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No clubs necessary for growing sport of disc golf

James Old throws a disc at the first hole during Fort Rucker’s first Flying Disc Golf Tournament at Beaver Lake last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

James Old throws a disc at the first hole during Fort Rucker’s first Flying Disc Golf Tournament at Beaver Lake last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: May 29, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 29, 2014) -- Fort Rucker’s Silver Wings Golf Course is one of the installation’s most-frequented recreational hot spots, but there is another more non-traditional course that people can transfer some of their golf skills to.

Disc Golf is an ever-growing sport that has been gaining popularity across the installation, and Capt. Jeff Meinders, former A Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment commander, teamed with the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation to get the course added to Fort Rucker’s recreational repertoire as a way to give Soldiers, Families and civilians something different on the installation.

The course is located at Beaver Lake and is an 18-hole, 55-par course that follows the Beaver Lake trail, for the most part. The beginning of the course starts near the parking lot for the lake, and people can participate in team play or solo play.

The sport has been gaining popularity on post, according to Meinders, which is the reason it was brought to the installation and now hosts full tournaments.

Teams and players typically play weekend matches Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. recreationally, and people are welcome to meet up and try their hand at the sport, said the captain.

The rules of disc golf are simple and much like the game of ball golf, he said.

“[Similar to] ball golf, disc golf is a recreational sport in which you throw a disc down the fairway and try to make it into the baskets that are set up,” said Meinders. “The goal is to get as few strokes as possible.”

A lot went into bringing a disc golf course to Fort Rucker, according to Meinders.

“First, we had to find a good location,” he said. “Lake Tholocco was where we initially wanted to put it, but we didn’t feel that there was enough visibility there.

“There were a few different locations that we picked out, but we decided on Beaver Lake because the close proximity it had to the physical fitness facility, and the high visibility and foot traffic of the area,” said Meinders.

Meinders and his team spent about four months walking the trails at Beaver Lake to plot out a course that they felt was good enough for the area, and the way they set up the course is to have it start off easy and progressively get more difficult.

“The first few holes are really easy to play because there aren’t any trees around and it’s very basic,” he said. “The next few holes get a little tighter, a little shorter and there are a lot more trees to play through, but the last six holes are very demanding.”

The reason Meinders said the last few holes are demanding is because they are set up right next to the lake, increasing the chance of losing a disc in the water. The course culminates at the 15th hole, which Meinders and his fellow disc golf players have dubbed “The Gauntlet,” where players must make a decision shot – play over the water, or around it.

All of these factors were carefully thought out by Meinders and his team, and came from a mutual interest and understanding in a sport that is new to the area.

Disc golf began in the 70s, but gained most of its popularity in the 90s and early 2000s among the college crowd, according to Meinders. The sport has grown about 15 percent a year for the past decade and there are around 4,000 courses in the U.S., but none close to Fort Rucker.

In total, there are 10 flying disc courses within 100 miles of Fort Rucker – none of which are within 75 miles of the installation, according to the captain.

“People would have to travel to Auburn, Fort Benning (Ga.) or the beach if they wanted to play, so I realized there was a big need for it,” he said.

Another one of the draws of disc golf is that it is a non-contact sport that is open to all ages.

“Disc golf is a virtually injury-free sport, and anyone from ages 5 to 80 can play,” said Meinders.

The Disc Golf course is open to the public and discs can be checked out for $7 by authorized patrons only. The deposit is returned upon return of the disc.

Playing an entire round of disc golf, 18 holes, takes anywhere from 45-90 minutes depending on the amount of players, and costs little to no money, which is beneficial to many Soldiers who are strapped for time and money, said Meinders, adding that his main goal is for the Army to embrace the sport.

“The Air Force and Navy have embraced it, and they have lots of courses on their installations, but there are only two Army installations that have disc golf courses – Fort Benning and now Fort Rucker,” he said.

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/126975/

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