This week in the blog I want to look at the 30 second rule. It’s rule 802.03 in the disc golf handbook. Basically, you have 30 seconds to throw the disc once you get to your lie.
Some shots are easy, other shots are more difficult.
No one needs more than 5 seconds to tap in something that’s 5 feet away. But maybe someone needs 45 seconds to line up a 100 foot approach shot on a tricky green. I think that this rule is one people cite online frequently, and blame certain players like Nikko Locastro or Gannon Buhr for slowing down the pace of play.
Here’s Paul McBeth making a huge putt on Hole 17 of the world championships. When I time Paul from when he gets to his lie and does his grass check to the moment he releases the putt is 31.88 seconds. From my understanding, that’s a violation of rule 802.03 that should result in a warning for excessive time.
Calling a time violation in that moment would be insane right? But how is that shot any different from anyone else’s scoring-wise? The same rules apply to every competitor in the field, for all of their shots.
Now I don’t expect Aaron Gossage, Calvin Heimburg, or Matt Orum to call that violation. They’ve got enough going on.
If you think the DGPT should have officials calling violations, you’re not alone, here's a blog I wrote about how officials could work.
The rule of 30 seconds is kind of a balancing act for time.
On one hand I don’t enjoy having to watch slower players on the DGN take time to make a putt that we all know they’re going to make.
On the other hand, I want the best show they can offer me. That’s pros hitting shots in competition that I wouldn’t be able to throw. That’s hitting all of their 30 footers, the correct angle to release their overstable driver on a flex shot, the 125 foot approach shots with a low ceiling. If we want to watch those shots, sometimes it takes more than 30 seconds to execute.
I understand the necessity of the 30 second rule. It keeps the round flowing without singling anyone out. For the Disc Golf Network it makes sense because not every putt is going to be for a one stroke lead on the last hole of a world championship. If that was round 1 at Idlewild and Paul missed the putt, I probably would have felt like he should pick up the pace.
Putting is hard.
It’s not a controversial statement, and we’ve all thought about throwing our putters into a black hole from time to time.
We’ve all doinked 10 footers, 8 footers, and even 6 footers. In a sport where we count a booming 500’ drive in an open field carries the same weight of a tap in, it’s important to make sure that you spend a good amount of time (under 30 seconds) on each shot. I don’t mind someone spending 30 seconds on a 30 foot putt. I’m much happier that they made it.
What is there to consider in disc golf that’s taking so long?
I think about lots of things when I throw a disc off the tee. Much of it is a pre shot routine because I play at the same courses regularly. So I know going into the hole, what the distance is, where I expect to land, and what disc I’m most likely using.
But just like any other sport there are variables to consider.
The wind may be different.
You may be behind a tree on your second shot.
Heavy rain may impact the ground or teepad.
You may be throwing from somewhere you’ve never been like a drop zone or behind a hill.
Your footing may be bad.
Does the slope of the green match better with a backhand flat shot or a forehand hyzer?
Now imagine you have a windy day and you’re in a muddy spot with a shot that lands on a slope. Even if you’re in the fairway, that’s going to take some time to figure out what you’re going to throw. You may switch from a Destroyer to a Firebird because you don’t want the glide. Then you remember that you’ve been throwing that Destroyer well today on hole 7 and you can forehand this one, so you switch back to it and get back to your spot and suddenly you have less than 10 seconds to throw your shot.
All of these are reasonable reasons to take your time when you’re throwing a shot. You can think about your shot as you walk down the fairway, but until you get up to it you really don’t know where you’re throwing from.
How do other sports handle time spent thinking?
The PGA (Ball Golf’s professional association) allows for players to take 40 seconds to complete their stroke. That’s not all though, they offer players additional time because they know that going first in some situations is difficult.
They also allow the first person on the tee of a par 3 an additional 10 seconds.
The first person shooting their second shot on a Par 4 gets an additional 10 seconds.
The first person to shoot their 3rd shot on a par 5 gets an additional 10 seconds.
I think Poker has a really great system for additional time. They allow players 30 seconds to act when it’s their turn. After that they allow players 4 “time chips” that give them additional time if they need it. They have a marshall nearby that can be called if someone is taking too long. It’s much easier for poker because one marshall could cover multiple tables in an area, but with how spread out disc golf is you’d need one per hole.
Chess uses a clock where both players (usually) have the same amount of time to make a set of moves. Then when they hit a specified move amount players are given additional time. This can lead to marathon-like games like game 6 from the 2022 World Chess Championship. It’s great because in chess we measure games like bullet, blitz, rapid, and classical in different time controls. I really enjoy the scrambled fury with which players move at the end of a game, but this sport is different because what I do on the course doesn’t affect another player the way moving pieces does.
Baseball will institute a pitch clock in 2023. This is going to affect every player because you either hit or you pitch. Pitchers will have 15-20 seconds once a batter comes into the box to throw a pitch. This serves to keep the game moving. As a Sox fan I remember the days of watching Jonathon Papelbon take almost a minute between some pitches. They’re doing this to speed up pace of play, but I also suspect that pitching faster will tire more pitchers and lead to more hits.
Curling uses a finite amount of time the way chess does. Teams have a certain amount of time to think after each shot. If it runs out, you lose. I only watch during the Olympics, but after a cursory Google search I didn’t find anyone who had lost on time.
Where does disc golf go from here?
As long as the 30 second rule in disc golf is applied unevenly and inconsistently, it’s not a major problem right now. Nikko Locastro was 100% in the wrong for his actions at the 2022 European Open. He is however right that the rule is applied to some players and not others. When disc golf finally has an official on every hole, I think we can get a fairer sport.
I also think there should be two major changes in the future to disc golf regarding the time rule 802.03.
- When there’s an official (not just the scorekeeper) on every hole, there needs to be an official disc golf timer. Something easy that you wear on your wrist like a watch. You could hit one button and it glows red (doesn’t beep during a player's shot) when it hits the end of time. After the shot a player could be warned by the official, then stroked if they repeat the violation. They could even say “time start” when they hit the button so players know they have time.
- Extend the time to 45 seconds per shot. It’s totally possible that you have 2 difficult shots in a round. A bad tree kick is punishing enough, taking an additional stroke would be a bummer.
That’s how I feel about the 30 second rule, it’s not enough time to make a shot every time. I think it’s a bit too short, should be applied to every player, is very weather dependent, and that until we get officials it’s just something to think about.
Is there anything that I missed in this blog? Let me know.
May your discs miss all the trees,
Andrew Streeter #70397