As I’ve said a few times this year, the latest addition to my sport-playing collection is disc golf.
There’s a lot I love about it. It’s super fun, it’s quick (9 holes in <30 minutes playing solo), there are courses everywhere, it's laid back (very few secret rules), and I can play with my entire family. But there's another aspect that got me started in the first place: it’s free.
Well, not always free, but after dozens of rounds of disc golf I have spent less than $50 to play (and most of that was at one course). That lack of cost made it easy for me to go from someone interested in disc golf to someone who plays regularly and truly enters the sport.
But free is a strange thing, right?
The baskets (used for holes) aren’t free, the signs aren’t free, and the land isn’t free. But neither are playgrounds and tennis courts and rec paths they are often situated around. Yet, somehow, disc golf has stayed close to those community-centric beginnings so that it’s harder to find a paid course than it is to find a free course.
Free Real Golf Course?
As you can imagine, that’s a pretty powerful ally when it comes to growing the sport, but I’d never thought that model was possible for traditional golf – where growth is also a priority.
Well, until now.
Buhl Park Golf Course is located in a community park in Pennsylvania. In this case, just like all the other park amenities, it’s also free. Just like the community raises money to build other parts of the park, it does the same to keep the golf course running. For example, the course is free but a bucket of balls costs a few bucks.
The result is a fun, easy course with no tee-times and a community of golfers that love how they were able to enjoy a sport they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.
Naturally, my brain (like yours) goes to skiing. Ski hills close to this concept already exist. A few weeks ago I was playing disc golf (for free) at Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro, VT where the fairway on the second hole passes between two towers of a t-bar.
The cost for a day ticket once the snow flies A mere $5.00.
Names like Rotarun, Howelson, Ascutney, and Abenaki come to mind. With lift tickets typically in the $10-$20 range, they absolutely get closer to what Buhl Park does for golf.
But I want to leave you with a question to just chew on for a few minutes:
What if community ski areas weren’t just cheap, but free? What could that do for our sport?
The economics are tough. But if there was ever a time to think about whether it’s possible to remove any and all barriers between communities and the stuff they’re flocking too outdoors as COVID wears on?
Welp, now is probably it.
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