New drink drive law is ‘killing Scottish golf clubs’

Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim February 18, 2015 11:16

A new drink drive law that was introduced in Scotland in December is having a devastating effect on Scottish golf clubs’ businesses, according to reports.

beer golf toyohara

Image by Flickr user Toyohara


The news could not come at a worse time for the industry, the Scottish Golf Union last year warned of the perilous state of golf clubs’ finances, which have seen memberships drop by about 20 percent in the last decade, and already this year Castle Park Golf Club permanently closed down, the third major Lothians club to fall in the last two years.

Scotland’s rule, which lowered the legal driving limit from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol, came in on December 5 and is tougher than the rest of the UK. This limits men to less than a pint and women to one small glass of wine before they can get behind the wheel.

In the run up to Christmas several golf clubs reported that their alcohol sales had plunged by as much as 70 percent on previous years, which in some cases proved to be the difference between a profit and loss for that month.

According to the Edinburgh Evening News, in the three weeks leading up to Christmas alone, some clubs took ‘hundreds of pounds less than they would have expected as players head straight off after a game or order a pot of tea at a fraction of the cost of a round of alcoholic drinks.’

The Courier has reported that the situation has deteriorated further since the start of 2015 and some country golf clubs are now fearing that they will go out of business as a direct result of the drink drive law.

The newspaper randomly contacted golf clubs, which all said the new law was having an impact on their bottom lines. They were taking action to try to mitigate the effect, like offering free soft drinks for the drivers of car-sharing golfers, it reported.

Stuart Graham, captain of Panmure Golf Club, said: “The club is being affected by the change and members’ behaviour is certainly changing. All members and visitors to the club have to travel by car.

“Previously members would feel comfortable having one drink after their round and then driving home but now that has changed. Our alcohol sales have dropped markedly, being partly replaced by increased soft drink and non-alcoholic beer sales.

“The exact effect on the club financially will not be know for a few months but it is clear the change has affected behaviour.”

David Norman, director of Strathmore Golf Centre, added: “The new drink drive limit has definitely had an effect on our — and no doubt every — out-of-town establishment that holds a licence to sell alcohol.

“The full extent of the financial damage caused by the new legislation in hard cash could be accurately documented over a 12-month period but in December our bar sales were down by a massive 29 percent over the same period as last year.

“Our restaurant sales declined by 16 percent. By January 20, our bar sales are down by 36 percent year-on-year and our restaurant sales declined again by 16 percent. This is very bad news.”

He continued: “Our regular members prior to the new legislation would drink one or two pints of beer after their game whilst enjoying the company of their friends and have a bite to eat. They would have known that they were within the drink drive limit.

“Not now. These same people, unsure of whether or not one drink is or isn’t too many, will likely take a non-alcoholic refreshment and curtail their visit, affecting both our bar and restaurant sales.”

Andrew Turnbull, managing secretary of Edzell Golf Club, said that, with many of their members living outside the town, the new legislation will have an impact.

“In the first month of the new legislation in December, bar sales were 20 percent down. This is a snapshot and it would be wrong to read too much into this as there were two Saturdays where play was washed out, which didn’t happen in December 2013.

“Folk are still getting used to the legislation and how to deal with it at this stage.

“Once they take on board ideas such as car sharing, lifts and subsidised transport, then the effects may be lessened,” he said.

“We’ll keep a close eye on the bar sales month by month. I certainly don’t expect our sales to rise but I’ll be very interested to see what the totals are and what the impact is on margins as well as takings.”

David Roy, manager at Crail Golfing Society said: “We have already noticed a difference in beer sales and are turning our minds to what we can do to mitigate this effect.

“We will be organising a tasting session with members to determine which low-alcohol beers are preferred and will alter our stock accordingly.

“We have created an offer for groups of visiting golfers willing to car share, where the driver is provided with soft drinks for free.

“We are providing bus transport for social functions for those members that live within east Fife.

“It is good to see golfers being responsible and adhering to the new laws and it is up to the club to ensure that members and visitors are provided with alternative products and services.”

Duncan Hay, bar manager at Haddington Golf Club, stated: “I can go a day without serving any alcohol. People know police are out patrolling and are being extra careful.”

Allan Shaw, president of the Lothian Golf Association, said: “This [law] is certainly a threat to the existence of the clubs. They are struggling for membership and this is yet another challenge.”


Rosemary Ayim
By Rosemary Ayim February 18, 2015 11:16
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  1. dr scott February 23, 18:56

    get a breathalyzer for the door and let them check….

    Reply to this comment
  2. Adrian February 20, 15:09

    Not sure what the obsession with golf and beer is. Why not offer good food, good soft drinks and decent choice of coffees. Starbucks and Costa still make plenty of money without offering alcohol ?

    Reply to this comment
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