Soon, those who park in front of the Memorial Park Clubhouse will have to pay to park. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor) Located in the center of Houston, Memorial Park Golf Course carries Houston's municipal golf scene. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor) A sign clearly states that the golf course parking lot at Memorial Park is reserved for golfers and patrons of Becks Prime Restaurant in the clubhouse. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor) Joggers routinely park in the golf course parking lot at Memorial Park in Houston. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor) This scene is typical in the Memorial Park Golf Course parking lot: Golfers wanting to use the driving range waiting for parking spots to open. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor) The parking spots along the trails at Memorial Park will not be metered. (Mike Bailey/Golf Advisor)

Big-city park proposes parking meters for golfers

HOUSTON -- Want to speed up play in golf? Perhaps the new plan for Houston's Memorial Park Golf Course could spur golfers to play faster. Just fill the parking lot with parking meters and press players to get their rounds finished before time expires.

That's right. At Houston's crown jewel of municipal golf courses -- the 1936 John Bredemus design that played host to the Houston Open for 14 years (last one in 1963) and might someday again -- golfers will soon be charged for parking on top of green fees and range balls. Parking meters also will be installed in front of the tennis center and fitness center and pool, but the majority of them will be at the golf course. All total, the plan calls for 572 of the nearly 2,200 spaces at the park to get the new meters, which will charge one dollar per hour. Plans call for the new meters to be in place before fall, according the Memorial Park Conservancy, operator and manager of 1,100 acres of Memorial Park’s 1,500 acres.

The parallel parking alongside the roads that lead in and out to the park's amenities, as well as some other lots, will still be unmetered. So golfers who don't want to pay to park can take one of those spots, but they might have to carry their clubs a good ways. That's not exactly convenient, so most golfers, it would seem, will probably opt to pay the meter to avoid getting ticketed.

An even $2 or six hours would allow for range balls before the round and a beverage after play. Fortunately, these are the kind of meters you can pay with a phone app, so golfers won't have to carry exact change when they get to the golf course. But for golfers who don't have a smartphone, this could certainly be an inconvenience as they fumble to find the right change or swipe a credit card.

A gift that comes with a small price

But why is this happening?

Ironically, the new meters will arrive because of a generous donation from billionaire Richard Kinder (co-founder and executive chairman of Kinder Morgan Inc., an energy and pipeline corporation) and his wife, Nancy. The two gifted $70 million to fund a plan for sweeping improvements to the park, approved unanimously by Houston City three years ago. It's an ambitious project to say the least. Plans call for more bike and hike trails to connect with other existing trails in the city, a new running center and large sodded bridges, complete with trees and other plants, over Memorial Drive that connect what is now a divided park.

According to the Houston Conservancy, the master plan provides a "comprehensive vision to create a healthy balance between conservation and recreation."

It was designed by award-winning landscape architect firm Nelson Byrd Woltz with input from stakeholder groups and the general public.

"Seeking to enhance, preserve and protect Memorial Park for years to come, completed projects over the next decade will improve Houston’s mobility, connectivity, economic vitality, and resiliency. Hundreds of acres of parkland currently inaccessible will become accessible, urban barriers that isolate and segregate the park will be replaced with bridges and access points, and park ecologies will be restored to a healthier state," according to the Conservancy.

The Kinder Foundation, however, has a stipulation. The money can only be used for improving the park and building new facilities; the city of Houston must cover all maintenance costs.

By charging for parking, the city hopes to raise $135,000 for the fiscal year 2019 for maintenance. Another $200,000 from golf course revenue is also being earmarked for overall park maintenance. As it stands, Memorial Park Golf Course, which does more than 70,000 rounds per year, already helps fund the other golf courses in the city's municipal system.

The course, by the way, might see even more dramatic changes in its near future as it's been mentioned as a possible host course for the PGA Tour's Houston Open, if that tournament survives at all. The event currently doesn't have a title sponsor, but there have been reports that Houston Astros owner and billionaire Jim Crane might step in and save the event with a possible move to Memorial. Any such move, however, would require a massive renovation of the golf course.

