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    BRION O’CONNOR | ON THE MOVE

    Disc golf a growing hit with young, old

    Mark Lorenz for The Boston Globe
    Frank Strauss tosses his disc during a round at Devens Disc Golf. Strauss has been playing since 2006.
    Mark Lorenz for The Boston Globe
    Jamie Newcombe is all concentration as he prepares to take a shot at Devens.

    Like any golfer, North Andover’s Peter Nevius appreciates a great shot, whether it’s a monster drive off the tee, a delicate chip to the green, or a circuitous putt that finds the hole. But Nevius isn’t tracing the arc of a small white ball. Instead, he’s following the trajectory of a plastic disc, the tool of his favorite pastime – disc golf.

    “There’s just something about watching the full flight of a disc out of my hand that never gets old,” said Nevius, who has been disc golfing for 11 years. “And with disc golf, there’s a huge variety of discs designed to do different things.

    “One of my favorite elements of the game is the challenge of shaping shots around obstacles, like throwing a left-to-right angle with a disc that I know will fade left at the end of its flight,” said Nevius, who plays regularly at Devens Disc Golf and Clement Farm Disc Golf in Haverhill. “There’s a wide variety of throwing styles to master, from the classic backhand, to sidearm, overhand throws – like throwing a baseball or football – and rolling or skip shots.”

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    Disc golf courses are flourishing in Eastern Massachusetts. Some are casual, while others are more strenuous. Many can be found on public lands, built and maintained by volunteers. Examples include Borderland State Park in Easton and Normandy Farms in Foxborough to the south; Coggshall Park in Fitchburg, Maple Hill in Leicester, and Arsenal on the Charles in Watertown to the west; and Pye Brook Park in Topsfield and Amesbury Pines Disc Golf to the north.

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    So not surprisingly, while many golf aficionados were focused on the US Senior Open at the Salem Country Club in Peabody late last month, Tyngsborough’s Luke Adolph and dozens of his colleagues gathered for a friendly Wednesday night competition at Adolph’s favorite course, Devens Disc Golf.

    “It’s the closest to my home and it’s where my blood, sweat, and tears have all been shed many times over,” said Adolph. “Our Wednesday Weekly League is also my favorite for the same reasons, but there are tons of great leagues every weekday evening all over Massachusetts.”

    The game is growing quickly, say disc golfers, in large part because it’s so accessible.

    “The sport is very inexpensive and can be played by people of any age at any fitness level,” said Adolph. “The land used for courses ranges from beautiful, manicured parks to serene forests.”

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    Likewise, Leominster’s Christopher Collette said disc golf is the equivalent of a “low-impact hike through the woods,” but with added incentive.

    “Giving yourself a goal helps you get through every round, so it never feels like exercise,” said Collette, who owns Hawk Nest Disc Golf in Ayer, next to the Devens courses. “A lot of my customers discovered the game as they got older, and their young, competitive spirit comes out while they get in their weekly hikes.”

    Somerville’s John Mucciarone said he plays “with people from all walks of life. Different economic backgrounds, professions, gender, you name it. That ‘democracy,’ and the grass-roots culture of the sport, make it really unique and special.”

    According to North Easton’s Matthew DeAngelis, president of the New England Flying disc Association , disc golf is played much the same as golf, “with the similar challenges and rewards.”

    “With disc golf, the gains earned from practice are realized much faster than with traditional golf,” said DeAngelis. “You can play golf for years and still be a total hack, duffing every other shot. With disc golf, putting in your practice time will show real results the next time out, which makes it more appealing to a wider group of people.”

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    Since course fees and equipment costs are relatively low (a starter set of discs costs roughly $30), the sport is attractive to people of all income levels, said DeAngelis. Another draw, he said, is the pervasive sense of camaraderie that disc golf engenders.

    “Disc golfers, by in and large, are all very inclusive to anyone picking up the game for the first time,” said DeAngelis. “We are generally willing to offer assistance to those that need it and encourage each other to do the same.’’

    There’s even a fledgling league for youngsters started by Leicester’s Matt Grayum and his brother, called Kids Disc Golf.

    “We are currently in the middle of our first full state-championship series,’’ said Grayum. “It’s not too late [this season] for a kid to participate.”

    The Eastern Massachusetts Kids Disc Golf Tournament will be held Aug. 5 at Borderland State Park. But kids of all ages can feed their disc golf habit at any of more than 50 courses throughout the state, almost any day of the week.

    “For me, it’s the whole package,” said Boxborough’s Ken Gary. “Disc golf incorporates so many things that make it enjoyable – the relaxation of an outdoor activity that incorporates fitness, skill development, competitiveness. It continually challenges me to get better.”

    Luke Adolph in action at Devens, his favorite course. “It’s where my blood, sweat, and tears have all been shed many times over,” he said.
    Mark Lorenz for The Boston Globe
    Luke Adolph in action at Devens, his favorite course. “It’s where my blood, sweat, and tears have all been shed many times over,” he said.

    For a complete listing of disc golf courses in Eastern Massachusetts, visit DiscGolfScene.com/courses/Massachusetts or DiscGolfCourseReview.com and enter your ZIP code. If you have an idea for the Globe’s On the Move column, contact Brion O’Connor at brionoc@verizon.net. Please allow at least two weeks’ advance notice.