Interference Rule


Rules School is a new PDGA series to highlight and explain each section of the PDGA Rulebook. Interference 803.07 is the first installment. A recent event brought up some interesting issues pertaining to Interference. So this looked like a good topic to kick off the series. The format will be to reproduce a passage from the rulebook and then discuss its background and meaning along with some real world examples to illustrate the points.

Rule 803.07A: A thrown disc that hits another player, spectator, or animal shall be played where it comes to rest.

A moving disc contacts a living object that is unaware the disc is coming toward it or is unable to get out of the way fast enough. The disc is marked and played from where it lands after the deflection. The thrower does get an OB penalty if the deflection is unlucky and the disc ends up OB. This is no different from the randomness of a disc deflecting OB off a tree branch waving in the wind – 300 milliseconds later the disc might have missed the waving branch completely.

jump

Although this rule segment only lists living beings, its meaning can be extended to cover such things as a disc striking another player’s disc that’s moving or stationary, a golf bag, a golf cart, bicycle or other vehicle, and essentially any other inanimate object that normally wouldn’t be in a flight path on the course.

Rule 803.07A (cont.): A thrown disc that is intentionally deflected or was caught and moved shall be marked as close as possible to the point of contact, as determined by a majority of the group or an official. Alternatively, for intentional interference only, the thrower has the option of taking a rethrow.

The flight of the disc is intentionally changed by the actions of a living being. The disc is either marked as close to the first point intentional contact was made (in the event of multiple deflections) or the thrower may choose to re-throw that shot without penalty and without counting the original deflected throw.

The question arose at a recent event whether “helpful intentional interference” could be allowed in the case where another player or spotter would save the thrower’s disc just before it headed into OB water to potentially be lost. The answer is “No” under the current rules.

There are two problems with allowing “helpful intentional interference” under the current rules. The first is that intentional contact would likely be made while the disc was inbounds and the thrower would get their lie marked inbounds with no OB penalty (that they would have deserved). Second, even if the person trying to save OB throws is standing in the OB area and only touching the disc once it is clearly OB, because the contact with the disc is intentional, the thrower would then “unfairly” have the option to rethrow without penalty according to the current rule.

Rule 803.07A (cont.): Players shall not stand or leave their equipment where interference with the flight or path of a disc could easily occur. The away player may require other players to mark their lies or move their equipment before making a throw if the player believes that either could interfere with his or her throw.

This is a cautionary note reminding players to try and keep items like their discs, bags, carts, umbrellas and themselves out of the way from potentially being struck by another player’s throw. A player may request that other players move their equipment. If a player does not move the equipment as requested, that player can be subject to the penalty in 803.07C discussed below if their equipment does get contacted by the requester’s thrown disc.

bag

If a player or equipment is struck by a moving disc and no request was made to move them, the disc would be played where it lands per the accidental interference in the first sentence of 803.07A.

While the rule doesn’t specifically indicate that those not throwing next can also ask the next thrower to move equipment, it’s presumed under the rule of Fairness 803.01F that other players in the group can ask the next thrower to move their bag just in case their throw might miss and rebound back toward their bag.

Rule 803.07B  If a disc at rest on the playing surface or supported by the target is moved, the disc shall be replaced as close as possible to its original location, as determined by a majority of the group or an official.

While the interpretation of this rule would seem straightforward, there are occurrences in the field that make the proper call challenging. First, once a player’s disc is at rest on the playing surface, the wind, a dog, another player’s thrown disc or anything else can’t move its position until that player arrives to mark their lie. For example, if the wind or a thrown disc causes a disc at rest to get up and roll down the hill or maybe it even lands OB, the disc is returned to its original position based on the group’s judgment. If that position is close to OB and was only seen by the group from a distance, the player should get the benefit of the doubt and be given an inbounds lie.

A disc at rest supported by the target might be “in” depending on where on the target it’s supported. If it’s sitting on the top of the chain support or leaning on the pole under the basket, it’s not in. However, if a disc in this position is struck by another player’s disc, that disc is returned to that position for the owner to mark and play from that lie to complete the hole.

(Revised per 2011 Rules update) If the disc is at rest in the chains or completely in the basket, the player has holed out. If that player's disc is later dislodged by the wind or another throw before being removed, it doesn't matter. The player has still holed out.

There are rare situations when the disc is suspended on the target in a way other than being completely in the basket or chains. However, once the group judges the disc is at rest, it will be replaced there even if it subsequently falls off the nub, the top of the chain support or pops out of the side of the basket either by itself, wind or being struck by another disc before the owner gets there. Depending on how the disc is suspended on the basket, the player will either have officially holed out or have to mark their lie on the ground below the disc and putt out. The photo below shows some examples.