Some opposed the meter plan

While the parking plan was approved at City Council meeting on April 28, not all the council members believe the plan is fair. City Council member Mike Knox, At Large, Position 1, says golfers, tennis players and people who use the fitness center are being unfairly burdened. They represent the minority of the 4 million people who visit the park annually, he said.

"The vast majority of people who go to the park are joggers and bicyclists," Knox said. "And they're going to be able to continue to use the park and park in free areas. They're basically able to take advantage of park and they don't have to pay back. For some reason, the golfers, tennis players and people who use the fitness center – where those parking lots are convenient to those locations – are being asked to carry the burden."

Knox said he argued with the conservancy that it should be all or nothing.

"You either make everybody pay to park or nobody pays to park," he said he told them. "But that didn't fly."

One benefit to golfers, though, might be that the meters would discourage non-golfers to park in the lot in front of the clubhouse. Though there's a sign in front of the lot prohibiting parking from non-golfers or park goers not dining at the clubhouse restaurant, Becks Prime, joggers and bikers routinely park in the lot anyway.

So golfers, especially in the evenings when they want to use the lighted driving range, have a hard time finding spaces. They often turn to parking down the street or waiting in the parking lot, idling their engines, waiting for a space to open. Finding an open space that much sooner just might be worth a buck or two.

"I don't think it (the meter plan) will hurt golfers" said Carl Ahrens, who has played Memorial Park for decades, including winning multiple Greater Houston City Amateur titles. "It may actually help with the parking. Some of my buddies have actually had to park away from the course and carry the clubs to what amounts to block away.

"But it just doesn't seem right that such a beautiful place like Memorial Park would have parking meters."

Should golfers be obligated to pay for parking at Memorial Park or other courses? Let us know in the comments below!

May 23, 2018

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Howard's avatar
Howard wrote at 2018-06-15 17:50:20+00:00:

Y’all won’t have to worry about the parking meters if Jim Crane moves the Houston open to Memorial Park. With all the improvements they will have to make to the course, probably only 30,000 rounds will be allowed per year instead of 70,000. The geeen fees will probably double and maybe 20% of the golfers who are regulars now will be regulars after. An example would be Torrey Pines in San Diego, a beautiful “public” course. Not too many locals play there on any given day

cbutler's avatar
cbutler wrote at 2018-06-15 01:04:53+00:00:

unbelievable, we need to petition this bs

john h's avatar
john h wrote at 2018-05-31 21:24:54+00:00:

no,no,no, they will end up losing one will stay and shop in pro shop or sit at 19th hole to eat or drink. i would'nt even consider playing there, bad news all the way around.

Dick Lotz's avatar
Dick Lotz wrote at 2018-05-31 13:43:59+00:00:

pay, no way!!!! Golf is expensive enough without adding to it......... trying to make us quit is not the way to promote anything..... greedy politicins if you ask me!!!

Rickk's avatar
Rickk wrote at 2018-05-30 16:21:05+00:00:

Do they now have parking meters that are for ALL DAY? The last time I played Memorial Park, the round took a bit over 6 hours. Guess if the meter is running out and you are not done, you take the cart, leave the course, put more money in the meter and then go back to where you were before...probably hole 9 or 10.

Bill Schmidt's avatar
Bill Schmidt wrote at 2018-05-29 21:41:32+00:00:

This will reduce sales at the golf course so it will offset any parking revenue. We need to vote out these city council people who voted for this. Is this allowable under the guidelines made when Ima Hogg donated the land to the city?

BS's avatar
BS wrote at 2018-05-29 17:58:26+00:00:

This isn’t even the worst part. The mayor and city counsel wants the Houston Open at Memorial which will ruin it for the numerous seniors and kids that play Memorial as well as all the citizens who consider Memorial their country club.

