Non-members of English golf clubs ‘will be offered a handicap this year’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 20, 2021 07:39

The chief executive of England Golf has suggested that, for the first time ever, this year golfers who are not members of golf clubs will be offered a handicap.

This comes just six months after the organisation appeared to shelve plans to create handicaps for golfers in England who are not members of golf clubs.

England has between 1.2 and 1.8 million people who play golf regularly but are not members of clubs, said Jeremy Tomlinson.

Jeremy Tomlinson

Talking to the National Club Golfer, he stated that ‘England Golf will offer nomad players an official handicap this year’ after agreeing a proposal last month, and is planning to create a national platform that would connect independent golfers, and hopes that a business model will be rolled out in the first half of this year. This has been driven by The R&A, which wants ‘all golfers to be offered a handicap’.

Tomlinson implied that the introduction of the World Handicap System has made it easier to introduce a scheme like this.

“It’s members of golf clubs who pay their affiliation fees to England Golf. Quite rightly we should look to prioritise them and we do,” he said.

“But if we are to truly look after the health and wellbeing of our golf clubs, we need to make sure that we have members that we inspire and educate all members from other communities.

“There is a huge community of independent golfers that we really must reach out to. Now out of the new World Handicap System, as that was launched in November, The R&A spoke to me about their core strategies.

“Part of their core strategies, that they know happens, is that when you give anybody in any sport a measuring tool with regards to their own ability, it invariably leads to them wanting to do that sport more.

“The R&A are certainly there and, so therefore, as part of the new World Handicap System, they want all golfers to be able to be offered a handicap.”

Some county unions and golf club managers are likely to be opposed to the proposal; one county secretary argued in 2019 that handicaps for non-members could “very quickly lead to an erosion of the trust in official handicapping”.

Some club managers also expressed concern that their members would quit their clubs to join the scheme.

“Access to a recognised handicap which can be used to play competitively, measure performance and compete against others remains a key reason for golfers to join clubs and retain their memberships,” wrote one county secretary.

“Of course there are other benefits to their membership, but we believe there would be strong resistance to allowing non-members access to competitions and creating a virtual membership option, whilst leaving the club member as the main source of the funds which are essential to maintaining the courses and other facilities which the sport needs to operate.

“The outcome is almost universally against the concept from clubs at every level of the game.”

However, Tomlinson said he did not believe the new proposals were a threat to clubs, as the attractiveness of membership is due to the lure of the golf club, he stated.

“Ultimately, when you look at it, why would a member who’s enjoying their membership at a good golf club look to leave – to then a pay a fee to have a handicap and then have to pay green fees every time they play?

“I’ve been playing golf for circa 47 years and I’ve never known anybody leave a good golf club. I’ve known people leave a bad golf club, unfortunately, but I’ve never known anybody leave a good golf club.

“And I’ve certainly never known anybody join a golf club just to get a handicap. So, for me, golf clubs need to continually look at their value proposition of membership.

“While they are doing that, we are going to, in turn, is to try to create a platform at a national level that prioritises opportunities and options for golf clubs to be able to connect with these independent golfers.

“To be able to attract them in some way, whether that is just to golf days, whether it’s to use their facilities – there might be conference facilities – or it might be to invite them to play in competitions.

“It might be to invite them to play in their own club competitions. But, either way, we want to be able to give all golf clubs that choice of whether or not they want to connect with that community of golfers.

“We’ve never done it in the past. And I think that it’s not only a real shame, but I think we’re not looking after our future well enough if we’re not connecting with all golfers,” he said.

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 20, 2021 07:39
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31 Comments

  1. Griffin January 24, 12:55

    Golf’s BREXIT debate, for and against….
    I think you have look through the lens of the type of course; private v proprietary v resort. Each category see winners and losers and by postcode too…
    As a lapsed private club member of 25 years, due to leaving area I became a NOMAD so can see the benefits.
    My current club has a brilliant lite membership scheme, this bridges the gap between a full and pay per go, it keeps me local and not onerous, it’s been hugely successful developed by our Pro, Tim Coxon
    I can see this could be demaging for private clubs struggling to retain membership esp. off back off C19 lockdown.

    Reply to this comment
  2. RD January 21, 17:45

    This is great – I haven’t been able to afford a membership while taking care of a young family but this would enable me to keep an accurate handicap when I do get onto the course rather than just relying on a Golfshake one. Perfect.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tony P January 23, 12:51

      If this happens then the non member will obviously pay an affiliation fee ? If so then England Golf should from that point collect their Union fees direct from all golfers? This would take a huge burden away from Golf Clubs !

      Reply to this comment
  3. RA January 21, 17:18

    Agree, short term gain for England Golf long term loss for Golf Clubs.

