Scottish golf needs a complete re-think if the game is to avoid a downward spiral, delegates at Golf Scotland’s first national conference held in Edinburgh at the start of December were told.
The amateur sport’s governing body detailed the crisis facing the sport – falling golf club membership, an aging cohort of players, rising costs and the prospect of falling income.
Currently Scotland has just short of 600 golf clubs with an aggregate of just over 200,000 members. The majority of those members are over 55 years old. Only one in ten are under 24 and only one in seven are women.
‘The game is in decline and we want to build stronger clubs’, said Golf Scotland’s acting chief executive Eleanor Cannon.
If things go on as they are, the number of players will continue to decline – already around 5,000 put away their clubs each year – the number of clubs will fall and fees will go up, delegates were told.
The fact that Golf Scotland held this first national conference was itself a sign of the turmoil facing the sport. The meeting had been scheduled as part of a consultation for plans put forward by former chief executive Blane Dodds. These would have raised additional money to help grow the sport – partly by more than doubling member affiliation fees.
The ideas did not go down too well and Dodds left after only 16 months in the job to run Tennis Scotland. Golf Scotland is still looking for a permanent replacement.
Meanwhile golf clubs and their members are being told by Golf Scotland to face reality.
Scottish Golf board member Stewart Darling told the conference that if nothing were done club subscription rates would soar. ‘We need to think very clearly about the future and how we get women in. It is a big opportunity if we accept this to be the case. Some clubs are not welcoming to women and children – that is a fundamental issue,’ he said.
Cannon pledged to continue the consultation process which is due to end next March.