The regulations discussed here are based on rules set by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) that went into effect on January 1, 2023.
Most rules discussed here relate to the regulations under 804.01 in the Official Rules of Disc Golf, which you can find a fully searchable version of in the More tab of the UDisc app.
We want to extend a huge "Thank You" to Todd Lion, the PDGA's Event Support and Training Manager, for reviewing this post prior to publication. Lion helped create the most recent version of the Official Rules of Disc Golf.
This is just one post in our series seeking to help players better understand disc golf rules. If you're interested, check out others on out of bounds, foot faults/legal stances, relief, and the two-meter rule once you've mastered everything below.
What Is a Mandatory (Mando) in Disc Golf?
A mandatory (or, commonly, "mando") is when a course designer or tournament director (TD) mandates how disc golfers' discs can legally pass an obstacle (e.g., a tree or a pole) as they complete a hole.
A player who does not pass an object correctly – called "missing a mando" – adds one penalty throw to their score for a hole. If a player misses a mando multiple times or misses multiple mandos on the same hole, each and every miss incurs an additional one-throw penalty.
The mandos disc golfers encounter most often make them go to the left or right of an obstacle.
See an example of a basic disc golf mando below:
However, there are occasionally two mandos that work together to force players to go between them. These are typically called double mandos. See below:
And, yes, triple mandos (and above) exist, too:
Why Do Mandos Exist in Disc Golf?
Mandos are typically used for at least one of three reasons:
- To discourage players from taking a route that puts people or property in danger (e.g., crossing another fairway or throwing over a parking lot typically filled with cars)
- To discourage players from taking a route that has a high chance of causing back-ups on a hole (e.g., encouraging players to avoid risky shots over areas of thick rough)
- To add difficulty or diversity to a course
With that said, though mandos are a common part of disc golf, they're also highly contentious.
Some people are philosophically opposed to mandos and believe designers and TDs should create holes that more naturally cause players to throw a variety of shot shapes and avoid endangering others or property. On the opposite side of that argument are those who see mandos as a tool to create more interesting, safer courses when given limited space or obstacles to work with.
On the more technical side, mandos are often the stuff of rule-makers' nightmares and frequently lead to confusion and misinterpretation of the correct way to play a hole among players (you'll see examples of why later on). Additionally, the PDGA's course design guidelines strongly discourage incorporating mandos.
When Have You Missed a Mando in Disc Golf?
Mandos create what the PDGA's Official Rules of Disc Golf call "the restricted plane" (804.01.B), which is an imaginary plane that will usually extend in the direction opposite of where a mando forces you to throw. The rules specifically say the plane is "vertical," so it extends infinitely up and/or down, too. If any part of your disc ever touches the restricted plane, you have missed the mando.
It does not matter if the throw is your first, second, third, etc. on a hole. If your disc ever touches the restricted plane, you've missed a mando and receive a penalty.
It does not matter from which direction your disc enters the restricted plane. If you pass on the correct side of a mando but roll backward and touch the restricted plane, you've missed the mando and receive a penalty.
It does not matter where the disc comes to rest. If you touch the restricted plane but then kick back out of it, you've still missed the mando.
This can all be summed up in a simple statement: If your disc ever touches the restricted plane – just the tiniest part of your disc is enough – at any time, you've missed the mando.
Fortunately, seeing the rule is a lot easier than reading about it. So we created a few visualizations of a restricted plane to help you better understand how it works.
This one emphasizes how touching a restricted plane from any direction results in a missed mando penalty:
The next image drives home how you've missed a mando as soon as your disc touches the restricted plane no matter where your disc comes to rest. It also offers a different type of visual if the last one didn't click:
And in case our emphasis in the text earlier about how a mando is missed if any part of the disc ever touches restricted plane didn't make sense, here's a visual for that, too:
Keep in mind we intentionally didn't include flight paths in the image above because the flight path doesn't matter. Regardless which direction the disc comes from, it can never touch the restricted plane and not have missed the mando.
As much as we've talked about missing mandos, it's also important to recognize when you've not missed a mando. Generally, the only way to miss a mando is for your disc to touch the restricted plane before it comes to rest. If a throw comes up short of the restricted plane, you have not missed the mando.
How Do I Know Where a Disc Golf Mando's Restricted Plane Starts, Stops, & Ends?
At this point, we hope you get how the restricted plane works, but you may have questions like, "How do I know how thick the restricted plane is?", "How do I know what direction the restricted plane extends from a mando object?", or "On something like a tree with multiple branches, where does the restricted plane start?".
Those are all excellent questions, but if you're playing a tournament, the only person who can answer them is a TD. The 2022 PDGA rule updates left it entirely up to TDs to define restricted plane for any mandatory. For example, an event's caddie book could say, "On hole 14, the first big pine tree is a mandatory object. Seen from the tee, the restricted plane starts from the farthest left point of the tree's main trunk and extends infinitely right and upward. There is string to the right of the mandatory indicating the direction in which the restricted plane extends from the tree's trunk. The string also defines the thickness of the restricted plane."
As you can tell from that example, TDs have to be extremely detailed in their rule descriptions and course setups when they include mandos. If you have questions about a mando before playing a tournament and can't find the resources to answer them, you should contact the TD or ask your questions in the players' meeting before the round begins.
If you're playing a casual round and a course has a mando that isn't well-defined, just use your best judgement to decide what direction and thickness of the restricted plane makes the most sense.
Can I Just Reach Over a Restricted Plane?
Rule 804.01.D makes it explicit that a player whose disc never touches the restricted plane but whose next throw is from a spot close enough to reach through the restricted plane must still pass the mando object as intended. See the image below:
How Do You Keep Playing After Missing a Mando?
If you miss a disc golf mando, you receive one penalty throw. There are three possible ways you can continue playing a hole after missing a mando:
- Throw from a drop zone
A drop zone is an area specifically designated as the place players who miss a hole's mando should play their next shot from. Drop zones can be painted lines, alternate tee pads, small plastic circles nailed into the ground, or a number of other things. If the course you're playing has tee signs, drop zone locations (if any) will often be on them.
Below is a visual example of how a disc golfer might play a hole with a drop zone after missing a mando:
- Rethrow from the same position
If a hole has no drop zone, a player who misses a mando just throws another shot from the exact same place as their last one:
- Abandon throw and rethrow from same position
A player always has the option to abandon any throw and rethrow from the same spot at the cost of a one-throw penalty (809.01). So, even if a hole has a drop zone, a player who misses a mando but would prefer to throw from their previous position rather than the drop zone can do just that by abandoning a throw. Visually, it could look exactly like the image for #2 above – just with a drop zone somewhere that the player would ignore. A player needs to announce to their card that they are abandoning a throw before continuing play.
How Do Mandos Affect the Line of Play in Disc Golf?
As of a January 2022 rules update, mandos have absolutely no effect on the line of play in disc golf. The line of play is always a direct line between a player's lie and the basket.
Those who don't know what "line of play" means can find a detailed description in our post on relief in disc golf. In essence, it's the direction a player has to orient their body toward as they throw. Before the January 2022 rule updates, mandos could affect the line of play. As we said above, that's no longer the case.
What Else Would You Like To Know?
We've been overwhelmed by the positive response to this series and are excited to continue adding to it. If you have rules you'd like us to cover, let us know in a comment on social media or send a quick e-mail to us at email@example.com.