Many of us have recently renewed our PDGA memberships and received the Official Rules of Disc Golf in the mail with our bag tag and other goodies. My understanding of the rules of disc golf has evolved over the last five years. I have heard a variety of ridiculous things on the course parading as fact. My favorite happened in my first tournament when a player in my group told me I had to use a sanctioned PDGA towel to kneel on while putting from under a branch. Knowledge of the rules can provide an advantage or at least a defense against the unscrupulous. I have looked over the rules book in the past, but mainly to answer specific questions. I decided to read the rules thoroughly a couple times and realized how easily the rules can be misunderstood and misapplied:
1. “We can walk slow so maybe it will come out of the tree before we get there.” or “Let it float down the creek, you can play it safe if it comes to rest on the bank.” I have heard a variation of this statement at least once in every tournament I have ever played. I’ve heard it so invariably that I was sure it was correct. Fortunately, the disc in question has never come out of the tree or come to rest on the bank. We would have broken rule 802.02B which states, “A disc in water or foliage is considered to be at rest once it is moving only as a result of movement of the water,the foliage, or the wind” (6). I’m not sure why such an incorrect understanding of the rules is so pervasive. Maybe it is a facet of the intermediate divisions that this rule is misunderstood.
2. Teeing Stance Violations. My friend Miller was told once by a competitor in his group that he was committing a stance violation when his toe was hanging over an edge of an elevated tee pad during his release. His toe was not in contact with the playing surface below the raised edge of the pad. It was a misapplication of the rules directly contradicted by the ORDG Q42. If I recall correctly, Miller was a bit shaky afterward. Was it an intentional strategy to get in Miller’s head or just a misunderstanding of the rule?
I plan to have the ORDG book with me during every event from now on. In fact, I used it at the Rain or Shine Pro/Am a few weeks ago. My group got an O.B. lost disc procedure call a little wrong. We were holding up flow of play. Consulted the rules a bit hastily. Ruled he could play an Approximate Lie – Page 1 – when he should have re-teed. Even more correctly would have been to have him take a Provisional Throw – Page 3. I think Provisional Throws are under-utilized and should be considered at the tee anytime there is a possibility of it’s need.
3. “Is the two meter rule in effect?” It used to bother me when, at every tournament, someone at the player’s meeting would yell out, “Is the two-meter rule in effect?” I was sure it was always in effect. The answer was always yes. I thought that dude was a goof, the kid in class trying to derail the professor. As it turns out, the two-meter rule is not, by default, a rule of the game – 806.01E. The tournament director can choose to apply it to part or all of a course as seen fit. Makes me think it should be a rule if we always use it.
I wonder how realistic it would be to have all players pass the rules test before being allowed to play in a sanctioned PDGA event? I’m certain it is a requirement for all levels of professional ball golf events. I wonder how many strokes I would not have taken during most casual rounds due to the two meter rule. If you don’t want to care so precisely about the rules then you should play non-sanctioned events.
Other misunderstanding of the rules occur all the time:
- Am I outside 30? – It is really 32′ 10″ (4).
- Can I putt from this bridge if my disc is under it? – A player may use a playing surface that is in-bounds above a disc that has landed in an inaccessible location below the legal playing surface (Q6).
- Can I hold onto this branch while I throw? – If it is in front of your lie you cannot. If it is behind your lie, it is in-bounds, and it does not move as a result of your contact you may use an object as a Supporting Position (Q16).
- Yes, you can kneel on your towel – I hope the guy messing with me in Arizona had fun.
- Violations can only be called by members of that players group except in the case of a courtesy violation which can be called by any affected player or an official – not caddies, spectators, best friends etc … (5).
Everyone can benefit from the reading of the rules, even if you have read them several times before. Disc golfers in Elite Series/National Tour or Major PDGA events are required to pass tournament rules assessments in order to compete. We should encourage proper use of the rules at the lowest levels of the game so that the highest levels have more integrity. I would love to see a rules exam requirement expanded to all sanctioned events, but that is just crazy talk. A start would be all A-tier events. It could be a source of revenue, a source of respect, a vehicle for professionalizing our game. Guess it is time to read the ORDG one more time – with the Competition Manual – and take the officials exam.