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Rules School - Mandatories

Before discussing the Mandatory (mando) rule, let's take a look at why or how mandos should be used in course designs. Some feel mandatories are a design crutch and should never be used. When a course designer has full control to develop a layout and unlimited budget, mandatories can usually be avoided. But how often do designers have that luxury? In some cases, mandatories are not part of the original course design. However, storm damage or structural changes in the park require hole designs or locations to change where a mando or two might be appropriate.

A mandatory directs throws along a more restrictive route for players to make legal throws on the hole without penalty. The primary reasons a designer should consider using a mando are: (1) routing considerations, (2) adding challenge and (3) safety concerns.

However, using a mando to reduce safety concerns is a tricky proposition. For example, if a potential hole design would have a playground off to the left about 150 feet from the tee on a mostly open fairway, that's not going to be safe regardless whether a mandatory tree directs throws to the right. Players are just not that good and bad throws will end up in the playground even if the throw is penalized. A better example of using a mandatory to improve safety is when a tree is marked as mando to prevent players from throwing out over a lightly used park road. You don't really want players on the park road. But it's not a severe safety problem if the occasional bad throw lands in the road and gets penalized for missing the mando.

Using mandos to add challenge can be appropriate but they should be used sparingly and only on properties where there are few trees, water or other hazards to provide challenge. Mandatories to direct routing can be the most desirable. These mandos are typically embedded in the woods or way off to the side to prevent players from taking crazy routes not intended for the hole.

Mando in the 2010 Scandinavian (photo courtesy of Tony Söderström)

For example, maybe the hole is designed as a wooded dogleg that bends to the right. But what if a player pitches backwards and to the right off the tee about 60 feet and it opens up a throw over the car-filled parking lot that could reach the pin thru an opening in the woods? Here's a case where a simple mando off to the right of the tee, where it can't be missed if players follow the intended fairway, prevents players from trying this "unauthorized" and inappropriate route.

803.12 Mandatories

A. A mandatory restricts the path the disc may take to the target. A disc must pass to the correct side of the mandatory before the hole is completed. Once the disc has completely passed the mandatory line on the correct side (even if it subsequently re-crosses the line), the mandatory is to be ignored for the remainder of play on that hole.

This is a rule that requires the group to pay attention because the ruling is one of the few made while the disc is in flight versus after the disc is at rest. If the group sees the disc cross the correct side of the mando line during the flight, the mando has been completed even if the disc hits a tree and bounces back or rolls back across to the tee side of the mando line.

The possibility a disc might cross the mando line then bounce back should be considered by the designer. It should be avoided if possible by not having trees just across the mando line. The problem is once a player has properly crossed the mando, they can legally make their next throw across the wrong side of the mando line and that might not be desirable.

(1) The mandatory line is the line marked by the director or course designer to indicate when a disc has passed or missed the mandatory.

(2) If no line is marked, the mandatory line is defined as a straight line through the mandatory, perpendicular to the line from the tee to the mandatory.

Recommend that mandatory lines demarking the "made" side and the "missed" side be marked so the group does not have to make a judgment call. Note that even though the default line on both sides of the mando is perpendicular to the line from the tee, it does not have to be marked that way if there’s a reason to angle lines another way. But it’s usually a good practice to mark the line perpendicular since it’s what players have come to expect and it's usually easier for players to make a call.

mando line

(3) In the case of a double mandatory when no line is marked, the mandatory line is the straight line connecting the two mandatories, and extends beyond them in both directions.

Again, the default “made” line goes straight through the mando objects. The "missed" side lines on either mando typically follow that same line but can be angled more forward or backward if desired as long as the lines are well marked.

B. A throw is considered to have missed the mandatory if it passes the incorrect side of the mandatory line from the direction of the tee, and comes to rest lying completely beyond that line.

It’s important to remember this distinction in comparison to crossing the "made" side. In the case of a disc crossing the "missed" side, the mando has not been missed unless the disc ends up at rest across the "missed" side. If it crosses the "missed" side but then bounces or rolls back to the tee side of the line before it stops, the mando has not been missed.

Consider the case where no mando lines have been marked and a player's disc lands very close to a point where the group needs to judge whether it missed the mando or not. May as well give the choice to the player (benefit of the doubt). It's probably a toss up whether the player would benefit more with no penalty, faced with a tough angled throw to make it around the good side of the mando on the next throw versus just taking the "missed mando" penalty and play from the drop zone.

Some players mistakenly think they have missed the mando on their tee shot if they don’t cross the good side of the line on that throw. As long as their throw hasn’t ended up across the wrong side of the line and simply has not crossed either side of the mando yet, the player is safe. The player then just tries to throw across the good side on their next throw. There are even tricky mandos where laying up short of it on the tee shot then trying to throw across it on the second throw might be a good strategy.

Note to TDs & Course Designers: Please mark your mando objects well! Indicate clearly what path a disc must take past the vertical mando object to either pass or miss it. Bushy or short trees, and especially trees with major trunk branches, can be poor choices as mandos. In the diagram below, the most conservative approach would be to require players to throw completely to the right of the tree to successfully pass the mando. However, some may feel it’s okay to define making the mando if the disc passes just the left trunk on the right. That’s usually not a good choice.

Y mando

C. A disc that has missed the mandatory results in a one-throw penalty and the next throw shall be made from the drop zone, as designated for that mandatory. In cases where the drop zone is not designated, the lie is marked within five meters of the mandatory object and one meter behind the mandatory line which extends from the correct side of the mandatory.

The player who misses the mando has a fair amount of flexibility in determining their drop position if the TD has not specified a Drop Zone. TDs should mark or specify a Drop Zone on the tee sign or at least the scorecard. The Drop Zone is sometimes the tee when the mando isn’t too far from it. Note to TDs: Don’t be too brutal setting the Drop Zone position too far back from the mando. Note that the default drop position is right by the mando and the player has already taken a penalty.

D. When marking the lie, if the line of play does not pass to the correct side of the mandatory, then the mandatory itself shall be considered the hole for the application of all rules regarding stance, markers, obstacles, and relief. For the purposes of taking a legal stance, the mandatory object which has not yet been passed, and is nearest the tee, will be considered to be the hole.

The “mando line of play” (MLOP) takes precedence over the actual line of play (LOP) to the basket when marking your lie. Check out the following hole diagram. The mini is placed as if the mando ahead were the hole instead of in the direction of the target on this dogleg hole.

Mando LOP

E. A throw that misses a mandatory shall be penalized and the lie marked according to the mandatory rule (803.12). It will not be further penalized for any other reason, such as out-of-bounds or above two meters.

This just means that a player will not receive compound penalties if the disc lands in a position where more than one penalty could be applied. Missing a mando takes precedence over any other throwing penalty that might be applied to the disc once it has come to rest such as OB, above two meters, extended casual relief relocation, unplayable lie or even lost disc. The player gets a 1-throw penalty and plays from the mando Drop Zone.