In their own words: Andrew McKinlay

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 12, 2019 07:21

Writing exclusively for The Golf Business, the CEO of Scottish Golf previews the likely changes to the game that will take place this year.

After a reflective past 12 months, I am convinced Scottish Golf can look forward to a prosperous 2019 and resolve to implement the game-changing strategic objectives that will truly connect and unify the sport.

I have been struck by the progress made since I took my place in the audience – incognito – at the 2017 Annual Conference in Edinburgh as the board of Scottish Golf laid bare the brutal reality for the sport in the ‘Home of Golf’.

The back story has been well-chronicled: declining membership numbers year-on-year, drop in commercial income and funding, and an ageing demographic.

Nonetheless, finding a solution to the challenges required a prolonged period of consultation, radical thinking and a shared commitment with our membership to proactively shape a new course for the game.

To that end, I am grateful to those who were compelled to call a general meeting to revisit the contentious issue of the affiliation fee. While I understand how emotive a subject it had become, the ability to increase the per capita fee has enabled Scottish Golf to increase its investment across the board to its members and, crucially, provide a foundation for innovation intended to reset golf’s future path.

The 2018 Annual Conference represented a marked change from the inaugural event, with a consensus in the room to confront the current reality and empower Scottish Golf to lead towards a more sustainable and positive future. Throughout 2018 I believe we had to listen and do a lot of talking: 2019 will be a year of decisive action.

Technology will inevitably play a pivotal role not just in empowering our existing member clubs and players to enjoy a better experience but, just as importantly, to integrate the pay-per-play golfer into that offering.

While we are acutely aware of the current run rate of 5,000 registered golfers who leave the game every year, we must be cognisant of what a membership means to different generations of golfers and, indeed, consumers in the digital age.

To that end, our proposed Scottish Golf app, which we trailed at the conference, is fundamental to unlocking the game’s true potential. The fact that nearly 200 clubs had expressed interest in a pilot scheme within two weeks of the conference shows the enthusiasm for embracing a new era for golf.

As our chief commercial officer, Iain Forsyth, pointed out we live in an era where Skyscanner, Uber and AirBnB have revolutionised the airline, taxi and hotel industries via technology, all without owning a single aeroplane, cab or hotel.

While we must continue to improve our service to existing members, we must also bring the 80 per cent of recreational pay-per-play golfers into – and feel an integral part of – the golfing family.

We need to understand the needs of younger people: those who golf, those who won’t and those who might if we made the game more accessible and on their terms.

We need to provide flexible memberships throughout the country and opportunities to play across a number of courses for those who don’t seek the traditional model. We also need to be brave enough to open up the possibility of a handicap for the pay-per-play golfer.

It may be regarded as controversial but if Scottish Golf does not take the lead on this, a commercial third-party will, and to the detriment of our members. Change is happening and we must not simply be responsive to it but responsible for it.

We have taken the first steps to share our vision for the future in the Home of Golf and it is one we should be excited by, not fearful of.

On behalf of Scottish Golf, I’d like to wish a happy and healthy new year to all and here’s to a positive and successful 2019 working together.

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Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 12, 2019 07:21
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  1. Neil January 19, 20:14

    Another casualty of CONGU.Hasten the WHS!

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  2. Wayne January 11, 15:36

    Good inside look at Scotland’s golf membership and strategy. Interesting to see it from the inside versus the Canadian golf tour perspective where we love going to Scotland for links golf and comradeship. This will continue because the draw of our heritage to your country and that we only have two true links golf courses at Cabot in Nova Scotia.

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