Perry's avatar
Perry wrote at 2018-05-29 17:36:08+00:00:

It looks like developmentcountry-syndrome. Spend all the money you get instantly and don't worry about maintenance. Overhaul the park for 60 mln, set 10 mln aside for maintenance and with interest you'll be fine the next 40 years.

It could even create jobs along the way. Don't take the money from the small group that has no choice but to come by car.

Peter Rubelman's avatar
Peter Rubelman wrote at 2018-05-29 16:45:18+00:00:

Not only unfair but it discriminates.Very sad. Houston we have a problem

GC's avatar
GC wrote at 2018-05-29 16:11:06+00:00:

This is sad. My golfing group will just play at another course because of this policy!


JR's avatar
JR wrote at 2018-05-29 15:13:30+00:00:

No. Municipal golf courses are not country clubs, which are able to pass on assessments. Every extra dollar public courses charge, discourages lower income players from playing the course, or for some, even taking up the game. Perhaps, the City of Houston has forgotten why the First Tee was established.

Greg's avatar
Greg wrote at 2018-05-29 14:03:52+00:00:

Your going to charge JUST the Golfers for parking? That will no fly in court

Jim's avatar
Jim wrote at 2018-05-29 13:41:44+00:00:

Just wait. They haven’t told you about the parking meter police they will employ to write tickets with associated fines for running over your paid time. Another typical biased government policy by a bunch of bureaucrats. The only fair way is charge everyone to park there. That can be done by numbering spaces and having central stations where people pay by parking space number and put receipt at front window. Everyone shares the burden. Oh wait, that would require some intelligence. Apparently, not in abundance on this city council.

Plus 1's avatar
Plus 1 wrote at 2018-05-29 13:28:03+00:00:

Easy solution, play elsewhere. Who benefits from this? The company that manufactures the meters and installs them. I’m sure the spaces get narrower so more meters. Now you play golf and your car gets dinged up. Once the money comes in, city council misappropriation of those funds causes other issues. I’m sure this will make the area more attractive with all these meters. Sounds like there is bias working here. City council targeted some of their residents but let others slide. I’m surprised that this happened in Texas, I would have thought California. Oh well I sure golfers will have other options. Good luck.

ED S.'s avatar
ED S. wrote at 2018-05-29 13:09:25+00:00:

ALL or nothing seems the fairest way to do this, and you should be able to LOWER the meter fees, if more people are going to pay ~!

Simple math,,,

Ed S.

Chicago, IL

Victor Muratti's avatar
Victor Muratti wrote at 2018-05-29 12:38:53+00:00:

I hope they don't read this in New Jersey. Our taxes are High enough and charging for parking at county (public) golf courses would be an additional burden.

Walt's avatar
Walt wrote at 2018-05-29 11:03:46+00:00:

This is a typical gov. move. They get a 70 million dollar gift and now they can't make it work and have to charge extra for people to park their cars in a lot on their property which also contains the golf course which you have to pay a fee to play. How can they even think of making this move and expect you to say thank you. Greed is such a terrible way of life. I for one would never set foot on that course.

Ralphie's avatar
Ralphie wrote at 2018-05-29 13:14:29+00:00:

The gift stipulated the city had to pay for maintenance. If Houston didn’t agree, they wouldn’t have gotten the $70,000,000 gift. So the city had to come up with the revenue to support maintenance. Seems like a small price to pay for $70 million in improvements.

Butch's avatar
Butch wrote at 2018-05-29 13:50:05+00:00:

I could not have said it any better. You are spot on, go to another course!

David McClain Racan's avatar
David McClain Racan wrote at 2018-05-29 09:16:10+00:00:

The city obviously needs help with it’s revenue to maintain the golf course and the park. The golf course should consider a membership fee that would include coverage of the parking fee and a yearly entry card for a separate parking area reserved for golfers only.

