CLAREMONT — On the tee pad at the first hole of the Moody Park Disc Golf course, Bret Sorter took careful aim then flung his disc and watched it slice through the air, curve around a couple of large trees and hit the metal chains above the basket and fall to the ground.
Shortly before Sorter missed a hole in one, Lawrence McGonagle of Francestown, N.H., was in another group of four golfers and had the identical results in his toss on the par 3, 224 foot hole.
“It hit the chains and just kicked out,” McGonagle said, playing Moody Park for the first time.
Both men shared a laugh over their misfortune with their fellow golfers, putting an accent on the fun and friendly competition at the inaugural Pine Hill Open Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday.
The tournament, played on a warm, sunny day, drew 76 players, some from as far away as Pennsylvania, New York, Maine and Connecticut.
The course, with some challenging holes set among tall pines and down steep ravines, was getting rave reviews, said Alex Baldwin of Claremont, who first proposed the idea of a disc golf course to the city council in April 2022.
“All positive feedback (on the course) is all I have been hearing so far,” Baldwin said while the golfers took a break after completing the first round of 20 holes of the 40-hole tournament. “We put in a lot of work so it is good to know it is appreciated.”
Baldwin said he could never have envisioned a day like Saturday when he first conceived of the course in the 300-acre park.
“We have come a long way since those days of touring the park with Park and Recreation (commission) members,” Baldwin. “It is pretty exciting to see how we’ve been able to build it.”
Baldwin and a group of about a half dozen dedicated volunteers built most of the course last year and put the finishing touches on this spring.
They cleared underbrush, took down some small trees, built footpaths, bridges and tee pads, installed the baskets, which were donated by Mike Lemieux, and put up signage.
“We have been working all the way up to this day,” Baldwin said.
The Moody Park tournament, one of 12 on the Granite State Tour, brought a lot of first-timers and seasoned players like Sorter, who said he has played Moody Park perhaps 100 times, describing the course as challenging.
“It is difficult,” Sorter said. “There are a lot of short shots that are very technical. Then there are some out of bounds that will get you. But it is a great course.”
Eric Vitoff of Burlington, one of Sorter’s playing partners, was an early advocate of building the Moody Park course and “was really happy to see it come to life.”
The first 12 holes are on the right of the access road and have proved to be the toughest. Players need to toss their discs around large trees to reach the baskets, which stand about two feet off the ground with short sections of chains hanging above the baskets to stop the disc in flight. Like regular golf, where the low score wins, the player who can deposit his or her disc into the basket in the fewest numbers of tosses wins.
“Eight really gets inside your head,” Vitoff said when asked his opinion about the hardest hole.
Elyse Scott of Claremont, playing in just her second tournament, agreed.
“There are just so many trees and a downhill,” Scott said, during the break between rounds. “You can’t even see the basket from the tee.”
Scott was introduced to the game by her fiancé, Aidan Cahill — both are 2018 Stevens High School graduates — and quickly took an interest.
“I play all the time and play in a Wednesday night league here,” said Scott, who was in a group with Lindsey Anderson, Olivia Martin and Skye Alexander. “I was not very good at the start but it is really fun and a good way to get outside. I am improving each time and pretty happy with my play today.”
While many of those on the course have been playing for years and travel to tournaments around the region, it is likely no one has played as much as Jeff Reeves, who discovered the sport in Illinois when it was in its infancy in the 1970s.
He moved to the area from Arizona, where there are courses with a lot fewer trees.
“It is a tough course,” Reeves, volunteering at Saturday’s event, said. “For me, it is a roll of the dice whether you are going to hit a tree or not.”
For those who may be thinking about trying the sport, Reeves said you really need just three discs at a cost of about $30 to get started. But after a few rounds, you may find yourself hooked.
“This is what I think is the addictive aspect of the game that gets people hooked,” Vitoff said back at the first hole. “Every shot you walk up to, you automatically calculate in your head which disc to pick, how do I throw it, how hard do I throw it and what angle do I want to throw it on.”
Among the winners at the tournament were Tyler Woods, South Burlington, Vt. (mixed pro open), Casey Besaw, Ascutney, Vt. (mixed amateur 1), Matthew Albee, Campton, N.H. (mixed amateur, 40 plus), Shane McDonald, Hancock, N.H. (mixed amateur 50 plus) and Michael Tran, West Haven, Conn. (mixed amateur 2)
Patrick O’Grady can be reached at email@example.com