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Disc Golf Rules Explained: Foot Faults & Legal Stances
Alex WilliamsonWriter, Editor
May 29, 2020 • 15 min read

This is just one entry in our series seeking to help players better understand disc golf rules. If you're interested, you can find others explaining things like out-of-bounds and mandatories here once you've mastered everything below.

The regulations discussed below are based on the most current update of the rules that relates to legal stances. That means the 2018 rule book with updates added in January 2019.

Additionally, our sincerest thanks goes to PDGA Rules Committee chairperson Mike Krupicka for reviewing this article prior to publication.

FOOT FAULTS & STANCE VIOLATIONS

undefinedIf your foot has done something against the rules during a throw, you've committed a foot fault.

Knowing exactly what those rules are isn't always intuitive, however. That's what this article will help you with.

Before moving on, know that in the Official Rules of Disc Golf (available in searchable format in the UDisc app), "stance violation," not "foot fault," is the term associated with the rules discussed here. This is because any piece of anatomy providing support for your body when you release your throw can break the rules players usually associate with feet.

You'll see examples of legal and illegal stances involving feet and other body parts later on. Also, we use both "foot fault" and "stance violation" depending on which term is most appropriate.

With all that cleared up, let's get going.

We've broken up our explanations into the following sections:

1. Who calls foot faults and what's the penalty?
2. Understanding "supporting point"
3. On the tee
4. Understanding the "lie"
5. On the fairway
6. At drop zones
7. Foot faults and OB
8. On the putting green

Who Calls Foot Faults & What's the Penalty?

While knowing what stances are legal is valuable for anyone who wants to play disc golf by the rules, foot faults are generally only called when playing in groups. Any person in a group can call a foot fault, but for it to be official, one other person in the group must confirm that they saw it.

The penalty for a foot fault—and any other stance violation—is one extra throw added to a player's score for that hole and...that's it. The player throws their next shot from wherever their last throw landed. 

If you have a memory of these rules working differently at some point, you're right. We explain what those differences were and when the rule changed in the "On the Putting Green" section.
 
To give an example of how the current rules work, imagine a group consisting of Ashley, John, Carl, and Jane. Ashely throws a second shot that comes to rest under the basket. John calls a foot fault, and Jane confirms it. Ashley's next shot is her fourth for that hole after the penalty stroke is added.

It's important to note that as the rules read, it doesn't matter if Carl and Ashley don't notice the foot fault. If two other players on the card do, the penalty is enforced. If something like this causes a dispute among players in a tournament, the players should seek the ruling of a tournament director before scores are finalized.

Understanding "Supporting Point"

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Pro Kevin Jones has only one supporting point, his right foot, in this image from the 2019 World Championships. Credit: Alyssa Van Lanen

All stance violations, including foot faults, occur because one or more of your "supporting points" aren't where they should be. The official rules state what a supporting point is very succinctly: "any part of the body that is, at the time of release, in contact with the playing surface or any other object that provides support."

Essentially, if you are using any body part to keep yourself steady at the point you release your throw, it's a supporting point (the rule also applies to artificial supports like crutches). Most often, a thrower's only supporting point or points are one or two feet touching the ground or tee pad at the time of release.

However, there may be situations where a hand, knee, or other body part is used. It could also be that a person leans or holds onto a tree or other object when they throw. The images below show some examples of supporting points that might not seem immediately apparent.

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In both images, the circled hand is providing support to the player. If the hand remained stationary at the point of release, it would be a supporting point. The left image demonstrates that things other than the ground, like a tree, rock, post, etc., can create supporting points and have to be considered when taking a stance. The right shows that more than feet can support a person on the ground.

Also, one of the above images shows a stance likely to result in a stance violation when the disc is thrown. Read on to find out which one.

On the Tee

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Tees come in many shapes and sizes. This one at Tom Pearce Park in Grants Pass, Oregon is an unusual shape. Here, the boundaries of the legal teeing area end where the concrete does.

When you start a hole, you're always on a tee. There are two options for what a tee can be in competitive play.

One option is for the tee to be an area with visible boundaries. There could be a circle of bricks, a rectangle of concrete or artificial turf, chalk lines drawn on a walking path, or any other combination of shape and material that clearly defines the legal teeing area for a hole. 

