching, not putting. For approach discs, I carry one along with the non-putting putter. I use them on a fair number of holes each round but not every hole likes my putter. A putter is good 50 feet in, an approach disc is best at 50-100 feet. So think about how often you’re 50 feet away and how often you’re 100 feet away. If you find you’re never that far away then maybe you don’t need an approach disc.

I don’t know why companies have decided to group these two different discs together this way. Maybe it’s because disc golf has gotten more technical recently, and putt & approach is something that players who have been playing a long time understand and have ingrained in their brains. If you have any questions about what an approach disc or a putter is, try looking at the last 2 numbers. If either of them are greater than 2 they’re likely not a disc you should be putting with. As always you can also post here and I can answer them, or any time when I’m in the shop.

May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397


Good article. You single out the Innova Dart as an “approach” disc. Your site calls it a “putter and a “long range putter”! I just ordered 2 prior to reading your article.

What’s a Boy to do!


I got a bunch of hand-me-down discs when I first started playing, including a really beat up R-Pro Pig. I had better luck getting close to the basket with my 150g Aviar than I did with the Pig, so I bounced it out of my bag pretty quickly.

A couple months ago I got a Prodigy gift certificate with enough on it to buy both of Kevin Jones’ Signature discs and a little something else. I don’t recall my thought process at all, but I snagged a 350G A2 with the last of the gift card balance. I took it out to a field to see what I had and was shocked by how immediately it started to fade. I confess I still didn’t get it and the disc stayed in my bag, but I barely used it.

Slowly but surely I started using it for little forehand upshots and I started to finally understand the overstable approach disc. Now I have a few Zones, a VIP Anvil, a 400G A2, and a couple EXO Hard Tactics. I still want to check out the Harp, Suspect, and AviarX3 (I have no illusions this will be as overstable as the others). I really want to give the R-Pro Pig another try, not so beat up this time, but I really wish they made the Pig in other plastics as well.

Great article, I agree completely that Putt and Approach are different categories with significant overlap.

Ben Doon

Thanks Debra. I definitely learned the hard way as well trying to putt with some discs that aren’t meant for it. I appreciate the comment!

Andrew Streeter

Good article! I found this out the hard way, through trial and error. I enjoyed reading this, agreeing with you the whole time! Thanks!

Debra Scott