While I was watching my first few disc golf tournaments, the commentators occasionally made reference to the ‘mando’. After a player executed their drive a commentator said, “he didn’t make the mando”. Apparently, the player had broken a rule. But it wasn’t immediately obvious to me what they were talking about or what the rule really was.
I decided to start doing some research into the official rules of disc golf on the PDGA website to see if I could figure it out. As well as consulting some of my friends that got me into the sport.
What’s a mando in disc golf? Mando is a shortened term that refers to a mandatory route or object that defines the line the disc must take to the basket.
Typically you’ll hear the term mandatory used more often out on the course, which makes it a little easier to follow along. The route that is specified can sometimes take a few different shapes. And its not always the same.
It is important to be aware of the correct path to take to the basket. Missing the correct route can end up resulting in some steep consequences.
Disc Golf Mando Routes Further Explained
A mando, or mandatory, may not always be in effect on a course. Usually, a mandatory is put into effect during tournament play and is specified by the tournament director. There are a few reasons for this.
Most courses are designed with the average disc golfer in mind. If a course is too difficult, the typical player isn’t always going to want to come back. Of course, it needs to be just challenging enough.
When a professional level tournament is hosted at one of these courses, it can sometimes be a bit too easy for the pros. In this case, the director may choose to restrict the route the players have to take in order to add another level of difficulty to the course.
It is common for very advanced players to throw lines to the basket that were previously not contemplated by the course designer. These shortcuts can provide an unfair advantage. A hole that was intended to be a long par five could potentially play like a par four if a player has enough power to go over some trees.
For example, take a look at the below picture. This hole is intended to be played as a par 4 and is 550 feet when played down the dotted line. Even with a really good throw off the tee, the corner prevents a player from getting within more than 250 feet of the basket with all the trees off to the right. Many of the top pros in the world can throw 550 feet, but not with a corner like this.
However, if a player were to throw over the trees, they could cut the distance to the basket to about 400 feet.
In this example, the course designer never imagined a player could go over the trees since the trees were extremely tall. As players have gotten better over the years, it is more common to see professional disc golfers being able to execute amazing shots like this. But they can gain an unfair advantage by doing so.
The correct action here would be to put a mandatory marker on a large tree down the fairway that requires players to throw to the left down the intended path. Any throws to the right of the marked tree would be penalized.
Sometimes, there are situations where a shortcut to a basket was non-existent in prior years. But if a tree falls down around the tee pad, new lines open up that players will exploit. Tournament directors then need to react by enforcing a mando.
In other situations, a mandatory could be put in place for the safety of bystanders and spectators. Many disc golf courses are also public parks. Restricting a route that would take the disc over a commonly traveled path is a good idea.
Types of Mandatory Routes
There are a few different types of mandatory routes that can be specified per the rules.
The path to the basket can be restricted by requiring the disc to pass either to the right or left of a mandatory marker. Or, less commonly a mandatory marker can restrict the height of the line by requiring the disc to pass over or under an object.
Any combination of these can also be used. It is most common to see the right and left mandatory used on trees as the marker. Mandatory routes for going over or under an object would usually be indicated by an elevated log.
A hole that has either a right or left mando is known as a single mandatory. If the hole has both a right and left mando, it is known as a double mandatory. And lastly, if an over or under mando is added, it is known as a double mandatory with a height requirement.
When an object is marked as a mandatory, it will usually have a clearly visible sign stating “Mandatory” or “Mando” with an arrow that points to the side your disc should move passed the object.
Penalties For Missing the Mandatory Route
The penalties for missing the mandatory can be brutal. First, if your disc crosses the mandatory line and comes to rest, you receive one penalty throw to your score. The mandatory line is the imaginary line that extends out forever on the opposite side of the mandatory object.
Your disc can approach the mandatory line without penalty. In fact, you can travel anywhere behind the mandatory line. It is only when the line is crossed that a penalty is given.
In rare circumstances, a disc could theoretically cross the mandatory line during flight, but bounce off a tree causing it to come to rest on the safe side of the line. This is not a penalty. The disc must come to rest on the other side of the line for a penalty to be given.
If you do miss the mandatory, there will be one of two options.
First, is the drop zone. Typically, whenever there is a mandatory designated on a hole, there will be an accompanying drop zone. The drop zone is a predetermined location on the fairway that you’ll move to after crossing the mandatory line. This is where you will throw from.
The drop zone is usually punitive. So, in addition to the penalty throw, you’ll also be in a disadvantaged location for your next throw. However, the alternative is likely going to be worse.
If there is no drop zone setup for the hole, you are required to throw from your previous lie. Since this is typically going to be from the tee pad, you could essentially have to start the hole from scratch, but this time with two throws already under your belt. Ouch.
If you’re on a hole with a difficult mando, your best bet is to play it safe. An errant disc could cost you dearly on a hole like this.