‘Nomad’ handicap plan to bring in £5 million for England Golf

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 27, 2021 07:13

England Golf’s proposal to offer handicaps to non-members of golf clubs is projected to bring in about £5 million of income to the organisation per year, within five years.

England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson said costs will be about £2 million and any surplus made will be invested back into golf.

Speaking on a webinar hosted by the Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA) with an audience of a select number of golf club managers, and reported by the National Club Golfer, Tomlinson suggested that independent golfers would pay approximately £40 a year to access the handicap, to be used by about 125,000 golfers within five years, which equates to roughly £5 million. At least 25,000 golfers are projected to use the scheme within the first 12 months of launching.

The national body is planning to introduce the scheme in the first half of this year.

Since the plan was revealed last week it has received a mixed reception – some in the industry have welcomed the news saying it will benefit their customers, but others have warned that it will devalue club memberships – something England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson has said is unlikely to happen.

Tomlinson was asked by GCMA chief executive Tom Brooke if this was the right time to introduce such a major new initiative.

“I’m just concerned if this is the right time to be putting it on the table – to be discussing it in such depth,” said Brooke.

“Would it not have been better to say ‘let’s push this back six or 12 months and just let the current climate settle a bit and let the World Handicap System (WHS) settle in?’”

Jeremy Tomlinson

Tomlinson replied: “We are sensitive from a timing perspective but, at the same time, we’ve launched WHS. We have the app now. We have the functionality.

“So it is something of going ‘you know what? We want to be able to proactively make sure that we’re protecting membership in the best way that we can’.

“We want to be able to connect with these golfers, to be able to inspire them on membership and, from our perspective, we feel that launching this in the first half of this year is a good timeframe to be able to do that.”

Tomlinson added that he would be surprised if the scheme did not include “some sort of time lag between when you could actually leave a golf club… and then be able to join [the independent golfer scheme].

“I would be shocked if that wasn’t something that was agreed and put in place.”

He added that the governing body would not dictate to golf club managers how they managed independent golfers when the scheme is launched.

“This is going to be all about England Golf creating a national platform for independent golfers to provide a connectivity pathway to golf clubs,” he said.

“Golf clubs will have choices and options. They range from nothing at all – they can just say ‘we’re not interested. We don’t want to mix with them at all’ – all the way through to inviting independent golfers to play in medals if they want.

Tom Brooke

“England Golf is not going to dictate to any golf club on these options or opportunities. We are going to offer them. That’s what it’s all about.”

He added that golfing bodies Wales, Ireland and Scotland had also agreed to “create platforms”.

“The primary reason for creating a platform is to create a good pathway through to membership,” he said.

“Now, if we’re able to do that and we’re able to educate and inspire on membership and lead some people to that membership, then that’s a great thing.”

Meanwhile, Richard Flint, England Golf’s participation and club support director, said England Golf will form its own handicap committee to ensure scorecards are monitored to reduce the likelihood of cheating.

“Part of the beauty of the new WHS system, not just in our country but around the world, is there are flags, checks and balances within the system that automatically flag potential concerns, not just for independent golfers but members as well,” he said.

“The system will flag that. All independent golfers would be registered on our system.”

He stated that scores will be inputted via an England Golf app.

“There would be a timing device within the app that independent golfers couldn’t just input scores within five or 10 minutes of downloading that scorecard.

“It would at least be an hour, maybe a little bit longer if it’s for nine holes. So geo-location and timing within the app is absolutely critical.

“Another registered independent golfer, or a member of a golf club, would mark and verify that card.

“Everything would be automated through the system, so there would be no administration requirements on the golf club itself.

“If a course has been rated, and there are no significant adverse weather conditions or playing conditions, then acceptable scores can be played across that course at any point throughout the season – and any point throughout the year.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 27, 2021 07:13
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  1. ErnieLong February 2, 19:00

    Wow I didnt have England Golf down as a disruptor !

    England Golf needs to concentrate on the reason why these ‘Nomads’ dont join golf clubs. Its not down to cost !
    There are plenty of golf clubs offering very cheap ways into membership and gaining a handicap, playing in comps but the nomads are still not interested. Why is that ? We all know why yet EG cant/wont do anything about it because they are part of the problem.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Hookway January 31, 20:45

    interesting read guys including the responses to the introduction of the scheme. Something we’ve talked about in theory at length and now bearing out.

    With proper structure and a process to highlight where the funds generated have been reinvested into the game from England Golf, I personally think this is a long needed step in the right direction to make the game more inclusive. Golf has been an industry that constantly reacts to problems as they occur, it’s time to get on the front foot and bring the sport we love into the 21st century and make it more accessible to all . . . then we won’t need a global pandemic and a perfect storm of factors to boost the industry.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Parry January 30, 12:06

    The headline says it all, England golf are a disgrace. Just let people play golf. They are only doing this because people are not joining clubs anymore and they are not happy with their loss of income from that.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Andy F January 28, 14:28

    It will dilute golf club membership. There will be very few truly Independent golfers, the majority will organise into societies and demand more “bang for their buck” from GC.It will become another race to the bottom for many established private member clubs.
    i cannot think of any other sport where the infrastructure doesn’t support and nurture its members/participates.

    Reply to this comment
    • Steve the power February 9, 15:14

      There are few member’s clubs who can turn a working profit from member only revenues. Most must rely upon the nomad golfers, either solo or organised/social societies to keep afloat. The dynamics of golf are changing, more focus on playing different courses and not being tied to fuddy duddy membership rules with clubs directed by transient committees. The new generations just want to enjoy the game. What will the nomads really benefit for the proposed fees…

      Reply to this comment
  5. Mooney January 28, 12:39

    Golf England cashing in, not helping golf

    Reply to this comment
    • djm January 28, 21:33

      Can’t for the life of me see how this will work.

      Most “nomads” play with other “nomads”

      How will they get their cards marked & verified in the first place ?

      England Golf see their holy grail of more revenue without examining the practicabilities of the wheeze

      Reply to this comment
  6. Lockett January 27, 18:18

    I see membership number reductions, complications and disagreements on “open days”, club social members wanting indexes. Somehow these nomad indexes must be marked as just a “social” index that give the players a record of scores only, that could be a good thing and help these “nomads” chart progress and improvement. Many unions and county organisations will be “head scratching” right now trying to work out who can enter their long established championships

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