Scottish Golf launches non-member handicap scheme

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 3, 2021 12:54

Scottish Golf has launched a scheme that will allow golfers who aren’t members of clubs to obtain a handicap for the first time ever.

It comes as England Golf has announced it will be running a similar scheme from next month.

Scottish Golf’s online scheme, OpenPlay allows golfers throughout Scotland to register with the Scottish Golf app to maintain a handicap.

There are an estimated half a million golfers in Scotland who do not currently hold a golf club membership and Scottish Golf states that this is ‘one of the biggest changes to the sport in a generation’.

It follows on from the successful integration of the World Handicap System, which came into effect in Scotland in November 2020.

OpenPlay will cost golfers £5.99 per month through a flexible subscription with no long term commitment. They will be required to register scores from 54 holes of golf, which can be made up from any combination of 18 and nine hole rounds, before receiving their OpenPlay handicap.

Karin Sharp, chief operating officer at Scottish Golf, said: “This is an incredibly exciting development for Scottish Golf and today’s launch represents three years of work developing an integrated software platform for clubs to engage with these golfers. Using our venue management system (VMS), clubs will be able to control exactly how they communicate with OpenPlay members, from the marketing of their club and Open events, to booking tees and controlling green fees.

“The way people consume golf has changed a great deal in recent years, as golfers look for a more flexible approach to the sport that suits their lifestyle and fits around their other commitments. For many modern golfers, the traditional club membership offering doesn’t suit their lifestyle or simply doesn’t represent value for money. OpenPlay provides a modern, flexible approach for golfers that will make the sport more accessible and inclusive.

Karin Sharp

“Whilst we’ve seen a really encouraging increase in golfer numbers across the last year, the longer term trend before the pandemic saw a consistent reduction of around 5,000 members a year over the previous 10 years. In order to reverse this trend it is vital that we explore alternative approaches to make sure the game remains relevant and accessible to the modern golfer and more people try the sport for the first time.

“It is estimated that there are half a million golfers in Scotland who are not members of a club. OpenPlay will provide clubs with the opportunity to market directly to those that sign up for the app, providing a channel of communication that does not currently exist.”

The introduction of non-member handicaps in England is proving controversial as some in the industry are concerned that it will act as a disincentive to golf club membership. However, Scottish Golf states that in New Zealand, where a similar initiative was launched in 2018, 20 percent of those who joined the independent golfer scheme went on to become members of a club. The average age of those new members was also approximately 20 years younger than the average golf club member.

Karin added: “OpenPlay is a great opportunity for golf clubs across Scotland as it enables them to market themselves to a whole new group of golfers that they previously had no way of connecting with.

“We’ll be working closely with golf clubs in the coming weeks and months to help them maximise the potential of OpenPlay and ensure there is full understanding of how they can communicate with OpenPlay members to help grow this new pathway to membership.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 3, 2021 12:54
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  1. Vousden June 10, 17:23

    At last, the opportunity to get rid of the awful phrase ‘non-status golfers.’

    Reply to this comment
  2. Mabbott June 10, 11:38

    A fantastic opportunity for Scottish clubs to connect with potential new members.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Watson June 6, 20:32

    Not welcome Scottish Golf had to follow England . Monkey see monkey do

    Reply to this comment
  4. golfscape June 4, 11:26

    This is a great move to encourage visitor play, especially in a world where many of those visitors are still on the opposite side of the border

    Reply to this comment
  5. Harwood June 3, 14:27

    I think I just saw one of the tectonic plates move. Brilliant for those golfers that want to keep a formal handicap but can`t be located at one club as we become more transient in our life styles. ⛳

    Reply to this comment
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