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Whether you play disc golf or the more traditional ball version, the course presents various tests to your skill and strategy.
Disc golf lie rules exist to preserve those challenges by limiting the circumstances for which you get relief from a particular shot or throw.
Those circumstances take into account that the lie in disc golf impacts where and how you throw the disc.
What is a lie in disc golf?
Determining the Lie
As in traditional golf, what is a lie in disc golf means where the object of your shot (ball or disc) comes to rest.
In ball golf, the lie is the location from where the golfer takes a swing to play the ball.
Lies in traditional golf affect how the club face contacts the ball.
For instance, a deep rough lie (that is, one with high or deep grass) normally requires the player to swing harder.
If your ball lands on an uphill lie on a fairway, you may expect a well-struck ball to have significant height and distance.
That is, an uphill lie generates potentially strong lift.
Similarly, in disc golf, where a disc comes to rest affects the lie from which you play.
However, you’re not playing the disc from the ground. You throw the disc from a generally upright position.
Where you stand, then, is truly your lie.
Specifically, your lie consists of a rectangular area behind the landing spot of the disc.
Under the rules of the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA), that space consists of an eight-inch by 12-inch box.
You mark where your disc lands with a smaller disc or by turning the just-thrown disc upside down.
Playing in the Lie
You must throw with one foot directly behind where you marked the lie.
No part of your foot can step across the top of the box that constitutes where you may stand to throw the disc.
Placing one of your feet closer to the basket (hole) than the back of the previously-thrown disc or where you mark the lie constitutes a foot fault.
Such a violation earns you a one-throw penalty, but your next throw comes from where the disc landed.
You don’t have to go back to the origin of the offending throw.
The Surface Rule
As a general rule, your disc must land on a playing surface. This is because you must be able to throw with your foot on a playing surface.
Failure to land your throw on a surface is considered out-of-bounds and results in a one-throw penalty.
The surface does not necessarily mean grass or the fairway. Interpretations of the disc golf lie rules consider the surface of a bridge — even if above a water hazard or out of bounds — to be a qualifying surface.
So, if your disc lands on a bridge, you will not incur a penalty throw unless the tournament director has designated the bridge itself to be out-of-bounds.
The Two-Meter Rule and Trees
The fact that your disc rests in a tree does not alone cost you a penalty throw.
If the tournament director does not declare the tree where your disc landed to be out-of-bounds and you can reach the disc, you are free to throw without a penalty.
Of course, you must abide by the rules for marking and playing the lie.
However, your tournament director may address the matter of discs thrown into trees by invoking the “two-meter rule.”
The PDGA rules allow the director to declare the entire course or an object or part of it subject to the two-meter rule.
When so placed in effect, if your disc comes to rest at least two meters (or 6.74 feet) above the ground, your throw will be ruled out-of-bounds and you will get a penalty.
Your next throw comes from an area directly underneath the disc.
In determining whether to invoke the two-meter rule, your director may take into account the number of trees on the course.
Depending on the particular director’s tastes, a heavily-wooded course may already present such a challenge that a penalty for a disc more than two-meters above-ground is not necessary or warranted.
Your lie in disc golf can place trees, bushes, branches and other obstructions in the path of the basket. This affects the aim and technique of your throw in order to navigate these objects.
Since the lie determines where you must stand to take your next throw, obstacles can arise from objects on the ground.
These may include:
- Rocks or stones
- Tree branches or bushes
- Poison ivy
- Vegetation that may have endangered or other protective status
- Picnic tables
Some of these conditions may render your lie unplayable because you are not able place your feet in the required space.
When can you move obstacles?
Generally, you may not move an obstacle from the course.
However, exceptions arise in the case of casual obstacles that you find either wholly or in part within the lie area.
These casual obstacles typically are loose, temporary objects or items and include:
- Stones or pebbles
- Small branches
- Any other item the tournament director declares to be a causal obstacle
With these rules in mind, you do not get casual obstruction relief from items such as bushes, poison ivy, bushes, above-ground branches of trees or picnic tables.
A hanging branch that might obstruct your lie does not qualify because it does not touch the lie.
Remember that your lie must be on the ground or a surface that otherwise is recognized as the lie.
The PDGA has interpreted the casual obstacle rules to allow you to move clearly detached branches and even larger logs that rest on the lie.
No maximum size applies to the definition of a casual obstacle.
As a player, you need to know what is a lie in disc golf.
The answer to it can shape the type of throw or shot you plan and whether you can get relief if you draw a bad break.