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updated: 6/30/2011 2:56 PM

Disc golf in Aurora taking flight

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Like many sports, disc golf had humble beginnings, tracing back to backyards and parking lot tailgate parties.

Little did these pioneers realize that launching a Frisbee at a tree trunk or a sign post or a telephone pole would later become one of the nation's fastest growing sports.

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Since the first disc golf course was created in 1975, the sport has surged. The Professional Disc Golf Association reports more than 3,300 disc golf courses nationwide, a number that continues to grow rapidly.

We're lucky to have one of the best right in our backyard. The Fox Valley Park District's Jericho Lake Course -- on the west side of Montgomery -- is a smartly designed layout traversing a beautiful landscape of mature trees and parkland, sandwiched between Jericho Lake Park and the Stuart Sports Complex.

Picturesque Blackberry Creek winds its way through the disc course, providing a backdrop (and water hazard) on six of the 18 holes. Two sets of tees allow the course to be played at varying lengths -- amateur or pro -- making the course appealing and challenging to golfers of different abilities.

"Disc golf requires skill, but the nice thing about Jericho Lake is that players of every skill level can enjoy the course, from beginners to tournament veterans," said Blaine Schepp, president of the Fox Valley Metro Disc Golf Club.

It's not uncommon on weekends to see several hundred disc golfers making the rounds at Jericho Lake -- and that gives Schepp a rush, considering that promoting the sport locally is one of his top ambitions.

A big part of the sport's attraction is that it's not just inexpensive -- it's free. As for the equipment, there is a variety of specialized discs out there -- think the disc equivalent of a golf club set -- but many get their start using just one basic disc that can be purchased for under $15.

"That makes it a great family sport; it's affordable, and something everybody can do. The kids love it," said Schepp.

Built in 2003, Jericho Lake's 18 holes measure 4,133 yards from the amateur tees and 5,399 yards from the pro tees. Each hole is 100 to 300 yards in length and features a concrete tee pad to launch and hip-high, pole mounted baskets with cages as the disc's ultimate destination.

Like a golf course, it winds strategically throughout natural hazards and barriers to test each player's skill and mettle. Its natural beauty is an added attraction, a trait not lost on Schepp.

"Disc golf courses are also beautiful parks," said Schepp. "And the more golfers you have out there, the cleaner the park, because they truly care about these places and it shows."

Disc golf is easy to learn but, like its counterpart, difficult to master. What's good is that there's always room for improvement, no matter how skilled a player becomes. And practice is made easy with no tee times or greens fees required.

"Jericho Lake is the best of both worlds," said Schepp. "Beginners can get their start there on the amateur tees and not be intimidated; intermediates can shoot a decent score and the real good players still face a challenge from the back tees."

A walk in the park has never been as good.

• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at jlong@fvpd.net. For a printable map and layout of the Jericho Lake Disc Golf Course, visit foxvalleyparkdistrict.org/node/1707

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