The regulations explained here are based on rules set by the Professional Disc Golf Association (PDGA) that went into effect on January 1, 2022.
Most rules we discuss relate to the regulations under 806.02 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 mandatories (mandos), foot faults/legal stances, relief, and the two-meter rule once you've mastered everything below.
What Is Out of Bounds (OB) in Disc Golf?
Some disc golf holes have areas that are out of bounds or, familiarly, OB. These areas are not considered part of the course, and when you land in them, you add one extra throw to your score.
For example, if your first throw is OB, the OB penalty would count like a second throw, and your next real throw would technically be your third.
Why Does OB Exist in Disc Golf?
OB can have many purposes, but these are the three main ones:
- To discourage players from throwing into or near areas where incoming discs could pose a danger to others (e.g., another hole's fairway or a busy area of a public park)
- To discourage players from throwing into areas that are likely to produce lost discs or result in back-ups as players search for discs (e.g., areas of thick rough)
- To add difficulty to a hole.
How to Tell If You're OB in Disc Golf
You are OB if your entire disc is in the OB area. However, if even the tiniest part of your disc touches or hangs over an in-bounds area, you are not OB.
Though it's important to know that all areas of a course are in-bounds by default unless a course designer or tournament director specifically says they aren't, there are a few areas that are commonly (though not always) designated as OB:
- Bodies of water – lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, etc.
- Paths (paved or not)
- Areas past fences (e.g., athletic fields, other properties)
Also keep an eye out for stakes and flags on courses during casual play. These are often used to show where an OB area begins. During tournaments or on courses with diligent caretakers, painted lines or thin rope/twine are also common OB lines.
Courses' tee signs should indicate OB areas, so make sure to pay attention to them on each hole. On courses without tee signs, sometimes the only way to know the location of OB areas is to get a local to tell you. If you're playing on a new course with a group that knows the course, make sure to ask about OB before playing.
The images and explanations below will help you better understand how to judge what's OB and what's not:
- OB paths and paved areas
The brick area in the image above is an OB path. The grass is in bounds.
The left disc is in because its edge overhangs the in bounds grass. This helps emphasize something important: It's enough for any part of a disc to hang over an in bounds playing surface. It does not have to physically touch that surface to be in bounds.
The right disc is out because the entirety of the disc is in the OB area.
When an OB path is dirt, gravel, or crumbling at the edges, it can be a hard call to say where the path ends and grass or dirt begins. In casual play, just use your best judgement. In a tournament, your group decides whether something is in or out. In both cases, if the disc's position is unclear, there should likely be no penalty because the official rules say a disc must be "clearly and completely surrounded by an out-of-bounds area" (806.02.B) for a player to get a penalty.
- A continuously marked OB line (e.g., string or painted lines)
Everything from the rope and left in the images above is OB.
The left disc is in because a part of the disc is touching an in-bounds area. The middle disc is clearly out because it is completely in the OB area.
For people just learning the official rules of disc golf, the right disc is probably the trickiest call to make because the disc is touching the OB line. Like we said earlier, all of the OB line itself is considered part of the OB area. This goes for rope, a painted line, or any other physical line no matter how thick. Therefore, if a disc is touching the OB line but not any in-bounds area beyond that line, it is out.
- OB markers that aren't a continuous line (e.g., stakes or flags)
Here, stakes mark the OB line. From this view, everything above the stakes is OB, and everything below them is in.
When objects like stakes or flags are used to mark OB with no physical line between, it is up to a player to visualize a line between the two markers closest to the point where their disc lies. This imaginary line is featured above in blue.
The stakes themselves are part of the OB line, so, like the twine earlier, some part of the disc must be completely past them for it to be in. This also means the imaginary line starts at the sides of the stakes closest to in bounds, not in the middle or back of the stakes. The same goes for any objects used to mark OB in the same way (unless the tournament director/caddie book states otherwise before the start of an event).
Here, the edge of the water marks the OB line.
The left disc is in because it is touching an area beyond where the water line begins.
Though its edge is out of the water, the right disc is OB because it's completely surrounded by water and no part of the disc touches or overhangs a spot before the water line starts.
Make sure not to misinterpret "water line" here. What we mean is the outer edges of this water feature where they meet the fairway or other in-bounds area.
Essentially, remember that dry doesn't equal in bounds. Just like with any other OB area, your disc must touch or overhang a point beyond the defined OB area to be in.
How to Keep Playing After Going OB: Basic
If you go OB in disc golf, the most common thing to do is play from any in bounds spot within one-meter (3.28 feet) of the point where your disc was last in bounds. Yes, this means you can even move one meter closer to the basket.
The image below shows how this could work:
In the image above, a player could throw their next shot from any point within the blue relief area.
When you release your throw, no part of your body is allowed be in contact with an OB area. This is one reason for the relief rule.
Since most players don't carry meter sticks during their rounds, disc golfers typically take three heel-to-toe steps to measure how far a meter is.
