Annual golf subscriptions set to soar in Scotland

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 4, 2017 12:45

The cost of being a member of a Scottish golf club is set to soar over the next decade due to a funding crisis, delegates at the first Scottish Golf national conference have been told.

Held at the Edinburgh International Conference amid a backdrop of a postponed vote on whether affiliation fees to the governing body should be more than doubled, and the recent resignation of the Scottish Golf CEO, Blane Dodds, about 500 delegates were presented with data about the state of the game in Scotland.

According to Martin Dempster in The Scotsman newspaper, Stewart Darling, a Scottish Golf board member and CEO of a software firm, said that Scottish clubs had been losing roughly 5,000 full members every year in the last 10 years. The consequence of not doing anything to try and address the situation was an average annual subscription of £478 rising by 34 per cent in five years’ time and to be 84 per cent higher in 10 years’ time, he warned.

Eleanor Cannon

He added that the vast majority of Scottish golf club members were over 55 and that it used to take 20 rounds per year in 2007 for someone to justify their subscription fee and now it is 40. Furthermore, only 47 per cent of members submit a minimum of three cards to retain their handicap. “We can’t sustain 600 clubs in 10 years’ time,” he warned.

“This is not going to be fixed by a silver bullet bought from Amazon,” he added. “It is going to take time and needs everybody to do it. We need to act collectively and can’t give up when the going gets tough. If we keep going as we are, the game as we know it is not going to be here for kids and that, for me, would be a travesty.”

Darling added that there is hope, however. “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.

“Also, we are not connected as a golfing community and need to harness the power of that. Data is the new oil and new water. The power of it is massive for golf. At the moment, we have so little data on our game. We can have power if that changes and that is really important.”

To add to the difficulties, Roz Cushieri, another board member, revealed that just six per cent of Scottish Golf’s income is from a commercial source, while it was also disclosed that one company looking to invest a seven-figure sum in golf had said “no” to Scotland because it felt the game in the country wasn’t “family friendly”.

Scottish Golf’s most controversial proposal is to raise the affiliation fee paid by every club member from £11.25 of to £24. Asked if that could still be on the table at the AGM in March, board member Malcolm Kpedekpo hinted it might. “This is the start of a process and, if we think £24 is the right price when we look at the strategy, then it would be wrong not to put it forward.”

Eleanor Cannon, the Scottish Golf chair, described the situation facing the game in Scotland as “urgent” due to declining membership.

She added: “In the coming weeks we will continue to consult about all of the ideas that have come forward. I asked you to suspend disbelief and concentrate on the future and I thank you sincerely for doing that. It has been an incredibly uplifting experience when faced with the challenges for the game we all love.

“Let’s look forward to working together in a guiding coalition to build golf, to build participation and help clubs to become stronger and to look forward to a very healthy future for this wonderful game.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir December 4, 2017 12:45
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  1. John B December 14, 20:58

    I am amazed by this article. The data is there in spades. This gasn’t suddenly hapoened it has been going onnfor a decade at least. Where was the proactivity? I was our club’s first appointed marketing chair. I constantly banged heads with older, set in their ways, selfish old men! Now we have a thriving ladies and juniors section.
    We have since divorced captain from business & finance and appointed a GM. Our fees have risen each year in line with inflation and priorities are in the right place now.
    What has any national body done for us during this period? Nothing! Enough said.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Tucky December 8, 11:01

    With their substantial and growing surplus funds, what is the R and A doing to support grass roots Golf in their back yard and the rest of GB and I.

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  3. Colin J December 7, 17:57

    Golf thrives when people want to play, not when golf administration is better funded. Scottish Golf have watched a genuine drop in numbers of members over the last few years while they had sufficient funds. Giving them more money could result in even more golfers leaving membership. Clubs must decide how to map their own future, not have their members taxed more by a body that is meant to help them.

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  4. Greig PGA December 5, 12:30

    Sounds like the Scottish handicap system needs a revamp! Leave the money in the clubs hands as without the clubs there is no need for handicaps!

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  5. Audrey December 5, 07:44

    Yes, more girl trips. wink

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  6. jon December 4, 15:29

    It beggars belief that some clubs are not welcoming to women and children.

    Reply to this comment
  7. David Thomas December 4, 14:59

    Absolute and utter bunkum – club membership fees are at their absolute maximum that they can be, in fact clubs all over are losing members because of the existing fees. The only way to keep golf alive and active is to actually REDUCE the membership and thence get all to pay a reduced fee every time they play – many call it Flexi fees – Many many I know were once long term club members but the fees now mean they play less and at other places – Society Golf is the way forward!

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