Tying Up Loose Ends: A Missing Railroad Tie And The DGPT Championship

Why all rules need to be written

Nate Sexton speaks with Steve Dodge over the phone on the tee pad of hole 16 of the Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship. Photo: Screenshot/DGPT

Coming into hole 15 of the Disc Golf Pro Tour Championship final at New World Disc Golf, Nate Sexton was sitting at even par, two strokes behind eventual winner Chris Dickerson.

The 270-foot island green of 15 is surrounded by stacked railroad ties to form a circle island that is approximately a 45-foot radius from the basket. During the DGPT Championship, a railroad tie was missing, creating an open section in the island boundary on the right side. There was no clear boundary line drawn at the missing section, nor was there any definitive out of bounds ruling in the caddy book or mentioned during the players meeting.1

(Ed. Note: Ultiworld Disc Golf received the scorecard from the DGPT Final. Under Course Rules, the scorecard reads, “OB is defined by, in this order, wall, paint, rope, natural obstacle.” It does not define wall any further, or add any detail on the Hole 15 notes.)

Back to the tee; Sexton threw first. His forehand drive spiked hard on the right side of the island, popping up and rolling about five feet directly through the open area without the railroad tie, coming to rest directly on the line where the tie would be sitting. The spotter initially shows Sexton and the card the green side of the paddle indicating that his shot was inbounds.


As soon as the competitors arrived to check the status of Sexton’s disc, the discussion arose as to whether or not the disc was in bounds. Sexton appealed for a Tournament Director or marshall to help with the ruling, but none was present. Sexton and card mates agreed that the disc was most likely out of bounds, as it was on the backside of the section and no part of the disc was in line with the front edge of adjacent ties, but wanted another ruling.

TD Steve Dodge was reached via text message and told Sexton to play a provisional shot from both his established lie on the island, as well as from the drop zone and an official ruling was to come shortly. Sexton proceeded to make the 38-foot birdie putt from the island, and took a bogey from the provisional drop zone shot.

As Sexton was set to tee off on hole 16, a Disc Golf Pro Tour staff member informed him that Dodge was ready to speak on the phone. Sexton’s first response was, “No,” but then accepted when told it could clarify the previous hole.

“Ok, put him on speaker, let’s all hear what he has to say,” Sexton said.

After the phone was put on speaker the conversation continued:

Dodge: The way it was explained to me was that [the disc] was inside the line that the railroad tie would have created but none of the disc was on the inside of the line, the disc would be ruled out of bounds.

Sexton: Ok….is it written down anywhere?

Dodge: (pause)….the line would connect between the shortest point of the two…(cut off by Nate, but still talking)

Sexton: (to the rest of the card mates) I mean I don’t really want to talk about it right now. Cool, you guys go ahead and tee.

Wysocki: Thanks, Steve.

Sexton:(to card mates) It’s most likely out of bounds, I just don’t think it’s fair to not be written anywhere. It should be out of bounds — I’ll agree with you there — but with no line [drawn] and no text [written], it’s not fair to have to assume.

Even with a tournament still in the throes of battle, the railroad tie was all that could be talked about amongst the gallery and other professional players in the gallery throughout the next three holes.

Sexton birdied out, bringing him within one stroke of Dickerson to take second place. All things even, the ruling on hole 15 was the deciding factor in the tournament. The two stroke swing was the difference in whether or not Sexton would be crowned the 2018 Disc Golf Pro Tour Champion.

Immediately after all the putts were finished on 18, Sexton confronted Dodge in person and asked if they could step aside and talk it out. The effort to veil the conversation from those assembled was disrupted almost immediately as the crowd formed around the two. Most of the other card mates were also involved in the debate.

The conversation went as follows:

Sexton: If it’s written, great I’m OB (gesturing two thumbs up). If there’s nothing ever listed, I think it’s benefit to the player because you have no defined line. That’s my argument.

Dodge: I would connect the two points where….I understand your point.

Sexton: All I’m saying is that if you can show me anywhere that is says “inside edge” I’m done, I’m ok. If you can’t then I think benefit to the player is a serious possibility.

Dodge: I understand your point and I made the ruling already.

Sexton: And I can talk to the PDGA or something if that’s not there?

Dodge: Sure

Sexton: Ok

Dodge: Obviously you can talk to the PDGA about anything.

Sexton: Yeah…I’m just…do you know if it says it anywhere? That’s all I’m really asking.

Dodge: I’m confident I never typed it.

Sexton: So, not in the virtual players meeting or anything does it ever say inside edge? Or the video?

Dodge: Wherever the wall ends, you know, if two OB points end, you’re just going to connect them with a straight line. So that’s what we’re doing.

Kevin Jones: But he’s asking where exactly the OB points are.

Sexton: The OB points — is that the outside edge of the wall, or the inside edge of the wall?

Dodge: Oh, the wall itself is the line.

Sexton: The wall is fat though (holding his hands about a foot apart).

Dodge: Then it’s a fat line (also holding his hands a foot or so apart) so it would be the inside edge obviously.

Sexton: Is it that obvious though?

Dodge: The wall is the line so I think it’s that obvious.

Sexton: Like, you’re saying it’s a big fat line.

Dodge: Yeah, like the OB lines that we put out there are a quarter inch, or half inch, or whatever, so it’s the inside just like every other [OB Line].

Jones: That makes sense to me but it’s still not written down.

Dodge: Yeah, it’s not written down but just like every spray painted line where the line itself is that two-inch wide line.

Sexton: So the line is as wide as a railroad tie? Alright. So you won’t be painting a line there in the future? Because it’s that wide?

Dodge: Laughs, I don’t know what we’re going to do in the future. We’ll probably talk about this for a year.

Sexton: I mean, I don’t know, I think I have a decent case. I’m not trying to make a big stink but I think it’s crazy that there’s not a line.

Dodge: I’m genuinely sorry that it happened. Yeah, the tie was removed so that they could mow and it was not put back.

An employee of New World Disc Golf said that the railroad tie has not been in place for “months,” and was not moved just prior to the event. It was moved for mowing, but not recently. The railroad tie was in place for last year’s event, but was not present for any round in 2018.

The employee said they assumed there would be a line painted, or signs put up to build a wall to mark the island.

PDGA rule 803.09D, which the Disc Golf Guy highlights in his video cut, states, “If the inbounds status of a disc is uncertain, either a majority of the group or an official shall make the determination.” 

In this instance, Sexton and the group determined the disc most likely out of bounds, and Dodge also made the ruling that the disc was OB.

Sexton’s argument, however, about benefit going to the player leaves the discussion wide open.

  1. We could also mention here that the double mandatory trees at the front of the island green are not mentioned in the caddy book or players meeting either. 

  1. Darren LeMay
    Darren LeMay

    Darren LeMay is a contributor at Ultiworld Disc Golf, practicing disc golfer and volunteer soccer dad. When not working as a finance auditor he attends girls youth soccer practices and tournaments all over the Orlando area literally five or six days a week leaving just enough time to never play disc golf. He loves playing disc golf.

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