Course offers different strokes
December 13, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 13, 2012) -- Many would argue that there is no such thing as too much recreation, and Fort Rucker is adding to its repertoire of recreational activities with the addition of a new flying disc course at Beaver Lake.
Capt. Jeff Meinders, A Company, 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment commander, teamed up with the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation to get the new course added to Fort Rucker as a way to give Soldiers, Families and civilians something different on the installation.
"[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."
The course at Beaver Lake is an 18-hole, 55-par course that follows the path of 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.
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 college universities, 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, Meinders said.
"People would have to travel to Auburn, Fort Benning 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 course is open to anyone who can get on post and people can even rent discs from the Physical Fitness Facility for $10," adding that when people return the disc, they get their money back as well.
To play 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, Ga., and now Fort Rucker," he said.