Only the red and white discs have holed out if declared at rest before either possibly falls down and out of the basket. The orange disc wedged in the side (if declared at rest) has only holed out if the group saw it wedge from the inside going out or didn't see which direction the wedge came from. The yellow and other two orange discs have not holed out under the new 2011 rule even if they remain at rest.

holing out

At this point, the rulebook does not define the amount of time a disc has to stop moving before the group should call it “at rest.” This decision is left to the group to make a reasonable judgment. So, whether a disc precariously suspended in chains or on the basket will result in holing out or not may depend on the group making the “at rest” call. (This judgment will hopefully occur faster than the amount of time it takes to sprint to the basket…)

Whoops! This wedgie popped out before the player got to it. Read what happens now.

wedgie

Under 2011 rules, wedgies that are either not seen by the group during the throw or seen to have gone in the basket and have wedged on the way out are the only ones that hole out if the following occurs. If the thrower of the “wedgie” has not yet gotten the “at rest” call from the group or they are not yet willing to do so, the thrower must quickly get to the basket and remove the wedgie to make sure it doesn’t pop out so the hole out can be completed. If it does pop out before it’s deemed at rest, then the new lie for the disc is where it lands on the ground and that thrower will then have to putt out. For discs the group observes wedge in the side or bottom of the basket, entering from outside it, the player may want to hurry to the basket to mark the lie below it if the group does not give the "at rest" call, just in case the disc might pop out and roll farther away.

Rule 803.07B (cont.): If a marker disc is moved, the marker disc shall be replaced as close as possible to its original location, as determined by a majority of the group or an official.

Nothing tricky here. The marker might be moved by the wind or sometimes the player accidentally kicking it. If it does get moved, it is simply replaced to its original position.

Rule 803.07B (cont.): (If the two meter penalty is in effect, see also 803.08 C and D for movement of a disc above the playing surface.)

Rules 803.08 C & D describe how to handle it when a disc seemingly at rest above two meters gets moved, but only when the two meter penalty is in effect on the hole. The rulebook is silent on what happens if a disc at rest any height above the playing surface gets moved by some force before the player arrives at the disc to mark it when the two meter rule is not in effect.

The disc dropped out of the tree before the player got there to mark it. What happens now?

tree drop

Until this situation is specifically described in the rulebook, 803.08 C & D for a disc above two meters getting moved provides guidance. These rules would indicate that a disc at rest any height above the playing surface should be played where it lands if it gets moved before its owner arrives to mark it. 803.07B indirectly supports 803.08C & D by including only discs at rest on the playing surface or target being replaced if they move which implies that a disc not on the target or playing surface can move until marked.

The only exception would be if the disc above the playing surface was intentionally touched and moved by another person. Then, rules 803.07A and even 803.07C below might be involved if the person moving the disc is a player in the event.   

Rule 803.07C: Any player who consciously alters the course of a thrown disc, or consciously moves or obscures another player's thrown disc at rest or a marker disc, other than by the action of a competitively thrown disc or in the process of identification, shall receive two penalty throws, without a warning, if observed by any two players or an official.

This rule is essentially an addendum to 803.07A & B to assess a penalty to a player who intentionally interferes with another player’s disc that’s in play during the round whether it’s moving or at rest. The interesting twist is when the group determines that the player who threw the disc intentionally interfered with their disc whether it was moving or at rest. The scenario that unfolded at an earlier tournament in 2010 shows how this penalty should have been applied but wasn’t. A player putted, the disc struck the basket and rolled across a path into an OB area. The disc continued rolling through the OB area toward a pond. The thrower rushed over, reached down and plucked their rolling disc off the ground before it went into the pond.

This player gets a 2-throw penalty for grabbing the disc rolling into the OB water before it stopped regardless whether this player threw it or was saving it for another player. If this was a spotter, review what happens in 803.07A covered before. 

Water save

The group did not penalize the player under this 803.07C rule for intentionally interfering with a live disc perhaps thinking that because the disc was already OB, no additional penalty should be applied. This is not correct under the current rule.

This player was reflexively protecting his buddy from getting hit by an errant throw and does not get penalized. The thrower plays it where the deflected disc lands.

Dodge

Likewise, a player should not be penalized for reflexively interfering with the flight of an errant shot to prevent it from striking someone including himself. The group should consider this “unconscious interference” and not penalize the player deflecting the disc.

(Thanks to Chris Lapakko and Phillip Peek (hat) for helping demonstrate the rules in the photos)