NJ Air Guardsman Soars With Disc Golf

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Matt Hecht
  • New Jersey Air National Guard Public Affairs

Flying discs have been spotted more frequently over wooded areas of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and they’re of the plastic variety. New Jersey Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Jeffery Pitcher has been spearheading the effort to bring disc golf to the base. Working closely with Outdoor Recreation and the Chief of Community Services, Pitcher’s vision became a reality with the 18-hole Laurel Pond Disc Golf Course. 

Pitcher, a California native, first played disc golf in 2014 as a bonding experience with his brother and cousin. It wasn’t until 2019 that he started looking for places to play in New Jersey, and he became hooked on the sport. It wasn’t long after that he applied to and was accepted on the Prodigy Disc Golf Team.

In 2020, he formed the official McGuire Disc Golf Club.

“Throughout my career, I’ve worked to grow the sport among the military disc golf players on base and clubs in the local community,” said Pitcher. “My focus has been on providing outdoor activities for Airmen, especially young Airmen living on base in the dorms.”

Pitcher has brought his experience to the table when designing the course, after competing in more than 30 Professional Disc Golf Association tournaments all over the U.S.

The Laurel Pond course is full of difficult bends, obstacles, and hilly areas that can be challenging to navigate, and even features a water hazard.

The workout and being outdoors has attracted active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guardsmen to the club.

“During Covid, it was difficult to find an outdoor activity that was fun and inexpensive,” said Staff Sgt. Nathan Hazelwood, with the 621st Contingency Response Wing. “I come out for the camaraderie, the friendships that I’ve made, and getting some exercise and fresh air.”

While the history of disc golf is not exactly known, it’s generally acknowledged that the sport officially began in the 1970’s. Ed Headrick, an Army veteran from the Second World War, is considered the father of the modern-day Frisbee and is the inventor of disc golf.

There are more than 7,000 disc golf courses throughout the world.

“Some of these courses are long and hilly,” said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Finger, a Guardsman at the 108th Wing. “I don’t get a lot of free time, but I bring my child and dogs with me while playing and we have a great time.”

Once a week, on Mondays, the club meets and the friendly banter begins.

“I’ve been playing since I was 11,” said Airman Basic Caleb Hawbaker, a crew chief with the 305th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “I got into it when I was young, and it’s just something I enjoy doing. I don’t make a lot of money right now, and this is something I can afford to do.”

Pitcher said disc golf is healthy and fun, allows for networking opportunities, and is very low cost.

“I’ve met hundreds of new people over the course of two years of playing disc golf,” said Pitcher. “Some that have become very close friends. We are a community that looks out for each other. Sometimes, someone is going through a difficult time and needs someone to talk with, and we play and talk it out. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and even though Covid has taken away a lot of activities, it has brought a focus on disc golf. With disc golf, you can play by yourself or with friends and family, outside and socially distanced. It is a no contact sport and can be played by any and all walks of life. It can be technical and challenging, and most importantly, fun.”