    Yes we need to be inclusive but more importantly we need to show the benefits of being a Member of a Golf Club, one being, earning an official handicap!

    Its also lifestyle, its friendships, its sociability, its being able to come up for a few holes along with having an official handicap.

    Golf Clubs are already doing enough self harm by taking members subscriptions and then reducing its benefits by overselling cheap green fees, too many societies and weddings etc

    For England Golf to sell official handicaps, by passing golf Clubs is another nail in the Golf Clubs coffin. It would be like the DVLA handing out driving licences on a drivers word that he has had lessons and is a safe driver!

    Reply to this comment
    • Stevo April 6, 17:12

      Sounds like you need to think outside the box a bit more – Golf is a progressive sport and my circumstances are such that having been a golf club member for over 30 years I have decided to change my approach to the game and play lots of different courses all over Europe whilst I can rather than the same course each week. Having a handicap would allow me to continue to play competitively and choose where i want to play.

      Reply to this comment
  4. neil January 21, 12:29

    This system (WHS and non member handicaps) has worked well in USA for years. Nomads also play in club comps after paying a green fee. There is a safety net that DQs any golfer returning a net score of more than 5 under handicap.
    On the other point that “Members subs subsidise green fees” That shouldn’t happen -its only at clubs where the “Non golfing overheads” (ie clubhouse) have spiralled beyond what is reasonable.

    Reply to this comment
    • Old timer January 21, 19:56

      I started playing golf in 1963 at Richmond Park municipal Course there were 3 clubs there, we payed a season ticket to the company running the 2 courses, plus a small administrative fee to the club , all handicaps were obtained by entering 3 cards whilst playing with a member, yout handicap was only altered up or down by scores you entered in official Competition.
      In the last twenty years i have witnessed many golfers cheating with their handicaps, golf has changed clubs are so desperate to get new members they no longer ask an applicant what his handicap is, saying if you join you will have to put 3 cards in for handicap, I know of several golfers who having joined a new club, without admitting they already had a CDH handicap and obtained a new handicap at least 6 shots higher than their proper one, cheating was almost unheard of in my day, it is now just fobbed off with welli it happens, also the new system where you put a card in any time you play, though not even off a measured course, allows for players to increase their handicap,

      Reply to this comment
      • Spike January 24, 19:26

        Absolutely agree. A player entered a championship run by England Golf 2 years ago where they later discovered he had 3 CDH numbers. The CDH quoted on his entry corresponded with the highest handicap? Funny that?

        Reply to this comment
        • ErnieLong February 3, 07:04

          Ha ha my handicap index under the new whs hasnt been sorted out 3 months after the system changed so good luck England Golf administering your new system, the expression piss up in a brewery springs to mind ! Also £40 is far too cheap it should be £100 with half going back to clubs to maintain courses and no more affiliation fees for golf club members. Nomads need to pay their way if they want a handicap, I think thats fair.

          Reply to this comment
  5. Herdwick January 21, 11:24

    My son in law loves playing a round of golf and will, in the future, join a club.
    However, he travels into London every day to work and arrived home often after 1900.
    As a father he has many weekend committments and golf cannot be a priority.
    If he were to obtain a handicap, as proposed, we would be able to play together occasionally in pairs competitions, and enjoy more fully our games together.
    There will be many younger casual players in a similar situation, they love to play but the financial commitment of membership is beyond them at this stage in life.
    If this proposal is accepted those players will feel more a part of the golfing community and will, I am sure, eventually become members when time and finances permit.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Devine January 21, 08:56

    You may as well start turning middle table clubs into municiples now. A strategy that will devalue many golf clubs membership platforms – good job R&A and EGU, you really stepped up ‍♂️

    Reply to this comment
    • G January 22, 02:37

      Headline: Probably the least influential sports CEO spots that 1.2-1.8million people x £9.50 would make a tidy bonus.

      Reply to this comment
  7. Emerson January 21, 05:44

    Great news Jeremy Tomlinson agreed this will not change the club golfer into a nomad golfer but the golfer that needs to take a break can keep in touch with the game.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Turner January 21, 03:15

    Long overdue this , nice thinking .

    Reply to this comment
  9. CollingS January 20, 21:08

    The issue is not the Handicapping. It’s the rediculously low level of green fees that will make it more attractive than membership to those playing less than 30 times a year. Which is a lot of members. Currently greenfee players are being subsidised by members. It will take time and initially clubs will fight to attract the independents to fill the loss revenue from lower member numbers but eventually this will push up green fee rates. It will also reintroduce joining fees to discourage members from leaving, thinking they can just come back anytime. Clubs that rely on points based memberships are the ones that will get really hurt as those categories become irrelevant.