The second option is having just a line marking the front of the tee. In this case, the teeing area is an imaginary rectangle as wide as that line extending back three meters (~9 feet 10 inches). Note that this imaginary rectangle does not apply when the boundaries of a tee are visibly defined.

To make a legal throw, you need at least one supporting point within the teeing area. Having more than one supporting point on the tee is fine, but no supporting point can be outside the teeing area. Below are some example situations to help these ideas click.

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In the examples above, the tee is the green artificial turf.

The left stance is legal because the right foot is the required supporting point in contact with the tee, and the left foot is off the ground and therefore not a supporting point.

The right stance is illegal because the left foot is touching the ground, making it a supporting point that's outside the defined teeing area.

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For these images, imagine that these are the positions of a lead foot at the point a disc is released. The end of the turf is the end of the tee.

The left image is a legal stance because, though the foot overhangs the front of the tee, it isn't touching the ground and providing support to the player. Think of the toe of this foot being just like the lifted leg in the previous example.

The right image is a violation because parts of the foot are outside the teeing area and clearly providing support to the player.

The clip above from Central Coast Disc Golf's coverage of the 2019 MVP Open shows a perfectly legal throw. You'll see that though the player does leave the teeing area, it's not until after the disc is released, which isn't against the rules.

If you keep these three examples in mind, you should be able to answer most questions related to stance violations that could arise on the tee.

Understanding the "Lie"

Once you're off the tee (or not at a drop zone), a legal throw requires you to have a supporting point in contact with your "lie." As long as your disc comes to rest in bounds or in a hazard, your lie is a 30cm x 20cm rectangle starting at the back edge of your disc (i.e., the edge farthest from either the basket or a mandatory that hasn't been passed). 

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Additionally, you can place a mini marker disc at the front edge of your disc. The lie is then a 30cm x 20cm rectangle starting at the back edge of the mini.

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Yes, this means every in-bounds throw allows you to choose between at least two possible lies, something that becomes very interesting when we talk about the stance rules for putting later on.

On the Fairway

Like we just mentioned in the last section, any throw not from a tee or drop zone requires you simply to have any part of a supporting point in contact with your lie at the point of release. The only additional requirement is that no supporting point can be closer to the basket than where your lie begins when the disc is released (i.e., the back of either your mini or disc). 

Keep in mind this doesn't mean you can't run up before throwing like on the tee; it just means you'll need to be far more cautious about where you plant your lead foot. Also, like in the video of the professional player in the "On the Tee" section, you can make contact with areas in front of the lie after the disc is released.

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Given that all other supporting points are not closer to the basket than where your lie begins, the examples above show where a supporting point could be placed and still provide a legal stance. We use a shoe for ease's sake, but remember that a supporting point could be any part of the body (knee, hand, etc.). 

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These examples show stance violations. Three of them go past the front of the lie and two others simply don't make contact with it.

Below, we show you a few more instances of stance violations to look out for.

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This is just a basic demonstration that both feet must be farther from the basket than the start of your lie to create a legal stance. There are rare instances where people will place a foot in front of their lie and lift it at the point of release. While that's legal, for the most part you'll want to make sure your feet are behind your lie when you start your throwing motion.

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Here, the player's positioning indicates the line of play and the back edge of the pink disc marks the start of the lie.

In the left image, the left hand is hovering above the ground. As long as it's not touching the ground when the disc is released, there will be no stance violation.

On the right, if the hand touching the ground remains there at the point of release, it will be a supporting point closer to the target than the start of the lie and therefore illegal.

undefinedIn these images, the back of the disc indicated creates the lie, and the player's positioning indicates the line of play.

On the left, the hand on the tree as well as both feet are behind where the lie begins, making the stance legal. 

On the right, the hand on the tree is in front of where the lie begins. If the player continued to support himself with that hand when the throw was released, it would be illegal.

Also be aware that the rules state that "once a stance has been taken, the player may not move an obstacle in order to make room for a throwing motion." This means you can't lift or move a tree branch or other obstacle to give yourself a wider gap or to make yourself more comfortable.

In the left image, the player is holding on to a sturdy tree trunk and the contact isn't repositioning the tree in any way, making the stance legal. If the player was bending the tree or manipulating the trunk to change the position of a branch, it would be a violation.

At Drop Zones

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Typically, drop zones are places where players go if they've missed a mandatory or not come to rest in an in-bounds area on an island hole. The rules state that drop zones can require the same stance rules as a teeing area or be played like a typical lie. Generally, it will come down to how the drop zone is marked.

