On LI, disc golf is a short toss away

Tom Cunningham of Lindenhurst practices before the start

Tom Cunningham of Lindenhurst practices before the start of the second round of the Disc Golf 2012 Long Island Open at Cedar Beach in Babylon. (June 3, 2012) (Credit: Albert J. Orlando)

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If you enjoy the carefree fun of tossing a Frisbee and the mental challenge of beating a course -- disc golf could be the game for you.

The sport, exploding in popularity all over the country for the past few years, now has a Long Island outpost at Cedar Beach Golf Course in Babylon.

"It's a user-friendly game. The fees are affordable and it's very social," says disc golf pro Ernest Motton, 47, of Massapequa. "The learning curve is more conducive toward the average person of any age being able to pick it up and do well. It's easier to get the disc in the basket than the ball in the hole."

 

HOW TO PLAY

Disc golf, which has been around since the '70s, uses the same rules as traditional golf. But instead of a ball, a disc -- a bit smaller than a regular Frisbee -- is used. The target is not a hole but rather a metal basket draped with chains that serve as a backboard. The object: Get the disc in using as few tosses as possible.

Players carry a bag of discs with them -- often strapped across their backs, golf-bag style. Just as golfers select clubs, they use a variety of shaped and weighted discs based on the shot they are trying to make.

 

ON THE COURSE

At Cedar Beach, traditional players and disc golfers coexist on the 18-hole course, with baskets set up to the side or behind the putting greens. Manager Bart Viruso says he's seen a spike of interest in disc play.

"Even ball golfers are getting curious. They want to see what it's all about," he says.

The course recently hosted the Long Island Open Disc Golf Championship, in which amateurs and pros came together for a day of serious play and camaraderie.

 

PLAYING TO WIN

Like golfers, disc throwers have to play to the environment. A high wind can be particularly advantageous, propelling the disc further on the course -- but only if it's blowing in the right direction.

"The air is our green," says disc golf pro Neal Dambra, 57, of West Islip. "It's important to know which way your disc is going to turn and how it's going to fight the wind. It's all about keeping the wind on the top of the disc."

Tom Cunningham, 14, of Lindenhurst picked up the sport after visiting his uncle in San Antonio, where it's all the rage. "My son came back obsessed," says his mom, Shannon Cunningham, 41. He even tried to make his own basket with a shopping cart, bike rim, chains and a pipe.

"I was hooked instantly," says Tom, who just played his first tournament. "The sport is very interesting to me. There's nothing else like it."

 

DISC GOLF

WHEN | WHERE 8 a.m.-7 p.m. (until 8 p.m. after June 30) at Cedar Beach Golf Course, Ocean Parkway, Babylon

INFO 631-321-4562, facebook.com/cedarbeachdgc

ADMISSION $8 ($7 Babylon town residents), includes discs

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