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Disc golf incorporates many of the principles and course design concepts that you might recognize from traditional ball golf.
You can expect to find water, bunkers and other obstructions on a disc golf course as you might on a regular golf course.
In fact, some courses or facilities allow both ball golf and disc course play.
While golfers who use discs and clubs must contend with bunkers, the nature of the two sports mean that bunkers have different consequences for those whose shots or throws find them.
Finding a bunker can result in penalties and affect where and how you play the next throw.
What is the disc golf bunker rule?
To understand the disc golf bunker rule, it helps to contrast bunkers in disc golf from those in traditional ball golf.
Traditional Golf Bunkers
In golf where you use clubs and a ball, you are swinging at an object on the ground.
Therefore, the place where your ball lands can affect the distance and the path of the ball on your swing.
For instance, a ball in the rough likely will not go as far as one in the fairway.
If your ball finds a bunker in or along the side of a fairway, you must contend with sand.
With a clean pick of the ball, you don’t strike much or any sand. This will provide good distance and a good flight for the ball.
With a poor play in the sand trap, you might ground the club in the sand or you will actually strike the top of the ball resulting in a bad shot.
For green side bunkers, you effectively have an extra shot to get in the hole.
An errant approach shot will land your ball in the bunker rather than on the putting surface.
With your putting being delayed by at least a stroke, a green side bunker can have the effect of a one stroke penalty.
The strokes could mount if your bunker shot does not clear the bunker, falls to the other side of the green, doesn’t reach the green or lands on the green but far away from the hole.
Disc Golf Bunkers
Disc golf does not impose these de facto penalties when you find the bunker.
You throw the disc in disc golf from a standing position.
The ground and, thus, the lie of your disc, does not affect the flight or even necessarily the length of your throw.
Your lie determines the spot from where you throw.
As a result, landing in a bunker does not mean your next throw will cause the disc to travel just a short distance or in a wayward direction.
What happens when your disc lands in the bunker?
The rules of disc golf impose a one-throw penalty when your disc lands in the bunker because the trap itself is not naturally punitive.
However, where you play the next throw depends on whether the event or course director designates the bunker as a hazard or out-of-bounds.
Both ball golf and disc golf courses have places marked as out-of-bounds.
These typically represent areas that course or tournament directors do not want you to play.
Safety and security of players, patrons and those who might live or work along a course often dictate what constitutes out-of-bounds.
Examples of places often not considered part of the regular playing course and, thus, are out-of-bounds include:
- Wooded or vegetative areas
- Tree branches or surfaces more than two-meters (6.56 feet) above the ground
- Any tree, regardless of the disc landing height, if determined by the tournament director to be out-of-bounds
- Yards or other property adjoining the course
- Roads or paved paths
Some places that rest within the confines of the playing area (or even fairway) may get the out-of-bounds tags.
These include water hazards such as ponds and streams, where your disc will sink.
Some tournament or course directors will designate the bunker as out-of-bounds.
Your disc is not out-of-bounds unless the entire disc lies within the space designated as such.
Thus, if part of your disc is not in a bunker that is declared out-of-bounds, you do not incur the one-throw penalty.
Should you throw the disc completely into the bunker, you get one-throw added to your score for the hole.
For an out-of-bounds throw, you generally place the disc at least one meter (3.28 feet) from the point where your disc entered the out-of-bounds area. Of course, this is away from the hole.
When the bunker is designated as out-of-bounds, you will throw one meter from where the disc entered the bunker.
Often, your new lie will be behind the bunker or to the side of it.
At some courses or events, a bunker will get the classification of hazard rather than out-of-bounds.
You might expect bunkers to fall within the definition of a hazard at disc golf courses that double as traditional golf courses.
As with out-of-bounds, you get a one-throw penalty for going into the bunker or other hazard.
The penalty arises only if your disc completely and clearly rests in the hazard.
However, when you land in a hazard, you play the next throw as you lie for that throw.
You get no relief or change of lie as you would with an out-of-bounds bunker because a hazard is considered part of the course of play.
Players get relief for being out-of-bounds because allowing or forcing you to throw from an out-of-bounds spot defeats the purpose of designating areas as out-of-bounds in the first place.
When you land in a bunker treated as a hazard, chances are that you will throw with your stance at least partly, if not fully, in the bunker.
In disc golf, you determine the lie based upon an 8-inch by 12-inch box behind where the disc landed.
Depending on the size of the bunker, that area could rest completely within the bunker.
If such becomes the case, rake the bunker to smooth the area where you stood — bearing in mind whatever COVID-19 or other safety protocols may be issued by the particular disc golf course.
In traditional golf, smoothing the bunker prevents the players behind you from unnecessarily encountering a difficult bunker lie for their swings.
Raking disc golf bunkers promotes a good appearance for the course and a more stable area for the subsequent players to take their throwing stance.
Ultimately, understanding the disc golf bunker rule means that you grasp the concepts of lie, hazard and out-of-bounds.
The director of the course or tournament in which you play determines what you do when your disc meets a bunker.
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