    Reply to this comment
    • AKS January 21, 09:45

      Short term gain – long term pain.
      1)England Golf can collect affiliation fees then they will eventually go to golf clubs to demand that they give discounted green fees and let them play in club competitions because they will find that once they get their handicap index why keep paying year on year when they can keep their own spreadsheet.
      2)All golf clubs need to get away from “discount”. I don’t go to Tesco and demand a discount. Guest green fees should happen because:-1) Membership is for yourself. There is no margin added in to cover the discounts given.
      2) Guest fees are still around from the old days of members clubs with Charles reciprocating after playing and being treated at George’s club.
      3) These days 95% of guests pay for themselves.
      4) 60% cannot reciprocate due to not being a member at a club.
      I have turned it on its head and given a rebate to the member for each guest signed in which then reduces their following years subscription. Not received well at inception but stuck to my guns and some members will receive almost £200 off but that has been generated from income received from the green fees. It isn’t complicated, shared this with England Golf and my county last year but all I got was “interesting” as a comment. I would be happy to share how this has worked with any other golf club because the more that do this the easier it is to be accepted.

      Reply to this comment
      • Dave Parkinson January 21, 11:40

        Hi,I would be interested to hear more about your scheme and how it has worked.

        Reply to this comment
        • Mark January 21, 19:06

          When were clubs consulted about this?
          Most clubs, who have had to try to survive through the last 12 months with enforced closure or much reduced activity due to Covid-19 are now in danger of loosing some members who cannot play every week.
          My club will not be allowing non members to play competitions- what benefit will the members get when they would have to fight for tee times with those who don’t pay for the privilege of being a member of the club.
          England Golf is not thinking about those who provide the golf courses & their £6million annual income.

          Reply to this comment
          • Spike January 24, 19:32

            Former EG Chief Nick Pink drove it through at a meeting with (disgruntled) counties. At time of meeting Pink was already under notice to move back to England Hockey where he now resides.

  10. Forno January 20, 20:11

    Will be very interesting to see how this develops. Great news for nomad golfers, but will it be good for golf clubs too?

    Reply to this comment
  11. SG January 20, 18:44

    apparently not recognised for use in English Golf tournaments & nice money earner in affiliation fees.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Weatherburn January 20, 14:15

    Maybe a little controversial but I believe it’s the only way we’ll genuinely grow golf participation in the long term…

    Reply to this comment
    • Wot January 20, 20:59

      “I’ve been playing golf for circa 47 years and I’ve never known anybody leave a good golf club.”

      Not worth listening to what they have to say if they’ve never heard of anyone leaving a golf club.

      Reply to this comment
      • ErnieLong February 3, 07:20

        Where are these good golf clubs that nobody has ever left, Id love to know ? This muppets are being paid to talk rubbish, why do we the members let them get away with it. There should be a national vote by existing golf club members who are forced to be members of England Golf. I believe this is that important and could really mess up golf if its done wrong. It needs a longer consultation. Firstly why so many nomads when there are plenty of cheap schemes already, which this new £40 for a handicap could undermine. Golf clubs need to come up with something better than this idea, and pocket the money themselves.

        Reply to this comment
  13. Hastings January 20, 13:05

    This is such great news. For years, participation in competitive golf has been restricted by the size of someone’s bank balance. If this means that a broader group of players can play on amateur tours like Staysure and in open club competitions, it can only be a good thing. We need to open as many pathways to the game as possible, and this is a wonderful start.

    Reply to this comment
    • Mighty5Iron January 21, 10:58

      Many clubs will not allow ‘nomad’ golfers entering their competitions. There will be great suspicion of their ‘nomad’ handicaps.

      Reply to this comment
      • RA January 21, 17:33

        Agree, short term gain for England Golf long term loss for Golf Clubs.

        Yes we need to be inclusive but more importantly we need to show the benefits of being a Member of a Golf Club, one being, earning an official handicap!

        Its also lifestyle, its friendships, its sociability, its being able to come up for a few holes along with having an official handicap.

        Golf Clubs are already doing enough self harm by taking members subscriptions and then reducing its benefits by overselling cheap green fees, too many societies and weddings etc

        For England Golf to sell official handicaps, by passing golf Clubs is another nail in the Golf Clubs coffin. It would be like the DVLA handing out driving licences on a drivers word that he has had lessons and is a safe driver!

        Reply to this comment
      • Chipper February 13, 18:20

        The reactions on here are indicative of arrogant attitude of many golf members, they think that the only way to play the game is join a club. Membership fees are ridiculous, clubs are are elitist, members have a horrible attitude to players paying green fees and the game is not inclusive at all. Comments like clubs allowing too many societies and weddings, get in the real world, people through the door for any reason brings in revenue. Consider the game not my club, great game spoilt by selfish club members.
        Most “nomad golfers” are only interested in playing the game not entering club competitions.

        Reply to this comment
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