Scottish golf clubs urged to accept affiliation fee rise

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 4, 2017 15:42

The CEO of Scottish Golf has written an impassioned article calling for Scottish golf clubs to accept a proposal to increase affiliation fees.

The income, he said, would be pivotal for the Scottish golf industry for it to invest in ways to grow the game.

Currently, club members contribute £11.25 of their annual memberships towards the sports’ governing body, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

Blane Dodds, CEO Scottish Golf and Stephen McAlister former European Tour winner
© Craig Watson

Dodds is proposing an increase of £12.75 to £24 to raise an additional £4m over the next four years.

As we reported recently, Scotland has seen the total number of members of its clubs fall below 200,000 in the last two years. Partly due to this, in recent years the amount invested in golf in Scotland from membership affiliation income, commercial revenue and sportscotland has fallen and it is thought that participation programmes now require greater investment.

Pic Kenny Smith, Kenny Smith Photography
Tel 07809 450119

Writing exclusively for The Golf Business, Dodds stated that golf in Scotland “requires to deliver a new direction to provide greater opportunity for investment and growth to support our clubs and players at all levels”.

“Our main objective is to invest in clubs, clubs’ members, and ‘Areas & Counties’ so that growth in participation and performance can be delivered via a healthy sustainable and growing base of clubs and facilities,” he wrote.

“As part of our new strategy, we want to capitalise on the significant scale and commercial value of our membership, club base and course appeal worldwide. Other golfing nations have also been able to capitalise on the growth of digital technologies that will enable the Scottish golf industry to work as one strong and united sport.”

The benefits of the increase to a proposed £24 affiliation fee will be significant to all members now and in the future, but in summary will enable Scottish Golf to:

  • Provide free personal liability insurance of up to £1m for all members
  • Provide an integrated national tee-booking system to all clubs by 2020
  • Invest in a new online Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that will enhance the golfing experience and attract new commercial income via new sponsorship and partnership opportunities by 2019
  • Create a development fund for investment in clubs and facilities from 2018
  • Create a national greenkeeping fund and club buying group for all clubs to access cost-efficient resources and equipment from 2018

Scottish Golf will be able to clearly track multiple memberships via the new CRM, allowing the governing body to identify those members to ensure they pay the new affiliation fee only once per annum.

The CRM and national tee-booking system would enable Scottish Golf to generate additional revenue from nomadic golfers and international visitors, ensuring all participants contribute to growing the game in Scotland.

Junior memberships will remain free of an affiliation fee.

Furthermore, the proposed new fee will remain among the lowest of all golf bodies across Europe and, indeed, across all other sports governing bodies in the United Kingdom.

Pic Kenny Smith, Kenny Smith Photography. Tel 07809 450119

“For the equivalent of an additional £1 per month, every golfer in the country can help play a significant role in the rejuvenation of our game. This is an impassioned request for a small additional contribution per head to make a huge difference to the future of golf in Scotland that all can benefit from,” he said.

“The status quo is not an option. It would lead to a budget cut in the region of £400,000 for next year, the consequences of which would lead to significant cuts to development programmes and our overall investment in the game. At a time when we strive to increase participation in our sport and financial support to all our members, this would represent a major blow to our abilities to implement our future strategy.

“These proposals are about providing a springboard to sustainability. They would enable us to grow participation through greater accessibility, to support our clubs administratively and in terms of infrastructure, to increase coach development and to empower our Areas and Counties to be the beating heart of our game.

“The reality is we need to work in a more integrated manner with all of our members, to keep pace with technology to improve the experience for all golfers but especially future generations, and to make golf in Scotland more attractive to fresh investment.

“Our plans are to be voted on at our special general meeting on December 2 in Stirling. The first stage of delivering the benefits outlined is to vote ‘Yes’ for the changes to the national affiliation and constitution, thus significantly increasing the investment in golf in Scotland.”

More information on the Scottish Golf draft strategy can be viewed here:

The full article can be seen in the October issue of The Golf Business.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 4, 2017 15:42
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  1. JB October 13, 11:13

    Excellent points made above. Having run marketing at a local private, I was amazed by how little support we got at both County and National level. Success is only driven at a club level.

    Reply to this comment
  2. JB October 13, 11:11

    Excellent points made. Having run marketing at a local private, I was amazed by how little support we got at both County and National level. Success is only driven at a club level and siezed upon very quickly.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Pete October 6, 15:08

    “Those who refuse to economize, must learn to agonize.”
    The geame has reached it’s zenieth, suffering from bloat as a result of technology creep. Reducing the game…minimizes the time & expense, yet increases the enjoyment. An easy way to address this and attract new participants, is create a “Lite Golf Ball Format” for smaller proportionally designed facilities…providing the same game on a smaller EZ-play time efficient scale.

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  4. Clackmannan hacker October 5, 15:26

    Yup, whatever the problem a new computer system and some more blue sky thinking and initiatives will solve it. These guys are self serving idiots who seem to be unaware of the membership crisis most clubs are facing.
    Stick to rules issues and give the money back to the clubs by cutting levy to £5.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Coby October 5, 14:54

    We are a small non-course-owning club, with around 15 members, and as our main cost each year is SG affiliation and the obligatory online handicapping system, I have been able to keep our annual subs to £20. As a result we (and SG) have gained members who otherwise would be entirely nomadic. The proposed affiliation increase can only be met by us if we increase our subs to £30 – which may be unpalatable for some of our members. It is not clear to me how this move would “increase participation” – quite the opposite!