46014's avatar
46014 wrote at 2018-05-29 05:29:55+00:00:

Just play at another course that doesn't have a parking fee.

clint's avatar
clint wrote at 2018-05-29 04:05:09+00:00:

no, green fees are higher enough and golfers are getting the shaft in the wrong place.

James Pruss 's avatar
James Pruss wrote at 2018-05-29 02:52:27+00:00:

If I have to pay for parking at any golf course, I'll not play there. there are to many golf course's available.

bill's avatar
bill wrote at 2018-05-29 02:29:04+00:00:

Too many golf courses to choose from. They want to charge for parking I won't play there.

There are too many other courses that want my business. and I play generally a lot of golf.

So make your choice. Charge for parking, then you won't get p;ayers to play golf. bottom line.

Cliff 's avatar
Cliff wrote at 2018-05-29 01:52:34+00:00:

I guess they would like less golfing revenue when we decide to go somewhere else or park off coarse and hear the complaints from the golfers who decided to play.

JOHN's avatar
JOHN wrote at 2018-05-29 01:52:15+00:00:



Jerry Zehala's avatar
Jerry Zehala wrote at 2018-05-29 01:35:00+00:00:

A better way to speed up play would be to give free parking for 4 1/2 hours and then $20.00 per hour thereafter. Maybe slow players will get the message to MOVE FASTER from the groups behind them. Don't forget that this will certainly result in lost revenue from drinks and food sales after the round of golf...…………..'s avatar wrote at 2018-05-29 00:42:18+00:00:

It will be the last time I will play golf there, Period. Let's just see how much income the golf course has in the future?

Golfar's avatar
Golfar wrote at 2018-05-29 00:42:00+00:00:

And they wonder why interest in golf is fading?

Bill's avatar
Bill wrote at 2018-05-29 00:13:29+00:00:


Jon's avatar
Jon wrote at 2018-05-28 23:53:42+00:00:

The World again just turned upside down for the 1500th time.....Ok, I pull into parking lot to play my $30 green fee and must pay an additional $5-6 in parking.....but others can come in use the park and park in free parking on the streets and pay nothing ..... Why not charge a fee to run the loop, or charge a fee to walk your dog in the park? Easy choice for me city business and money goes else where....

Phil Hicks 's avatar
Phil Hicks wrote at 2018-05-28 23:43:02+00:00:

As many golf courses out there I bet their business will pick up I would just stop playing the greedy course that would charge to park Do you think you can get young people to play with stupid things like that happening. I’m sure it will work for your rich old farts but down the line it will bite you in the ass if I was another course I would have adds free parking posted everywhere

Harry's avatar
Harry wrote at 2018-05-28 23:22:04+00:00:

No. Golfers should not have to pay for parking.

Charlie's avatar
Charlie wrote at 2018-05-28 23:19:34+00:00:

I'm not a Houstonian so I don't know the details, but it seems to me like parking fees are a good way to allocate prime spaces as well as raise revenues.. Might even result in more good spaces available for the golfers???? My guess is that the market will tell...

Dave Mitchell's avatar
Dave Mitchell wrote at 2018-05-28 23:14:36+00:00:

It is typical charge those who enjoy a sport plus helping to keep fit. Only a person who wants to move on or get a life could conj our an idiotic scheme like that. He has too much time o n his hands.The world has many of these persons. Try that in NZ and the bloody things would not last 24 hours.That is why NZ is called GODZONE

Elle's avatar
Elle wrote at 2018-05-28 21:25:55+00:00:

No they shouldn't

RayLo's avatar
RayLo wrote at 2018-05-28 21:23:50+00:00:

Obviously something thought up by a bureaucrat with too much time on his/her hands.

All it takes is one slow group in front to slow the entire course down!

Penalize everyone for four duffers?

I don't think so!

Michael Haig's avatar
Michael Haig wrote at 2018-05-28 21:19:25+00:00:

Maybe they could something like some businesses do with parrking garage passes. If you use there business you get a pass for the use of parking in the parking facility that they sre associated with. With the meters, if they are there to play golf then maybe sfter green fees are paid they could get a reimbursement of the meter fees equuvalent to 5 or 6 hours that a typical golfer would soend time playing and then enjoying drinks afterward.

