DEVENS -- According to Ric Hamel, director of Massachusetts Association for the Advancement of Disc Golf, once you try disc golf, golf using that little ball will never be the same.
"The distance you feel when you play the game feels about equivalent to that of ball golf because you are not getting the velocity you would off of a club," Hamel said. "In disc golf, you are physically tossing the disc down the course. Technique can truly help someone dominate ."
Hamel and other disc golf professionals are setting out to bring more players to the evolving game with summer clinics for children eight-and-up starting on Monday, June 23, at 9 a.m. Registration details can be found at maadg.wordpress.com.
Disc golf courses have sprouted up in local towns and cities such as Fitchburg and Athol. The General and The Hill, in Devens, are maintained by Devens Disc Golf President Ken Gary and a volunteer army of roughly 40 people.
According to the Professional Disc Golfers Association website, the origins of the sport cannot be traced back to any particular dates in history. It is believed to have started in 1968, when Thousand Oaks, Calif., Parks and Recreation director George Sappenfield discovered that kids could play golf with frisbees rather than with traditional ball and club.
The sport gained popularity in the late 1970s, but recently has started to entrench itself in the New England region.
Ed Headrick, of the Professional Disc Golf Association, developed the sport in its modern form. Players make their drive from the tee box and try to get the disc as close to the basket as possible. From there, golfers score as they would the traditional ball and club game.
That is when Hawks Nest disc golf shop owner Mark Ducci decided to partner with Gary to create The General. Construction on the newest course started last fall and was completed in recent weeks. The General is an 18-hole free public disc golf course located on Antietam Road in Devens with holes 12 and 14 located just a short walk from behind Ducci's 210 West Main St. shop in Ayer. And, if you want to bring your dog, you can ... so long as he-or-she is well behaved.
"It took a significant amount of time to plan the course," Ducci said of The General. "I walked the land and planned how to get in and out of the course. It starts with that. The land really dictates a lot about how the course will play. The Hill is a very approachable course, but if you are getting bored with it, The General is more of a challenge."
The General is a wooded course with little water hazards, but its steep terrain might provide a challenge for even the strongest of disc throwers. Hawks Nest general manager Josh St. Denis helps oversee a Wednesday night league at The General.
Disc golf is really getting big," St. Dennis said. "I first learned about it when I went to school out in Michigan. Disc golf was huge out there."
St. Denis and Hamel have traveled across the country to compete in Pro Disc Golf Association-sanctioned tournaments.
The holes at The General range in distance from 150 feet to 400 feet. Each hole is marked with a sign that shows where the basket is located, the distance and how many throws it should take to complete.
"This course is a smaller course compared to a lot in the area," St. Denis said. "It is a very tricky course. There are a lot of different things you will encounter here, such as throwing up hill and downhill. Some of these holes have 90-foot elevations on them. Those factors have a big influence on the way you throw the disc."
The General and The Hill are widely known and respected in the New England disc golfing community; however, people in the surrounding towns may not know the sport is right in their backyard.
Hamel and the MAADG hope to change that by offering free mini-clinics to residents of the surrounding communities throughout the summer.