    Reply to this comment
  6. renee October 5, 14:53

    lader til Skotland skal til at kigge efter et nationalt booking system, hvis du ikke lige vidste det i forvejen

    Reply to this comment
  7. Rob October 5, 14:50

    Don’t normally comment on these sites but……. As a Proprietor of a Club in England I must say that I totally agree with the opinions given in the previous two comments.. If the solution to the difficult spot the golf industry is in was as easy as “double your fees” then we would have all done it with our Membership Fees ages ago! However the “free” market dictates that the forces of supply/demand will prevail – but not in the world of NGBs where they think they can force increases through that will solve everything. In my opinion they will just waste any additional resources on more unnecessary Staff and new schemes/initiatives/directives/strategies or whatever they wish to call all their previous failed attempts at “growing the game”. I have also have personal experience of being told “no help was available” from EG when developing our driving range facilities. I pushed on and funded everything myself which now brings hundreds of people into golf every year. Unfortunately I get no recognition for this but do get EG telling me they need to come and advise me on how to operate my facility in a better way!

    Moan over…. Good Luck to all Clubs!

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  8. steve October 5, 12:41

    These things are always about generating MORE money for the Golf Union, not just through Affilaition Fees.

    They are asking for over 100% increase in fees!! I would love to see the accounts to see what their current largest expenditure is at the moment. Probably, like England Golf, the salaries of their staff…….

    So, included in the increase is personal liability insurance cover which golf guard provide for £1.15 per member so I’d hazard a guess that if you covered 100,000+ golfers then it would be under £1 per person.

    The CRM system enhances the “golfing experience” and attracts new commercial income through sponsorship and partnership etc for THE GOLF UNION not the clubs?

    A development fund. Nice. EG have them. Not available to Clubs that are “commercially” set up though………

    A National Greenkeeping Fund and Buying Group so that clubs can access cost efficient resources and equipment…..Every buying group I’ve ever come across is a profit making entity. They negotiate to buy in bulk and make a profit taking a %age of the transaction value. So the price that can be achieved is determined by the %age that they keep for themselves. The fact is that if you work hard enough, most of these deals are available to most people anyway. There is also the fact that if EVERYONE got a 30% discount off their gas bill, then a 30% discount wouldn’t be available or the start price would have to rise so that they can give a 30% discount off it! Its just basic economics. If a company makes £1,000,000 in profit by charging a range of prices to its customers, with some getting no discount and some getting 30%, if they all got 30% they might only make £700,000 now. So they consider that they are not making enough margin and put the price up so that they restore their £1,000,000 margin, or they reduce the discount available to achieve the same thing.

    And that old chestnut…….an integrated national tee booking system to all clubs. Every third party tee booking system I’ve ever seen wants a %age of the green fee paid or a bloody great annual fee up front for the software. Every single third party tee booking system collects members data, email/mobile etc etc. So they want clubs to encourage their own members to use a centrally based system that data captures and bypasses the obligation that the National Union has to its clubs for data protection. EG say they dataprotect any information that I send them from my club. When one of my members goes onto their site to look at the “benefits” of the CDH/EG membership, they are required to accept the T&C to do so, which OVERRIDES their obligation to me because my member has ticked the T&C. Its just data capture of my membership database by the back door.

    Now, if they were doing ALL of the above and providing ALL of the above to the Clubs for NO COST and channelling ALL profits from additional revenues back to ALL Clubs, member and proprietary equally, then it would be worth looking at. But it wont be like that. More revenue will mean more staff and higher salaries.

    Or I could just be the eternal cynic……

    Reply to this comment
  9. Neil October 5, 06:40

    Although this Scottish initiative looks promising there are some sinister parts too.

    As always the driving force is to protect the jobs of staff at Scottish golf union with declining participation.There is no acknowledgement that the decline is greatly caused by the traditional framework perpetuated by NGB ie Handicap, Dress codes, Committee structure, relationship with PGA.
    Like EG looking to please Scotsgolf for continued funding.
    The false assumption that the NGB is better at running golf clubs than those clubs committees or proprietors.

    Good bits:
    Acknowledgement that it is golfer who pays affiliation not the proprietor (ends endless row for some clubs)
    Included insurance (potentially helpful when people damage buggies etc)
    national tee booking system (removes cost from club)
    possible loan system (cuts out expensive bank loans for those that use that)

    Bad bits:
    No mention of propriety clubs
    The assumption that Scottish Golf knows the FAQs : awkward questions avoided.
    Suggestion of International golf license-move towards the mafia system hated in Italy(£75 pa and an exam to play golf for everyone!!!)
    There will be a vote on 2nd December but as it offers no alternative that is hardly a choice.
    Suggestion that noone can offer their own domestic handicap system
    The fee charged for non member online booking will push some back to telephone booking.
    Will be a backlash from current online providers.
    The assumption that “CRM” is wanted or valuable to clubs. (Club training and support)
    Still no acknowledgement that the prime role of NGB should be to provide a framework(Handicaps, committees , dress code etc) that people like.

    I predict that the Scottish proxy vote will overwhelmingly reject it but the governing body will have a mechanism for disallowing the proxy vote.Just as EGU di for the ladies conversion from their own handicap to men’s unpopular system in 2002.

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