Matt's avatar
Matt wrote at 2018-05-28 21:17:36+00:00:

Never underestimate a govenment's insatiable appetitie for taxation. This is yet another example, and many who try to afford an expensive game like golf will be asked to pay more. If Houstonians wish to fund this park put it up for a bond referendum and let the people decide, not some autocratic city council.

Gus Woodrow's avatar
Gus Woodrow wrote at 2018-05-28 20:58:51+00:00:

Are they seriously thinking about installing individual meters for each parking space? How 20th century of them. A few central pay stations that produce receipts to go under the windshields would be a better idea, if the entire concept were not so ludicrous in the first place. This will not speed up the pace of play. No way.

Bill Hamilton 's avatar
Bill Hamilton wrote at 2018-05-28 18:18:56+00:00:

We are having a similar debate in Calgary Canada, over golf courses vs parks cycle tracks etc. And it’s the golfers being told well basically you have $$$$, you pay for it all. God helps us if the council here see this brainstorm. Or any other municipality for that matter

Bob 's avatar
Bob wrote at 2018-05-28 18:11:44+00:00:

Wow ! Is this another monumental cluster F _ _ _ , to grow the game ? Nice recognition of the donation by Kinder-Morgan.

Woody Traylor 's avatar
Woody Traylor wrote at 2018-05-28 17:14:36+00:00:

This is so incomprehensively stupid that a rational, unemotional response is hard to come by. However, here goes. To take a beautiful parkland setting and sully it with parking meters is not the decision we would expect from our city leaders who have been entrusted with protecting our city’s most valuable assets. I for one would not recommend expanding the misery to other public spaces to make it “fair”. Someone needs to have the leadership to reverse this decision before the airline model of “baggage fees” gets entrenched in public policy. We can do better than this.

Joe Carlson 's avatar
Joe Carlson wrote at 2018-05-28 16:38:36+00:00:

Definitely not. This is not to speed up play, but to point out the privilege few who work very hard to make time to play. This is a outrageous liberal bias who want only to penalize the few who deserve to have their free time to play golf with out any hindering. What next?

Munigolfer's avatar
Munigolfer wrote at 2018-05-28 16:21:01+00:00:

An organized boycott of the golf course would end that policy before the city can even install the meters. Then other municipalities around the country won’t jump on that bandwagon. The only real power we have is the vote we carry in our wallets.

Joan LaFever's avatar
Joan LaFever wrote at 2018-05-28 15:49:12+00:00:

A solution for locals is a yearly pass like national parks. Pay once a year a fee then display tag when you park to use courts, course, etc on a regular basis.

gilbert's avatar
gilbert wrote at 2018-05-28 15:43:08+00:00:

this plan is an oxymoron solution to speed up play at parks,.golf courses,.all it really accomplishes is to make the manufacturers of the parking meters wealthier and the city governments that will install these plan would be to have my wife drop me off at the golf course and pick me up when I call her on my cell would every married man that plays golf.....or even maybe reduce the times per week they play golf and the golf courses would lose revenue..annual membership sales would go down and that would hurt the city golf courses.i would not want to pay three to four thousand dollars for annual membership and still be required to feed a parking meter by the hour to play golf.... you guys need to leave this situation alone.....

jimmicks's avatar
jimmicks wrote at 2018-05-28 15:36:26+00:00:

I guess we won't be staying for drinks and dinner. Actually, we'll just go elsewhere for golf.

Rick's avatar
Rick wrote at 2018-05-28 15:08:08+00:00:

Hell No

sid's avatar
sid wrote at 2018-05-23 22:49:58+00:00:

Comprehensive article. Perhaps another proposal: parking fees for a city-run facility of recreation should have reduced fees or a separate fee structure?

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Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trio to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.