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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:

[Quote]

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.
Sincerely,
--Martin

[/Quote]

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Comment by Terry "the Pirate" Calhoun on January 9, 2008 at 10:06am
A communication from Hudson Mills about the pay-to-play change this year and an apparent demand for the annual passes:

"Hey folks,

We have been getting many requests for the “first” Disc Golf Annual Pass and or “low” numbered pass. We have decided to do a “Lottery” system for anyone that is interested in obtaining the very first Disc Golf Annual Pass @ Hudson Mills. We will have a two week period beginning 1/12/08 through 1/27/08 (ending at 3:00 P.M.) where we will take registrations for the drawing.

This is how it will work:

1) Come in and fill out the application and have your picture taken.

2) Pre- payment of $50.00 will be required. MasterCard or Visa is accepted.

3) Drawing will take place the week of January 28th.

4) I will personally be involved with the actual drawing.

5) Applications will be drawn one at a time with the first drawn application to be permit #1.

6) The application process can be done over the phone but photo I.D. will still have to be completed by our staff prior to receiving your annual pass.

7) Projected launch date for permit required will be early February (maybe the 1st or 2nd ).

This Lottery is only to make it fair for all parties that are trying to receive the “first” pass or “low” numbered pass. Please post this on any forum that you think will be appropriate to get the word out.

Good Luck,

Jerry Cyr
Assistant Park Superintendent
Hudson Mills, Indian Springs, & Huron Meadows Metropark
Jerry.cyr@metroparks.com
734 426-8211"
Comment by Scott White on January 4, 2008 at 3:10pm
Here's an excerpt from the Morley Field website: http://www.morleyfield.com/course/paytoplay.htm


State of the Course
Morley's one year anniversary as a pay to play course.

Well March 22, 1995 was our one year anniversary as a pay to play course. Time flies when you're having fun and finally making a decent living. A lot has happened during our first year all for the better. The 50,000 plus players who played here at Morley this year helped finance tremendous changes both social and physical. We've added approximately 30 new pin placements this year and repaired all the old ones. About half of the course now has new Mach III's with new tee signs. Turf and tree upgrades are ongoing and the general atmosphere is improved tremendously. Long gone are the drug dealers, transients, and malcontents. Lots of families and gals now play here. Overall numbers have increased over 20% from last year. Locals take pride in their course now. We hear players down from L.A. say they now prefer Morley to even La Mirada. We even have a player who flies out weekends from Phoenix just to play golf here because he prefers it to any of the courses out there. Best of all people are completely used to the new system of picking up their play bracelets first before beginning play so we no longer have a need for course monitors as we did the first 6 months. The transition is now complete. Virtually everyone prefers the way things are run now as to when it was free and a free- for- all . The one issue we have remained strict on is non golfers on our course. Interlopers are neither welcome nor tolerated. This a dedicated disc golf course and no other activity is allowed (i.e.. dog walking, jogging, mountain bikers, etc.).

I now have four people on staff with me. This a second or part time job for each of them. I've found for me, this is the secret to getting quality employee's. Their first jobs pay more but not enough to live in the style they would like and they are industrious enough to get a second job to make ends meet. The $6 per hour plus bonus plus play pass is just enough incentive .This is the best group of people I've ever had working with me. Each one is intelligent, articulate and fun to be with. We work as a team here now. Through teamwork no project is too daunting. Next week we begin to install new irrigation systems here. Each week we repair and upgrade fences, signs, tees, pins, or something as we still have a problem with vandalism here in the park after dark with no lighting when all sorts of unsavory characters "cruise" in the night . As the summer approaches and the grounds maintenance demands increase with the days longer we'll be adding two more workers to the staff to keep this place green and lush
Comment by DuiceBurger on January 4, 2008 at 2:51pm
Thanks everyone for your feedback and contributions. I'm glad to hear that the $2 free is a daily rate instead of per round. I can usually get 2 rounds on 24 in on nice saturday afternoon at the Mills. Its also good to hear that the pass maybe be good for all Metropark pay-2-play systems in the future.... I think discgolf can have a balance of pay-2-play and free parks. As long as prices don't get out of control, I think it will be a benefit. Park systems like the metroparks they are less interested in making lots of money, then keep the park running, and looking good for the public. As for private courses the sky could be the limit.
Comment by Ben Calhoun on January 4, 2008 at 2:28pm
I've been to morley, and it was SO PACKED, no one let me play through (by myself)..come on people let solos play through. The point is it was packed with 100's, but at the same time, it is the only course within hours of 1,000,000 people..
Comment by Terrible Terry on January 4, 2008 at 2:08pm
I've been there a couple of times. Part of what makes it work there is that there is no reasonable competition anywhere nearby.

And high demand. I've heard that on nice summer days you can wait an hour or more just to tee off. I've never been there when it was not busy.

It is so small, and all of it is so visible, that I don't think there is much of a problem with vandalism. And sneaking on would be very tough. Partly because it is so busy.

It's got a nice Pro Shop, too, with refreshments and food.

If you click around Snapper's pages, you'll see a nice essay he wrote about "going pay for play" some years back.
Comment by Scott White on January 4, 2008 at 2:02pm
Terry (the terrible one) Do you know how many people buy an annual pass to Morley? seems a bit high..

Also, do you know how well attended Morley field is on an average day? Does everyone pay the daily or are there lots of people sneaking on and playing for free? Also, any issues at all with vandalism?
Comment by Terrible Terry on January 4, 2008 at 1:41pm
Thanks. And if you want to see real and established pay to play, check out Morley Field in San Diego. Daily rate is $2.50/$3 on weekends, monthly passes of $35, and an annual pass you can only buy in January that costs $385.
Comment by Scott White on January 4, 2008 at 1:19pm
Thanks for the background Terry.
Comment by Terry "the Pirate" Calhoun on January 4, 2008 at 1:13pm
Let me add some more background:

The daily fee for disc golf is to be $2 for all day. The park staff created the annual pass with the intent of giving the avid disc golfers who play there many, many times a year, the option of a single $50 fee at once, instead of $2 a day, maybe 50 times or more in a year.

Personally, even though I only played at Hudson Mills, at most, maybe 15 different days last year, I will purchase an annual pass (a) to support the park and (b) because it will be a bag tag with my photo on it and a number!

Also, the Metroparks is a large organization with many different parks, some larger than Hudson Mills. There are currently courses at Willow (1), Kensington ((1) + Toboggan once a year for a couple of weeks), Hudson Mills (2), and Stony Creek (1). All are great courses and well maintained, with concrete pads and good signage.

The Hudson Mills "pay to play" is a pilot for the entire park system. If it works, then in future years the annual pass will be good at all Metroparks courses, not just Hudson Mills.

Hudson Mills will not, itself, get direct funds from the fees, they go into the overall parks' general fund. However, at Kensington, the park is removing the old Tunnel Course and building an entirely brand new course, instead, that will be world-class. If you think of the funds going to help build that new course, then . . . .

At any rate, Scott was correct. What is happening at Hudson Mills this year is important: It will be watched and learned from at parks all over the US. If it successfully transitions to pay for play, and it's worth the resources it will put into it, then we will see more of it, all over.
Comment by Ben Calhoun on January 4, 2008 at 12:20pm
I won't be going there in the few months I'm in town this year now anyways, since I don't need to, I'll save my 50$ for another year. I don't disagree with a charge, should have been one all these years-with more maintenance. But 50$ is extreme, with 20$ parking. Should be 20$disc/20$parking. 1$/day.

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