Hudson Mills Metropark - considered by many the one of the top (and oldest) courses in the country - has implemented a pay-to-play model this year. $50 for an annual pass or $2 per round. Hudson Mills has two 24 hole courses, an activity center with snack bar, restrooms and vending machines. It is also the host to the Discraft Great Lakes Open. Easily the biggest and most prestigious tournament in Michigan. Basically it's about as good as it gets for a disc golf course, not just the course itself but all of the extra ammenities available. The staff there is also great to work with and they encourage more tournaments to be scheduled there, instead of viewing disc golf as a menace (see Kensington Metropark). Vandals and disc thiefs are in my opinion the worst problem at Hudson Mills.
So here is an email I received from Martin Thoburn. Martin is an avid DGer in the Ann Arbor area. I like where he is coming from and his thoughts on this game of disc golf and pay-to-play. To wit:
In light of the recent survey sent out by A3 and the recent emails posted to the Bandemer group, I decided to open the floor about the new pay-to-play system at hudson mills, and the commercialization of Disc Golf in general is a good or bad thing.
Here is my two cense on the situation:
One the of the greatest things about Disc golf is that its a lot of fun, and cost very little to no money to play.
So I understand its frustrating when what used to be free, begins to disappear.
However there are some upsides to pay-to-play. First off, it will keep the casuals off the course.
That means less people and faster play. It also means that the course is less likely to be vandalized by people who don't care about the park/course/game/rules. So in that respect I'd rather pay $2 a round or $50 bucks a year to keep one of the best disc golf courses in michigan clean and fun. We already put lots of money into new discs (although its getting a bit ridiculous with over 300+ on the market) and all the tournaments we play so regularly. So its not to much to pitch in a bit more to keep the local parks nice. Although the money may not directly go into the park its self, I think the side effects will be a nicer park, that is cleaner with less casuals. I think we have been a bit spoiled with so many nice parks for so little. One Metro-park sticker for several world class courses has been a blessing.
However Tom, I disagree that Disc Golf can only grow when people make money off it. Disc Golf has a long history of being a alternative sport. I kinda like it that way. Sure I want to see courses all over the world, and more people playing. But I don't want my tournament run by greedy corporations who don't care about the values behind the lifestyle of Disc Golf. The day that corporate sponsorships rules the course is the day I quit playing Disc Golf. I don't mind giving my money to the local club, park or even disc manufacture, but I won't endorse a company who only goal is to exploit a growing sport to make money on a sports drink or shoe. Disc golf can grow just like hit has been, by being a grassroots run sport, organized by local players and clubs. Where people build and design courses for their community and friends not for there bank accounts, investors or share holders. Those ideas of local community sport building can be spread all around the world. Disc Golf is great because it brings people together. What better sport where you can actually be relaxed and enjoy it while simultaneously getting excursive and enjoying the outdoors. Its not about money or corporations, its about health, fitness, competition, relaxing, nature, community, and friendships. This is what makes Disc Golf one of he fast growing unknown sports in the country. People get hooked once they find out that they can enjoy all this for almost nothing. Once you bring in the corporations they will destroy it and turn it into a product and lifestyle you already enjoy but now for more money! and they got a shoe, drink and jacket for you to buy with it. Sure they might build the best course in the world, but you will be lucky enough if you can afford to enjoy it. Keep Disc golf a sport for everyone!
Sure we have the PDGA, and if they get there way Disc Golf will be more like Ball Golf. Some of that is not all bad, but I'd rather keep things local. I'm all for keeping our courses clean and beautiful for the real lovers of the sport to enjoy. So I guess I'll be willing to pay more to do that. However once disc become $40+ a pop, and Membership to elite social clubs cost thousands of dollars a year like they do in ball golf community, then I have to say my romance with the sport will be over.
Keep the conversation going. This is an important issue for the disc golf community and it should be talked about in an open forum.