The sound of chinking metal came from behind a grove of trees in Cape May County Park and Zoo, leading to where a group of disc golf players were in the middle of a game.
One by one, the players took turns throwing plastic discs, like Frisbees, toward a metal basket about 200 feet in the distance. Once they had all made it in, the group walked through another grove of trees, across a wooden bridge over a semi-frozen pond and through some foliage to the next tee-off mark.
Like with ball golf, the object of disc golf - also called Frisbee golf - is to get the disc into the basket in the least number of throws as possible. The metal baskets have chains hanging over them to catch the flying discs - the cause of all the chinking.
"Even if you don't score well, it's a walk in the park," said Dan Vanorder, a recreational disc golf player from Cape May Court House.
The entire scene seemed very picturesque - a group of people out in nature playing a friendly, competitive game together. But according to the group, the county park's disc golf course is far from ideal. For one thing, the course has only nine baskets, whereas a full regulation disc golf course has 18. Also, the county park is oftentimes too congested for them to play the game.
"In the summertime, we can't even play in the dirt part up here because people park on the grass," said recreation disc golfer Tracy Horner, of Wildwood Crest, as she pointed toward a disc golf basket located a stone's throw away from a picnic pavilion. "Summertime's just hard in general with all the joggers. We're afraid we'll hit someone."
Because of these obstacles, Cape May County disc golfers are working to get a regulation, 18-basket disc golf course established in the county. Leading the charge is Jay Eppenbach, a semi-professional disc golfer from Cape May, and Josh Goldberg, an avid recreational disc golfer from Erma. The group also is working to promote the sport in the county, and if it had a new course, the disc golfers would be able to host clinics and tournaments to aid their mission.
"It's a great sport, and I don't think many people know about disc golf in Cape May County, and I think it would be a great alterative for everybody," Eppenbach said. "If you do build it, people will come to play."
Eppenbach and Goldberg have also found what they call "a perfect location" for a regulation course - in the 81-acre Ockie Wisting site, formerly the Fort Apache Campground, in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township. The township bought the land in 2003 and is working on a plan to determine its best uses.
"The Fort Apache site is beautiful," Goldberg said. "We've already mapped out a course using ribbons to mark the trees."
All they need now is approval from the township and funding support. The average disc-golf basket costs $350, therefore an 18-basket course would cost about $6,300. Eppenbach and Goldberg, however, said they'd be willing to do most of the fundraising themselves. Also, they said, very little maintenance is required for disc golf, and there are many benefits to having a course. For example, a course can be used to highlight scenic areas.
The closest regulation disc golf courses to Cape May County are in Vineland - one is in Vineland's Landis Park and another in South Vineland Park. "We usually just go to Vineland in the summer," said Horner, of her and her friends. "It's a drive, but it's worth it."
But because of the travel inconvenience, Eppenbach said many local players don't get to play as often as they'd like.
"If (Cape May County) had a regulation course, I'd probably be out here everyday," he said, "at least two or three times a week."
Vineland Disc Golf Club Tournament Director Tim Gannotta said he, too, would like to see a regulation course built in Cape May County and believes it would boost tourism in the area.
"Disc golfers will travel to try a new course," Gannotta said. "One afternoon on my lunch break, I was playing Frisbee golf at Landis Park, and I met people from Alaska, California, Kentucky, and there was even a group from Ireland. They flew into Philly to vacation at the Jersey Shore and were looking for a disc golf course on their way there."
"If they built the course in Cape May County, I know they would get a lot of play," he said.
Contact Elisa Lala:
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Join the Facebook group, Cape May County Disc Golf Association.