Shocking report kick-starts radical change
Golf in Scotland is to receive a radical facelift following a new survey that highlights the dire state of the country’s golf clubs.
The ‘National Facilities Survey’ of 498 of the country’s 597 clubs has been described by the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) as ‘the most comprehensive survey ever of the country’s golf clubs and golfers’. It found that 89 per cent of Scottish clubs are actively seeking new members and half have not made a profit in the last 12 months, while there are a lack of good practice facilities and golfers only have limited access to coaches.
The SGU has responded to the report, which also found that 69 per cent of Scottish clubs have introduced new membership categories to attract young adults, by stating it will create a ‘masterplan’. This will see an investment of £7.2 million, funded by a mixture of private and public sources, by 2020 into the creation of 50 ‘development centres’ that will offer improved coaching to junior golfers.
The aim of the centres, which will be existing practice facilities, will be to turn children, typically aged 12 and 13, that have been introduced to golf via the junior golf programme, clubgolf, into members of golf clubs.
All golf clubs will be encouraged to become ‘introductory centres’, in which they welcome beginner golfers to learn the game and improve. However, the vast majority will not receive funding to achieve this.
Andy Salmon, the SGU’s development manager, said: “We’ve been aware for some time that we needed a masterplan for all of the golf facilities in Scotland, and this comprehensive survey identifies the priorities for investment.
“We’ve been successful at putting clubs in the hands of kids and teaching them the basics of the game, but less successful at getting them to improve their game, get a handicap and join a golf club. The development centres will address that.
“Plus, historically, clubs who have been considering investing in their practice facilities have come to us and asked what guidance we can give. But we couldn’t really give them any.
“Now, though, we can give them the guidance as to the facilities we’re looking to develop in our plan. We will be able to direct funding where clubs are committed to good practice in terms of governance, business planning, access for juniors and environmental standards.
“We will also ensure that the investment will meet the needs of the individual golfer, reflecting their feedback which included a desire for better practice facilities, improved clubhouse facilities and a better quality of course.”
Salmon also reiterated the SGU’s call, made at the end of last year, that no more golf clubs should be built in Scotland.
“We don’t need any more 7,500-yard championship courses,” he said. “If there are going to be new courses, there’s a need for shorter courses such as six holes, or three loops of six holes instead of two loops of nine holes. All the research tells us that the number one barrier to golf is time – even ahead of money.”