FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Continually gaining in popularity, disc golf is a sport that mixes competitive edge with a leisurely pace.

Fort Rucker's course has been a catalyst for the sports' growth locally, according to Ramon Barber, Fort Rucker sports programs coordinator, who added that he feels camaraderie, competition, an abundance of free facilities and a short learning curve have helped its growth.

"Disc golf is easy for someone to pick up," he said. "You can grow from not playing at all to being competitive within two months of playing regularly."

Barber said the Beaver Lake course, offering more than 90 minutes of play time, presents unique challenges to competitors.

"The lake is a tough hole," he said. "It is the decision hole. You can try to throw over the lake or go around and have one extra throw. The distance of some of the holes is also challenging. Playing in the woods makes it very challenging."

Disc golf is played much like traditional golf, but instead of using a ball and clubs, players use a flying disc. Whether you're a novice or professional, it is easy to develop proficiency on the course.

The course, located at Beaver Lake, is an 18-hole, 55-par course that follows the Beaver Lake trail, for the most part. It offers varying levels of difficulty with very basic holes with no hazards or trees to more advanced holes with water traps and obstacles.

The rules of disc golf are also similar to the game of ball golf in that the goal is to use as few strokes as possible to throw a disc from a designated spot into a basket.

Disc golf has been around for quite some time, but was formalized in the 1970s, and began to gain most of its popularity in the 1990s and early 2000s among the college crowd. According to the Professional Disc Golf Association, which has more than 50,000 members, there are more 4,000 courses around the world.

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

"Disc golf is very family-oriented," Barber said. "Because it's outdoors, you can bring a stroller, your dog and your entire family to play.

"The Fort Rucker Physical Fitness center offers discs to purchase or rent," he added. "So, if you just want to try the sport for the day, you can rent discs. Once you become addicted, you will want to purchase your own. We offer them in many colors and weights."

Discs are available to rent. All discs must be returned by close of business. If the disc is not returned, a $7 fee will be charged. The course is open to the public. Disc check-out is open to authorized patrons only.

According to Barber, disc golf is not difficult to learn. However, joining in with an experienced player can help reduce the learning curve.

"Get with an avid player and let them show you the ins and outs," he said. "Groups meet most every Saturday and Sunday around 9-10 a.m. to play. Discs are a little different to throw than a Frisbee. There are different discs for different distances. The best thing you can do is rent them and determine what you like.

"I personally used a putting disc for most of my first game," he added. "It was the only one I could get to go straight. Patrons can go to the Fort Rucker Freedom Flyers Disc Golf Club on Facebook to ask questions or find out times to play."

For more information, call 255-2296.