Local disc golf courses in the works

WILTON – First there was Fris­bee, a perfect laid-back past­time for the 1960s, then Frisbee evolved into the fast-paced Ulti­mate Frisbee.

Now, there’s a Frisbee-golf hybrid called disc golf, which seems the perfect game for the 21st century.

Three years ago, a course was built at the Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/Senior High School campus, and this year, courses are planned in Amherst and Merrimack.

The Wilton course is open to the public. It was built into the wooded hills surrounding the school, making its 18 holes a mod­erately good workout.

The course’s natural challeng­es also put the small discs at risk.

"This course eats discs," said Wade Bennett, of Amherst, who was there on a recent Sunday with his Portuguese water dog, Chester, for the third day in a row.

"Oh, come back, come back," he said softly as one of his discs sailed down a steep embank­ment.

Bennett, who works for Johnson & Johnson, played Ultimate Frisbee at Keene State College, but as he eased into mid­dle age, he said, Frisbee golf became appealing.

He has a small bag full of the specialized plastic discs, the same way a golf­er would have a large bag full of putters and drivers. The discs are smaller and heavier than traditional Frisbees, and the game is played and scored es­sentially like golf, though there are some special­ized names for throws such as "The Hatchet" and the "Overhand Wrist­flip."

Andrew Lundquist, of Hudson, was at the course on a recent Satur­day morning with friends, Kate and Sam Graves, of Milford.

Lundquist started play­ing when he lived in Washington State, and when he moved back to New Hampshire he intro­duced his friends to it.

"Andrew came back from Seattle, and said you’ve got to try this," Kate Graves said.

In disc golf, natural el­ements, including trees and shrubs, are pretty much left alone, so the sport is considered more ecologically conscious. Other than the tee pads and the metal baskets that are the targets, there is little disturbance to the natural environment.

And it’s an egalitarian sport; playing is often free or low cost, unlike golf or skiing.

Each course has its own personality, so a golfer’s strategy has to adapt to different challenges.

Bennett is familiar with several New England courses, including one at Mount Sunapee that uses a chairlift, and he calls southern and mid-coast Maine a mecca for disc golfers.

There is a course in Manchester and anoth­er one in Pelham, but Wilton’s is the only one around here. That won’t be true for long. Merri­mack and Amherst are getting into the game.

Last year, the Merri­mack Town Council gave permission for two resi­dents to build a course at Wasserman Park, funded by donations.

Matthew Casparius, the Merrimack recreation di­rector, said it will be lo­cated behind the dog park that will be built this year. Donations for the 18-hole course are coming in slow­ly, however. The cost will be about $14,000, and only $1,200 has been raised so far, so plans might have to be pared down to nine holes., he said.

Casparius hopes some kind of course can be ready for next year.

"It’s a growing sport, and over the past five or 10 years, it’s kind of taken off," he said.

People like it because nearly everyone can play it, and it’s free.

In Amherst, a disc golf course and a pump track are planned for 22 acres of town-owned land off Baboosic Lake Road. Se­lectmen voted last month to support the plans.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.