For Disc Golfers, Putting, League Play Enhance Game, Sense of Community

By VICTORIA FORD | Apr 11, 2018
Photo by: Victoria Ford Over the winter, disc golfers got together on Wednesday nights at the Manafirkin Brewery on East Bay Avenue for indoor putting practice.

Disc golf is an increasingly popular outdoor recreational sport, and the community around it has steadily grown on every level, from the local players on Manahawkin’s Doc Cramer course to the worldwide Professional Disc Golf Association.

The principle is the same as conventional golf but with discs instead of clubs, and metal chain baskets instead of holes. It takes up less space than ball golf, as fairways are shorter; the courses blend in with the natural environment, so they’re handy additions to existing parks, such as the one installed at Ocean County Park in Lakewood in 2013. Obstacles such as trees and foliage, hills and water increase the challenge and strategy involved.

Ryan Frederickson, dubbed “the godfather of Manahawkin disc golf,” along with his wife Brittany and a core group of enthusiasts, designed and built the course at the Doc Cramer Athletic Complex, starting with nine holes in 2014 and expanding to 18 in 2015, earning them a Community Steward Award from Stafford Township Environmental Commission. The town had also donated the regulation baskets. Frederickson is a physical education teacher at Southern Regional High School, where he also got an eight-hole course installed.

Now, Doc Cramer’s PDGA-sanctioned spring league is getting ready to begin on Tuesday, April 10. The league will run 10 weeks with a $7 buy-in. A public group page on Facebook called Doc Cramer Disc Golf Course is the best place to find the latest and most up-to-date info and calls for volunteers. The grassroots movement relies on the willingness of participants to lend a hand to maintain the course for everyone’s benefit.

Posts such as this one, from West Creek player Chris Plant, after a storm had brought down trees and limbs on the course, give a clue as to the friendly we’re-all-in-this-together vibe of the group: “Doc needs a chainsaw day rough shape will work for beer.”

Over the winter, disc golfers got together on Wednesday nights at the Manafirkin Brewery on East Bay Avenue for indoor putting practice, a weekly event co-run by Fredrickson and Keith Mollema. It was a natural fit for all involved, because Wednesdays are normally a “brew day” when the brewery is closed to the general public, and bartender Sean Griffin is a disc golfer himself, so he was happy to work and spectate during the putting activities. Three portable baskets were brought in and set up at certain distances from the throwing line, for players to sharpen their short-distance putting skills.

Emily and Tim Apgar of Manchester are proud members of Team Doc, as Emily pointed out the insignia on her shirt. “We won our last playoff against Team Wolf in Oceanport,” she said. They also take part in the New Jersey Team Challenge – comprising eight to 10 teams of about eight players, divided into north and south portions of the state, with tournament points accrued throughout the calendar year. The world championships will be held in July in Chapel Hill, N.C., this year.

But “this is just for fun, to improve skills,” Emily said.

Players generally agree that putting is the hardest part of the game. For long drives, a player puts their whole body into it, but for accurate throwing from 20 or 30 feet away, it’s all about control, with movements that are small and close.

Emily added the weekly practice has noticeably helped her game out on the field.

“Beer helps,” Mollema quipped.

Tim Apgar had started playing disc golf when he was in grad school, Emily explained, and then she joined him when they started dating. Over time, she has developed an arm that can heave a backhand throw 250 feet. They helped install the park at Ocean County Park; before that, they’d often drive out to Tyler State Park in Bucks County, Pa. (That one has 27 holes.) Today they keep their bags of discs in their car at all times, ready to play whenever the opportunity is presented.

Mike Ande of Toms River has been a disc golf enthusiast since he was 21, before it went mainstream, and now he plays with his 11-year-old son, Mikie, who can throw just about equally well with either arm. They love it for the experience of being outdoors, the hiking, Dad explained. They have a YouTube channel called Mikie Ande, where they post funny videos of their disc golf adventures. They have also frequented the course at Tyler, and at Allaire State Park in Wall, and at Brandywine Creek State Park in Wilmington, Del., and the Chimney Rock course in Bridgewater.

The Andes, too, rolled up their sleeves and helped build the Lakewood course. Ocean County Park runs two 12-week leagues, one in summer and one in fall.

Ande has occasionally volunteered to spot on especially technical holes during tournament play, but he doesn’t belong to any particular team – “I’m for everybody, man.”

If Frederickson is the godfather, Brandon Koppenjan of Lanoka Harbor is the golden boy. He’s 24 and headed for the pros. Last month while working on his short game at the brewery, he had just come off a two-day tournament at Alexandria Township Park in Milford.

But Koppenjan said he’s delaying the move to pro because “once you accept cash, you can’t play amateur again.”

To some extent it’s a natural proclivity, but he also believes his baseball skills have transferred well to the sport of disc golf. Doc Cramer is his favorite course, he said, because it’s so densely wooded and technical. You don’t have to be able to throw far to be the best, he said.

Disc Golf Monthly filmed him playing at the Alexandria tournament, where he had played his best round, 10 under par, no bogies; the footage should be released on YouTube in mid-April.

“We don’t want to discourage anybody from joining us,” Mollema said. Whether out on the field or inside the brewery, the sport is for everyone, and kids are welcome. “You won’t meet a mean person here.”

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