There are other ways to take relief from OB, but they're quite a bit more technical. Before we get to them, we'll cover how you can take relief if you land in bounds but too close to an OB area to take a legal, in bounds stance.
Landing In Bounds but Taking Relief From OB
Because it's illegal to throw with any supporting point (like a foot) in OB, the rules allow players to take up to one meter of relief from OB even if they land in bounds.
The big difference here is that if a player lands in bounds, they do not have the luxury to decide which direction they'd like to take relief in. There are only two options:
- Taking relief perpendicular to the OB line
In the huge majority of cases, someone who lands in bounds but within a meter of OB can only take relief along a one-meter line that's perpendicular to the OB line.
- Taking relief from an OB corner
On the rare occasions a player lands within one meter of an OB corner, they can take relief along a one meter line extending out from the corner through the disc.
You'll find all the rules discussed in this section under 806.02.E in the Official Rules of Disc Golf.
How to Keep Playing After Going OB: Advanced
Now, let's get back to talking about your relief options when you land in (not just near) OB. The rules we discuss here are somewhat lesser known because they don't appear in the rule book section related to OB (806.02) but in the section related to relief (803.02, sections A and E, specifically).
These rules allow you to back up as far as you want along what's called the "line of play" after going OB without taking any additional penalty. After you go OB, the line of play is an imaginary, straight line extending from the basket/other target to any single point you choose within your one-meter relief area.
Why would you want to move farther from the basket? It could be that the spot where you entered OB has obstacles you could avoid by moving backward. For example, if you went out at a point beneath a tree, you wouldn't have to deal with its low-hanging branches anymore if you moved back:
In the image above, a player could move backward along a valid line of play to have a better angle of attack around the tree. Importantly, this wouldn't cost the player any extra throw beyond the OB throw they'd already taken.
Here's another visual example of how taking this optional relief could work:
Here are the most important takeaways from the image above:
- Though you can't play from an OB area, lines of play do continue through them.
- When OB areas don't extend infinitely, you can take optional relief behind them in an in-bounds area along a valid line of play.
One final thing to know about this rule is that your options to take relief farther from the basket/target end once a line of play hits OB that extends infinitely
In the above image, the amount of optional relief a player can take is very limited given the angle to the basket from where they went out of bounds. Notably, a player cannot back up as far as they like parallel to the OB line. They can only take relief along a valid line of play.
A final note here is that a player can take relief similar to what we talked about in this section at any point during their round. However, if they do it without going out of bounds first (or violating the two-meter rule if it's in effect), they take the relief at the cost of a one-throw penalty. Read more in our full article on disc golf relief rules.
How to Keep Playing After Going OB: Special Cases
Yep. There are few more things about what can happen after you go OB we should cover.
Sometimes a course designer or person running a tournament may choose to limit the OB relief options players have or disallow playing from the last point a player was in bounds. A common place this occurs is on island holes.
An island hole has only a specific area around the basket designated as in bounds. See an example below:
Often, island holes have "drop zones." These are places where any player whose disc does not come to rest on the island must throw their next shot from. That means a player could cross in-bounds but come to rest OB and still go to the drop zone just the same as someone whose disc never entered the in-bounds area.
Drop zones can be marked lines, circular markers nailed into the ground, alternate tees, or many other things.
Just like with normal OB, missing an island results in a one throw penalty. Most often, players will continue throwing from the drop zone until a shot lands in bounds.
Sometimes there is no drop zone on an island hole. In this case, players replay from the tee with the OB penalty throw applied to their score.
Because the PDGA's Official Rules of Disc Golf don't include specific regulations for island holes, how they're played can vary widely. In casual play, read tee signs carefully if they exist or ask locals you see on the course for specifics on any island hole you encounter. In a tournament, check in the caddie book or with the TD for clarification.
Additionally, some non-island holes use drop zones, so, again, read tee signs, ask locals, look in the caddie book, or ask a TD if you're having trouble understanding the correct way to complete a hole.
Occasionally, courses make areas hazards rather than OB. If a player lands in a hazard area, they receive a penalty throw as if they had landed OB, but they still throw from the spot where their disc came to rest. After throwing into a hazard, players don't get any relief and cannot move back along the line of play without incurring an additional penalty throw.
Though hazards can be anywhere, a common place to see them is on disc golf courses built on ball golf courses. Sand traps are often hazards rather than OB areas.
You can find hazard rules in the Official Rules of Disc Golf in section 806.05.
When a Tournament Director Opts to Use 806.02.D.4
There is another OB rule a tournament director can opt to use on a hole, but we can't emphasize enough how rarely it is used. Here it is in the words of the Official Rules of Disc Golf:
At the Director’s discretion, the player may additionally choose to play the next throw from a lie designated by a marker disc placed on the playing surface up to one meter away from the point on the out-of-bounds line nearest the position of the disc.
This rule, which is #4 among the add-ons to 806.02.D, means that if a tournament director wants, she or he can say that a player who goes out of bounds can opt to throw from a position relative to where their disc rests or from where they were last in bounds. Here's an example of what that could look like:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.