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The Community of Disc Golfers and About All Things Disc Golf

Many disc golfers in the Ann Arbor area have noticed with varying degrees of frustration the new "greens fees" associated with playing at Hudson Mills. I wanted to take this opportunity to give the DiscGolfersR.us community the tools to communicate with their elected officials about this new policy.

First off, let me say that Hudson Mills is a beautiful course. The development and upkeep of both courses there is tremendous and I think that the Huron Clinton Metroparks do a great job with disc golf across SE Michigan.

Secondly, I think these fees are a big mistake. Not only does it diminish the experience for me personally to deal with the passes and the security team, it is my belief that the Metroparks will experience NO ADDITIONAL DOLLARS on account of burdening us all with the paperwork and expense. The numbers at the end of the year will determine whether I am right or wrong; but the crux of my concern is that the Metroparks will spend more money enforcing the policy and accounting for the dollars than they will realize in income.

Think about it. If you go out to Hudson Mills this Saturday, there will be at least two employees, if not four, motoring around and burning gas in their carts. I don't have the actual numbers yet, but from my observations the security team usually includes one younger and one "more senior" employee. I have heard that the younger employee is part-time and without benefits (10 dollars/hour), but the other employee is full-time with health and retirement benefits that must be considered part of the cost of this new regime. In addition, there is a receptionist that takes the fees in the office. Of course, this person may have to be in the office anyway, but if they spend 20% of their time dealing with disc golfers, then that is time the receptionist isn't doing something else to promote the goals of HCMA. As a result of all this enforcement effort, the carts will require more maintenance and the bookkeepers will incur additional accounting expenses. All of these costs are real and none of them add any value to the disc golfers or the public good generally.

The Metroparks are governed by a Board of Commissioners, with each Commissioner appointed by the elected County Commissioners in each of the counties. Our Commissioner from Washtenaw County is Robert Marans. Mr. Marans is a UofM Professor and has been on the Metroparks Board since 1986. His email is: robert.marans@metroparks.com and he is a very dedicated park commissioner.

You can look up the contact information for the Metroparks Board of Commissioners here: http://www.metroparks.com/global/commissioners.php.

Please contact the Commissioners and let them know what you think. These fees are a pilot program and the Board's determination of whether these fees "work" will be critical in determining whether the fees are extended to all courses (and of course eventually increased). If you, like me, believe that the Parks Authority should focus their attention and resources into making great parks rather than employing more security, then let them know. They are already hearing from me, but they need to hear from you!

Jeff Irwin
County Commissioner, 11th District
irwinj@ewashtenaw.org

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Comment by donnyv on July 1, 2008 at 10:26am
$2 is not a whole lot of money, but I agree that pay-to-play courses will have higher expectations than a free course would. Also, if I'm gonna be harrassed and followed by the park's SWAT team, I'll just find another place to play.

Just don't take the FUN outta the GAME!
Comment by Jeff Irwin on June 28, 2008 at 12:37pm
Kwilliamson's post points out some of the annoyances associated with the policy, even from the perspective of somebody who supports the fee. However, I think the point about donated trees and shrubs is especially interesting because it speaks to the culture of disc golf and how these fees might change our attitudes.

How will that culture change when disc golf, like everything else, becomes a commercial operation? Will people be more likely to litter or even not pick up other's litter because now that they are 'paying to play' such tasks are now somebody else's responsibility? Will folks be less likely to donate time or resources (trees and shrubs) to course maintenance and development? Sounds like that might be the case, and what then is the reaction of the Metroparks?

I doubt that the Metroparks will be able to pick up that slack and meet the now raised expectations of fee payers; because, the money from the fees is going to enforce the fees.

I think most folks could agree that if the enforcement efforts eat up 100% or more of the greens fees that the effort is a failure and should be stopped. The question then is what percentage of the fees must "clear" the costs of the program to make it worthwhile for the Metroparks?
Comment by Kwilliamson on June 26, 2008 at 8:10pm
Personally i love the the pay to play. Hudson Mills so far this year has been more enjoyable playing a round than in years past. Mainly because the casuals who have decided not to play. But also because the course is looking better and better. I don't know if thats a cause of them putting extra money into upkeep or the casuals that used to tear up the course are gone.

I know that I have season pass #89. And they are now well over 120 tags. So I do believe that they are making some extra cash. And thats fine with me, if parks make money off of disc golf more parks will be willing to add courses. I would however like to see a good portion of the money discgolfers are paying to play disc golf be put back into the course, and I don't believe that is happening.

My only stance on the money issue is that A3, our local club that plays there every week, donates thousands of dollars every year in trees, shrubs, & benches. I think this donation should go now to other courses and not into Hudson Mills as those improvements should come from the pay to play fee.