In the left image at the top of this section, the drop zone would be played like a teeing area with players being able to throw from up to three meters behind the line. If there was a completely defined drop zone area (like a tee pad), players would only be allowed to have supporting points on that area at the point of release.

The right image depicts a drop zone where a round, disc-shaped object has been fastened to the ground to create the drop zone. The edge of that object farthest from the basket would mark the start of the 30cm x 20cm lie. Players would follow the same rules as they would for any throw not from a teeing area.

Foot Faults & OB

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To have a legal stance, no supporting point can be in contact with something in an out-of-bounds (OB) area. If you're not sure what counts as OB, have a look at our article on the topic.

Like with places off the teeing area, it doesn't matter if a body part overhangs OB. 

In the images at the start of this section, you can see the difference between a supporting point making contact with OB (right image) and a body part overhanging OB (left image).

Because players are allowed to take one-meter relief from all OB, it's somewhat rare that this rule comes into play. Still, it's good to know.

One question that might come up in relation to stance violations and OB is this: If a stance violation is called on a shot that goes OB, what happens?

Because the rules for stance violations say to play the disc where it comes to rest, and the disc came to rest OB, the player would continue play following normal OB protocols. The rules do not allow a player to be penalized more than one stroke for any single throw, so they would receive only one penalty stroke, not two. Essentially, it would be just like a normal throw that landed OB.

On the Putting Green

The rules for stance violations change slightly once a player is within 10 meters of the basket. Every rule for throwing from a lie on the fairway applies except the one allowing players to make contact with areas in front of their lies after the disc is released. 

Within 10 meters, no supporting point can touch a spot in front of the lie until a player has established "full control of balance."

One reason for this is to prevent putts like this from happening at very short distances:



This putt, from JomezPro's coverage of a historic 18-under par round from Paul McBeth, was completely legal because it was not within 10 meters. Also, if you watched in slow-motion, you'd see that even though he jumped, the disc left his hand before he completely left the ground. This is important because the rule about needing one supporting point in contact with your lie means you can never be completely in the air when releasing any shot.

In this next video from Central Coast's coverage of the 2017 World Championships, you'll start off by seeing a legal putt from JohnE McCray, then witness a technically illegal putt by Ricky Wysocki (that year's eventual World Champion), and end with a legal putt from Devan Owens:

Regarding the two legal putts, both players establish balance before moving forward. In the case of the illegal one, the player doesn't establish balance and places his hand in front of his lie to steady himself.

Prior to 2018, the rules were that the first stance violation resulted only in a warning and a player was allowed to re-throw their previous shot with no penalty (penalties started with any infraction after the first). This is why the commentator says, "Let's be honest; he's just gonna put it in again."

Because disc golf is officiated by players in a group and no one elected to call the foot fault, the technically illegal putt didn't result in even a warning in this case. At the time, this incident sparked many debates about what the truly sportsmanlike thing to do in this situation was.

All that aside, the video helps demonstrate what it means to establish balance (McCray and Owens) and also that placing any supporting point in front of your lie before doing so is technically a stance violation.

Oh, and remember that thing about being able to have two lies based on whether you use a mini or not?

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The image above shows how deciding whether to use a mini or not could affect your ability to legally jump putt.

According to the official rules, "Any throw made from within 10 meters of the target, as measured from the rear of the marker disc to the base of the target, is a putt."

A "putt" in that language means one where a player must establish balance before moving a supporting point in front of the lie.

That means if you played from the rear of the disc in the image, you could jump putt. If you put down a mini marker disc, the back of it would be within 10 meters of the basket, which would mean a jump putt was illegal. 

More to Come

Disc Golf Rules Explained  is an ongoing series. To see the other topics we've covered, just click on the "rules & etiquette" tag below.

Notes:

1. The original article misinterpreted when a player could and could not jump putt based on choosing to use a mini marker disc near the edge of the 10m circle.
2. The original article consistently used the language "behind the lie" as the place where a supporting point could legally be. However, the rules officially state that as long as a supporting point is not "closer to the target than the rear edge of the marker disc," it's legal. The only time the rules say "behind" is in relation to putting, where they state, "After having released a putt, the player must demonstrate full control of balance behind the marker disc before advancing toward the target."

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