I also agree with Terry. I don't like them charging anyone that is walking on the course and not playing. I did get it clarified from the office that if my wife comes out and walks along with me during a casual round she will need to pay the pay to play fee. That seems wrong to me, I have a hard enough time getting my wife to get out and enjoy something I enjoy. And lets take last weekend at DGLO, they say they waved the fee for non players but thats only because it was a big tournament. I had a caddy who would normally have had to pay. Another guy on my card had his mother out there just watching him play. She would have had to pay. And I stand by that if your going to charge anyone that sets foot on the course than you might as well charge the fee into the front gate for everyone. There are always people walking there dogs across fairways and cross country jogging, that pay no extra fee.
At one tournament this year two individuals who was collecting the CTP signs were stopped and asked where their pay to play wrist band was at. Neither had discs. I think they just need to step back from that part of the policy.

I do like the food and beverage cart.
Comment by Ben Calhoun on June 26, 2008 at 6:48pm
I completely disagree with my dad on hoping it works out, I hope it fails miserably, they cancel it, and put in the Campground course on top of that!
Comment by Terry "the Pirate" Calhoun on June 26, 2008 at 6:26pm
I do enjoy the new refreshments cart that is available during peak play times!
Comment by Terry "the Pirate" Calhoun on June 26, 2008 at 6:25pm
It will be interesting to see if the pay to play pans out for them. If it does, the other Metroparks with disc golf intend to adopt it in 2009, and the annual pass will be for all of them. Those currently are: Hudson Mills, Kensington, Willow, and Stoney Creek.

I'll preface my remarks with the statement that I am in favor of the pay to play, primarily because I think that if it works then parks all over will understand that there is some money in disc golf, and will think it worth the investment.

I'm pretty sure that lots of parks will remain "free," so people without money will not be left course-less. At a course like Hudson Mills, if you have a car, can afford the gas to drive there, then you probably have an additional $2 for the day's fee. It does strike harder at families, but they have added a "junior" and "senior" discount for the annual pass which makes that $30, instead of $50.

Some parts of the implementation bother me, too. For example, the aggressive security people who I have heard sometimes pester the same group of players 3-4 times in a round. (It seems to me that they could remember who they saw before.) Also, they seem to bounce down fairways right at players without enough regard to disrupting play. I suspect both of those are a matter of training and lessons to be learned.

I took a real dislike about the rule that requires payment of the $2 fee, even for someone walking with a group and not playing, but when I inquired they said the same sort of fee applies for ball golfers at the bal golf course, only it's $8 - and I believe they are waiving it for large tournaments. Not sure.

I hope it works out. And I hope they are considering all costs, which I think they are, from talks I've been part of. I know that they have already sold more than twice as many annual passes as they had budgeted for in this year. I don't know how their day passes are working out.
Comment by Jeff Irwin on June 26, 2008 at 4:37pm
Yea, I didn't want to write an exhaustive post. To answer your direct questions, the "greens fees" are an additional whopping two dollar/day fee for disc golfing (on top of the park pass itself - $4 daily). The cost is nominal.

What I characterized as a security team is really a team that roams the course checking to ensure that everybody pays (or leaves).

My understanding is that the change was not motivated by an incident, rather that the Metroparks are always looking for ways to enhance revenue by instituting user fees. For instance, there are additional fees for their ball golf courses, soccer fields and *I believe* for the water parks (slides, wave pools etc.). Of course, ball golf and water parks are considerably more expensive to run than disc golf.

Like I said, we'll have to wait until the end of the season to see how much they bring in before concluding that the fees are actually losing money for the public, but I want to ensure that they consider the full costs of instituting such a policy before expanding it to cover all of their parks (the Metroparks is an extensive, first-rate system of parks across SE Michigan).

Certainly, I acknowledge and disclose that my post is motivated by a personal distaste for the new policy. For one, I usually get out to golf at dawn - before the office opens. Then, unless I want to circle back to the office an hour or two into my golfing, I am likely to harassed by some guy who thinks I am trying to get over on HCMA. They do have an option for an annual disc golf pass for $50; but since there are many fine courses in Washtenaw County and I live on the east side of A2, I don't get out there quite that often - especially now that HCMA is removing some of the romantic charm of the game.
Comment by JC on June 26, 2008 at 3:50pm
Let me see if I have this straight...

The new fees are being charged only to disc golfers for use of the disc golf course, or is it a fee to enter the park that everyone must pay?

And the new fees are in place to cover a security force for the disc golf course alone or for the park as a whole?

If it is just for the disc golf course, was there an incident or series of incidents/complaints that warranted a special security team for the course? If so, it must be fairly serious to warrant the addition of a task force of sorts to police the area. (which, if that's the case, is an expensive but perhaps superior solution to losing the course altogether due to those issues)

If it's for the whole park and affects the whole park, then I don't think the impact on disc golfers alone is going to sway the park commissioners one way or the other. A park-wide thing is going to be judged on how it impacts the park as a whole, not just a portion of the users.

I'm just an outsider observing here, but I think the whole picture needs to be painted more clearly before any opinions can be formed. Clearly you don't like the fees as evidenced by the post and the call for action, but you really haven't done a great job explaining the fees to those of us who don't know the whole story already. Discgolfersrus is not just an Ann Arbor thing, even if the founders are from that area.

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